How many readers have finished a book and let their minds wander on to “what might have been”? Such is the premise for the swathes of fanfiction available on the internet (not all written by teen girls; then again, E. L. James was once just another female fan of Twilight…). Nevertheless, it is a sensation which in recent years has seen the rise of online writing group mutual support projects like NaNoWriMo (promoted successfully on social media platforms such as Twitter and Goodreads) and has seen the use (in all sense) of Wattpad increase exponentially (rivalling established publishing houses and even media studios). Forget Indie publishing on Amazon to start off a writing career, reviews seem to say: Wattpad is the first port of call today.
Reading Wattpad’s statistics feels very much like looking at the Forbes Rich List when it comes to the sheer size of the numbers. For example, 13bn minutes are spent reading on Wattpad per month, with over 500,000 stories uploaded daily. The platform’s users are predominantly young and female, but these are stats that surpass even Candy Crush or Snapchat, and that is incredible. What is not so shocking is analytics proving once again that teen technology usage and online activity assists in predicting what will next become popular. Dubbed the “Youtube of fiction”, Wattpad is for a generation fed on the potential for viral fame.
Not Just for Kids
Of course, adults use Wattpad as well (the company did release its X-rated adult romance app in 2015, after all; doubtless off the back of 50 Shades success). Further, you don’t have to be the most tech savvy individual to be successful either, even though the platform’s stories are uploaded via the Smartphone app and you are notified (text message style) when a new chapter is added to whichever serial you choose to follow. To assist your endeavors, for example, there exists a Wattpad cover maker for such considerations to writing as a supporting image to draw readers in.
Handy indeed, or maybe even revolutionary. Margaret Atwood published a book of her poetry via Wattpad a few years ago to make a point on the cost of eBooks – seemingly negligible, but in reality not always so – and to highlight the potential for channeling the platform into a facilitator for mainstream publisher-notice.
Beware the Revolution
Nonetheless, not everyone is taken in by the “Wattpad Revolution” (not least due to its penchant for corporate partnerships, a collaborative business model set-up that saw its predecessor Fanlib.org close after only three years of operation).
One question is, to what point can fanfiction be celebrated as much as original fiction? Though Wattpad lists its uploaded fanfiction right beside original creations, is this not in turn promoting profit from others’ endeavors? Authors who feel this to be true can object to fanfiction in response to their work being published on Wattpad, but what of those who don’t? Far more difficult and worthy is the development of that original seed of thought and resultant tree, than the weaker leaves that flutter wildly from its later branches.