I went to the Romantic Times conference in May and one of the hot topics was Wattpad. If you're not familiar, it's a place where you can post any kind of writing you want, from short stories to full, serialized novels, and readers can comment in-line on the things they like or don't as well as on the work in general.
It's a hot topic because A. Some writers have hit it big there and ended up with book deals or a huge self published following, and B. Established authors are using it as a forum to draw in readers by posting things like back list titles, pre-quels and between the books novellas. I've also had a marketing guru tell me that she considers this kind of platform an excellent place to beta-test your work (for self published writers, not those under contract) to see what's connecting with readers and what isn't.
I've paged through several books there and find that the comments are overwhelmingly either positive or at least constructive, and have yet to stumble over any trolls. The readers seem to be excited about offering feedback and having input. The level of interaction is up to the author. Some go as far as posting a section then asking readers what should happen next (many of the writers are posting as they go, rather than writing the whole book first.)
I talked this over with my agent and, considering the lag between my first book and the next--projected as a June-July of next year release--we agreed I might be able to utilize Wattpad and some of the sheaves of short stories and novellas I have stacked in drawers to build and keep an audience during the gap. However...
At the RT Wattpad session, an agent stood up and challenged the presenters, asking what they are doing to protect the authors' work, as one of her clients had a book pirated from the site and published digitally and is now fighting to prove it was hers to begin with. The question I have and I suspect many of your blog readers might echo is, assuming I have weighed the pros and cons and decided this is a suitable platform for a particular story, can I establish proof of ownership by copyrighting the story first, or is that even going to help in a piracy case? Are there any cons to copyrighting, beyond the time and hassle, for someone who is posting a novel they hope will go viral and get them an offer?
This is a really good question, and given I'd just read an article by someone who had her work removed from sale because of a fraudulent copyright violation notice, and had to struggle to prove it was hers to begin with, quite timely.
When you post anything in a public forum like Wattpad you're taking a risk. The only questions are how big a risk, and what's at stake. Those are questions only you can answer.
Most readers search for books by author name. If I go looking for Felix Buttonweezer books, and six hundred people have stolen and republished his book "Carkooning For Fun and Profit" I'll never know, because I'm searching only for books by Felix Buttonweezer.
There's a risk associated with any kind of on-line publication of your work. I'm given to understand however that most of the scallywags who are stealing books and republishing them as free downloads have something other than making book sales on their mind. That is, the "free download" is the open cellar door to your otherwise locked up house while you're on vacation. They are introducing viruses onto the computers of the people who download the "free books."
What you really want to check are the terms of service at Wattpad. I believe they take a chunk of your earnings if something you publish there goes on to be picked up and published elsewhere. That's something you don't want to find out about the hard way.