Wednesday, November 28, 2018

publishing on platforms like Wattpad before querying

I've been active on Wattpad for almost a year and on Tapas for almost two months. I've had a decent response to the short story and novella I've serialized on both platforms. At this time, the complete short story has a collective 3,800+ reads (it was featured on Tapas's front page as a staff pick). The ongoing/unfinished novella has a collective 1,200+ reads. These two accounts combined have 160+ subscribers with minimal crossover.

However, I'm hesitant to post content from either of my novels because I intend to seek traditional publishing for them. I've also seen others on the author forums for these platforms with the same hesitation, but nobody seems to have a definitive answer.
A. How much is too much to post?Does it matter
It doesn't matter
B. How/when should I tell an agent about my online author presence?
In the query
1. How do agents and publishers feel about work that has been previously posted online? (if the work posted online is the same work being queried)
It doesn't really matter
2. At what point does work posted online become notable/should be mentioned in a query? (if the work posted online is other than the work being queried)
Bonus questions:

C. Does it make a difference if you make money off content posted online?

Both Wattpad and Tapas offer "premium" stories, for which readers need to pay to unlock episodes/parts/chapters. None of my content is pay-to-read, but Tapas does offer ad revenue and a tipping system to authors over a certain subscriber count. So far I've received about $0.05 from ads and $6.22 in tips—does that make a difference?
D. Does it make a difference if content is part of the same series/IP?
The novella I'm serializing is a prequel to one of the novels I plan to query. Does this change whether I should mention it? Should I leave it out if the online response isn't impressive enough?

There are more than a few authors who have transitioned to traditional publishing from these newish online publishing platforms. They generally had a Wattpad readership north of six figures.

It doesn't matter if your work has been on any of these sites. You just need to tell me about it in the query. The reason you need to tell me is that if we work together to sell your book, I have to tell the editor. And we must make sure any publishing contract reflects the fact that this work has been previously published.

Previously published is NOT a deal breaker; we just need to adjust the contract language.

Previously published can be a deal breaker for other things: contests are the first thing that come to mind. But again, if I know about it, I can manage it.

The biggest problem here is not that you're on Wattpad et al. It's that your readership numbers aren't high enough to be a selling point.


Amy Johnson said...

For me, today's post had lots of new information. But the message of "the agent needs to know" is something that seems to come up pretty regularly. Even though I'm studying about the publishing industry while also studying the craft of writing, I have the sense that there are oh-so-many things a good agent will know to consider that wouldn't occur to me. Unknown unknowns: one of the reasons it'll be good to work with an agent.

OT: Congratulations, Claire! My apologies for the delay. The special-order, bear-shaped balloons just arrived for your party. Yay!

Dena Pawling said...

>>1. How do agents and publishers feel about work that has been previously posted online? (if the work posted online is the same work being queried)
>>It doesn't really matter

I'm a little confused. I understand that anything posted to Wattpad is considered published. I also know that several agents [including, I think, the Shark] won't take on previously published work. So if OP wants to query THIS novel to agents who don't accept previously published work, then shouldn't it matter whether THIS novel was posted to Wattpad?

[Hopefully this question doesn't cause me to join Colin as bear breakfast =) ]

CED said...

I have a dumb question. Why does posting on Wattpad count as "previously published"? I thought I remembered Janet saying published = having an ISBN, and I don't think you get an ISBN with Wattpad. Also, the works on Wattpad are not open to all; you need to sign up for an account to read anything.

Is the published = having ISBN thing no longer true (or was it never true, and I just misunderstood or misremembered)? Does it matter than the posted work is more protected than, say, a blog that anyone can read?

(Okay, that was more than one dumb question. What's the collective noun for a set of dumb questions? A dunce? Yeah, that was a dunce of dumb questions.)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Thanks to the shark for answering! Since anybody can still read content on these sites even without an account, it makes sense that it would count as previously-published. I figured that the ability to make money wouldn't make a difference, but it's a question I've heard a number of people ask, especially when it comes to premium content vs. ad revenue.

I know it wasn't strictly said (because obviously opinions may vary) but it's a little disheartening that a readership wouldn't be considered notable until you reach hundreds of thousands of subscribers. My thought was that the threshold would be closer to 5 figures instead of 6, which already seems unachievable without some stroke of luck. However, it is good to hear that having a low sub count doesn't count against you!

Colin Smith said...

If I can throw in my 2c to the "what does it mean to be published anymore?" discussion (and may Janet douse me in honey and feed me to Papa Bear if I'm wrong... oh, she already did that. Nevermind...) it seems to me publishing is evolving. Trying to move with the times. Ten years ago, an ISBN meant you were published. These days, with so many eyes on sites like Wattpad and various blogs, being "published" is open to interpretation.

So, the way I understand it, a publisher looking at your Wattpad novel is going to estimate how many of your current readers will buy a swanky, professionally edited and designed version of your novel. That projected percentage is not large. 5%? 1%? That's where having 6,000 readers vs. 6M readers matters.

A smart agent like Janet knows all this. That's why she needs to know where your novel has been before and how much interest it garnered. All of this helps her sell it to a publisher.

And that's why "previously published" is not necessarily a bad thing.

Ximera Grey said...

Good day Ms Shark!

Could you answer a question explicitly: Does posting a first draft (or even part of a first draft) on Wattpad really mean the writer has lost First Rights? Would a publisher really see their work as a reprint?

Unknown said...

What if you write a story with the same characters or in the same world as your novel, but the plot itself has no overlap? Is that worth mentioning in the query?

AJ Blythe said...

Funny how for decades and decades when print was the only way to publish the publishing world was fairly constant. Since the internet, publishing is changing every year. Thank goodness for places like the Reef where info like this is regularly discussed.

Craig F said...

I like Wattpad. It is a cool concept and well run. It gives platform to things that the big houses will not publish. It is also, occasionally,the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

I don't think it is a good idea to try to query it. If it was hot enough, some editor would be after you for it.I would recommend writing something else, a stand alone with ties to the story, maybe.

Doing that might help tie your readership to buying a book, I'm not sure Wattpad readers do that very often.

When you click on the "I Agree" button to upload your book, you signed a contract. Wattpad does ask for your first born or anything, but it would be a good idea to read the fine print. Someday soon someone will start something like Wattpad, but they will take first rights.

Unknown said...

@Craig F:
"I don't think it is a good idea to try to query it. If it was hot enough, some editor would be after you for it."
I agree; that's pretty much why I haven't posted either of my novels online.

Depending on the genre/target audience, it seems like there's a higher probability of successfully querying a novel than there is of a free novel becoming massively popular online. On Wattpad in particular, due to the sheer volume of material, it seems like luck plays a much bigger factor in success. However, this is only semi-informed speculation, so I could be incorrect.

"I would recommend writing something else, a stand alone with ties to the story, maybe.
Doing that might help tie your readership to buying a book, I'm not sure Wattpad readers do that very often."

I must not have made this clear in the original question, but that's exactly what I'm doing :)
The novella I've posted is a standalone prequel to one of my novels (which I haven't posted and plan to query). So I'm biased, but I definitely agree that this seems like a logical strategy!
I know that Marissa Meyer, for example, has had some success doing this in the reverse order (she's posted a standalone prequel and some companion stories to Wattpad after her Lunar Chronicles series was traditionally published).

G.E.Axtell said...

Quick Question,

Is it possible to publish a physical book with this system?


Abby Goldsmith said...

Interesting! Thank you for your answers, Janet Reid.

One of my Wattpad novels, the first in my sci-fi series, is at 34k reads. I guess I'll watch the numbers tick up and see if it ever hits north of 100k. :-)

I think it should be noted that the number of chapters effects the number of reads, though. The more chapters, the more potential "reads", because it is essentially counting page views. A book with 100 chapters will register more reads than a book with 10 chapters.

Also, getting Featured on the Wattpad often boosts the number of reads tremendously, but it is a pure luck factor. Not everyone who wants to get Featured does get Featured.

Elena said...

What if you have only published the beginning of the first draft? Does that still count as previously published? Also what if you took down the story many years ago? Does that still count as previously published? If so, is there an exact number of years, or is it still worth mentioning in a query no matter how many years have passed?