Watt-Publish or Self-Pad?

Right now I started serializing a story idea on WattPad as something completely independent to the novel I actually want to self-publish.  I already explained my intent in this post but the WattPad demographic is worth noting.  Nearly 80% of the WattPad users are under 30 with roughly equal halves of that being under 18.  It’s a demographic that the book I want to self-publish is for but I’m really quite lost when it comes to marketing and interacting with that age group.  I make a concerted effort to read stories on WattPad because I want to see what’s popular and what makes people keep coming back.  This is a far more organic approach to reading distribution, I think, than standard publishing because a lot of the time the story is being written in real time (as is what happens with serializing) and the interaction on the stories themselves is more immediate.

Personally this does not jive with my current reading style.  It’s not too often I’ll make comments when logging my pages read for the day on Goodreads.  I usually just mark the page and move on.  My own personal reading experience is an experience of one.  The WattPad reading experience is an experience of many, it’s interactive, and it’s in your face.  That kind of terrifies me.

And it has me weighing my options as to just what kind of story would fare well on WattPad and whether my novel would or not.  Based on the little bit I’ve read and what I’ve seen as popular I don’t think it would be.  Not for the particular demographic that goes there and not for the style of reading that goes on there.  The story I’m writing now is meant to be more immediately engaging.  It’s meant to be somewhat episodic by chapter, set to hook a reader in at the end to come back for more.  Of course this should describe pretty much every novel out there but it’s a particular type of fan service that goes on at WattPad, a particular type of writing style that flourishes there and I’m seeing that more and more and it has me realizing that for this particular book it might not be a fit.

At least not the way it’s currently written.  Granted the majority of people who buy YA are adults but that contradicts this demographic on WattPad, except no one on WattPad is buying anything.  It’s user-generated content.  It’s a lot of teens writing for teens.  I just read an article on Publisher’s Weekly that stated that 90% of the people on WattPad are readers and the remaining 10% are writers.  I buy that.  As a reader of fanfiction I reset my expectations for what I’m reading.  I’m more forgiving with something like fanfiction because I’m not expecting it to be finely honed craftwork.  It blows me away when it is.  Same thing here.  I’ve already dumped one story because, while interesting enough, it wasn’t interesting enough to overwrite the bad writing.  And it was pretty bad, only it’s a fairly popular story with a few hundred thousand views and tens of thousands of votes.  So it’s doing something right.  Playing to the audience.  Giving it what it wants.  Updating the story with three page chapters every couple of days.  Relationship drama, gun fights, chases.  Entertainment trumps quality.

Now that I’ve wandered around more on WattPad, I’m getting more used to it, I’m less inclined to publish any of my novel there, even in tandem with self-publishing.  The kind of stuff that WattPad seems to thrive on is not only not what I write but not what I read and I can only bend myself so far to that will before I break.  It’s still early in the game.  Who knows.  Maybe Trials of Faith will blow up on there.  I’m certainly not going to sacrifice quality in order to do it (despite the fact that what I’m posting is largely raw I’m not going to alter my writing style in any significant way in order to pander to the audience, I’m not looking to come off as a poser or disingenuous) but I am playing to romance/sex and drama moreso than what I normally do because of the audience I’m trying to hook.  More drama, more action, more romance.

I write all this out and it keeps coming off as me complaining about writing a story people actually want to read.  Oh no, right?  How awful.  But this is me stepping away from writing just for myself.  That’s usually how I start, and damn everyone else.  This is MY story.  I’m trying to think of it as THEIR story and find a happy medium between what I want and what they want instead of THIS IS ABOUT ME.  My novel is very much ME and maybe other people will like it, which is why I’m thinking it may not be a fit for WattPad right now.  Eh.  Who knows.  Come back at me in six months and let’s see where I am.

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