Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Wattpad Celebrity

Self-publishing: It's more powerful than you think.  ♦ 
"If only I had known what was to come.”

These are the final words of Anna Todd’s novel After, and while its protagonist Tessa feels this way about falling in love with a reckless boy named Harry, these ending words could just as easily apply to Todd’s life as a writer. At twenty-three years old, Anna Todd was a young author without any connections or experience in the publishing industry. Like so many aspiring writers, she was a novice with a dream and a slim chance of achieving it. Flash forward seven years and that inexperienced twenty-three-year-old is now a New York Times Bestseller, with multiple novels published by Simon & Schuster and a film adaptation of her debut novel on Netflix. So, you might ask, how did she do it?

The answer is simple: Wattpad.

From basic romance novels to niche fandoms, Wattpad is extremely accessible, allowing writers to skip the seemingly endless journey of traditional publishing. If you were to wake up one day with a story, all you need to do is write, click “publish,” and instantaneously your creative work is available to millions of people. Though self-publishing on Wattpad won’t bring you immediate fame and fortune, it can give you real-world feedback, which is key in developing your work as writer.

Self-publishing often has a connotation that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of writers who strive for success in traditional publishing. However, it is not an act of desperation nor a last-ditch effort, but a springboard for gaining an audience, drawing attention, and eventually starting a career. In traditional publishing, getting a piece to the literary market could take years. Many authors lose control of marketing and creative decisions to an editor and publishing company, where creative works are expected to fit a certain brand. Self-publishing, on the other hand, gives authors complete control of marketing, the turnaround period, and royalties. When you self-publish, your creativity is free and unhinged, and you can show the world your own brand.

There are many ways to self-publish, but Wattpad seems to have taken the world by storm. With over eighty million users, the website has turned the feared world of self-publishing into a culture. Also known as Wattpaders, authors are free to post, comment, like, and share with no limitations. The culture of the platform has shown that self-publishing is a powerful tool through its ability to grab the world’s attention. Returning to Anna Todd, in 2013 she created an account on Wattpad under the username “imaginator1D” and began posting a story chapter by chapter. Todd’s love for the boy band One Direction and singer Harry Styles led her to create a fanfiction about the romance between college student Tessa and Harry. Thinking no one would care to read it, she posted her chapters for After in her free time for fun, until her story started getting upwards of a million reads. With After now standing at 623 million reads, Anna had stumbled into a success she never dreamed was possible. Now that she had the world’s attention, the publishing and entertainment industries began to look her way. On October 21st 2014, Gallery Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, made Anna Todd’s One Direction fanfiction available on Amazon, iBooks, Nook, Kobo, and Google Play. Starting at ninety-nine cents a copy, the novel now sells for ten dollars on sites like Amazon. Five years later, After was made into a major motion picture.

Anna Todd wasn’t the only Wattpader to find this success; numerous Wattpad authors have been published by big publishing companies, among them Beth Reeks, whose novel The Kissing Booth was published by Random House and later turned into a popular Netflix movie. These writers were novices when they decided to self-publish and show the world what they had to offer, and it paid off. Not everyone who self-publishes is going to get a movie and publishing deal, but Wattpad is always going to be there, waiting for the next writer to grab the world’s attention. So perhaps it’s time to dust off that novel you’ve been scribbling down in a notebook, open that file on your computer where a story has been hiding for a couple years, and click “publish.”

You’ve got nothing to lose.

  • About the Author
    Claire Cummings is a Creative Writing and Media and Culture double major at Miami University. As a senior, she plans to graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree and pursue a career in television producing and entertainment marketing in Los Angeles. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, she enjoys writing fiction novels and screenplays, film production, and acting.

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