These are old beta learnings that are no longer accurate.
It’s Nick here, the Editorial Lead at Wattpad, to talk about the Wattpad Next Beta program and give it a new year update on where we’re at and what’s going on.
First, to close a loop, I’ve been digging around to try to find these many sources of some sort of January date or whispers of January end times. Internally, our beta was set to last about six months, with some flexibility. Halfway through (January) is a checkpoint for us to reevaluate what’s happened and figure out if we need to make any adjustments, or if things had gone horribly wrong and it might need to scale back. So maybe, just maybe, through a chain of broken telephones, that information has now manifested as the beta ending in January? That’s the best I could do.
Ok, on to the update!
When we created this program, we aimed low in our expectations for two reasons:
- This was going to be a major learning opportunity, not primarily a major business opportunity. Prioritizing learning over a perfect new product meant no major marketing push, different varieties of stories, and limited systems
- We had never brought money to Wattpad before and were confident it would have low adoption. Even if people loved the ability to pay (which we weren’t certain they would), they probably wouldn’t start paying for awhile. Just a few early adopters, some people testing it out, and everyone else waiting and watching
So that was our position from the outset. And things went way different than anticipated.
People want to support authors. We’ve already sold over four million coins in the program, which was beyond what we had in mind in such a short time period. The biggest coin packs make over 40% of the purchases, and are often being used on entire story purchases, something we also didn’t fully anticipate as we thought readers would want to buy a couple parts first or be more hesitant to make the full investment.
How did the authors do in all this then? Pretty well, especially when we compare it with our own expectations and other markets. Earnings ranged from $10 to thousands, and your average English author earned just over $750 USD, with a median $165 USD and the median was pretty similar across Spanish and Tagalog. Individual author earnings belong to each author though, so I’m not going to disclose how much any particular person earned. There are some case studies that are coming together, and some authors may be willing to share that information if they’re asked respectfully and politely.
Plus, the stories in the program experienced a 150% growth in readers as a median, so we’re really happy with that result (and it’ll get mentioned down below).
Otherwise, what did we learn?
We aimed for the program to be as successful as possible, even with all those things above. We selected stories that already had a decent audience (a minimum of about 60,000 reads, which I’ll get into in a follow-up post below this), and we picked stories that fell within mainstream genres with a lot of broad appeal. However, we also wanted to make sure we had diversity in our selections. Big fantasy and romantic comedies certainly are mainstream and broad, but repetitive if they’re all you see, and we wouldn’t learn much. Science fiction, horror, a startup thriller, a mystery built on cryptic pseudo-posts, whatever genre The Red Door fits in, we tried to make sure we had a lot of things going.
With only a few months of data, limited locations, and a mere 21 English stories, compared with literal millions, we have a long way to go on learnings, but we do have things we want to explore further.
For example, the third highest selling story was the longest, at over 500,000 words. A Science Fiction story without the usual teen romance bad boy drama everyone associates with popularity proves that you can do things entirely different and people want in. It’s also a good example of where you hear comments of negativity about how the book is too expensive and yet everyone is buying it.
Then again, the big two stories did involve bad boys and romance, Damien and QB Bad Boy. We wanted to know if popularity in reads translated to purchases. And we also have some counterexamples, since both Crash and Will & Rosie did exceptionally well, and neither of them existed before the program. They started from a big ol’ zero, and yet they came in as top 10 earners.
It’s a lot for us to take away and still explore. But the overwhelming support in the form of purchases and engagement leads us to believe it’s best we expand the program and continue it. There’s going to be a future announcement in the coming months to look forward to that will have a lot going on, but in the interim, this should explain some of the shifts you’ll see.
There will be new stories joining the program, and some old ones will be leaving. Authors in the program took a risk, and wanted to work with us, but some have other plans for their stories or other projects they want to work on, and we’re always happy to work with them more in the future.
New stories also bring new niches and opportunities. Before, we weren’t launching to the US but now that it’s onboard, we can bring in some of our very popular US genres, like Urban and Werewolf. We’re trying out some more niche genres with passionate fanbases, like Historical Fiction and Paranormal. And we’re trying to expand our LGBT offerings, which is a current weak spot for the Next line-up and not reflective of Wattpad’s catalogue.
The successes of some of the smaller stories has also made us drop our minimum read threshold down to around 8,000 (again, post on these numbers below). We’re also trying to bring in more new stories, with the success of Crash and Will & Rosie, meaning sometimes we’ll contact authors and they can let us know they have a new story idea they would rather write, or something they want to try. It’s pretty exciting to have something exclusive like that. Oh, we’re also adding series as well, experimenting with having book one be free and latter books be paid.
We’ve also shifted in our offerings, away from experimentation and more to support and opportunity, now that we have an operational team here dedicated to working with the authors (that would be my team!). We have our own little community space for them, exclusive resources, and a coach working with each author to help them achieve their goals.
That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re always going to appeal to every author. Plenty of authors we’ve contacted aren’t interested in putting their story into the program. Some never want their stories to be paid, others think the message their story tells shouldn’t be restricted, and still more intend to pursue other opportunities. All of this is fine by us, as authors have control over their own content. It becomes our job to make sure we offer something you want to join, not the other way around, and declining doesn’t put you on some sort of blacklist.
Also, we now have a Community Moderator, in charge of sweeping through comments, handling information, and analyzing sentiment. While adding new stories and locations are our short-term focuses, alternate ways of payment, like tipping and watching ads for coins, are still on the board to explore down the line. We’ve gone out to contact users who experienced bugs with purchasing or lost access to rectify their experience and continue to work on removing bugs and getting to our ideal state.
And that’s most everything for now.
If you want to learn even more, you can keep reading below to find posts on those read numbers and selection processes.
Additionally, there’s going to be an AMA with me! Come ask me anything about the program, the updates here, or other questions you might have by clicking here.