Wattpad Next Beta January Update ft. Nick

discussion

#1

These are old beta learnings that are no longer accurate.

Hey everyone!

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.


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Wattpad Next Beta Applications and Featuring Update ft Nick
Fellow Undiscovered Writers 10
Wattpad Next Beta Live Writer AMA ft Nick & WritersXL
Wattpad Next Beta Applications and Featuring Update ft Nick
The Witch's Cauldron - From the Ashes
Wattpad Next Beta Applications and Featuring Update ft Nick
#2

So you’ve read through the above and you’re thinking;

Nick, what’s this about 60,000? What’s this 8,000? Why? Where did they come from? That’s so random.

Before anyone jumps into thinking these are some universal constants or secret Wattpad numbers that explain everything, they’re not. They’re just numbers I used specifically for selecting content for this program, and only this program, and nowhere else.

Anyways, where do they come from?

I did a little bit of research and poking around to see how many reads a story had the day before a person started reading it. And these numbers were guesses, at best.

If you only read about a story a month, or less, meaning you’re a casual reader (a lot of people), the average read count of a story you’re reading is around 60,000. And if you read any number higher than one, it drops down to that 8,000-10,000 range. The more you read, the lower the count goes, though there’s no big jump again, just little increments.

So we evaluate how likely a story is to be successful in the program or when we promote it and a story having 60,000 reads means it appeals to the most possible people. Our new early findings indicate this might not matter much so we’re dropping it. That means stories don’t absolutely have to have 8,000 reads (new stories all have 0 reads!), but it just makes them way less likely to join because of the possible risk. If we think something is outstanding and we just have to have it, we’ll go for it. Or, maybe, it’ll go on the featured list and we’ll see if it does well with a smaller spotlight, because there’s no bigger spotlight than being a paid story on a free platform.

And with that spotlight in mind, I mentioned in the first post that the stories saw big gains in readership from being part of the program. One of the common concerns writers have about it is “will I lose my audience?” and the answer is yes…and no. Joining the program definitely means less conversions, because nothing can beat free. But the light the program shines on the books means that while less people go past the paywall chapter than when it was free as a percentage, more people overall are going to the story. So you are likely reaching a larger audience than you were before.


#3

And so now you’ve read two posts. Or none of them. I don’t know. Maybe you skipped.

You might be asking how we select stories. Reads got mentioned but it’s never been super specific. And it never will be because it shifts and changes among us too as we figure things out, but we look for a bunch of things, such as:

Storytelling, or the ability to capture the imagination of a reader and keep them compelled. Because people need to be hooked into a story in order to pay for that story. Stories can’t bank on good faith or fandom to get someone to the middle where it really gets going if you have to pay early on. Making sure you have clear stakes, clear narrative goals, and a clear journey set out early on is super important.

Quality, or the ability to construct a sentence that flows together and conveys your voice and storytelling. And most important is avoiding typos. We know with Wattpad it’s the first draft for a lot of people, so we’re pretty forgiving, especially when we send a message to those writers and find out they have an edited version on the side, so that helps out a bunch.

Originality, or the ability to be kind of different, but not necessarily that different. Just don’t misinterpret this as having to be the most unique story idea.

Personality, or the ability to sustain the demands of the program. We know it comes with some negative backlash, as well as some newfound pressures. If you don’t update, people get antsy. If you don’t update and people paid to get this far, people can get antsy and you can feel that extra pressure. We evaluate whether or not this is a good time for a writer. Someone frequently going on hiatus, someone who doesn’t respond well to negative criticism, even someone whose last update was “starting med school!” gives us pause to make sure we aren’t bringing in too much stress for someone.

Cover, or not actually, this actually doesn’t matter since we help you with this when you join and even create new covers and descriptions with you. But it does matter to us to see how much effort and passion someone has put in to their work. While we won’t judge your art skills, we will judge how much you seem to care about attracting an audience and how much you’re into your own story. If it looks like you abandon things or don’t care about appealing to anyone, your work probably won’t be a great fit.

Marketplace, or what slots we have available. We only have so many spaces for so many stories, and we want to make sure we don’t trample diversity to add every possible story we love. Sometimes, we have to make hard choices.

Recency, or how much has been happening lately on your story. This isn’t a huge deal though. If you have a story that used to be active and doesn’t have much going for it lately, as all stories get old eventually, that story may not go in the program. But you did prove yourself as a writer, so we may still contact you to write something new!

Community, or how you conduct yourself on Wattpad. This should be obvious. But also I will clarify people who have criticized the program and/or Wattpad have also been contacted to join, so it’s not to say you have to play nice with us to get an invite. But you clearly have to love the community and love being here.

Authorpreneurial Spirit, or how much drive you have towards selling your product. Remember, this is a business partnership and you’re now selling something in a marketplace. If that’s not appealing to you, you probably don’t want part in this anyways, but it’s a thing we consider.


Wattpad Next Beta Live Writer AMA ft Nick & WritersXL
#6

THANK YOU!!! :smiling_face_with_three_hearts:


#7

Finally!


#8

Thank you so much for the update, Nick! It’s amazing to hear that so many people participated and wanted to support authors. I’m assuming that Next continues to be an invite only program. Are there plans for opportunities for authors to be proactive about submitting an application or query?


#9

Thanks for the update!


#10

Yes, this is an area I continue to have sitting on my desk to explore further and figure out. Anything that puts you on our radar technically helps (like the promotion application or being active here and elsewhere) but for now it will stay invite only.


#11

Sounds awesome! Can’t wait to see the books in the Next batch.


#12

Thanks for the update! I can’t wait to see what happens… Next

(Cue groaning in the background)


#13

phew when asking for more data I did not expect this tsunami of info hitting me on a Wednesday morning :weary: Thanks a lot for all of this!

I’m surprised at how little authors earned, with some earning $10 and a median of $165? Does that include the initial amount they got for being part of the program?

So you do not ask that authors update regularly? You just check that they have a history of doing so, if I understand correctly?


#14

I love your pun. That’s some good pun game there :sunglasses:


#15

:joy:Someone had to make the pun, and you took it for the team and Did That <3


#16

These numbers are blowing me away. It’s fascinating to hear what factors go into a chosen story, and how successful some of these authors were with the beta is amazing.


#17

It doesn’t include what they made as being part of the program, that’s separate.

As for updates, we don’t have a specific, strict schedule we keep people to. We check if people have a history of bailing on projects certainly, but it’s also a partnership. By not updating or leaving a story, authors are ultimately hurting themselves and their own ability to make money, so they have every incentive not to.

If someone stops updating though and decides they likely won’t finish the story, they may end up leaving. But we’re also flexible and can understand why someone might need to take a break or miss a couple weeks due to falling ill or graduating or who knows what.


#18

awesome thank you :clap:


#19

Thank you for the thorough update, @nick, and thank you for all you are doing. :clap:


#20

What about own voices stories? :disappointed:


#21

That means even more good books I can’t read, though…


#22

As in stories about marginalized groups written by people from those groups?

I couldn’t talk about them without potentially getting in the way of any person’s personal privacy. We don’t necessarily go around asking if people suffer from depression because they wrote about it, or asking their race or gender or anything like that.

Lots of people want to use Wattpad totally anonymously. So while yes, there is content that matches experiences of the authors, I wouldn’t say what content or which author, that individual would have to talk about it in their own stories or profiles, if they so choose.