I have now had my book “The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer” up on Wattpad for around three months, so I thought it might be useful to scrutinise the figures. The ultimate aim of any writer is to have their work read and www.wattpad.com allows you to see actual reader numbers, chapter by chapter, (and provides a new addiction just as time consuming for an author as the compulsive checking of the Sunday Times and Amazon bestseller lists).
Maggie de Beer is divided into eighteen chapters and more than 150,000 individual chapters have currently been opened by readers.
When Wattpad acted as gatekeepers and put the book on the first page of their “Featured” list, (a bit like being on the front table at Waterstones), the total was rising by over 6,000 hits a day, which means that around 250 people were reading a chapter of the book every hour of the day somewhere in the world. After a while the book slipped to page two of their Featured list and the rate of hits instantly halved, bearing out the theory that many people never go beyond the first page of results or recommendations when they are searching and surfing.
So, those are the numbers of chapters read so far. Closer examination reveals that over 15,600 people have now read the first chapter, more than 8,500 of them were then tempted to open the second chapter and close to 8000 have made it all the way to chapter eighteen, (presumably some are still working their way through at any given moment). It seems therefore that around half of those who open the first chapter to browse decide they would like to read the whole thing. Does that reflect the number of people who decide to buy a book in a shop or on Amazon after browsing an opening chapter? It doesn’t sound impossible, although of course with Wattpad there is not the barrier of having to ask the reader to pay, so maybe it would be better to compare these conversion figures with those of library users.
Wattpad, which is most easily described as being “YouTube for writers and readers”, has a body of people who currently read more than nine million chapters of books on their phones or computers every month. I’m guessing that compares pretty favourably with the numbers of people taking books out in public libraries, and I am also guessing that they are a much younger age profile. They are, in other words, the future of reading and writing.
I am still a beginner. There are some books which have had millions of chapters opened by readers. One managed eighteen million and landed a traditional deal with Simon and Schuster as a result. They provide a clear picture of genres that most people want to read - vampires, werewolves, high school romances, fantasy, thrillers and sci-fi – much as in the traditional publishing world. There is, however, a variety of other material starting to make its way into the “Featured”, “What’s Hot” and “What’s New” sections, and Margaret Atwood – always one who likes to experiment with new technology – has joined in with a book of poems.
Is it me or is this a very interesting development indeed?