One of the leading free sites to find web novels is Wattpad.com. There are books in every genre, written by authors of all ages from around the world. Most books are free, but there are some that cost money to read. The quality of the writing varies greatly, and many books are left unfinished on the site.
Some people swear by the power of Wattpad to attract new readers, especially teenage readers. There are also those who argue that anyone who posts their content on the internet for free is throwing away their hard work.
Wattpad markets itself as an opportunity for writers to connect directly with readers, get useful feedback, and perhaps even make money from their writing. Programs like Wattpad Paid Stories, Wattpad Studios, and Wattpad Books provide the chance for select writers to see their work earn income, make it into print, and even make it onscreen.
So, what are the pros and cons? As someone who's been using the site for over a year, I'll take a look at the things I think work and the things that don't.
Pro - Get Feedback
Wattpad allows you to try out a story idea and get instant, line-by-line feedback from readers. When you ask friends to read your story, they might offer a few suggestions, but overall they're going to be polite with their feedback. They don't want to hurt your feelings and won't be as brutally honest as you need. On Wattpad, nobody knows you. Readers may not be kind, but they will be honest. If there's something in your story that doesn't work, they'll let you know. They'll also tell you when something has a powerful impact. As a writer, I try to have some humor in every story. Sometimes it's hard to tell if a joke lands the way I want. With Wattpad, your readers can tell you with a simple emoji whether your writing has the intended effect.
Con - Get Lost in the Crowd
Just like it's difficult to get people to buy your book on Amazon, it's hard to get people to read your book on Wattpad. Even though it's free, you still have to market yourself. Chatting with other users and leaving insightful comments on other writers' stories are some ways to be found, but it's an uphill battle. If you're going to put in that much work, why not put in the work on a site where you can SELL your book?
Pro - Gain a Following
Even though it takes some effort, getting readers on Wattpad is a good way to build a following. Dedicated readers who'll devour anything you produce are the foundation for a career. If you write good quality content, market it, and post updates to your stories regularly, you'll start building a fan base that will (hopefully) follow you for the rest of your writing journey. Even successful authors have started creating Wattpad accounts to reach readers they might not have attracted otherwise. Margaret Atwood is a good example of this. She has 113k followers!
Con - Low Odds
Wattpad talks a big game about its opportunities to get published and attract attention from TV and movie studios. However, the number of writers who have that kind of success from the platform is extremely low. You may as well buy a lottery ticket. Even if your writing is stellar and you manage to gain lots of readers, it's still a long shot.
Pro - Contests
This is where I get excited when I talk about Wattpad. The site runs periodic contests put on by big name sponsors like Tim Horton's, Maybelline, and Shaw. Usually, the contests require users to submit a flash fiction piece (about 500 words) on an assigned topic. Often, these serve to promote a new product the company is launching. For example, the #timscoldbrewstories contest told participants to write a story featuring Tim Horton's new cold brew coffee. Of the entries, ten were selected as winners and two were chosen as Grand Prize winners to receive $500, a Freewrite tablet, and a $100 Tim Horton's gift card. I entered that contest on a whim because it sounded like a fun writing prompt. I never expected to win the Grand Prize, but that's exactly what happened. In addition to the great prizes, winning the contest gave me a huge confidence boost. Since then, I enter every contest I can. Any prize money I win allows me to pay for book cover design and marketing for my novels. The contests are seriously my FAVORITE thing about Wattpad. My kids also love the contests. We've been eating a lot of apple fritters with the gift card!
What's my final verdict? Wattpad is worth it...as long as you use it wisely. I personally don't post books out there that I feel are good enough for me to publish on Amazon. I mainly use the site for fan fiction, short stories, and contest entries. However, I've seen others use the site as a place to write first drafts and get feedback. Those users then edit based on the feedback and publish their final version on Amazon. It's an interesting idea, but I don't know if their readers on Wattpad follow them to Amazon to buy the final version after reading the draft for free. Part of me doubts it. And anyway, my first drafts are so rough I wouldn't want ANYONE to see them.
For now, I'll keep posting stories to Wattpad whenever I can. I'll always be grateful to the platform because it's where I wrote my very first stories that I let anyone read. It's where I practice, it's where I gain confidence, and it's where I grow as a writer. If you're not on there yet, go make an account!