Updated: Sep 22, 2020
When I first joined Wattpad last June, it was clear to me that I would need to put in a LOT of effort to rise above the sea of stories on the site. While the platform itself is what drew me in initially -- I'd never had a place to share my original works -- I was incentivized to join because of the promotional opportunities such as Paid Stories and Wattpad Studios.
These were wild aspirations of course, and I knew the chances of becoming a Wattpad Star were very slim. But regardless of where I landed, I wanted to aim as high as possible, mainly because I wanted to expose my book to its target audience. I wanted genuine reads.
And getting those loyal readers takes work.
So how did I go from a brand new user with no following to a Wattpad Star in one year?
Now I realize that the forums, as of 2020, are currently down, which is a major bummer. But there are a few sites not affiliated with Wattpad where writers can gush about their books and self-advertise, such as the Wacky Writers Forum.
On the forums, I was able to meet other experienced writers, offer writing advice and suggestions to new members, discuss tropes and diversity in fiction, and share artwork of my characters. By making positive connections with other users, I was able to form bonds and friendships within a few weeks. These relations carried over to loyal readers or merely social media connections and Wattpad shout-outs.
Reading Wattpad Books
With the algorithm and rating system in Wattpad, it can be hard for new stories to get off the ground. If you do nothing to promote your book, it might sit there for six months before someone stumbles across it!
I was not planning on waiting around. So in the first two months of joining Wattpad, I participated in quite a few "read for reads" to expose my book to other users and to give back to the community. Now, these read for reads were negotiated on the forums, and they always had a critique or feedback component, so it wasn't just an exchange of reads (you have to watch out for scams, unfortunately). However, these exchanges were always valuable experiences for me because 1) I was able to see where I stood among my peers, 2) I made several long-term friends and mutual readers who continue to support my work to this day (and vice versa), and 3) those who weren't interested in sticking with my book often left helpful advice and sweet comments that boosted my confidence --- and my reads.
Once I'd garnered 1000 reads in the first month or so, I no longer needed to rely on read for reads; genuine readers had found my book and were anxiously waiting for updates. From there, my read count saw exponential growth.
Now I was definitely better about this for the first book I uploaded to Wattpad, BREEDER. My magnum opus was already complete before I decided to share it to this site, so it was very easy to set an update schedule and stick to it!
This is huge. There are so many stories that writers start and never finish -- or their uploads are so infrequent / sparse, readers either lose interest or completely forget where the plot left off. I highly recommend either finishing (and editing) a work before uploading it to WP, or getting at least a 5-6 chapters ahead of your update schedule so you aren't stressing about it. It's also a good way to avoid writer's block and a reader drop-off.
I also recommend uploading chapter by chapter, 1-2 times a week, depending on chapter length, rather than uploading everything at once -- especially if you're new to WP. It's much easier to form relationships with other writers who are in the same boat as you, and it gives you some time to grow a readership. Plus, it's a great way to build anticipation among your readers. You can ask them what they think is going to happen in the next chapter and post a teaser on your social media, or just dedicate time to addressing issues with your first few chapters based on their feedback.
If you've been around for a while and have a decent following, then you might just go for a complete upload -- WP readers are definitely drawn to complete works. But I'd only recommend this to fanfic writers or writers who already have a fanbase.
Try competing in the Wattys and other official contests. My participation in the 2020 Open Novella Contest put my dystopian book on Wattpad's Hidden Gems list, which definitely brought in some new readers and perhaps put me on the Stars' radar.
I also participated in several unofficial contests, both as a contestant and a judge. This is a great way to expose your book / profile to other writers on the platform.
Apply for Reading Lists
There are many different reading lists on Wattpad, both official and unofficial. I highly recommend submitting your story to one of these lists. If you happen to get featured, you'll see a nice jump in your read count.
And finally, good writing!
Now I'll be the first to admit that I have a long way to go when it comes to developing my writing skills. I have a decent grasp on grammar, sentence structure, and characterization, and I'm known for my creative metaphors and analogies, but while proper storytelling comes easy to me, writing has always been hard.
It takes work to learn proper grammar and comma placement. It takes work to consume and critique other stories for their writing quality, plot, and character development. But the more you study these principles, the better you'll become, and before you know it, you might just catch the eye of the Stars program!
You can also apply to become a Wattpad Star if you meet their qualifications. I did not meet several requirements (such as having two books over 50k reads), so I never applied. They contacted me letting me know I was invited to join the program based on my writing skill and community outreach.