Guest Post: The Difference Between Wattpad and Traditional Publishing by Taran Matharu

That transition from Wattpad to traditional publishing has been a fascinating experience. I had never really considered it objectively, perhaps because I remain on Wattpad and am still very much a part of the community. But now that nosaferplace have kindly given me the opportunity to write about it on their blog, a lot comes to mind. So here goes.

Feedback and Reviews
It is easy to forget that Wattpad is a social network. First and foremost, you get feedback and encouragement. It is an overwhelmingly positive community and you'll find comments that vary from a simple "I loved it!" to a chapter-by-chapter analysis of the writing and themes. This real-time feedback allows the writer to learn, adapt and improve as they write in a very specific way, while also changing the writing experience from a solitary one to a social one.

In contrast, reviews for traditional books are the normal form of feedback, unless you count fan mail, which you get on Wattpad too. This occurs after the fact on the book in its entirety, with no room to adapt or change until a sequel (if there is one). That being said, very often the feedback is more critical, professional and from a better-read and respectable source. Bloggers put a lot of thought and effort into them, as well as promoting and engaging with writers whose work they enjoy. There is a huge value in that and it is not to be underestimated or taken lightly.

Companionship and Engagement
I have found that the main form of communication in traditional publishing is Twitter. That is how authors, bloggers, fans and publishers tend to keep in touch, at least on a social basis. The scope for genuine conversation and meeting people is limited, quite literally, by the number of characters in a tweet or private message if you follow each other. Interactions are very public and can be hard to track. At the same time, you can send out a tweet and everyone online might see it, the content is far more varied and interesting and most people in the publishing world will have an account.

On Wattpad, communication is also limited for the author. The ability to message all fans is in the form of a status update, which is only really visible to online non-app users (10% of Wattpad) who happen to follow you, and to be honest, only a tiny fraction of those will ever see your message anyway. That being said, private messages can be sent to anyone and allow greater depth of conversation, there are forums to meet like-minded people where the authors are usually sociable and looking to find writing buddies to interact with. Writers can also respond to comments made directly on their stories. Sadly, photos and video cannot easily be shared on Wattpad.

Recognition and Respect
Wattpad success can literally be measured by the very public stats listed beside your book. As an author, the feedback and comments might be all that you need out of writing, as well as the simple knowledge that thousands, perhaps even millions of people around the world are enjoying your work. Yet, the sense of achievement is limited, the financial rewards non-existent. Your passion remains a hobby, your talent recognised only by readers rather than the gatekeepers of the literary world.

I had millions of reads when a traditional publisher picked up my book, The Novice. Yet, my feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. Being paid for your work is one aspect. Suddenly, your work has value. Your dream is no longer a pass-time, but something you can turn into a career. You can afford to put your all into your writing, rather than just the time and attention you can spare.

Then there is the simple acknowledgement by what one thinks as "the professionals". Their jobs are to assess talent and the quality of a manuscript, and they have seen greatness in you. You are no longer just popular, or lucky, or the best that is available on Wattpad. Suddenly, there is the irrefutable fact that your book is going to be in bookstores. You will have a team behind you, people who love your book as much as you do. To put it bluntly, the people who know what they are talking about have said your book is decent. That is perhaps the biggest change.

Finally, there is the simple public perception. Whether we like it or not, if someone asks you what you do and you say "writer" or "author" they pause and try to work out if you are a "real one" or simply "playing at it". They wonder whether I'm unemployed and perpetually working on a book that will never see the light of day. They might think that the book is self-published, perhaps only making a few dozen sales to friends and family. In the literary world, if you say you write on Wattpad, many will not consider you a "real" author, no matter how many reads you have.

Fortunately for me, I get the best of both worlds. In some ways, it is not so much a transition as a hybridisation. But what I can say with absolute certainty is that although the two are very different journeys, both are worth making. Thanks for reading!

BIO: Taran Matharu is a London based writer and the bestselling author of The Summoner Series. He began writing the first book in the series, The Novice on Wattpad, aged 22 and after instant internet success, it was eventually published and translated in 15 languages. You can find him here.

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