Wattpad, an online community for writers, allows anyone to post an original story, upload a cover image, and share it across thousands of groups and followers. It is, put simply, YouTube for books, and it’s been quietly growing, on the web and on well-designed iOS and Android apps, since 2006.
Wattpad’s categories include everything from historical romance to sci-fi – with an unsurprising bent for internet-friendly genres such as fanfiction and the paranormal – and stories range from a couple of pages into the thousands. Last summer, they ran a poetry competition in collaboration with Margaret Atwood, and in August, they launched Wattpad Fan Funding, a kickstarter-like service for successful writers to raise money for editing, printing and book design. Most excitingly, Wattpad is truly international, grasping the borderless potential of networked literature like no print-based publisher has or really could. The top 15 countries people come to Wattpad from – all in the millions – include the Philippines, India, Holland, Germany, Spain and Saudi Arabia. And while each of these has their own flourishing language community on Wattpad, many read and write in English too. Lilian Carmine, a Portuguese speaker, English writer and Brazilian resident, was recently signed to a UK publisher after her story was read by millions online.
But Wattpad’s real secret is that it’s the most successful social network you haven’t heard about – and that, in the present internet climate, is exciting. Wattpad’s more than 18 million readers and writers spend hours every month on the site and mobile app. They comment, follow and discuss – and what they’re interested in is stories, not identities. While Facebook and Google insist on real names and the construction of a “true” identity, the strength of Wattpad’s network is that it’s based on works, not personae. As a result, it makes the internet, as well as literature, interesting again.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010