BY ISABEL RODRIGUEZ ’21
On Jan. 24, online storytelling platform Wattpad announced that they will enter the print industry with their own publishing division, Wattpad Books. The website announced that, starting in the fall of 2019, Wattpad Books will publish six Young Adult (YA) titles, all stories that are popular on Wattpad.
The first book to be published under the division is “The QB Bad Boy & Me” by Tay Marley. It has been read more than 26.3 million times and will hit shelves on August 20, 2019. The next two on the list, “Trapeze” by Leigh Ansell (2.5 million reads) and “What Happened That Night” by Deanna Cameron (1 million reads), are expected to be published in September 2019. In October 2019, the last three books to be released will be “Cupid’s Match” by Lauren Palphreyman (46.4 million reads), “Saving Everest” by Sky Chase (17.2 million reads) and “I’m a Gay Wizard” by V.S. Santoni (404,000 reads).
These titles are just the beginning of this newly established publisher. “With billions of data points from Wattpad’s global audience of more than 70 million people, Wattpad Books will introduce diverse, new and undiscovered voices to book lovers everywhere,” Wattpad’s publishing division creates accessible platform for writers wrote the company in their announcement. “Readers will find new genres, category-bending spins on traditional genres, narratives that tackle the experiences and struggles of marginalized communities and stories that speak to the diversity of Wattpad’s global community online.”
Traditionally, writers or their agents would have to submit a manuscript to a publishing house, at which point it would undergo a potentially years-long editorial process before publication. Publishers decide whether or not a story is worth buying based partly on current market trends. However, Wattpad Books works differently. According to Forbes, because Wattpad “[relies] on data about what people actually choose to read rather than what they think they read or want to claim they read,” their expansion to print publishing will change the way the industry works.
For aspiring writers, Wattpad Books provides hope for potential professional success. Since 2006, Wattpad has touted several success stories, ranging from writers selling their books to traditional publishing companies to optioning their stories for film adaptations. Having their own publishing division allows the company to have a direct connection to the creators who use their content.
The division uses a unique system to select books for potential publication. While they have human editors like most publishers, the company also uses Story DNA Machine Learning Technology. This technology has helped the company judge thousands of stories for the Watty Awards, an annual award that features winning stories on the site and social media. According to the company, this technology “deconstructs stories into their elemental features, such as sentence structure, word use, and grammar employed to find the next best-seller.” Story DNA Machine Learning Technology then highlights the most promising stories, which are turned over to human editors.
Wattpad readers notice the difference between Wattpad and traditional publishers. Brittney Gutierrez ’21 reads a variety of stories, ranging from fantasy stories about werewolves to fiction that deals with more serious topics such as depression. Her experience with Wattpad is that the stories shared on Wattpad “are very different than the traditional books we find in the bookstores by well known authors.” She feels that Wattpad is “the perfect place” to write diverse stories, since “before, [with traditional publishing] the publisher can interfere and change stuff.”
Reflecting the change Wattpad books is bringing to the industry, Ashleigh Gardner, Deputy General Manager of Wattpad Studios and Publishing, said in the company’s press release that they “bring something completely unique to publishing: an engaged global community, the most diverse set of writers on the planet, and the technology to find every type of hit imaginable.”
Furthermore, Wattpad Books intends to combat certain issues in publishing like underrepresentation. While talking to The New York Times, Gardner claimed that the publishing industry “is a bit of a monoculture, and editors who have similar backgrounds in some of the biggest cities in the world decide what the entire book-buying public should be reading.”
Even famous authors have recognized Wattpad as a valuable resource to increase diversity in the publishing industry. “Wattpad opens the doors and enlarges the view in places where the doors are closed and the view is restricted,” writes Margaret Atwood in an article for The Guardian.
Wattpad has been changing the book industry since its beginnings. In 2006, Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen founded Wattpad “with a vision to change the way we share stories,” reports Techvibes. Lau, in his interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, shares that his inspiration to start Wattpad was because he is an avid reader but always on the go. He wanted a platform where he could read books on his phone. Also, it was important to both Lau and Yuen for Wattpad to be a place that gives all writers an opportunity to share their own stories. Years later, when celebrating Wattpad’s seventh birthday, Yuen looked back on Wattpad’s progress and told Techvibes that “before the iPhone, before Kindle and before the rise of e-books and self-publishing, there was Wattpad. It’s incredible to have created a platform that empowers people to read, write and socialize in a way fits their mobile lifestyle.”