Why Wattpad didn’t help grow my readership much, and Sweek did

My debut mystery novel Face Value recently broke the magical mark of 10,000 readers. One of the crucial helping hands in making that happen came from an online reading and writing community you may or may not have heard of – heads up, it wasn’t Wattpad. Why Sweek.com helped more than Wattpad, and what that could mean for other (aspiring) authors.

*Note: this article is written from my personal experience. Wattpad seems to be a fantastic platform; it simply didn’t work for me (to date). Sweek did. Read on to find out why, and what this could mean for your writing and your readership.

The publishing of my debut novel was meant partly as an experiment:

Does it make any sense to publish a mystery novel online, as a series, for free? Will people appreciate a multimedia illustrated, digital series like they do a paper book?

Face Value was doing pretty well in terms of reach and readership when – while researching for a blog entry for one of the two Dutch marketing platforms I occasionally write for – I stumbled upon Wattpad. Great, so my idea wasn’t as wildly unique and weird as I thought it was. Awesome for me!

Apparently young people across the globe are reading more, not less, and increasingly they’re doing that on their mobile devices, online, and for free. This is actually a great way for new and experienced writers alike, to connect with their audiences and get the readers involved in the process of creation.

Also, these platforms like Sweek and Wattpad – of which Wattpad is, at the time of writing, undoubtedly the largest and probably the most mature platform in terms of business– are a great opportunity to (pre)market your new book.

In this article I explain to you how and why Sweek could be of more value to aspiring authors than Wattpad.

As with any new social platform, what you’re supposed to do on Wattpad is sign up, follow other people, check out their content, and join the conversation. Then you start sharing your own content, and hopefully people will respond to that.

So, that’s what I did. I followed some well-known and some unknown writers, read some stuff, liked and commented, and then started sharing my own story.

But – as I’m also an online marketing professional – I had to try to ‘hack’ the system. I was putting my faith in the quality of my story and the awesome, custom photography and video we had done to create a stunning new kind of online reading experience:

Now, it’s always going to be incredibly difficult to balance being the creative behind a product, and the marketer for it. The words ‘shameless self-promotion’ come to mind.

And maybe that’s where I went wrong.

I sent the Wattpad team of editors a ‘feature request’ – as per their feature request form. I also tweeted to a couple of people who stood out as either founders or public spokespeople for the platform.

Lastly, I wrote an ‘open letter to Wattpad’ which was pretty much word for word the request I had sent Wattpad before, privately.

Maybe I was a little too bold. I’m not sure. Either way:

- I had zero response.

Interestingly enough though, I also had zero response to my story on the Wattpad platform itself. Only about 170 reads out of the now 10,000 came by way of Wattpad.

The first iteration of Face Value as an online series was shared mainly through the website – www.facevaluethebook.com, the related Facebook and Instagram pages, and my personal Twitter account. It took a lot of hard work as I was acting as a one-man social media marketing team in my spare time outside of working and parenting hours. Even so, I managed to bring a couple of thousand viewers to the website, of which a little over 6,500 then converted to readers.

After six months, the last chapter had been published and the main result I had was some really great responses – and some good pointers — from people I knew and from online readers I’d never met. And - I was exhausted. So I left Face Value on the shelf for a while, focusing on other stuff. Like catching up on sleep.

About another six months later, somewhere in the back of my mind I had been thinking about ‘what to do with my story, next’ when I more or less accidentally stumbled upon an article about a publishing platform, much like Wattpad – only smaller, and based in the Netherlands.

It turned out to have two really interesting advantages to me, over a platform like Wattpad:

  1. Not only was it based in The Netherlands, but it was even based in the same city that I live and work in, and;
  2. Sweek has an integrated service for publishing your book as a paperback or e-book, and for helping you market the book. They even help making it available in online and offline bookstores in your target markets.

I found out later that Sweek had two other benefits which I suspect apply more generally to writers:

  1. Possibly at least partly because the Sweek community is (still) smaller than the Wattpad community, the readers and even fellow writers there, seem to be more engaged with each other.

Personally, I loved reading the responses and seeing like after like, follower after follower get added to my book. Of course I also responded in kind and followed and responded to others’ stories, from the heart!

2. Sweek’s management is far more accessible. Or, so it seems. Make sure your story is finished, that the writing is of a reasonable quality, and, if possible, that your content fits a certain genre where Sweek is still missing a story like yours.

Make your story appealing for readers and have a bit of your promotional activities set from the get-go, and then send the Sweek team a friendly e-mail. I’m almost positive they’ll be glad to get back to you and see how you could both benefit from a collaboration.

First off, on a personal note, what Sweek gave me by way of actually looking at my story and content, was acknowledgement. They showed me that they recognized me as a human being, who wants to be a writer, and who has some level of talent for it and dedication to the craft.

This alone is amazing and I can only hope that Sweek will keep the human touch as they grow and that they’ll be able to do the same for others.

Second, what Sweek helped me accomplish is having my book available as a paperback — being able to hold my dream in my hand for the first time - and offering at a more advantageous price point and margin for me than Amazon ever could.

  • Sidenote — if you’re thinking of ever buying my novel as a paperback, please do so on Sweek and not any of the other platforms it’s available on, as that gets me the best margin!

Thirdly, Sweek gave me some great help in the form of featuring my story and adding two competitions to drive engagement from online readers within and outside of Sweek. This made it possible to dramatically increase the amount of readers I could reach, as you can read here.

Never before had I had so many unknown readers sending me private messages about turns and twists in the plot.

So, what’s the moral of the story? If you’re a writer, like me, starting out in this world of difficult to reach publishing houses, and readers migrating more and more to online reading, why not give Sweek a try sometime. Having a hard time reaching more readers, no matter how hard you try and follow all the social rules on social media? Give this relatively new, but fast-growing platform a try.

You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and that it was helpful to you. What inspires you to create more?

I greatly value and thank you for your attention. That’s why I try to bring value. I’d love it if you would let me know how you valued this article, by clapping, AMPing it on WildSpark, or in the comments below. Finally, if you know anyone else who you think this article might be valuable for, please share it.

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