WORDS FOR WRITERS: Should You Publish on a Reading App?

Have a finished graphic novel, comic, or manuscript, and wondering if posting it to Wattpad, Radish, Webtoon, or one of the other of the dozens of Reading Apps available out there? That’s great! Hey, I’m on some of them and I find the apps, and the writers communities on them, quite nice. I would never steer any writer away from the apps, but I would encourage any new users to approach them thoughtfully and deliberately.

If you have a project that you want to post to an app, my first instinct would be to ask:

a) what the project is, and
b) what your goal with it is.

Depending on your answer to both of those things, Wattpad (or any of the other serializing platforms like it) may or may not be the right choice for your project.

What is Your Project?

Original Work – make sure that wherever you choose to share the book, there’s a clear ToS that indicates that the copyright of the novel stays with the creators at all times. Also take a look at the recommended chapter/part/episode length on the different platforms–you may find your work better suited to one or the other based on the platform’s word length requirements or best practices notices.

Genre and Medium – different sorts of projects thrive on different platforms. Radish is great for steamy, spicy, dark, sexy romances. Tapas seems to be the shrine of BoysLove/BL graphic novels/thumbscrollers. Wattpad is great for fandom work and YA. Webtoons seems to be a great place for KDrama style comics. Take a good hard look at your work’s genre and where other works like yours thrive, and figure out which platform already comes pre-loaded with your ideal readership–there are loads more than just the four I mentioned. And that’s just from my casual interactions with them — I’m sure there’s lots of other amazing niches that I’m not catching. (Note: some platforms have strict rules about how many other places you can publish the same work, and at what times, especially if you’re monetizing it.)

Fanfic – Like the above, consider the different sites and see which one has the legal protection, curation, and fandom/readership that would best suit your tale. You can’t monetize fanfic, so going where the readers are is the best way to get all those kudos and warm fuzzies.

What is Your Goal?

Just Sharing For the Fun of it / Practice – I’d say dive right in, then! Who knows what will happen! You might get some great feedback, make some awesome friends, garner some great moots and build a wonderful and supportive community, and learn loads. There’s nothing saying you can’t share one for free and then look into monetizing the next project.

To Make Money – people can be stingy and judgey with things that are behind paywalls, so make sure your work is the most polished it can be, and fits the best practices of the site you’ve chosen as well as you’re able. On some sites you’re allowed to control whether you’d like to monetize your work, and some others you have to apply to/ submit to be considered. Take a good look at each of the models on the sites you’re considering and decide which one works best for what you want.

To Get Traditionally Published – the path from selfpublished on a serialization site to traditionally published is a very thin, not particularly well-worn one. Besides the books specifically hand picked by the Wattpad Books and W by Wattpad publishing teams (usually through the Watty Awards), or their graphic novel/comic side Webtoon who publish the Webtoon Unscrolled books, I can think of vanishingly few novels that have been selfpubbed first and then picked up for traditional publication. If you want your project to be tradpubbed, maybe try querying agents and indie publishers first.

That said, having a project on a site like Wattpad will give you a lot of experience and metrics that you can brag about if you elect to query around a second or different project. I cite my serialization site readership numbers in my tradpub marketing documents all the time.

Have a Movie Made – Maybe take a screenwriting class instead? If the ultimate goal is to get a movie made of your story, why not just write a movie? It is a lot rarer than it seems from the outside for a novel to be adapted, and if that’s the only reason you’re doing it, consider that maybe you’re writing for the wrong medium. For more info on that, read my article about How Books Become Movies.

Become Internet Famous – You do you, I guess. I have no idea how it would work, and no advice for that because I am deffo not Internet Famous, and have no desire to be. Looks exhausting. But don’t let me stop you!

Already Available

No matter what serialization site you choose to publish on, be aware that this means the manuscript will forevermore be what is considered “Already Published” by the whole traditional publishing business machine. It’s out there for free already–so why should any agent or publisher pick it up when they won’t be able to get readers to pay for it?

There are very, very few agents and publishers willing to look at Already Available projects , and generally only those with massive pre-existing readerships and fanbases.

If you’re okay with that, then by all means, selfpub on these sites. But go into it knowing that the tradpub world considers posting to serialization apps to be basically equivalent to selfpubbing (and that’s neither good, nor bad. No value judgement here. It just means that they’d have to approach the marketing and business side of things in a certain kind of way. For all that they deal in stories and sell beautiful pieces of writer’s souls and imagination, never forget that tradpub is An Industry ™, and many, many of the decisions are made because Capitalism.)

Do your Research

Talk to other writers on the site if it seems scammy, or the offers are Too Good to Be True. Be careful where you share your original work and what you agree to. Read all the contracts and Terms of Service thoroughly.

Be Honest About Your Pace

Writers find success on these sorts of apps by being consistent with thier posting, and delivering quality stories. Each app will have Best Practices articles that will tell you more about how best to succeed with thier serialization algorithms, but they all basically boil down to: post on a schedule, don’t miss a day, and always deliver the goods.  If you (like me) know that you cannot write in order, hate sharing works in progress, and worry that your enthusiasm for the project will fizzle before you reach “the end”, then maybe considering not uploading and releasing parts of the book until it’s totally complete. However, if you thrive under a deadline and pressure, then maybe releasing as you write/create will be a boon! You do you, but make sure you are making the choice deliberately. Readers are less likely to subscribe to a creator who starts and then abandons projects.

Be Prepared to Hustle

That’s not to say that there’s no hustle involved with getting your work out there, particularly on social media, if you are a traditionally published author. There’s loads, especially post-publication as most marketing efforts and budgets are spent on the pre-release leadup.

But if you’re selfpubbing on a serialization site, you’re going to have to do all of your own marketing and talking yourself up. That includes joining and participating on forums, discords, chat groups, writer’s groups; creating and sharing graphics and book trailers on social media; BookTokking (if you like that sort of thing); volunteering at conventions or meetups; hosting workshops or free writer’s lessons, and answering Qs like these (* winky face *); submit it for on-site promotions and contests; etc.

You’ll have to review recent trends in book covers for your age market, genre, and platform and create a cover that will attract the right readers. You’ll need to craft pitch copy for your book using the same research and meticulous editing. And you’ll need to look into metrics to figure out what time of day/day of the week it’s best to drop new parts/episodes/chapters.

And of course, what took you months, perhaps years to write and perfect, it takes readers a mere matter of hours to consume. So you’ll always need to be thinking of the next project if you’re looking to build a sustained career and readership out of the posting.

Or you know, maybe you don’t have to do any of that. Maybe you can just share exactly how you want to, when you want to, why you want to, and enjoy that too! Again it all depends on what your goals are.

What you choose to put into it, you will probably mostly get back out of it. Sweat equity Return on Investment is always a crapshoot.

(But hey, I keep doing it because I enjoy it. I love sharing stories and reading people’s comments and enthusiasms for my tales.)

In the End, There are No Guarantees

So wherever you decide to post, however you decide to post, make sure that you keep your expectations realistic and your heart open. Everything you hope may come to pass, or your story could sink and get no views. Make sure you’re okay with either happening, and remember to celebrate all the little wins, and have fun!


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JM FreyWORDS FOR WRITERS: Should You Publish on a Reading App?