Taking control of my writing
As someone who watched social media take birth and go on to take over everyone’s mind and attention, all the while never understanding its appeal and the mechanisms of communication (turns out nobody wanted to communicate after all but get your attention and your money) I loved reading your article. I can finally breathe out loud in relaxation. The SM madness is over.
Great job, Simon, at laying out the clear differences between the two approaches to authorship online (not content creators, thank you). Thank you as well for showing the silver lining with the new approach from Substack. I’m sure a lot of former ‘content creators’ from the outdated SM platforms will usr ChatGPT to storm into this place and ‘monetize’ it. But after reading your conclusion, I think that it won’t be as easy. For now I’m happy to be here. I really appreciate your newsletter. 💯
We have similar feelings about Wattpad. My contract expires this month and my book will leave the Paid program early next month. There’s no real return for what I’ve put in, and I’m not sure I even see the benefit for Wattpad with my book. If my writing fails, I’d rather it fail with the knowledge that I did everything I could to make it work. Not that it failed because a company buried it and I had no control over that.
As someone who briefly hesitated between Wattpad and Substack, this is really insightful. Thank you!
Wattpad represents the era of millions of people giving away their creations for free, blogs did the same. Content sloshing everywhere. No one sitting at their PC churning it out was paid, and no one knew their audience, unless you count the pseudonyms.
I looked a WattPad for a minute and decided Medium was a better path. Which it was for two years. Then it sabotaged itself by slashing pay by 90%. That’s when I discovered Substack.
I instantly saw its potential. Although there was zero discovery at the time. It has only improved over the past two and half years I have been on it. For the reasons you highlighted.
Who knows what will happen down the road, but Substack is the best option for most writers at the moment, in my opinion.
I did some time on Wattpad too. Long enough to realize they were not the audience I was looking for.
Like you, I have tried to find footing on SM, and found very little traction. It feels like going through the motions, and little else. So thank you for putting my thoughts and suspicions into words.
I believe Substack is poised to be better, and position writers better, than all the popular SM ever could.
Hopefully, I can find my audience here. I have plans to approach it with a "this is my job" mindset, and you've been an inspiration. Thank you.
Thanks Simon, i totally agree with all of this and I think you make a really good point - It wasnt just Wattpad that changed, it was the writers and what we were building for our careers. I've been on wattpad for a thousand years and in Paid since 2019. This past week I cancelled my contracts and am no longer posting on the platform/part of paid. I dont know exactly what comes next for my wattpad stories, or how fiction posting goes on substack, but I'm excited for whats next :)
I believe Wattpad, as old as it is, was meant to compete with the Chinese Webnovel model, which is even older. It would explain why it feels so similar in some ways, and why it's so unfair to writers. Their mistake though was to not follow the trend when other platforms like Royal Road or Tapas started popping up. They may have thought those others were in the wrong and wouldn't last, who knows, but now they've fallen behind so much it's ridiculous.
I've never used Wattpad myself, BTW. I heard of it tons over the years, but I never felt drawn to it. As a reader, I'm not really into serials, and reading on a screen has always bugged me. As a writer, the "write-for-free" aspect never appealed to me. I was tempted at one point, if only to build an audience, but then I figured what's the point if I don't own it? Not to mention, Wattpad readers tend to be the kind who don't want to pay for anything...
Not really the audience you should have if you plan to make a living out of writing.
Great article and some great insights into Twitter and Facebook.
I started serialising my fiction on Wattpad around the same time I started on Substack. Also tried out Neovel, Royal Road, Scribblehub and Tapas around the same time. I found I had more readers on Royal Road and Scribblehub but almost zero engagement. Neovel was a graveyard. Tapas again showed little engagement. I've consistently updated Wattpad mostly due to the two readers who religiously engage as they're a great encouragement. Likelihood is I'll continue to cross-post there.
My experience with Twitter has actually been pretty positive in terms of leading subscribers to my Substack, but since Twitter started nerfing links to Substack I've seen that drop dead.
Notes, so far, has been the gamechanger although I'm still hoping for mor engagement as that's the more important thing. So I'm greatly encouraged by this post as it downplays the importance of "building an audience on social media" and more so points towards high quality interactions. I love that. I don't have time to beat the algorithm and build an audience. I would much rather write and engage with other writers / readers.
Hearing about Wattpad this way is interesting because I know it from being in fanfiction communities, where it's not talked about fondly, generally considered bottom of the barrel when it comes to big fanfic sites. It's funny you brought up Harry Styles in particular because in college I had a class that brought up After, a Wattpad Harry Styles fanfic that became a big hit and got a movie with the fanfic part filed off.
So you talking about Wattpad in terms of original fiction is a whole new perspective on it for me. And on deeper thought being able to possibly have both fanfic and original fic in one place does sound nice. In theory I could do that on Substack but with paid subscriptions turned on it's a bit too up in the air legally.
For me what drew me to Substack was the idea of not needing to use social media. I hate the idea of mandatory author social media, but everyone I talked to in publishing stressed that you need a twitter three years ago. Never really believed in its effectiveness either honestly, but you do what you have to. I like forums better.
A great insight into your experience Simon, thanks for sharing!
I’ve recently looked for a way to jump from private scribbling to writing online. I’ve been a consumer for 2 decades but couldn’t make the leap. I checked out Wattpad and all I could see was friction in their process and no sense of community.
I chose Substack hands-down. I write for me, but with a couple of clicks and a modicum of sense I can do 99% of what I wanted here. Good to subscribe , Simon.
(But if you back out my comments from Wattpad you're left with 12. 😉)
I certainly can't argue with any of this. I am still on Facebook, but that's about a small group of people who are family and actual friends (not "Facebook Friends").
Discord is... Well, it's chaotic and you know the last two servers I'm on.
Reddit is sitting on the level of hell between 4Chan and the topic of the next paragraph.
Twitter was theoretically about promoting my tutorial page and video business. My video business no longer exists (and is increasingly unlikely to be restarted), while my tutorial page... Had been in the middle of a revamp, until events which happened during the move made that a pointless project to finish. I'm taking some vague amusement in watching it self destruct.
Substack seems useful to those taking advantage of it, but my personal involvement seems likely to remain minimal.
Still, the level of excitement I had over use of the Internet as a forum for sharing ideas, information and creativity from about 1999 on has taken a big hit over the past couple of years, and I suspect my online presence will continue to slowly diminish.
Your mileage may vary.
Wow! Any advice of reaching an audience for a talented and passionate writer who isn't known but is trying to make a mark?
I may be late to the show for this one, seeing no new comments since June, but, for my part, I started taking my writing seriously back in 2015. I joined two writer’s groups, pumped out several short stories, and was happy to have won my 2nd NaNoWriMo competition with a brand new novel. (I’ve won in 2009, 2015, and 2018.)
Part of this “writing seriousness” was posting many of my short stories on Wattpad (@CireWordsmith, if you’re interested). It seemed to be THE platform for writers back then, and I was happy to share my content. To date, my most popular story, “Blind Date,” has amassed a whopping 42.2K reads and 1.8K votes (and ranks #89 in—Spaghetti🍝🤪). My second-most popular story is a nonfiction piece detailing my experiences winning NaNoWriMo on the three separate occasions mentioned in the previous paragraph.
I feel, at least for me, what got me to those numbers were posting regularly in the (now defunct) Wattpad forums. When they did away with this ultra-useful tool, I saw no way to get the word out about my stories within Wattpad anymore, so my vim and vigor in writing for the platform vaporized into the ether, and I haven’t posted there since around 2017, if I remember correctly.
Enter Substack for me in 2023. I’ve been editing that first NaNo-novel for the umpteenth time this year, and I hope to finish it very soon. I just discovered Substack a few months ago courtesy of Jeff Goins when I found his blog had been moved to the platform and thought I’d give it a try. So far, I’ve gained 2 organic subscribers and about 70 imported from my Mailchimp newsletter. I’m not sure what the future holds for my success on this platform, but I’m glad I’ve found a place where I can continue to experiment with my journals, novels, stories, and any other writing I might come across.
I wonder now if I should post the two popular stories from Wattpad onto my Substack, and I’m thinking about creating a full book from my NaNoWriMo story. But what would be the advantage of posting my stories from Wattpad to Substack, especially when anyone can read them already on Wattpad? I tend to overthink things, but I’ve yet to find answers to cross-promoting dilemmas like this.
I hope to figure out my place here on Substack eventually. I hope it’s okay to write nonfiction and fiction on the same publication. For now, all I can do is keep writing, keep practicing, and keep benefitting from community engagement like I’ve seen in the comments here. Thanks, Simon.
Well, that's honestly heartening to read so thank you. I'm a late blooming writer, I simply wasn't in the headspace to write earlier in my life and I was feeling like I'd missed the boat a bit with the various socials. Frankly, the idea of building up a twitter and insta following in the current climate was entirely unpalatable. So discovering substack and encouragement like this has been just great 👍