January 29, 2019
Wattpad to launch publishing division
by Michael Seidlinger
Wattpad, the social story platform where writers upload, expand, and build readership, announced the launch of a publishing division, dubbed Wattpad Books. Beginning this year with six YA titles combed from the platform’s most widely read stories, Wattpad Books aims to take its success to print. First up is The QB Bad Boy & Me by Tay Marley, followed by Trapeze by Leigh Ansell and What Happened that Night by Deanna Cameron. By October, three more will hit store shelves: Cupid’s Match by Lauren Palphreyman, Saving Everest by Sky Chase, and I’m a Gay Wizard by V.S. Santoni. Wattpad Books will be distributed by Macmillan in the US and Raincoast Books in Canada.
For those unfamiliar, Wattpad has proven to be a viable platform for writers that might not have been given a chance by traditional publishing avenues. A few examples include Anna Todd’s series, After, which went viral on the platform, so popular in fact it generated a four-book New York Times bestselling series along with a film adaptation forthcoming. Syfy has partnered with the platform to turn writers’ stories into pilots for possible acquisition.
How does Wattpad choose stories? Well, by using data, of course. Ashleigh Gardner, deputy general manager of Wattpad Studios and Publishing, told Jim Milliot of Publishers Weekly that Wattpad chooses stories using a mixture of “human editorial expertise” and the results of their “Story DNA Machine Learning” (ahem, fancy term for data and analysis) to “identify and publish more than 565 million story uploads on Wattpad.” With an audience of a reported 70 million people, it sounds like it’s a great time for the platform to open the publishing division.
The announcement sheds new light on the company’s efforts, namely, how it now bridges the gap it originally had with regards to publishing titles (rather than focusing squarely on building audiences and gaining attention for media-driven deals). The announcement conjures up previous industry attempts at community-wide, social-driven publishing platforms like Red Lemonade (founded by Richard Nash, formerly of Soft Skull Press), which produced amazing work like Zazen by Vanessa Veselka, despite eventually shuttering their efforts. Will it suffer the same hiccups? Only time will tell.
Michael Seidlinger is the Library and Academic Marketing Manager at Melville House.