October 4, 2018

Wattpad wants to be a literary agent

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There are so many paths a book can take to publication. Often, writers brave the slush piles of editors and literary agents, or even posting ceaselessly on social media in the hopes of going viral. Do you really want to make it big? Try your hand at fan fiction. No, seriously.

Photo via Gaelle Marcel/Unsplash

According to a recent article in Forbes, this tactic has worked for over 100 writers in the past year. The site started out as a fan fiction hub with sprinklings of original prose here and there, and has since rebranded itself as a way for aspiring writers to get their books on the shelves. Successful sales so far include the After series by Anna Todd, Textrovert by Lindsey Summers, and Chasing Red by Isabelle Ronin, acquired by Simon and Schuster, Kids Can Press, and Sourcebooks respectively.

How did they do it? Well, according to Wattpad’s “How Wattpad Works” page, the ideal sequence of events is this: post a story, gain a giant fanbase, and finally get the story sent to major publishers via Wattpad’s representatives. The representatives or “agents” reportedly get 15% of the book earnings, which is just about how much a literary agent would charge for their services. So yes, the site basically acts like a giant literary agency.

For writers this may seem like a pretty sweet deal, but the odds of getting noticed are incredibly slim. Whereas Wattpad’s “slush pile” consists of about 65 million unique users, the average literary agent receives about 2,000 manuscripts a year and will represent two of those submissions. There’s also the viral factor the consider: with this platform, writers need to get the attention of millions of users before garnering an offer of representation. With a literary agency, a writer just needs to wow one person: the agent.

All things considered, the average Wattpad user isn’t all that likely to nab themselves a book deal. Still, that hasn’t stopped the site from aggressively advertising itself as a website where writers can become published authors. They even have an entire guide dedicated to explaining how to talk to literary agents and editors.

So is Wattpad the best place to pitch your Young Adult romance starring a thinly veiled famous pop star? Probably not. But they really, really want to be.

Alyssa Monera is an intern at Melville House.

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