While other publishers talk a lot about diversity and equality, and have taken steps to make it happen, Wattpad is way ahead in the diversity game.
Wattpad’s 2018 Year in Review is a stunning array of statistics showing that, if diverse writing is readily available to read, the readers will jump on it. But will that enthusiasm translate to mainstream publishing?
First, the numbers.
With a global community of 70 million, Wattpad is,
breaking new ground in literary representation, creating a safe space online for marginalized voices and their stories.
Wattpadders are demanding more representation in every genre. Movements to bring more diversity to romance include #MuslimLoveStory, one of the most exciting trends of 2018.
Each month of the year, readers spent an average of 1.7 million minutes reading stories tagged #MuslimRomance, #MuslimLoveStory, and #IslamicLoveStory. This trend represents a 51 percent increase in reading time from 2017.
But of course readers can only read what writers upload, and supply and demand are nowhere near equilibrium.
While reading time in these categories have grown into the millions, uploads are still relatively small, indicating a huge demand for diversity in romance that can’t be found anywhere else.
As well as Muslim romance themes, readers are eagerly searching out characters and writers of color.
Readers spent close to 116 million minutes reading stories tagged #POC, #Diversity, and #DiverseLit, up 41 percent from 2017. Uploads also increased 40 percent from 2017.
Under the heading “A Spectrum of Identities” Wattpad notes that in 2017
each month, readers spent more than 13 million minutes reading stories tagged #FreeTheLGBT in support of more representation for LGBTQ+ characters.
In 2018, Wattpad reports,
Wattpadders created exciting new narratives dedicated to people who identify as #Transgender, #Agender, #Genderfluid, and #Nonbinary. Reading time for stories with these tags saw an increase of 18 percent to 32 million minutes for the year. Uploads grew by 56 percent in 2018, with a total of 15,000 new uploads this year. Categories across the LGBTQ+ community has seen continued growth in 2018, with stories tagged #Asexual or #Demisexual accumulating millions of reading minutes.
And “Strong Women” scored high too.
This year, people spent more than 107 million minutes reading stories tagged #Feminism, #Girlpower, #Feminist, and #Feminismo, up 43 percent from 2017. Story uploads also grew close to 40 percent, with 10,000 new uploads added in 2018.
Other trends included highlighting mental health issues.
Stories tagged #Depression, #Anxiety, #MentalHealth, or #FreeMentalIllness, the Wattpad community’s rallying cry to destigmatize mental illness, grew four percent in 2018, averaging 32.6 million reading minutes each month of the year. Uploads also grew, up 53 percent in 2018, for a total of 138,000 new story uploads.
These trends, says Wattpad,
point to the deep empathy and social engagement of Wattpad’s global community, which is more than 70 percent female and 90 percent Millennials or Gen Z.
For the US, Wattpad’s community of users is more diverse than the country overall: more than half (58 percent) of Wattpad’s Gen Z users identify as people of color – well above the 48.5% that makes up the general US population.
Wattpad says its 70 million users spend 22 billion minutes a month engaged in original stories from over 565 million uploads on the platform.
Of course there’s much more to Wattpad than just stories uploaded and read, as we’ve reported here at TNPS many times.
But today to focus on the Wattpad diversity trail and what it means for mainstream publishers.
We all know publishers are actively trying to engage with diversity, taking on more authors of variant backgrounds and making more diverse content available.
It would be easy to say Wattpad is proving the demand, but of course almost all of Wattpad’s content is offered free, and Wattpad has global availability across the planet that no retailer can match even digitally, let alone in print.
In many of the countries where Wattpad fares well – for example across SE Asia, there are no Kindle or Apple ebook stores to reach these digital readers.
Further, only a fraction of Wattpad’s content is professionally edited, and much of it is written in installments whereby each installment – which may be a chapter, a half chapter of just a few paragraphs, counts as a free of charge “read”. There are exceptions, like the Wattpad Next programme, but these do not significantly impact on the numbers, so comparisons and projections are not easily made.
But perhaps most significant here is that, unlike the mainstream western ebook retailers, Wattpad had made diversity discovery part of its strategy.
And leaving aside all other considerations, is that something the Big 5 retailers would even consider doing?
Put #MuslimRomance into the Wattpad search engine and up come an untold number of titles to keep you happy.
Put #MuslimRomance into the Kindle store search engine and you’ll be met with a blank stare.
Read more about the 2018 Review from Wattpad here.