As reported here last week, the Chinese e-commerce titan Tencent is throwing $40 million at Wattpad, at a time when Wattpad is seeing 60 million people a month use the site.
Over at Publishing Perspectives today, Porter Anderson carries an interview with Wattpad’s Ashleigh Gardner which offers some statistical insights into Wattpad users.
Fan-fiction (fanfic) has long been a staple of Wattpad, with Gardner reporting 4.4 million English-language “fics” posted to Wattpad this year alone.
Fanfic is often about book, TV or film characters (Fifty Shades of Grey famously began as fanfic of Twilight) but another big draw is music, with 68 million minutes spent reading music fanfic on Wattpad, just in July.
K-Pop, it seems, is huge in SE Asia and Latin America (apparently it’s a genre that originate in South Korea, but I could be totally wrong), while the top twenty celebrities most read and written about on Wattpad are all musicians and performers.
Needless to say we’re not talking Tchaichovsky or Beethoven here, the Wattpad demographic being 70% female and very much Millennials and Generation Z. In July the top five subjects of music fanfic were One Direction, BTS, 5SOS, Fifth Harmony, and Justin Bieber. (And I’ve actually heard of Justin Bieber, which is probably the death knell for his career. Sorry Justin!)
With writers contributing in fifty languages, the USA, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Turkey, and Brazil are among the top countries for reader engagement.
And werewolf fiction, which in mainstream western publishing seems to be a fading niche, gets read on Wattpad to the tune of three billion minutes a month.
Wattpad can also identify trends by country, with soccer fiction apparently on the rise in Italy, France and Germany.
Asked by Anderson how publishers might use Wattpad data to anticipate new trends, Gardner explained,
At Wattpad we don’t just look for what stories are trending, we’re constantly looking at broader trends across our entire community.
We can see the popularity of tags as they rise, or a growth in reading time on a particular keyword. We can also see what search terms users are using, and how these terms grow or wane over time.
We (offer) an unprecedented level of insight that helps (publishers) make decisions like never before.
And it’s not just big publishers that can benefit.
As an author I love to check my Wattpad engagement map and see where my handful of stories on Wattpad are being read. The results are often in stark contrast to the picture painted by sales reports from Amazon or Kobo, or from the aggregators.
And results can be startling different from one book to another, as the three example maps from Wattpad for three different titles of mine show. NB These are for the English-language versions.
Wattpad Map 1 shows a typical spread for a YA title aimed at girls.
8% South Africa
with engagement in the UK, Australia and New Zealand as one might expect, but also in Austria, Egypt, Zimbabwe and Guyana.
Some French titles do well not just in France but across Francophone Africa, the Caribbean and Canada.
Sometimes the results are a big surprise. Take this one.
100% readership from the USA. The rest of the world totally indifferent.
100% readership in the Philippines, while the rest of the world thumbs its nose.
Yet curiously the same title sees a respectable spread of international sales through the regular sales channels.
Wattpad also tells me the age range and gender of my readers by title.
For this YA girl’s fiction I’m more than happy to see a 94% female readership 60% of whom are 13-18 and 34% of whom are 18-25.
My most popular title has had 9,200 reads, which may sound impressive, but is out in the wilderness by Wattpad standards, where millions, tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions of reads are the order of the day.
As an author I see Wattpad’s primary role for me in reaching readers in the nascent markets where my books simply aren’t accessible through the mainstream channels, and as a way of identifying future hotspots in the nascent markets where the big western ebook retailers aren’t bothered to go.
My guess is Tencent feels the same way.