Tomorrow’s Best-Selling Novels Will Use This 19th-Century Trick

by Rachel Baker on August 7, 2014

Below is a quick article about the success of Wattpad and what it may mean to the publishing world in the future.

Frankly, I think one of the most stunning things about wattpad is the readership. When we see reports about how the young in America are no longer reading, one can’t help but think these reports are not accounting for reading on mobile devices and the participation in many different, untraditional ways of reading – like Wattpad – that cater to the device-generation of readers.

Who gives a damn if kids open a book – I can tell from experience, the kids in my family are all well-read, critical-thinking individuals who are well-adjusted; and the ONLY time they open a book is because its a school assignment; because they feel like they should at least read a few chapters before figuring out the answers to the not-so-intellectual questions asked in the reading guides for their grades. They spend hours reading other’s works and thoughts and for the most part, read more non-fiction than fiction, though they do get involved in fan-fiction stories when they relate to a topic they are interested in. Their non-fiction reading sends them through a plethora of topics that relate to the original article and often times they are able to spout out more coherent thoughts than most adults whose non-fiction books I’ve read.

All that said, some people will eschew Wattpad as a legitimate reading source, but I say, if Wattpad can keep our kids reading, even if the stuff needs to be re-edited when the authors/writers get older, then so be it – what comes out in the realms of literature will be that much better because of the ongoing social critiquing received and given beginning at an early age. I am excited about the future of literature, reading and our overall intellectual endeavors – even if it means we have figured out how to celebrate a steampunk marriage of 19th serialization and technology.

Wattpad’s success may presage a shift in how fiction is written—and read—by the under-25 crowd that the site primarily serves. The first lesson? Serialization is a powerful way to get readers hooked. It’s an old trick, of course: 19th-century novels, including many of Charles Dickens’, were often serialized, and the suspense drove fans nearly mad. (“Is Little Nell dead?” New Yorkers hollered from the docks at boats arriving from the UK with the latest installment of The Old Curiosity Shop.) Wattpad readers subscribe to their favorite stories, getting an alert the instant a new chapter goes live—a sort of literary “status update.”

This addictive approach to publishing drives a stunning amount of reading: 30 minutes a day for the average user, according to Wattpad CEO Allen Lau. And nearly 85 percent of it happens on mobile devices. The chapter-by-chapter approach also encourages authors to write on the go. They compose fully half of Wattpad’s stories—200,000 new chapters a day—on smartphones or tablets.

But it’s the alchemical relationship between readers and authors that really propels Wattpad.

Tomorrow’s Best-Selling Novels Will Use This 19th-Century Trick

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