Wattpad is a wonderful resource for aspiring writers who want to build an audience and be discovered. The only problem is if you write mature content – Wattpad is not your friend.
Yep, Wattpad is a problem for Wattpad writers who write mature content. Its algorithms are great for getting viral exposure for your story (providing your story isn’t rated ‘mature’), but that doesn’t mean the best stories or best authors rise to the top of the hot list. It just means they successfully enacted the snowball effect that launches them onto the hot list.
All it takes is a few recent comments and votes for a story to jump in rank, and once a story is visible in the Wattpad ranking, it’s more visible to readers overall. And if those new readers vote or comment, then further up the ranks your story will rise – hence, the snowball effect.
But what if you have a great well-written story, but can’t get those first few readers, commenters, or voters?
Well, that’s how a lot of stories end up DOA.
I have a story on FanFiction.net which was pretty well received. Over 40,000 reads, and hundreds of comments and favorites…but on Wattpad…nothing. Nobody reads it. Nobody cares. Why? Because it’s rated “mature.”
Mature stories cannot be ranked on Wattpad. The snowball effect algorithm doesn’t even apply. The moment you set your story rating as ‘Mature’ you’ve killed it. Unless – you get an underground following.
Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of successful mature rated stories on Wattpad, but the sad truth is, they still get far fewer reads than they would if they were more easy to find. They are not allowed to be ranked of featured on hot lists, and so if you want mature content, you really have to go digging for it. There are certain communities, such as Wattpad After Dark, where mature writers can share their work, but it’s still nowhere near the amount of exposure they would receive if mature rated stories were allowed to be ranked beside all the other works available on Wattpad.
Currently, to use Wattpad you must be 13+ years old, and you HAVE to make an account. It would be very simple to allow mature content to be rated and featured on the hot list, but if someone’s account lists them as being underage, then they simply wouldn’t be allowed to read the adult stories.
Will Wattpad ever implement such a change? No, probably not.
So how can a writer who wants to maximize their audience potential still write mature content?
By being sneaky – that’s how.
As I’ve seen, there’s the dishonest way, and the “I’m going to find a loophole, so I’m not technically breaking the rules” way. I’m in the second category by the way.
A lot of writers on Wattpad will write mature content (i.e., graphic sex scenes, excessive use of bad language, extreme violence, dark subject matter) and then just not bother marking their rating as being mature. They might put “mature content” in their tags, and warn people in their story summary that the story will contain mature content, but without setting the official ranking switch to mature, they’re allowed to be ranked. And I’ve heard conflicting information on how well Wattpad moderators are at addressing such behavior. Some people swear that those stories get reported and taken down, others claim to have filed reports against those stories, and they never get taken down.
Apparently, there are some writers who will say “mature content” or “this contains a sex scene” but those scenes aren’t graphic or explicit, so they’re able to skirt the requirement to switch the mature rating on, while still reaping the benefits of enticing readers looking for risqué content. They are basically the writers pushing the envelope, but just barely staying clear of the “this is getting reported” zone.
And then there are the writers who find loopholes to get around the Wattpad system. Some writers will set their mature chapters as private so that only followers can read them. Or some will get their readers up to that point and tell them to go buy their book on Kindle if they want the full explicit story. There are also the writers who censor their own work until after it’s climbed the ranking algorithm, gained an audience, and then switch the mature rating on.
I contemplated doing that for my story (Torn Apart). The mature scenes don’t really start until Chapter #17, and so I’m technically not required to switch the mature rating on until I’m actually posting mature content. I could try and build up as much audience as I can until I get to that point, switch it to mature rated, and see who sticks with me. But, that creates one major problem – completed work is more searched and read than incomplete works. Most stories that jump the ranks in the Wattpad algorithm are already completed. I would basically kill my potential to widen my audience by doing such.
This leaves me with having to be sneaky and going through loopholes. I won’t be technically breaking any rules.
On the main story, I will post censored chapters (for those delicate sensibility readers and to avoid getting reported), but I will also post a separate companion piece which will contain all the mature chapters, properly rated as mature. I’ll simply add an author note at the start of those chapters on the main story that if they want to read the uncensored chapters to check my profile and find the companion piece where they can read the uncensored chapters in their entirety. Basically, readers can choose between the PG-13 version or the HBO after hours version.
Yes, it bothers me that I have to go to such sneaky lengths to broaden my audience on Wattpad, but the way their algorithm is set up, they leave me with no choice. I honestly prefer sites such as AO3 or FictionPress, where every author has an honest chance to have their work read because the search is based on more things than just “what’s hot.” They provide a much more even playing field, and mature content creators aren’t cast aside. But, sadly, those sites don’t have nearly the size of reader base that Wattpad does, and if you want to expose your work to as many readers as possible, unfortunately, Wattpad is the way to go.