Hey there, congats on this and thanks for sharing.
Would you mind elaborating on your experience with Wattpad? Why you chose to post it there, and how it took off?
If so, could you also elaborate on how your agent felt about the fact that you had it on Wattpad prior to querying it? We assume your staggering success was considered a positive thing by your agent.
Whether or not you can/should querying agents after putting your work online or self-publishing it (even if you later remove it) has been a hot topic of discussion here -- and in other writers' circles.
We have reached out to a number of agents for clarification, but we are receiving a mixed bag of responses (some agents care if it's been online, other agents don't care -- but don't want to do on record saying this, some don't feel comfortable even answering the question)
Sure. This may be a long-winded response, but those are great questions since Wattpad success as a bridge to sales is unknown at this point (which is why agents are not sure what to think of it).
I chose to post my book on Wattpad when I was about halfway finished writing it. I was looking for feedback on my writing and trying to grow an audience. Wattpad helped me do that. My readers begged me for next chapters, I wrote short stories in little competitions, and the reads on my book steadily went up. Once I finished the novel, I applied to be one of Wattpad's "Featured Stories." That means, if approved, they advertise your story on the site as a featured story and you get more traffic to it. That pushed my book into the 300,000 reads range. Then I submitted it into the first-ever Wattpad Prize, which was a fun competition where the winners get advertising and a hard copy "prize" edition of their book. That happened a few months ago. I was at around 600,000 reads by then. In the grand scheme of successful Wattpad books, 600,000 isn't incredible. There are some books with millions of views. But the reads plus award gave me a fresh angle for those agents who wouldn't automatically reject me because of Wattpad.
Which brings me to your second question. I knew I wanted to include the Wattpad stats in my query letter, but I also knew that could turn off some of the agents. Regardless, they would find out sooner or later that my book had been online if they were interested. At that point I felt like I had made a mistake. Now I had pseudo-self-published my book on Wattpad and didn't even know if it would be worth it in the end.
I sent my query and first chapter to a bunch of agencies, one of which I went with. When I sent my query to the agency I signed with, the agent's assistant said she loved it, but it was essentially a rejection. She replied to me with a very personal message, and told me that if I had any questions I could surely ask her, so I did. I asked her if Wattpad had any weight in their decision not to take me on. She said it didn't. Then I drowned my sorrows over the weekend. On Monday, she told me to forget everything she said. She had thought about my book all weekend and when she mentioned Wattpad to her boss, her boss (an agent) told her to request my full MS immediately.
Long story short (ha), they loved it. As soon as I got an offer from them, I emailed everyone I had previously queried that wasn't a rejection. I knew I would regret it if I didn't weigh all my options, even though I knew this particular agent was extremely passionate about my book and I would probably go with them. In the end, I did.
To get to the heart of whether or not Wattpad helped me, I think it most definitely did. Maybe I could have finished the book without readers begging me for another chapter. Maybe I could have submitted a cold query and gotten a full request. I'm not sure. Regardless, given the route I took, Wattpad was definitely a factor in getting me an agent, and I suspect it will be a factor in (hopefully) getting me published.
Wattpad just released a new beta analytics capability where an author can see the demographics of who's reading their story. It turns out that 25% of my readers are reading from the Philippines. 35% from the US. 11% from Australia. These are statistics that a publisher would LOVE to have. 62% of my readers are female, but the majority of Wattpad users are female. That surprised me, since my fantasy novel is quite violent and has a male protagonist. The point is, now Wattpad has given me the tools I need to show a publisher the current market who's reading my book on Wattpad. That may or may not line up with the target audience. If it doesn't line up, that could even be a good thing. There may be an untapped market out there waiting for a book like mine.
I'm not sure if any of these answer the question of whether or not you should put your work on Wattpad. In my case, it worked out. If an author is considering putting work on Wattpad as a tool to establish a reader base, I'd advise them to go with something like short stories, not their prized jewel. Betting that your book will rise out of a TON of books and generate enough reads to get an agent's interest is risky. I got lucky. By putting up short stories, you can say, "While this particular novel has not been published online, I've posted a collection of short stories on Wattpad.com. I have x number of fans following my work and my work has been read by y number of people." I've heard that agents are very interested in the number of fans you have (especially if it's over 10,000). I think I'm at around 6,000 fans. That could be the deciding factor in a query they may otherwise reject. It could be deal-maker or breaker, so I'm just as lost as the rest of the writing community about what Wattpad means to agents. Luckily for me, the agent I went liked it :)
Hope some of this made sense.