The big story this week is Wattpad’s ninja launch of their fanfunding portal. This week’s press release /blog post received quite a bit of coverage at traditional media outlets, thus proving the great interest there is in crowdfunding.
- Wattpad launches crowdsourcing section to support authors (CSMonitor)
- Wattpad Launches New Self-Publishing Crowdfunding, First Revenue Model For The Social Network (TechCrunch)
- Wattpad Debuts New Crowdfunding Service (Publisher’s Weekly)
- Wattpad Launches Fan Funding Experiment So Readers Can Fund Writers for Exclusive Rewards
Wattpad isn’t the first entity to offer a publishing-oriented alternative to Kickstarter. Pubslush launched in 2011 and while somewhat active on twitter and social media, I’ve rarely seen it mentioned outside of writer chats. I’ve check on their projects a few times over the past few months and yet to see any evidence of a success rate that is better or worse than Kickstarter.
For the last year or so I’ve been stalking Kickstarter, it’s been obvious that Kickstarter projects in the “Publishing/Fiction” category don’t fund as successfully or at levels similar to those seen for comics or art books. The most successful Kickstarters these past few months have largely been for anthologies (which by virtue of featuring so many creators with a few social connections, ought to fund). Authors on Kickstarters seem to not really understand that there aren’t a lot of people out there willing to experiment on an unknown. If they would look at the comics category, for example, they’d see the webcomickers faring much better than their traditional counterparts. Really – having a proven track record and a body of work that’s immediately available to sample makes it really much easier for folks to invest in a project designed to bring something into the tangible realm of a print book. (Serializers really do have an advantage over the unknown first time person on such a platform like Kickstarter if the project is couched well.)
So it’s worth noting that Wattpad’s entry into crowdfunding comes at a time where publishing crowdfunding has been very tentative and unimpressive.
Reducing Risk for author and reader
The term “fanfunding” being used by Wattpad seeks to highlight one difference with their current experiment. They’re not authorizing /involving authors who are new and unproven to the site. Unlike the masses on Kickstarter which feature first-time authors wanting help with underwriting costs for their initial forays into publishing, these are authors who have an impressive number of fans and works to read on Wattpad. The element of “risk” is reduced (in theory) by working with authors already established on Wattpad.
Current pilot projects
Three projects are up as of this writing (with one complete). It would seem that at first glance, the average goals are similar. The three projects all aim at the $5,000 USD level. This amount seems a bit modest given the size of the userbase at Wattpad. That said, I can see that having several projects complete at 5k is still a little higher than most Kickstarter projects (which aim for low thousands to cover aspects of the publishing process to include editing, covers, print).
Each project has a video and a written post. The reward tiers look fairly similar in their increments and what they include/not include. But if I understand correctly — each of these projects actually are using the reward amount quite differently
APR is about turning an existing Wattpad story into an ebook/book format. This is the simplest pitch — the “you liked it, now support its journey forward into print.” This is basically a preorder concept for hard core fans of the specific work.
“Catch My Breath” is a pitch to help complete another work that is essentially a sequel-type entity to work already published on Wattpad. Several preview chapters are already up on Wattpad with another installment to release in the middle of the campaign (which actually ended, ha!). This, too, is similar to some of the types of projects seen on Kickstarter. This is a preorder for an author who you probably like using characters you really like too.
“Kiss and Tell” is the latest project and possibly the most challenging. The author is pitching the funding help her with her next exclusive Wattpad only story. This is the most similar in concept to a project that asks you to “underwrite costs.” This is the most difficult because it has more to do with the author and your faith in that person to produce that work.
Anyone familiar with Kickstarter knows that the first pitch likely is/was/would be the fastest to fulfill funding. It seems very likely this will happen. The objective is most clear. The “Kiss and Tell” is going to be tough and a lot of other factors may influence the success of this campaign. It’s a shame that there is no preview for this book.
One wonders about the workability of the higher support levels and types given the younger audience at Wattpad.
But I’m encouraged and intrigued by the uptake for “extra chapter/bonus content.” I’ve never seen any one make it work so well in the publishing categories at Kickstarter or Indiegogo, so this is very promising.
However, I’m dismayed by the t-shirt rewards being set so high. None of the shirts have designs to show and the idea of kicking in 75 dollars to get a shirt is very unoriginal and overdone. There are far better options that could be done — all one has to do is look at the webcomics category in Kickstarter for ideas.
Also I do not like the lack of immediate /changing updates to the current interface. Kickstarter helps creators maintain some sense of urgency/momentum with the ability to update, add other things into the pitch, etc. The biggest issue right now is that the projects are “static” and unlikely to shift. This makes it hard to “sweeten” the pot with the reward tiers that aren’t working well… and in fact, it makes it less flexible than Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
I admit being fascinated to see how the Wattpad community responds to their authors. It’s amazing to me how often the independent web serializers dismiss Wattpad in spite of the massive amount of experimentation going on in that platform.
As this experiment continues, I’d really like to see what happens with an author with an older readership on Wattpad. These first three projects largely target a female readership (likely younger teens). It would be interesting to see someone with an older fanbase (which I know Wattpad can probably guess at) attempt to pitch. Older fans have more disposable income (theoretically) and may find the higher-tier rewards to be more valuable for particular authors. I know that I would definitely jump at some of the Featured Authors campaigns should they offer similar perks like reviewing your work or making you dinner :).
I’d also like to see the project pages evolving to allow more interactivity /updates. It would be GREAT to remove one barrier that Kickstarter puts in — largely the interaction between creator and the audience is limited to only those who pledge. This prevents some random flinging of ‘virtual poo’ or flames at the creator — but Wattpad already has a community value system that promotes positive interaction. Why not let the creators engage with people ON the fence or at least let them clarify stuff on the project page?
Wattpad isn’t Kickstarter, after all, and should gamble a bit more.
In any case, this will be an interesting , much watched experiment for the months to come, I’m sure.