Launching Patreon for my fantasy books.

I may have a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing, but a lot of what I’ve learned about writing I can credit to Wattpad. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, and I’ve always been serious about it. I don’t remember a time that I haven’t wanted to be a writer. I wrote my first novel-length book when I was about fifteen, and I wrote another one when I was sixteen. When I was seventeen I started a degree in Arts, majoring in Creative Writing, and I wrote another book. That one was workshopped to death in my writing classes and it turned into something I’m really proud of. It was also the first book I ever posted on Wattpad.

I joined Wattpad in 2013, when I was in my third year of my writing degree. I was already old for Wattpad, but my books have always been for teenagers, so it was the perfect place to share my writing. I uploaded Reprise, which quickly gained hundreds of thousands of reads. People loved my characters, and people hated my characters. People loved the story and they hated it. I wrote a devastating ending, and I was overwhelmed with comments from readers about how they were bawling their eyes out. I was able to see just how much my writing could affect readers, and it was intoxicating.

The comments taught me so much. I figured out when chapters were boring. I figured out when I hadn’t written the character right, because the readers hated them when they were supposed to love them. I took everything with a grain of salt, realising that the Wattpad audience wanted quick and dirty storylines. They were after sexy, sharp fiction which didn’t spare a moment between cliffhangers for a breath of air. They weren’t after literary, but I wasn’t writing literary. And I was learning so much about what worked and what didn’t, and tweaking as I went.

I learnt so much from the professors, tutors and fellow students in my creative writing degree, but over the years I’ve managed to hone my writing incredibly with the help of my Wattpad audience, who have encouraged me and left dramatic comments on every chapter of my stories. The community is incredible; the way Wattpad readers devour books is unstoppable; and the writers on there are so brilliantly talented.

Getting picked up by Wattpad

After I wrote four books on the platform, Wattpad reached out to me to offer me a place in a beta test, which eventually became the Paid Writers program. I was one of twenty English writers who were picked out to have a book behind a paywall in a never-before-seen Wattpad endeavour. Wattpad had always been a home for free books, but now there were exactly 20 books (among millions), which were paid.

You can read more about how I was picked up by Wattpad on this blog post, but I want to talk about the experience of having my book behind a paywall for the first time ever. It was the first time in my writing career that I was being paid for my writing, and the prospect was amazing. The reality was more harrowing.

Wattpad readers are voracious and they’d grown used to devouring book after book while never paying a cent. The idea of paying for a book was completely unheard of on the platform, and even went against all the Wattpad stood for. When my book went behind a paywall, I was inundated with negative comments about how I was destroying Wattpad, how I was selfish and elitist, and how my writing was not worth paying for. It was painful to read.

I’d worked for years on books on Wattpad. The research, plotting, planning and writing itself was a huge task, but I also spent time creating Wattpad-specific things like my own catchy book covers (with my terrible design skills), fancy chapter headings, playlists for the chapter, character casts with famous actors and dedicated author notes. I’d done it all for the love of sharing my writing and for the readers who shared their enthusiasm with me. But I’d finally got to the point where I thought I could make some money from the years of work invested, and I was shot down.

Wattpad had a huge uphill battle to turn a platform of free user-generated content into a place where readers were willing to purchase books. I had the feeling that individual Wattpad staff that I interacted with genuinely had writers’ best interests at heart, but that Wattpad as a company was focused now on profit over the creators who had filled their platform. I was getting “paid” for my writing, but I’m talking cents, so it wasn’t worth the avalanche of angry comments from readers.

I’m sure some writers have managed to have monetary success on Wattpad, but for many of us the reality isn’t there yet. I felt like it wasn’t worth having my books behind a paywall because I wasn’t seeing any cash, and I wasn’t even getting the community aspect of Wattpad that I’d loved for all those years. My comments section had all but dried up because no one was willing to pay for a book on the site.

My move to Patreon

I’ve had my eye on building a Patreon page for a while now. It seems like a better way for creators to take control of sharing their creative works with their fans, without worrying about algorithms or the nonsensical order of the Wattpad Hot Lists. But I knew that if I was moving to Patreon I would need to have a great book and an ongoing series that readers would keep coming back to.

I started writing my fantasy series STARRLINGS in 2018, and I’ve been in love with this fantasy world ever since. This book is my love letter to every fantasy story that caught my imagination when I was young, including Harry Potter, The Northern Lights, Avatar: The Last Airbender, and even Pokemon. It has a magic school, bonded familiar creatures, an elemental magic system, dragons, and amazing magical battles. It has princesses and princes, palaces and caves filled with skulls, romance and a found-family and did I mention dragons?

After spending a few years writing contemporary young adult fiction, this was my first foray into fantasy since I was a child and it took a lot more time than I imagined, but I finally finished the first book. It’s done really well on Wattpad, where it found its home amongst the fantasy fans on the site. And now that the second book is on its way, I’m finally able to launch my Patreon.

My supporters on Patreon can read the first novel of STARRLINGS without ads, and they get new chapters of the sequel first. But I can’t forget about my Wattpad family who have been there for me the longest. My Wattpad readers can still read the first book (with ads), and the second book will be updated there every Sunday.

I’m still new to Patreon and it’s been a new challenge to figure out tier systems and payment, but I hope that if you’re interested in supporting me, you’ll find something to your liking. And since this is all brand new, I’d love to hear what you think. If there’s any particular patron rewards you’d like to see, then give me a shout.

Let me know if you have any questions about my Wattpad journey, and if you have any advice about Patreon I’d love to hear it.

Find my novel STARRLINGS on my Patreon page here.

Thanks for the support!

elle.

ellekirks

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