Wattpad, the “YouTube of publishing”, has just announced what was perhaps the next logical step in its service to aspiring writers: its own crowdfunding platform.
Called “Fan Funding”, the new platform offers a method of “giving your money directly to the writer and ensuring the story stays on Wattpad.”
This has actually been an issue for the Toronto-based company, as its highest profile authors get snapped up by real-world publishers, making a Wattpad almost a victim of its own success. And while most of its very engaged user community tends to regard “votes” and “likes” and followers as a type of currency, many of its more popular writers have more likely been treating the site as a stepping stone to respectability and perhaps even an income. Thus, the new “Fan Funding” option presents those writers with a credible alternative to the writerly equivalent of an exit.
Wattpad’s in-house crowdfunding solution also arrives as most writers are waking up to the fact that the old model of attracting the attention of an agency and publisher makes almost no economic sense when compared with self-publishing.
And while the standard publishing model makes increasingly less sense in the North American context, Wattpad’s funding platform is bound to be potentially helpful in the rest of the world, in which self-publishing is more likely to be the only game in town. CEO Allen Lau recently wrote, in a guest editorial for Publishing Perspectives, “Non-English speaking, South East Asian countries aren’t usually high on the radar of the traditional big publishers, but as a global platform what we’re seeing is a huge pent up desire for people to simply participate.”
The new platform is flexible in the sense that a writer can ask for funding at any stage of a project’s development, including during its writing. Writers can also use the funds to, for example, hire an editor or proofreader, or perhaps a designer or someone to help make a video trailer to promote the work.
Perks for donating to a Wattpad author can be similar to those offered on similar crowdfunding platforms. Would you pay to have your name mentioned in someone’s serially published fiction?
“The reason that we’re different than Kickstarter is that if you want to start a project on Kickstarter, you basically ask your relatives, neighbors and friends to fund you, and then expect strangers to chip in,” said Lau in a recent interview. “In our case, because we’re a social network ourselves, the writers that are participating in Fan Funding most likely have fairly sizeable fanbases already.”
Wattpad has selected three projects to launch the platform, but has already produced its first success story, in the form of Southern romance “Catch My Breath”, penned by Mercy Rose, which raised its goal of $5,000 during a soft launch before the service even officially debuted.
The company will take a service fee of 5% of total funds collected, while online payment company Stripe will tack on a 2.9% fee, plus 30 cents per transaction.
Wattpad has raised over $21 million in two rounds of funding recently, the largest round of which was led by Khosla Ventures.