Wattpad, the online writing and reading community and entertainment platform, is partnering with the Hachette Book Group to launch Hachette Audiobooks: Powered by Wattpad, a joint venture that will produce 50 audiobooks based on Wattpad stories.
The 50 initial Wattpad audiobook titles will be available beginning in the Summer 2017. Authors and titles will be named at a later date. The partnership will focus on popular Wattpad writers, using actors to adapt their stories into audiobooks for distribution beyond the Wattpad platform.
Ashleigh Gardner, Wattpad’s head of partnerships, said Hachette Audiobooks: Powered by Wattpad is the latest effort by the online community to bring the works of its writers to a broad audience. Wattpad writers continue to sign book deals with conventional book publishers, but Wattpad has also added content deals with film and TV companies such as Turner Broadcasting and Universal Cable Productions to expand the reach of its content.
Gardner said the Hachette partnership will experiment with audio formats other than the standard audiobook format. Hachette also plans to produce Wattpad audiobooks in the physical CD format for libraries and on demand for other interested parties.
The initial release of Wattpad audiobooks will include a wide variety of genres. The titles will be sold digitally and will be available via major online retailers, among them iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Audible.com, Audiobooks.com, Bandcamp, and eStories.
Anthony Goff, senior v-p content development and audio publisher at Hachette Book Group, said “content development is an important initiative for Hachette. We are excited to be working with Wattpad to amplify the audience and broaden the channels of discovery for their unique brand of storytelling.”
Social publishing platform Wattpad is making its biggest move into Hollywood yet thanks to a new deal with Universal Cable Productions.
UCP is a TV production company owned by NBCUniversal — it’s produced shows including USA’s Mr. Robot, SyFy’s The Magicians and Bravo’s Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. As a result of the deal, the company plans to develop new shows based on stories published on Wattpad — stories it says it will identify, in part, by getting access to custom Wattpad data.
“Wattpad data will help spot compelling stories with massive built-in audiences, and fans will influence the development process,” said Wattpad Studios head Aron Levitz in the partnership release. “There’s no place for hunches and guesses when it comes to content development these days. Data- and community-driven entertainment is the future, and Wattpad Studios is leading the way.”
UCP isn’t announcing any specific shows yet. A Wattpad spokesperson told me the company is looking to develop around five projects a year — but of course there’s no guarantee that any of those projects will make it onto TV.
Wattpad says it reaches 45 million people each month, while its community members have published more than 300 million stories. This isn’t actually the company’s first foray into TV. For one thing, the TV5 network in the Philippines already adapted stories for its show Wattpad Presents.
More broadly, Wattpad has signaled an ambition to bring its stories to other media thanks to a partnership with Hollywood agency UTAand the launch of its Wattpad Studios division earlier this year.
A new mobile app called Tap, launching today, introduces a different way to read stories on your phone: as text message-like chats. The app is the latest from Wattpad, a social publishing platform for authors whose community now includes over 45 million readers worldwide, who visit its site or its flagship mobile app to read its nearly 250 million stories.
With Tap, Wattpad is stepping away from the traditional storytelling format to experiment with a unique style of entertainment
The app lets users discover “chat-style” stories – that is, those that unfold as you tap to reveal the next part. The stories are designed to feel like you’re reading someone else’s chat conversations, the company explains, and they are even visually presented in a text messaging-style format.
At launch, there are hundreds of stories available across categories like horror, romances, drama and more.
Tap will also allow Wattpad users to write stories of their own, though this is initially available only to a subset of writers on the platform. The company says that the writing and publishing functionality will roll out more broadly in the weeks ahead.
In addition to reading the chat-style stories, users can also share the stories to social networks.
The launch represents another means for Wattpad to generate revenue for its social storytelling platform, as Tap is a freemium service. While the app itself is free, as are a select number of stories, it also includes the option to upgrade to a premium service. Here, users will gain access to an unlimited number of stories, including exclusive ones available only to subscribers. The service costs $2.99 per week, $7.99 per month, or $39.99 per year.
In more recent months, Wattpad has been expanding its relationship with Hollywood and the entertainment industry, thanks to deal with Universal, Turner, comics publishers and more. But Tap’s subscription service could infuse the company with another more straightforward and immediate revenue stream.
Tap is hardly the only app operating in this niche these days. It competes with others like fiction app Hooked, which offers chat stories and a means of writing them. Amazon also launched a subscription service for chat-style stories called Amazon Rapids, which targets kids. More broadly, Tap goes up against other mobile reading apps like Serial Box, Hardbound, or even social apps like Snapchat, which has its own short-form content available.
However, Tap’s angle is its voyeuristic take on the chat-style format. Instead of just getting snippets of the story with each tap, it feels like you’ve gotten ahold of someone else’s phone and are reading through their personal texts. That could appeal to teenaged or young adult users, who spend a lot of time interacting with content on mobile devices – a place that’s also where much of their social lives today unfold.
When Seung Yoon Lee was president of the Oxford Union, the centuries-old debating society at the famed English university, he says he saw himself as a “content curator.” Part of his job, after all, was to invite intellectuals, politicians, artists, and celebrities—everyone from Peter Thiel to John McCain to “Gangnam Style” rapper Psy—to come speak at Oxford.
“I imagined it as a 200-year-old Ted Talk,” he says.
The experience proved to be a training ground of sorts for Lee, who goes by “SY,” and who recently cofounded Radish, an iOS and Android mobile app for serialized fiction. The writers on Radish aren’t quite as famous as those whom Lee assembled at Oxford, but the idea behind the venture is similar: providing a platform for artists to express themselves. Even the tech component that drives Radish is something Lee was dabbling with at school—under his leadership, Oxford Union speeches made their debut on YouTube.
But the real innovation behind Radish, which recently raised $3 million from investors including the United Talent Agency, Bertelsmann Digital Media, and author Amy Tan, is that it allows its writers to make money from their writing. Unlike Wattpad, another fiction app that has taken off with young genre writers, Radish has a micro-payment system similar to online games like Candy Crush. The way it works is that anyone can get access to early chapters of Radish’s 700 authors, but if you want to keep reading, you have to pay, anywhere from 20 to 40 cents per chapter. (Those with patience, can wait until those chapters are made available for free a few weeks later.) Revenue generated by these payments is split 50-50 between Radish and its writers. As a result, Lee says the app’s top writer earns $13,000 a month.
“Thanks to Candy Crush and other games,” says Lee, who has the youthful face and windswept hair of a pop star. “People have gotten really used to mobile micro-payments. So we said, why don’t we apply that model to books?”
Releasing installments of novels over a period of time to salivating readers dates back to Charles Dickens, someone whom Lee often refers to when giving his pitch about Radish. But the more recent inspiration comes from countries like Japan, China, and Lee’s native Korea, where “freemium” online publishing—where writers are rewarded in exchange for advance chapters—has become highly prevalent. Self-publishing websites attract over 40% of all of China’s internet users every month. And it’s lucrative: In China, top online writers—known as zhigaoshen, or “supreme gods”—can earn millions of dollars a year. Most of this money comes from royalty fees, as Chinese TV, movie, and gaming studios increasingly turn to online novelists (who typically specialize in short-form sci-fi, romance, and historical epics) for “IP” to turn into visual entertainment. According to the China Daily, 114 online novels were bought by entertainment companies in 2014, 90 of which were adapted into TV shows. Meanwhile, the Chinese online game company Giant Interactive bought 40 online novel copyrights during that time.
Wattpad has had the most success so far in adapting novels for the mobile age. A Toronto-based site and app that allows its mostly young, female fans to directly engage with authors and even comment on specific paragraphs, Wattpad has accrued over 45 million users. One of the novels published on the platform, After, by Anna Todd, has been read over 1 billion times. Simon & Schuster published the novel and its sequels—a romance inspired by One Direction’s Harry Styles—in book form, and Paramount optioned the film rights. Top writers on the platform can make money through these sorts of multimedia deals, as well as through advertising, but there is no direct payment system.
Robert Thier, a German writer (though he writes in English) who has over half a million followers on Wattpad, calls the platform “a Facebook around books.” He says that the fans he’s accumulated on the site have been “very useful” and “an amazing way to gather feedback from a wider audience who doesn’t normally have access to published books because they can’t get to them or afford them.” But even with his massive following, he hasn’t made any money.