For anyone who isn’t super familiar with it, The Wattys are like the Oscars of Wattpad. Every summer tens of thousands of books are entered for consideration, with only a small group ultimately winning the coveted title in a handful of categories.
I am absolutely beside myself over this! There are so many amazing books on this shortlist so it’s really just an honour to have made it this far. The winners will be announced at the end of September and, while I don’t want to get my hopes up, my fingers are still crossed!
But aside from taking a moment to squee publicly, I thought this might be a good opportunity to share some lessons I learned along the way. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I actually submitted TSATO for The Wattys last year as well (it was only because I didn’t finish the book until February that it was eligible to be re-submitted this year as well).
Needless to say, I didn’t win.
While I didn’t say anything publicly, I was SUPER heartbroken over it. I, like so many other entrants, truly thought my book had what it took to win. But because I knew I’d have a second shot I excused myself from my pity party and took some steps to make sure the book was as good as it could be when the contest opened back up again in 2017.
Whether you missed the mark this year or are planning on giving it a shot next year for the first time, here are some of the things I did that might help you out!
Look for feedback and actually do something with it
Even the most constructive criticism can be hard to take, but if you want to improve you work you’re going to have to suck it up. Ask your readers for feedback and pay close attention to what they have to say. A lot of it might end up just being matters of preference but if you see legitimate issues cropping up, make the effort to address them.
I completely restructured the beginning of The Star and the Ocean, as well as the length of my chapters, in September of last year because of reader feedback. It was a massive undertaking (not to mention a frustrating pain in the ass) but in the end, it did make the story stronger and more attractive to readers.
Finish your story (or at least be as close as you can)
Technically your story doesn’t have to be finished to be eligible for The Wattys (you’re required to have a minimum of five parts up) but I truly think it helps. The first time I submitted TSATO it wasn’t quite halfway finished, whereas this year it was complete. I’m sure the judges do their absolute best to keep an open mind when going into unfinished stories, but you’ve got to admit that it’s easier to appreciate and understand a full and complete work over a handful of chapters. Think of it this way: would you ever pick a favourite movie based solely on the teaser alone?
Get those reads
This piece of advice is completely based on speculation and observation. The number of reads your story has don’t technically factor into the judging criteria, and there are definitely winners each year with only a few thousand reads. But the majority of winning stories tend to have read counts on the higher side. Does it matter? Probably not. Does it hurt to try? Nope.
If you’re stumped over how to drum up reads, begin by understanding that no one breaks the 100k read mark overnight. When I submitted TSATO last year I had around 3k reads when the contest closed. This year I had over 100k when the contest opened. It’s a long game and you have to be committed to playing it.
Admittedly, a lot of my reads came from features; first by making the Wattpad Featured Fantasy list and again by their official LGBT account. While Wattpad has since changed how its Featured List works, there are still plenty of other Book of the Month lists you can apply – or have someone nominate you – for. I also recommend entering book clubs. They’re a bit time consuming but you’re guaranteed reads PLUS most book clubs require participants to leave feedback, which we already know can also be helpful.
Be kind to yourself
Would it be amazing to win? Damn right! Are you a shitty writer if you don’t? Of course not. Not everyone can win and there are SO MANY great books out there that will never win anything. No contest defines your worth as a writer, so don’t let this one stop you from doing what you love!