The Opposite of Popular

The online home of alleged author Victoria Leybourne

More on Wattpad Futures

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This is sort of an update to my post about the Wattpad Futures program back in August. That post keeps getting more and more traffic – I think because details about the program are still pretty sparse on Wattpad’s actual site? And also because, for some reason, my post appears to be on the first page of Google for “wattpad futures” – although that’s very possibly just for me, because Google knows I wrote it and wants me to feel good about myself.

Anyway, Wattpad have now put up a two-page minisite about the program, featuring an FAQ. I don’t know how long it’s been there, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t appear for at least a couple of weeks after the original announcement, because that’s how long it took me to forget how curious I was about it and stop looking for new information every couple of days or so.

The new FAQ actually does answer a couple of the questions I asked in my last post. For instance:

There is a payment threshold. The FAQ says “You will not receive payment until your net proceeds exceed $100 USD.”  This isn’t particularly uncommon for this type of thing, and they’re being upfront about it, which is good – but I always think payment thresholds are pretty stingy on the part of programs like this, especially if they’re this high. I mean, I can understand how paying someone a few cents might not be worth the administration costs, but this means that if you earned $99.99 from the program, they’d keep hold of it until you made that extra cent. And $99 is more than pocket change to most people. There’s also no indication of how long it might take you to make that $100. How much money do you get per ad impression?

It’s possible that by limiting access to the program, they’ve actually made it so that they can almost guarantee that you’ll make more than that in every payment period, so it won’t be a problem – remember, they were saying that the writers involved in the beta made $1000+ a month – but then why would they need a payment threshold at all?

I also mused extensively about copyright infringement and the implications of monetising fanfiction. To summarise: many of Wattpad’s most popular stories are fanfics – a medium which has always fallen into kind of a grey area, rights-wise, but which rights-holders are generally prepared to overlook as long as no money is being made. Popular Wattpad stories also tend to have very nice covers – but there’s no culture or expectation there (as far as I can tell) of paying for stock imagery etc. I wondered if Wattpad might offer some kind of guidance to program participants about issues like this. Turns out, no. And the FAQ is actually pretty blunt about it:

It is  your responsibility to review your stories to determine whether they infringe copyright; and we cannot provide specific advice on what may constitute copyright infringement.  If you are unsure, we recommend you obtain legal advice.

I mean, no, I guess they don’t want to pledge specific advice to all current and future participants in the program. But, uh… you’ve got to be very sure of your $1000/month before you start shelling out for legal advice as an individual, and I don’t think it’s realistic or fair for Wattpad to wash their hands of any obligation to review for copyright infringement like that. Even a solid FAQ about copyright infringement would be something because I really don’t think the Wattpad users who are committing it know they’re doing anything wrong. I’ve seen forum users advising each other to get pictures from Google images for their covers (standard in fan communities and probably overlook-able if no money’s being made, not so much if it is) and people posting entire books as “public domain” that are definitely not in the public domain.

What really unsettles me, though, is the fanfiction angle. When I looked in August, it seemed to me that none of the popular fanfiction stories were included in the program, so I thought maybe fanfics wouldn’t be eligible. So, maybe an author could monetise their original stories without any fanfics they may also have written being included in the program. However, the FAQ says:

CAN I CHOOSE WHICH OF MY STORIES WILL HAVE IN-STORY ADS IN THEM AND HOW OFTEN DO IN-STORY ADS SHOW UP?

Unfortunately you cannot choose specific stories at this time. All of your stories that have at least two parts/chapters will be enabled once you choose to sign up. In-story ads appear no more than once every 30 minutes, as we are always trying to balance reader engagement and your earnings.

And it doesn’t say anything about fanfic authors being excluded, so it does look to me as though fanfics will be being monetised. And, actually, the fact that it looks that way – even if that’s not the case – is sort of the problem. Because, to me, the main worry about fanfic being monetised is that rights holders might stop carefully looking the other way and start cracking down on fanworks. As someone who spent their adolescence steeped in the glory of fandom, that would make me pretty sad.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t participate in the program. I mean, despite what this sounds like, I’m all for new ways for creatives to make money – and I don’t blame Wattpad for wanting to find ways to monetise their platform, either. Like I said in my last post, I actually wondered how it was making any money before this. And I’m sure there are Wattpad writers for whom this is ideal – though I think you’d probably know if you were one of them. If you’re on the fence, my suggestion would be to make it a business decision. There’s a lot of language in that FAQ about doing what you love and living your dreams – but you can write for free. Monetising it means taking a close look at the boring details. If Wattpad is where your audience is, or you’re planning to keep posting there no matter what, then it might well make sense for you. Otherwise, I would at least consider other options, like self-publishing. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program pays 35-70% royalties and pays out monthly no matter how little you made, so at least you know you’ll get your money.

That’s my take on it for individuals, anyway. Looking at the wider picture, I guess I’m just going to end this post on a note of disappointment. Like I said before, I really feel like Wattpad had a great opportunity to guide and control the development of a new way of compensating writers for their work – but it doesn’t look like they’re taking it.


Yes, two posts in two days – neither of which has counted as my post for this week. No, YOU’RE in a desperate flush of directionless productivity because you’ve finished your stupid book and don’t know what to do now.

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9 thoughts on “More on Wattpad Futures

  1. I actually saw this post when I was at work, but I couldn’t help reading it. Honestly, reading this almost made me delete my Wattpad account. If I didn’t have readers there, I would have left that site a longtime ago.

    The fact they are telling writers you are responsible for legal issues is just wow! I’m sure Wattpad knows most of their users are teens and young adults who may not know about copyright laws. You are correct about using Google images. Most, if not all, of the book cover designers there don’t use COO images. I’m pretty sure a lot of writers who are getting paid are using copyrighted images from artist they never asked permission for.

    Not only that, I know for a fact some fanfiction writers on that site are bragging about how they get paid to write now. They are bragging about getting paid for using someone else’s ideas and hard work. Wattpad makes me sick…and like you said, they had an opportunity to do great things, but in the end, it doesn’t seem that way.

    I hope my comment doesn’t come off as mean, but it just bothers me.

    Like

    • Re: the copyright issues, I don’t think they’re necessarily wrong for saying that individuals are responsible for not violating copyright, and the program is only open to adults, but I definitely think it’s uncool that they’re not providing more guidance. I checked out their FAQ pages for copyright and there’s nothing there that explains about use of images or goes into detail about avoiding plagiarism.

      Thanks for commenting, and for providing some extra information! I don’t think you’re being mean. Online writing communities are important to people and inspire strong feelings. I can’t even articulate quite why this program bothers me so much.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I won’t lie. I straight up don’t like the program. I think it’s nice writers get paid for their work, but the discrimination and the handling of the program is very poor.

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  2. Hello, I’m a fanfiction writer (also I’m from Denmark, so I’m international as well) and I’m a part of the program.
    I must say that I agree that they should give us more information about copyright etc. Also I find it unbelievable that I maybe some day can get in trouble for “making money on fanfiction”, when really Wattpad handpicked ME and invited me to take part in the program – even though they could quickly check and see that ALL of my stories are fanfictions… I feel like if it’s not legal to make money on fanfiction, then they should maybe have checked out the writers they picked in advance..

    Like

    • Hey Louise,

      Thanks so much for commenting! It’s really interesting to hear from someone in the program – especially when you’re both a fanfiction writer and not in the US, which answers two of the questions I had about the program in my original post! Perhaps, if you don’t mind, you could share some details about your experience? I totally understand if you don’t want to answer all/any of these questions, though!

      So, Wattpad approached you? Does that mean you were part of the beta?

      Have they given you any guidance at all about the whole copyright thing, besides what’s publicly available on their site?

      Have you been able to meet that payment threshold and get paid regularly? Does Wattpad’s claim that the writers involved in the beta were making $1000/month sound right to you? (Again, TOTALLY cool if you don’t want to answer these, since I’m asking about your earnings!)

      Overall, are you happy with the program and glad to be participating in it?

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      • Sure! However I was not part of the beta, so not much has happened yet.
        I got a message on Wattpad in August from one of the staff members, basically saying that I was one of the lucky chosen, and there was a link to a short form that I should fill out. Then about a week later I got an email with a link to my contract that I needed to sign. It’s mostly confidential but it didn’t really make me any smarter in terms of the copyright thing. After signing, the ads appeared after a couple of days and I was told that they would get back to me in a couple of weeks to a month for banking information.

        The ads have now been up for 2 months and I just emailed them and asked when I’d hear anything, and they apologized for the delay and that I will hear from them very soon.

        So I really know almost nothing up until now, and I reckon they are reeally busy at the moment, but I’m very happy to be a part of the program and hope that they will enroll many others in the future 🙂

        Like

      • Thanks so much for your response, that was really interesting. I’m glad you’re happy with it so far. Honestly, it sounds like they’re a little disorganised if they still haven’t even taken your banking info, but hopefully that will all be sorted soon. If I’m reading their terms correctly, I guess you should get your first payment in early February?

        Thanks again for commenting, it’s great to hear from someone with actual knowledge of the program! 🙂

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      • Hello. I took a look at the FAQ page. They ask for your banking info after you’ve made the $100.

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      • Ah, okay, I must have missed that! Thanks!

        Like

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