Online publishing startup Wattpad (which raised $17.3 million earlier this month) has signed on a high-profile new member to its social network geared towards authors and readers. Canadian author Margaret Atwood has joined the startup’s online membership, with plans to deliver a collection of poetry through the site, aided along the way by fans and readers who can provide input as Atwood pens her latest work.
Wattpad bases its entire existence around the idea that authors generally want to engage with their audience, and share their work with as wide a base of the public as possible. The site allows its members to post stories, poetry and more, and to engage with readers, gather feedback and share discussions about their writing as it’s in progress. Wattpad doesn’t, however, currently offer any way for writers to derive revenue from their published materials, which makes it very interesting that an author who owes her livelihood to her written works would decide to come on board and contribute.
Allen Lau, Wattpad founder and CEO, explained in an interview how Atwood became interested in and involved with the site. The nature of her interest has to do with her history of engaging with new and emerging forms of publication and web-based avenues for fuelling and funding creativity, including IndieGoGo and Twitter.
“Margaret and I have known each other for quite some time,” Lau said. “As you know, Margaret is not only an author, but she is also an inventor, an entrepreneur and very forward looking. Margaret is deeply interested in the evolving nature of reading and writing online and we come together very naturally.”
For her part, Atwood shared in a press release that her interest in Wattpad has to do with its role in connecting writers with audiences, and opportunities to find new readerships which might otherwise not have picked up on their work. “I wonder what it will be like to share my writing with a new group of people, many of whom read on their phones?” she’s quoted as saying. “Building new readers and writers is crucial for the writing and reading community: if there are no newer readers, soon there will be no older ones. And, in writing as with everything else, you learn by doing.”
Lau told BetaKit that for his company, having Atwood on board is about helping Wattpad grow its visibility to the general public. For the startup to continue to be successful, it needs to scale in meaningful ways, and high-profile members with the literary clout of Atwood could help it achieve that.
“We currently have just under 10 million monthly uniques but our goal is to grow to hundreds of millions of users,” Lau said. “To get there we will need to broaden our appeal to the mass market. We have been having a lot of successes in expanding our demographics and expanding internationally in the last couple of years. Having Margaret join Wattpad will help us to further grow in that direction.”
Atwood will be working on a serialized collection of poems called “Thriller Suite” on Wattpad, and the company also says to watch out for further collaboration between it, Atwood, and her own startup Fanado. The support of a major writer will definitely help Wattpad increase its visibility, and it’ll be interesting to see if more established authors follow Atwood’s example to see what Wattpad’s anti-establishment publishing model can provide them and their readers.