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Wattpad launches serial fiction, with help from Margaret Atwood

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Toronto-based community writing site Wattpad is taking a cue from Amazon’s Kindle Serials and releasing a new serial story. Author Margaret Atwood (who has been working with Wattpad since July) and British author Naomi Alderman are writing alternating chapters of “The Happy Zombie Sunrise Home.” The whole thing is free; the first three chapters are available on Wattpad’s site Wednesday, and one chapter will be published each week through January 2.

Alderman is Atwood’s “protégé” through watchmaker Rolex’s mentor program. The women wrote alternating chapters of the zombie serial via email. While the entire serial is already written, Wattpad says Atwood and Alderman may change it based on online requests and reader feedback. (Similarly, Amazon(s amzn) is eliciting reader feedback on its Kindle Serials.)

The main difference between Wattpad’s serial and Kindle Serials is the price: Wattpad’s is free, Kindle Serials are $1.99 (for now; the price is supposed to rise). The Kindle Serials program, while new, is also more fully fledged and Amazon is conceiving of it as some kind of money maker, while Wattpad’s approach seems purely experimental and designed to drive user engagement. Clarification: Wattpad asked me to note that many of the works on its platform are published a chapter at a time, so all those could technically be considered serials (though many serial fiction authors argue that it’s the form’s editorial characteristics, not just publishing in chunks, that defines the genre).

“This format offers a cool insight into the writing process and touch points for readers to participate directly with writers,” said Wattpad CEO Allen Lau. “The wall between readers and writers is falling.”

One Response to “Wattpad launches serial fiction, with help from Margaret Atwood”

  1. Hey Laura,

    Thanks for the clarification yesterday. I still do want to comment in order to share our insight based on what we’ve seen on Wattpad around serial publishing.

    We’ve given writers the option to post serially since launching in 2006. It’s more than just a feature, it’s the core of what we do. It’s what redefines the way readers and writers connect, breaking down barriers and creating a tight and supporting social feedback loop. It allows our writers to publish their content more quickly, and it keeps our readers coming back. We know serialization drives engagement, we have lived it for more than five years.

    More than just a new editorial format or price structure for publishing, we find that serialization aligns with the new way people are consuming content – in bite-sized chunks on their phones. We’ve seen organic momentum develop around chapter-by-chapter publishing over the years and have enhanced Wattpad to fully embrace this. We use push and email notifications to allow “fans” to know immediately when their favourite writers update a story. Readers are constantly posting comments on serialized stories anxiously awaiting the next chapter from the writers they follow. Serial publishing works for us by connecting a reader to a story while it’s being written.

    Allen Lau
    CEO, Wattpad