I recently read a blog post about an author who screwed up 17, 500 free downloads of her debut novel by publishing to KDP using a .pdf version of her manuscript.
In short, the conversion to a Kindle-friendly version didn’t quite take and she had to scramble big time to salvage the situation, soothing the angry readers who had already downloaded the book and working overtime to make amends by posting an error-free version.
I admire her courage in coming clean about this calamity and admitting that, in restrospect, she should’ve been willing to spend the money to hire an e-book formatter. She was quite clear that she’d paid a price by going cheap, i.e., doing it herself. The post was followed by a (admittedly, small) chorus of support, with one commenter vehemently blaming Amazon for the mixup, while others cited their own troubles uploading their manuscript .pdfs.
If you haven’t heard of either service, don’t feel bad. I’d vaguely heard of Scribd before but only came across the possible sales and promotional potential of both it and Wattpad after reading David Gaughran’s attempts with both his own short stories and serially posting his novel A Storm Hits Valparaiso.
In essence, both services offer a variation on the same theme: they facilitate the process of writers finding readers. Writers post their work (though Wattpad is almost exclusively fiction and poetry) without charge; readers can download those works for free. The reasons why writers might want to offer their work for free are many: to find beta readers, to “field test” an odd-ball idea, to stimulate interest in your writing so that it leads to sales of other works, to simply spread your ideas.
While Wattpad and Scribd may seem like just another internet fad, consider that Wattpad claims 1 million users, 3 million comments/votes per month, and the average user spends 30 minutes twice a day on the site. The top stories in each genre of the “What’s Hot” category routinely register over 1-2 million reads. That’s exposure.