MEET THE CREATIVE
The next big literary wizard is gay
Check out Wattpad, the content platform elevating LGBTQ+ authors.
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Books and entertainment
When Nashville author V. S. Santoni decided to publish his debut novel, I’m a Gay Wizard, on Wattpad, he kept his expectations in check.
With characters that span the gender and sexual identity spectrums, Santoni’s novel tells the coming-of-age story of two teenage wizards who navigate bullies, a top-secret government institute and an adversary who appears in dreams. Not exactly a surefire hit.
Which is why Wattpad, an online and app-based publisher that draws some 70 million readers per month, seemed like the ideal platform. Sure, the audience is massive, but it’s Wattpad’s supportive community that really appeals to him. “I love the users,” says Santoni. “They’re very optimistic and positive.”
Although Wattpad gives authors the option to upload their novels chapter by chapter, Santoni chose to drop his all at once. Then he waited.
Two weeks later, the book appeared on one of the app’s featured lists and blew up.
“I had to turn off my notifications on my phone because it was dinging nonstop,” Santoni says. “I had never gotten that much positive feedback all at once. It was a really big ego boost.”
Santoni took to heart the comments and suggestions his readers sent in, using the feedback to adjust the story’s structure and make additional edits. And the reader statistics that Wattpad also provides – which tell authors how long they spent reading, where they stopped and more – led Santoni to add more action scenes and streamline the dialogue.
About two years after being published online, the novel had garnered 444,000 reads and it has been selected as one of the first six books to be published (on paper) by Wattpad Books.
Wattpad eschews the stereotypical writer-publisher relationship, allowing aspiring authors to upload a work and tag it by subject and theme.
In addition to its vast catalogue (over 565 million works have been uploaded), one of Wattpad’s great strengths is its ability to reach audiences that are typically underserved by traditional retailers.
In 2018 alone, 15,000 new works were uploaded with LGBTQ+–themed tags, such as #Transgender, #Agender, #GenderFluid and #Nonbinary.
Santoni credits the success of I’m a Gay Wizard to the unconventional way Wattpad works. “I was able to tag my book ‘trans’ and ‘LGBTQ,’ and my readers could find those if they were curious,” he says. “These are the kinds of people I wanted to read the book.”
And they’re able to read it way beyond the United States.
“There are kids all over the world, from countries where homosexuality is still illegal, saying, ‘Thanks for your book,’” Santoni says, a bit awestruck. “It’s amazing.”