How Wattpad Helped Me Get a Publishing Contract

The Chicks are thrilled to welcome R.S. Kovach to our blog. She has a brand new release coming out today called Last Resort, published by Simon & Schuster. R.S. will share her amazing journey to publication and how Wattpad made her publishing dream a reality. Take it away, R.S.

Most writers go through a fairly laborious and time intensive process to land them their first book deal. They take months (some even years) to write the manuscript, edit and revise the heck out of it, send it to beta readers and then edit some more. They’ll query agents (or nowadays even editors directly, depending on the publisher), cross their fingers for a full request and then wait – often months again – for “the call”. Once the author has representation, the agent will submit the manuscript to editors at publishing houses, who will go through their own review process before deciding whether they want to offer a contract.

I’ve certainly tried all of this: written and queried three separate books in differing genres, while getting to various points within the process. But none of those books are getting published yet because this story – the one about my publishing deal – happened quite differently for me thanks to Wattpad. Here it is, including a special cameo from Anna Todd (yes, Ms. Imaginator1d – the author of the AFTER series – herself).

If you’re a reader and/or a writer and haven’t heard of Wattpad yet, then you probably will in the very near future. Wattpad is a Toronto-based online storytelling community where readers have free access to user-generated content. Over 45 million people have joined the site since its creation ten years ago and more than one-hundred thousand new people sign up each day. Ninety percent of Wattpad’s users are between the ages of 13 and 30 and many of them use the app on their mobile devices.

In October 2015, Wattpad teamed up with XOXO After Dark – Simon & Schuster’s website for the best books in romance, urban fantasy and women’s fiction – to run a contest through the profile. Entries had to be no more than 2,000 words with the theme of “Confessions.” The top five stories with the most Wattpad readers’ votes would go to the final round, where Pocket Star (an S&S digital-first imprint) editors would pick the winner. This winner was going to be announced on October 24th at the end of the XOXO Connects all-day online convention where romance fans could chat with authors, get exclusive sneak peeks of content, and learn about writing and publishing.

The contest was open October 9 – 18. I didn’t even know it was happening until another Wattpader tweeted about it on October 15. She was lamenting how she didn’t have enough time to enter and that was my initial feeling, as well. But after checking out the contest rules, it kept nagging at me. I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I ended up brainstorming all night. By the next day, I knew what I wanted to write about.

Over the next two days, I wrote and polished a short piece about an editorial assistant at a publishing house secretly lusting after her hot boss called LOOK, BUT DON’T TOUCH.

I posted the entry on the last day and then obsessively watched the reads and votes go up until the first round closed. I was in the top 5! Now it was all in the editors’ hands. I had read the other four finalists’ entries and our stories were all very different. I felt like I had a shot, but I didn’t know what the editors were looking for so couldn’t get my hopes up.

On Saturday, October 24th, I stalked the contest’s Wattpad profile and the XOXO After Dark Twitter feed, not knowing exactly how and when they’d make the announcement. By 7:30pm, I was a nervous wreck. At one point, I refreshed my Wattpad notifications and saw a post by Anna Todd that tagged my user name.

You know that turn of phrase ‘heart skipped a beat’? Yeah, that happened. I clicked on the link with shaky hands and stared at her message congratulating me as the winner. I had to read it several times to make sure it was real. Yup. That was me. I went on Twitter and saw something very similar. XOXO After Dark also made the announcement on their website. Of course I took a screenshot.

So, what next? I wasn’t really sure! The contest promised a publishing contract to the winner, but I had no idea what that meant in this context. I honestly thought that at the most Pocket Books would put my flash fic into an anthology of similar works or stick it into another publication as bonus content. Either would have made me really happy. But I had to wait almost another week to find out.

After exchanging contact info with the Senior Editor at Pocket/Gallery Books through Wattpad, she sent me an email a few days later letting me know they’d assigned me two editors to work with for my book. A few emails later with said editors, we set up a time to talk about my book the following Friday. By then, I was getting suspicious.

They kept saying “my book.” A 2,000 story was not a book. Good thing I was prepared.

During the one hour phone conversation with these two super enthusiastic ladies from NYC, I soon realized that they really did mean a full-length book for the contract. At this point, there may have been some more heartbeat skipping! They gave me three options: 1. expand my short into a full book 2. submit a finished MS I already had to see if it fit with their needs or 3. pitch them a brand-new idea.

I knew right away I didn’t want to go with the first option. I didn’t feel connected to the characters in the flash piece enough, and their story was self-contained in those 2,000 words. The two manuscripts I had on-hand didn’t fit into their profile, but there was an idea in my head since finishing my last book that I thought could work. I pitched and they were intrigued. They asked for an outline. I had it within a week. They loved it. We discussed terms including a 60K target word count and six months to get it to them.

This was how THE LAST RESORT began.

The manuscript was ready for its first round of edits in May 2016, but over the summer, my acquisitions editors both left the project for personal reasons. I got an amazing new editor in August, and over the fall we did one set of bigger revisions, several copyedits, finalized cover design, discussed marketing, and scheduled a release date for March 20, 2017.

After a year-and-a-half process, I am still humbled by this experience and will be eternally grateful to Wattpad for the opportunity. The site was wonderful enough already by providing a respectful and fun place to post writing and get feedback. In addition to getting over 18K followers and joining the Wattpad Stars Program, I’ve made dozens of amazing friends and improved my craft through participating over the last four years. But the increasing number of contests and paid writing opportunities the site is now making available to writers also shows their continued commitment to keeping the creators of quality content on Wattpad and it’s definitely having an impact.

There are at least ten authors who started out on Wattpad who will be traditionally publishing their debut novels in 2017. I’m extremely proud to be among them.

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Alejandra Barros doesn’t know the meaning of failure until fate pulls the rug right out from under her Louboutin stilettos.

Board of Directors’ meetings, corporate takeovers, and jet setting around the globe don’t allow for much of a personal life—and even Ali’s limited free time is dedicated to her beloved horses, show jumping at a championship level. When a freak riding accident shatters her wrist and messes with her confidence at work, her boss mandates a month-long hiatus. If she wants to save her career, she has no choice but to go.

Pebble Creek Lodge is not far from Denver, but the high-end retreat might as well be a world away from the frenzied pace of Manhattan. From the moment she arrives, Ali feels so out of place she’s practically ready to skip the whole “required recovery” nonsense and hop on the next plane back to New York. The only thing stopping her is the ranch hand Hank Mathis and his perfectly chiseled abs, which are intriguing and delicious enough to make her linger.

By the time Ali admits she’s in a bit of a funk, not even the moral and physical support of a gorgeous cowboy is enough to bring her back to her old self—especially when the object of her desires is secretly battling his own demons. To get her life back on track, Ali will have to decide what it is she’s really fighting to regain and what it will take to find it—or she’ll risk losing the one thing that could truly make her happy.

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Thanks for visiting Romance Chicks R.S! Great publishing story. Happy Book Birthday!