On Saturday 21st October, hundreds of Wattpad users flooded the streets of Toronto for WattCon 2017. It was a highly-anticipated event, taking place at Wattpad HQ, with tickets selling out early and many people travelling from all corners of the world to attend. For those who couldn’t attend, a live stream was broadcast via YouTube.
Hosted by Sam and Alessandra—who did a fantastic job of being light-hearted and witty whilst also ensuring the day ran smoothly—the event was jam-packed from start to finish.
Co-founders Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen kicked off the convention by welcoming everyone, and their passion for the site, as well as their appreciation for all of its users, rang clear in how they spoke to the audience. For me as a writer, it was great to meet the two people who created the site which has been a huge part of my life for over six years, and I know I wasn’t the only person who felt that way.
There were four panels throughout the day, each one lasting approximately an hour; the majority of the time was spent with the panellists answering pre-written questions, and then there was a 10-minute spot at the end where members of the audience—in the room, via social media and through the Live Stream—could ask questions.
The morning’s panels discussed the art of storytelling and an insight into the publishing industry. It was during that latter panel that it became truly apparent how influential Wattpad now is within the publishing and entertainment industry. As a Wattpad Star, I admittedly get offered amazing opportunities to further my writing career, but until that panel, it hadn’t truly struck me just how much Wattpad is changing the publishing industry, and how seriously it is now being taken. In a fiercely competitive market, Wattpad provides invaluable data on the potential for a book to sell—something which, traditionally, submissions from literary agents can’t offer. After all, why would you need to convince a publisher that people would be interested in your story when you already have the numbers to prove that they are interested—and feedback through comments and votes to solidify that?
We had a break for lunch, and a couple of lovely Wattpad users (@sarena_a and @vivalding) took us to the Old Spaghetti Factory, just a couple of streets away, where we tucked into some appetisers and tried to convince Leigh that the jetlag would pass.
One of the most special moments for me personally happened during the hour of “mingling” in the afternoon, when I was asked for autographs and photos. I wanted to attend WattCon to meet like-minded people, chat about writing, and of course see the Wattpad offices. If I met someone who’d read a story of mine, that would be really cool, but it didn’t occur to me that I’d actually meet people who wanted an autograph!
What I found very enlightening through meeting other users was the wide variety of genres that are present on site. Wattpad has a reputation for being a mainly fan-fiction and teen fiction based site, and yet the majority of people I met at the convention didn’t actually dabble in those genres. Fantasy, horror and sci-fi were all very popular and it makes you realise that some of the most successful stories on the site don’t necessarily represent the site as a whole.
Even when I think about fellow Wattpad Stars, many of them aren’t fanfiction or teen fiction writers. They write original fiction in a wide variety of genres, and that’s what made them appealing to Wattpad.
Even though three weeks has passed since WattCon, the buzz still hasn’t left—and I think the memories of it will remain with me for a long time, too.