There have been a couple stories in the last few weeks about how a new novel or TV show or something has been announced after the writer and his/her material was found on Wattpad, a platform that has positioned itself as a place for aspiring writers to share their work.
The site seems to have been launched years ago as a response to the bevy of stories to that point about how Reddit posts or Twitter accounts were spurring book deals and TV productions. These “plucked from the internet” case studies largely relied on something going viral or becoming otherwise notable outside of those platforms. So Wattpad and a few others came along and quickly started signing deals with media companies, who would officially turn there when looking for new talent and ideas.
Sounds great, right? Like something everyone should be participating in if they want to achieve creative success?
Yeah, not for me. Just as how I removed all my posts from Medium because I was sick of playing that site’s games and being subject to a filtering mechanism I had no control over, I took down everything I had posted to Wattpad.
The decision was rooted in this mindset: I refuse to cede any more control over my fate to a platform that 100% does not have my best interests at heart. That’s the case on Facebook, Medium and just about every other platform that operates some manner of filtered feed between the creator and reader.
I get that by pulling my material I’m actively decreasing my chances of being discovered. But honestly, do any of us want to operate in a system where one player has an outsized amount of power? That puts them in the position of deciding who wins and who loses. It’s not a level playing field, as the platform operator is likely to only surface what it thinks its partners in the media industry will find viable and interesting, not what represents a truly unique or important voice.
My dissent from this system is, I know, largely meaningless and symbolic. No one is going to notice if it’s just me taking some kind of principled stance in defiance. If more people, though, took back control of their own fates by using non-managed platforms a la WordPress, then we better democratize discovery. That will have important long-term repercussions and being to reclaim some agency over what does and doesn’t rise to the top.
Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.