2023 Wattys: No More Fanfiction & Other Big Changes
Wattpad quietly dropped the news of some major changes to the Watty Awards this year—including cutting out fanfiction. Here's why this year's contest may look a lot different...
We've rounded up all the big changes we've spotted for this year's Watty Awards based on the 2023 Watty Awards guide, the Wattys website, and the posted Official Rules. There are definitely a few things in there that we're surprised about! (We are not affiliated with Wattpad, so for the latest details and information, you'll want to check out their website.)
Key Dates for 2023
Opens 11:00 am ET Monday, July 17th, 2023
Closes 11:59 pm ET Tuesday, August 8th, 2023
Shortlist Announced: "On or around October 16th"
Winners Announced: December 1st, 2023
Shorter Entry Period
Previous years have had relatively lengthy entry windows over multiple months, but this year prospective entrants will have just 3 weeks to submit their stories. In the Wattys FAQ, it's explained that this is an attempt to streamline the formerly long and protracted judging process. Since they say most entries "come in at the beginning and end of the submission window", the shorter period should cut out the less-utilized time in between.
Fewer Winners, No Genre Categories
Previous Wattys have had up to 5 winners per category, with a grand total of 56 winners per language. But this year, that number is plummeting to just 10 winners in every language, across all genres. (Plus an additional 10 English language stories in the Ongoing category.) While the Wattys still require entries to be within their list of accepted genres, Wattpad is doing away with their old process of awarding by category, in favor of a single entry pool.
This effectively means that there are 46 fewer winners slots up for grabs in each language or, in all languages, a total of about 400 fewer than last year. So any individual's odds of winning are likely to be much lower.
Fanfiction is Officially Out
In a move sure to alienate a huge swath of Wattpad diehards, this year’s Wattys will be the first to eliminate fanfiction from the running entirely. While Wattpad was undoubtedly built on fanfiction—ahem, After—the company has been moving away from the association for a while. Their reasoning is relatively straightforward: fanfiction doesn't make money.
Here is how it is explained in the Wattys FAQ:
"Since fanfiction stories are not original works and therefore the rights do not belong to the author, we are unable to provide these stories with meaningful and monetizable opportunities through the Wattys at this time."
New "Ongoing Stories" Category
Wattpad has really waffled on their priorities these past few years. Initiatives like their Wattpad Creators program and recent app updates seemed to signal that they were addressing one of their biggest problems—the glut of unfinished stories. But they’ve also launched "ongoing" paid stories which update weekly and are separated into “seasons”, which suggests they’re aiming to be more like their sister app, Webtoon, with continuous serialized stories that actually aren’t expected to be “completed” novels.
So it (sort of) makes sense that the Wattys have a new Ongoing Stories category this year. Since 2020, books have had to be completed to be entered into the Wattys. But, to make room for their new serial fiction approach, this year’s awards will accept incomplete works so long as they are consistently updated prior to and during the period of the contest. Ongoing works still have to be at least 20,000 words (as opposed to 50,000 for completed works) and the category is only open for English language stories.
In the past, the Watty materials have made a point of saying that popularity is not a factor in judging. However, it seems that may not be the case for the Wattpad Publishing Prize, which offers a chance for writers to publish a physical book with Wattpad's publishing imprints. The rules clarify that winners of this book deal prize will be expected to meet a certain performance standard:
Winner from the pool of English language, Completed Story Winners in all genres except for Sequels, where the Winner resides in North America and where the Entry has, as of August 8, 2023, a minimum of 100,000 reads as reflected in the Wattpad desktop experience.
Winner Announcements Are Digital (Again)
Last year's winners were announced at Wattpad's first ever live in-person awards show at Wattcon, which also meant the awards came earlier in the year, in mid-November. This year the awards are returning to their normal schedule and process, with the winner announcement streamed online on December 1st.
How do you feel about these changes? Let us know in the comments...