ONLINE KNOWHOW Writers' communities online

Ever thought about publishing your stories online? 
Julie Sullivan walks us through some of the best websites for writers. 

One of the most useful tools for any writer is — readers! The more readers you have, especially passionate readers who love books, the better your story will be. 

But how do you find these readers? Your family and friends may be happy to read your writing, but can you trust them to tell you the truth? In a query letter, as any agent will tell you, ‘My children [mother/spouse/little brothers] loved it’ is a warning sign! 

Writers’ websites are one answer. They not only let you post your work for anyone on the site to read*, but also offer a community of people who love reading and writing and who will tell you what they think. So what are the best websites for writers?

(credit: Maxpixel)

There are so many that winnowing them down is a difficult task. But some of the major sites that you might want to look at are listed below. Most of the sites offer free options so that you can see what you are getting into; you usually have to register. 

Wattpad is huge and global: 65 million visitors a month; more than 2,500,000 writers; 50 languages (though most writing is in English); 400 million stories. Yes, you read that right: four hundred million! There is a good search system. Wattpad is also an app for your mobile, and in fact, most Wattpad readers use their mobile. 

If you write something people want to read, and enough people vote for you, you will be found on the What’s Hot list, which is regularly scanned by publishers. The editors of Wattpad also make their own choices in Featured Stories.

Recently, famous writers themselves are arriving on Wattpad to interact with their public. You are expected to become part of the community and comment when you read.

Good advice for beginners to Wattpad

It's much easier than this to find something you want to read on AO3 (US National Archives 64-NA-3502)

Archive of our own
, affectionately nicknamed AO3, is a huge site of mostly fanfiction writers and readers. The search function is good so you can find exactly what you are looking for. However, it can be a bit difficult to learn the ropes at the beginning.

An example of what you'll find on AO3 (AO3 genres page, screenshot)

Booksie is for writers 13+, so no ‘adult’ content is allowed. One nice feature is ‘houses’, which allow writers to set up their own version of quasi publishing houses within the site (one per account), choosing their own community of readers and writers with their own URL and forum. 

Critique Circle Online is useful because everyone on it is an active critic as well as a writer, so this one will suit writers who want to get solid feedback.

FictionPress home page choices (credit: FictionPress home page, screenshot)

FictionPress is the largest such site in the world. While associated with, FictionPress is for original works only, not anything based on other authors’ work. You can find manga, short stories, fiction, and also nonfiction, despite its name. It’s easier to start using than AO3 and has an enormous library, as well as a useful messaging system between users.

Medium is for writers of nonfiction, mainly comprising of articles and essays. The audience is also enormous and global—more than 60 million unique visits a month. Writers have been surprised to find a short piece going viral with astonishing speed. Read, write, upvote (you can choose how many ‘claps’ to give a piece’), and share.

Smashwords is different from the other sites here, but a very useful one if you are a self-published author. It is a global e-book distribution platform, with millions of readers looking for books, and has turned many self-published writers into financial successes.

Sweek is new, global, mobile-based and already has 230,000 users. You can read stories on your mobile, comment, upload, share, and follow.

Commaful and YourQuote are fairly new but each already has millions of passionate followers each month. Commaful specialises in short fiction, mostly romance and fanfic, but also many other forms; one feature makes a video trailer instantly and automatically from your work. YourQuote —‘mobile-first microblogging’— started in India but has spread worldwide. YourQuote has a kind community of supportive writers of all forms, lengths and genres, including its own meetups and a YouTube channel with a huge audience. 

Take the plunge! (Nutraveller on Pixabay)

There are many more communities for writers, from Nanowrimo forums to Goodreads, Snapchat (yes! for writers too), Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr. If you use the right one properly, you may find not only beta readers for your story, but enthusiastic fans and possibly even book buyers. Why not spend an hour investigating? 

*Even though in many countries your work is automatically copyright, the internet is international; reputable sites will state their policies on copyright in a prominent position. For example, Wattpad’s advice is here

Feature photo credit: 
"A Girl Writing; The Pet Goldfinch" by Henriette Browne (1829–1901)

Julie Sullivan (@webwight) has dipped her toe into a number of these sites and usually withdrew it hastily but writing this article has persuaded her to try again.

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