My novella won the 2017 Watty Award and has garnered a lot of reads- currently at 67k reads (if were longer, it'd be double that number, but the reads are counted per chapter- It's only 8 chapters in length). I want to query this novella, but I'm not sure if it currently having public exposure is a good, bad or neutral thing. Anyone with experience, please chime in. Thanks in advance.
Ultimately, agents and publishers are interested in what will sell. At one time, it was considered that prior publication online would cannibalize print sales, so writers needed to choose one or the other. But today, many publishers and agents are willing to see prior online publishing success as a good thing. In essence, your work has already been road-tested and has proven appeal. Anything that makes you stand out from the crowd --in a positive way --is a good thing.
Winning an award, getting thousands of views or great online reviews are all firmly in the positive category, as long as you frame them correctly. So I would not hesitate to query this work around, even though it has appeared online, and to mention its accomplishments. In fact, you might do some research to see if there is any direct pipeline from Wattpad to an industry insider of one kind or another. If you can't get a response from anyone at Wattpad, or if they don't have any connections, you can see if any other Watty winners have gone onto book contracts, and see if you can reach out to them, or at least find out who their agents are.
With that said, however, novellas are notoriously hard to sell. Even famous authors generally package them with other works (such as Steven King's famous Different Seasons collection). So you might want to hold either hold onto this until you have more work to put with it, or to see if you can expand it into a full length novel, that you can then shop around as "based on" your own award-winning novella. Or --maybe it's time for a Watty Awards anthology to come out. :) If I were you I might try to sell THAT idea.
Any writing award is a good thing, and so the Watty is fabulous--congrats. You also have an arguable fan base, and I'm jealous!
Novella's are rarely queried. Short stories go to anthologies and magazines, by and large.
My answer is two-fold. One is to compile a list of agents who would represent novellas. My guess is that this list will be so short that querying them might take you a few days at most. I suggest being honest in those queries, with the knowledge that no matter how you query this project the odds are against you (and most of us!) Two is to write a novel--either based on this novella (but distinct enough that it is recognizably different) or something new, and novel length. When you query that, be sure to mention the Watty.