General Publicity Thread

Responses

  1. paintedbird (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I agree! I actually had a similar idea, but I'm honestly too shy to approach other people to float the idea by them. I'd be up for forming a collective of some sort.

    http://thebitterdrop.com/ || a gaslamp fantasy serial
  2. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I understand your point, I just don't think ads are relevant enough to make it worthwhile.

    At Worm's peak, Wildbow said he was averaging 20K views, consistently. So I went over to Project Wonderful and did a search for everything on its network that got between 15-25K daily traffic, to take a sample of similar sites:

    https://www.projectwonderful.com/adsearch.php?advanced=0&sort=6+desc&avguniqueusers=0&minhits=15000&maxhits=25000&hitdays=5&trafficany=2&sumdata=1&showallregions=1&measurement=1&minbids=&maxbids=&biddays=5&mincurrentbid=&maxcurrentbid=&minbidmin=&minbidmax=&biddingany=2&button=2&square=4&halfbanner=6&banner=1&rectangle=7&leaderboard=5&skyscraper=3&namefilter=&domainfilter=&tags=&badtags=&referrerhits=&referrer=&referrerdays=1&referrerany=1&countrypercentage=&countrytype=0&country=&c=1&sfw=1&nsfw=1&adult=1&adrating=6&graphical=2&approval=0&mincols=&maxcols=&submit=1

    (sorry for the long link!)

    Keep in mind that these sites aren't limited to serials, it includes everything that uses PW, which is predominantly webcomics, and webcomics tend to draw in more money, ad-wise, than serials do.

    That's 70 sites returned on that link. The average return for an ad is $1.38/day. If you take out Sinfest, whose $9+ ad price is definitely the outlier of that bunch, it drops down to $1.27. If you take out the four comics that make $4 or more, it drops down to $1.03/day.

    $30/month is better than nothing, but it's not necessarily enough to offset the headaches that go with running ads, event through PW which, for the record, I think is a really great service:

    - running ads affects your sites performance, because if the ad servers have problems it will affect your load times
    - advertisers frequently don't respect your ad guidelines -- when I was using PW the bulk of my audience came from my webcomic, and the bulk of my readers read it from work, so the ads had to be safe for work. This didn't stop advertisers from trying to run their ads for adult sites, or (the most pernicious of the lot) the "learn to be a pick-up artist" ads. (It should also be noted that these ads usually bid substantially higher than your average bidder, which makes blocking them both annoying AND painful)
    - Even for ads that do comply with the basic PW guidelines, you're going to run into some that make you squirm. No matter how libertine you are, I guarantee you'll run into an ad that triggers your squick reflex, and if it doesn't trigger yours it will probably trigger your readers'. There was an ad I blocked that was for some guys site that was devoted to taking pictures of crap in toilets. It was disgusting, it was blocked. There was another ad that involved the use of fake blood. It was an ad for a book, if I remember correctly, and while it was shocking it was also within PW guidelines and it was legitimately clever (I wish I could remember more of it, I just remember after clicking through that it wasn't what I expected and it also made sense -- grudging admiration, I guess). However, I also got emails from readers complaining about the ad, including two separate emails from two separate people stating that the ad actually made them throw up. So, again, I blocked it.
    - if you're using a service other than PW, you are at the mercy of video ads, flash ads, and ads that try to inject viruses into your site. PW is pretty good about keeping javascript etc out of ads (unless they've changed their policies. I don't think they have there)

    In general your readers aren't going to like the ads. They won't necessarily hate them as much as many of my readers do, and they might put up with them as a cost of getting the content they want, but they will pretty much universally always view the ads as an impediment they have to work around/live with, rather than as something that adds value to your site.

    From a purely site management perspective, if you don't *need* ads there's absolutely no reason to run them. And if you think you can benefit from them financially, you need to make sure they return enough to make up for the time you'll have to put in managing them.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  3. George M. Frost (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Never thought I'd be defending advertising...

    At Worm's peak, Wildbow said he was averaging 20K views, consistently. So I went over to Project Wonderful and did a search for everything on its network that got between 15-25K daily traffic, to take a sample of similar sites:

    I don't know if 20k was Wildbow's total views or just his unique visitors. Either way, your example is still inaccurate, because you're sampling all different sizes of ads, which vary wildly in price due to their varied effectiveness and of course varied placement on a given site.

    For a clearer sample, let's look only at leaderboard ads (size 728x90), as they are generally the more effective and valuable than the other types of ads. Let's keep the daily traffic threshold the same but extend the duration to the last 15 days instead of only 5. And because bidding can also vary wildly, we'll also look at the "average historical bid" over those 15 days instead of just the "current bid" that you were looking at. Here's the link.

    I'm sure you'll notice the difference. This is also going purely on page views. If we adjusted for "unique views" of whatever Wildbow's stats were, I'm sure we'd see an even larger disparity from your original sampling.

    Furthermore, there's the added variable of ad placement. Certainly, an ad placed prominently at the top of a site will be more desirable and valuable than an ad relegated to the bottom or anywhere else that is hard to see.

    - running ads affects your sites performance, because if the ad servers have problems it will affect your load times

    Indeed, that could be a problem, but for those of us using Wordpress and Blogger, loading times will not be affected very much. Also, ads load asynchronously, so people can keep reading while your ads are busy loading anyway.

    - advertisers frequently don't respect your ad guidelines
    ...
    - Even for ads that do comply with the basic PW guidelines, you're going to run into some that make you squirm...

    I've had no such problems, personally, but there are multiple steps you would be able to take against this. The first is blocking, which you mentioned. You can block individual ads or the advertiser's account.

    Secondly, you can make it so no ads (or just accounts) run on your site without being approved by you first. Many sites do this.

    Thirdly, you can set a minimum bidding requirement, which generally prevents "ugly" ads (ads people didn't put much effort into) from running on your site, as those ads often look for free advertising.

    Fourthly, adjust your "tags" so that they do not attract ads with undesirable content. If your serial contains sex and gore and whatever else, you don't necessarily need to include those in the tags on your ad boxes. Unless, of course, you don't mind having ads that show such things. But considering that you only get 20 tags to work with, I'd say there are probably better words to include.

    These are all just how Project Wonderful handles it, however. I do not know how other networks manage it.

    In general your readers aren't going to like the ads. They won't necessarily hate them as much as many of my readers do, and they might put up with them as a cost of getting the content they want, but they will pretty much universally always view the ads as an impediment they have to work around/live with, rather than as something that adds value to your site.

    This is the issue of placement. Finding a location on your site that balances appeal for advertisers but does not intrude upon the reading experience. And hell, if ads inexorably bother your readers, they can always use an ad blocker.

    From a purely site management perspective, if you don't *need* ads there's absolutely no reason to run them. And if you think you can benefit from them financially, you need to make sure they return enough to make up for the time you'll have to put in managing them.

    Again, it's not just a financial issue. It's also communal issue.

    Several of the webcomics I read are members of one collective or other, and each comic thus has prominently displayed links to other comics in that "alliance," with a thumbnail image. I think it'd be very cool if some webserial authors banded together and did something like that.

    ...

    I agree! I actually had a similar idea, but I'm honestly too shy to approach other people to float the idea by them. I'd be up for forming a collective of some sort.

    Oddly enough, the two of you illuminated the heart of the problem in about two seconds.

    Writers with larger serials will see little reason to become part of a "collective," and writers with small serials will generally be too timid to even ask. It's an uneven exchange, as well, based on the how generous the larger serialist feels like being. With ads, however, this is not an issue, because the exchange is no longer uneven.

    I don't think most people respond well to ads that are immediately recognizable as such--I know I don't.

    It's the advertiser's job to make their ad appealing, not yours. If you hate ads categorically, you can always employ an ad blocker. Also, I think most people who actually enjoy your work will understand if you choose to use ads. That's what supporting you means.

    The Zombie Knight Saga -- undead superheroics
  4. D. D. Webb (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I see your point about writers of "big" serials; that's a simple fact, rooted in plain reality and direct interest. The issue of smaller ones being timid, though, is by its very nature fixable. Relative newbies are the ones most likely in need of such a service, anyway.

    The only concern I have is that a webserial consortium composed entirely of young serials without much content would find it difficult to gain traction; the moment readers start figuring out this is a whole group of folks with maybe two arcs of story to offer, each, some will lose patience. Some will doubtless have the opposite response, but (call me a pessimist) I can imagine the bulk of viewers turning away from such an enterprise. On the other hand, if enough members of the group stick with it that they can grow together, the effects could be huge.

    I'm more and more interested in this idea the more I think about it.

    The Gods are Bastards Cowboys! Demons! Elves!
  5. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I'll grant you the data sampling thing -- that was a very poor, off-the-cuff bit of work on my part, and your sample is a lot better.

    I do have to take issue with this, though:

    Again, it's not just a financial issue. It's also communal issue.

    It really isn't. The entire purpose of ads is financial. Everything else is really secondary to that, and comes into the picture only after you've made the initial decision to go with ads or not. It's not that I don't see the benefits you're describing, but you'll never convince me an admin has a moral obligation to run ads on their site.

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  6. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    On my numbers, it was 15k unique visitors in a day and 61,500 unique views (pageviews). Doing a search as you did, it looks like numbers between $1.70/day and $21.40 a day, with middle ground being about $2.50.

    $21.40 a day would be almost $650/mo, which is pretty damn decent. $2.50/day would add up to $75/mo. Might pay your electric.

  7. George M. Frost (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    It really isn't. The entire purpose of ads is financial. Everything else is really secondary to that, and comes into the picture only after you've made the initial decision to go with ads or not. It's not that I don't see the benefits you're describing, but you'll never convince me an admin has a moral obligation to run ads on their site.

    Haha, oh, I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "moral obligation," either. It's their site, of course. They should run it however they like. I'm not trying to guilt trip people into using ads.

    What I mean by "communal" issue is simply that, when serials grow large enough, they can probably do pretty well on just donations alone. So running ads won't be financially necessary. I'm just trying to put forth a secondary reason why ads might be beneficial for us as a community.

    I suppose I should also mention that the network makes a big difference, too. Project Wonderful is generally "cheaper" than other networks, because it uses a different type of system. Google Adsense, for instance, is almost entirely automated, so advertisers don't have much control over which sites their ads actually appear on. However, if you were to run Adsense on your site, you would probably make a little more money.

    So there IS a communal dimension to this. PW would allow smaller serialists to specifically target the larger serialists' sites. But if we're being purely financial about it, then Adsense would probably be the better option.

    On my numbers, it was 15k unique visitors in a day and 61,500 unique views (pageviews). Doing a search as you did, it looks like numbers between $1.70/day and $21.40 a day, with middle ground being about $2.50.

    $21.40 a day would be almost $650/mo, which is pretty damn decent. $2.50/day would add up to $75/mo. Might pay your electric.

    Wow, 15k? Geez. From what I've seen, a 15k daily average will usually get between $5-10 with a good, well-placed leaderboard ad. Some days more, some days less, but yeah.

    And that's only for a single ad, by the way. If you ran two or three (potentially of different sizes), it'd probably be pretty solid as a supplemental income to donations.

    ...

    ...Why do I suddenly feel like a salesman? Argh. Excuse me while I go do some writing...

    The Zombie Knight Saga -- undead superheroics
  8. ubersoft (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Uh... well, heh, OK, Wildbow, you better set up those PW ads posthaste.

    Sorry for misunderstanding your point, George. I do see how PW could be used in the way you describe. I've just always viewed ads as an evil you use grudgingly, always with your eye on the exit. When I stopped running them on my site it was a recognition that my site had failed on a financial level (advertising wasn't lucrative enough to use them grudgingly) but it was also a very special kind of relief that I didn't have to deal with them any more. :)

    Curveball (Updating)
    A Rake by Starlight (Updating)
  9. George M. Frost (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    No worries, uber. It made for an interesting conversation.

    The Zombie Knight Saga -- undead superheroics
  10. Shutsumon (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Some thoughts:

    1. The Pen and Cape society's success has got me wondering if some of us in other genres could do with forming similar groups.

    2. Project Wonderful advertising requires a certain amount of micromanaging, but I do use it. Mainly because I'm completely flumoxed by where to find readers otherwise.

    3. Many of the most successful web fiction serials are on wordpress.com sites so can't show ads anyway. I have no idea if this is a coincidence or not (them being on wordpress.com that is). I'm almost tempted to test it.

    4. Word of Mouth is important but getting readers to speak up can be tough.

    4. One of the best forms of publicity is word of mouth but getting readers to do the word of mouth thing is kinda tough.

  11. SgL (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Jumping in only to address specific points

    * Wordpress.com is in itself a social network. I saw a great change to online-novel.com when it moved over from blogspot to wordpress.com . And even though I haven't updated it in a few months because of work (and more work), it still is drawing in traffic and new subscribers. I think it's pretty awesome. I would start with *.com over *.org now if I were just starting.

    * Ads on PW may work but in very specific ways. WEbcomic to text is pretty risky. Based on my own experience and what I see of other sites, the best use of ads for prose involves advertising on webcomics in the same niche/genre and/or demographic. But people who read comics don't necessarily want to read stories, so it's sometimes just going to be a terrible fit.

    Ads on a prose site probably works better even with a genre mismatch but most of the current serials in the PW network do not have growing audiences (other than his), so honestly, there's little benefit to running ads long term on many of the existing sites. Sounds harsh but you can't benefit from someone unless they're raking in traffic that just might be interested in story.

    PW on a whole I think is on a decline. Other than the minecraft sites and such, there's not a lot of new traffic coming in or much revenue going to any except the biggest of sites. A lot 0of webcomickers are leaving PW as fast as they can once they can get some other gig going. A lot of the growing ones left PW and repurposed those spots.

    * If I were to look at referrals (not retention) over the last quarter, three or four of the top ten entries are triggered by ads. WFG is pretty low in the top ten. TWF is slightly better but lags behind a lot of other things . Twitter is better than Tumblr. And Comic Rocket is sort of improving, surprisingly. I also have a few links on other creator sites that came about for other reasons. I'm not too keen on reciprocal links unless I can honestly say there's a good chance the viewerbase is likely to overlap. A few of these do result in referrals but that's predicated on them staying active.

    * If you want to be a little more out of the box and just address finding a reader base -- you might try to stop bringing readers to your site and go to where there are readers... while Wattpad doesn't push traffic to my other story site it is one of the few sites that still brings readers to a story even when you've stopped updating. I'm still tracking stats on the finished work and seeing an accumulation of hits since completion. I suspect there's a reward for having a "complete" work in the algorithm for suggesting works. I don't know what it is, but I'm grateful. I totally thought Wattpad was a waste of time but now am happy that I got lazy and left things up.

    * For some genres, having a complete work on Kindle is great advertising for an ongoing serial. I think the best example of someone I know who leveraged Amazon to success would be Drew Hayes. His PW ad data on his serial website was pretty wild after the first few books appeared.(Folks were looking for more of his work.)

    * As for collectives --
    I played around with an informal one with other folks I knew from fandom and we were a little group that figured whenever someone updated, the others would benefit (We all linked to one another and would promote each other's updates.) There was a benefit for a while until stories ended (completed) or just fell out of updating. I was pretty aware that as the only ongoing content generator, I was left as the only one bringing in traffic and that there was no more benefit from the other sites. Were we not friends, I definitely see DD's point about how collectives can rapidly lose their attractiveness.

    This sort of "cut ties" and move on to better collectives is pretty common in the webcomic sphere. I think it'd fall apart pretty quickly in the serial fiction sphere without the proper momentum particularly given the high incomplete rate on indie serials.

    Anyways, I'm all for the strategy of finishing a work that you can adapt to other formats/platforms as a method of promotion.Also, write more than one work... even in the indie realm, they say you don't see payback for books until you have several under your belt that promote each other.

  12. D. D. Webb (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    I'm not sure how having an ebook on Amazon is a publicity draw, to be honest. Those are a lot harder to promote than webserials, unless you have an advertising budget.

    The Gods are Bastards Cowboys! Demons! Elves!
  13. SgL (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Drew writes superheroes. He packaged volumes of his serials up on Amazon and started selling fairly well. His books advertises the URL for his serial in every book. People who want to continue reading are prompted to go to his main site.

    That doesn't work for everyone because being on Kindle doesn't mean squat if people don't' find you. But superheroes have a niche that works well ... it's not something mainstream publishers have really pushed for some odd reason but clearly there is interest in his stories. Each of his works has at least 150 or more reviews including those that weren't serialized.

    THat said, he started writing as a serial author and just took his time and had a business plan and was patient. I think now the fact that he just writes and keeps writing is, in itself, the advertising.

  14. DrewHayes (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    To be honest I didn't really expect to get much advertising value out of the first e-book I made either. It was done more to accommodate readers' requests for convenience than anything else. That said, there is some value in going into that market in terms of spreading awareness of your serial.

    1. It exposes the work to a whole new audience. I love web-serials and I preach them to anyone who asks, but it still doesn't change the fact that there's a lot of people out there who don't know we exist. E-books, on the other hand, have a lot of folks who are always searching for something new and interesting. Especially now, with the Kindle Unlimited option, you can get your work in front of lots of folks who might not have otherwise heard of web-serials.

    2. It opens up new promo options. D.D. Webb is right about e-books having a cost to market, but the flip-side of that is the fact that they generate revenue. For about the first half of a year I had one, I just used all the money from the books to promote the books, so it was a wash in terms of cost. Doing an e-book lets us use the big subscription services like Bookbub/Bookgorilla to get new eyes on the content. Those can cost a bit, depending on which you use, but I've never failed to make the money back from them. Having the handy concise e-book can also be a good tool just to give out, to get people interested in a way that requires little investment of effort from them.

    Not everyone who reads will actually see the link, and of those some won't click, but I've definitely seen a substantial uptick in visitors and page views since I entered the e-book market. Might not be a great fit for every story; however, I thinks it has enough value to be considered in advertising options.

    Super Powereds & Corpies
    http://www.DrewHayesNovels.com/
  15. George M. Frost (Member)

    Posted 5 years ago

    Ads on PW may work but in very specific ways. WEbcomic to text is pretty risky. Based on my own experience and what I see of other sites, the best use of ads for prose involves advertising on webcomics in the same niche/genre and/or demographic. But people who read comics don't necessarily want to read stories, so it's sometimes just going to be a terrible fit.

    Webcomic to text definitely IS a bit iffy. Gaming-oriented sites have generally done a little better for me in terms of bringing people in. Mostly, though, I've found that I can't really be sure who my story will appeal to (it helps that dark/humor/heroic stories have pretty broad appeal), so I've often ended up advertising on a pretty broad range of sites.

    Also, the ad itself plays a key role. Predictably, appealing artwork will typically earn more raw clicks. I wish had the skill to capitalize on that more.

    The way I see it, I'm just looking for those "catalyst readers" who happen to be in positions where they can recommend the story to other people and bring in traffic organically. And given how weirdly interconnected online communities are, those catalyst readers could come from just about anywhere, really.

    A lot 0of webcomickers are leaving PW as fast as they can once they can get some other gig going. A lot of the growing ones left PW and repurposed those spots.

    This has relevance to the topic of collectives. Many of those repurposed ad spots are now filled by webcomic-oriented ad networks like Hiveworks and Comic-Rocket.

    The Zombie Knight Saga -- undead superheroics

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