Approaches to a hiatus

So I should be ending my first arc this Monday. I plan to take a few months off (3-6) on a formal basis in order to tend to craft-related things (such as editing the ebook version) while planning the next "arc/book" in the series.


I'm a little concerned about going on complete radio silence on the website as many readers are direct visitors (which suggests they are habituated to just surfing by). I worry that 3-6 months of inactivity will mean starting almost all over again to build up the reader base, so have been mulling some ideas. I didn't see any mention of "what to do in between books" in the threads, so am hoping some of you who have been around much longer can speak to how other webfictioneers have handled an impending hiatus. (And if I've missed certain tags that speak to this topic, let me know!)


Besides asking my readers this week for their feedback, I brainstormed some thoughts--


* Writing and posting non-continuity drabbles/shorts on a monthly basis (using existing characters, possibly test-driving a few others .

* Posting sketches (I expect to increase my art output significantly) - new characters, old ones


What else have you guys seen? ARe there certain serials that have "major arcs" and "minor side stuff" that I can look at?


You could do what webcomics do and collect guest stories to fill in the gaps.


But 3-6 months is a heck of a hiatus, and people who want to read stories are liable to move on over that long a gap. Short of having a fair amonut of side-content prepared in advance, I don't know if you'll be able to bridge that in any realistic manner.


Maybe try a combination of the above? Reduce your update schedule, give readers a chance to submit guest strips (giving yourself time to vet them) and alternate between posting art alongside a guest strip (so you're still involved there) and posting your own work (non continuity drabbles/shorts)?


That's a tricky one. M. E. Trayler (Guts & Sass) went on prolonged hiatus (I think he's still on it?) and his audience has probably changed to the people who are interested in his yearlong trek in the wilderness.


One thing to consider is doing blog posts reporting on your progress re. the ebook and things like that -- the technical posts surrounding the things you're doing for the eBook, etc. But I don't know if that will hold the same level of interest. Another possibility is give yourself a fixed date for coming back (because then the people browsing by have a fixed date as well) and perhaps add an email list they can subscribe to so they'll be notified when you start posting again.


I don't know that these are really good suggestions, but they're the best I have, I guess.


I've pretty much decided to never go on a hiatus until Legion is done. That may not be realistic, but my observation has been that when people go on hiatus, they lose the larger part of their readership.


The two best examples of this are as follows:

1. Tales of MU: An unscheduled, unofficial hiatus in which updates became inconsistent/non-existent. It went from being a site that commonly had 10,000 visitors and as many as 40,000 pageviews an update day (according to Project Wonderful) to about about 2000 visitors and 4000 pageviews on a good day now. Granted there were more problems than that (the author has medical issues and also started around 4 different stories at once), but that was the result.


2. Intimate History of the Greater Kingdom: Meilin did a couple hiatuses (hiati?) while revising books into ebook form. She massively improved them but lost a large chunk of her audience as well. Again there are mitigating factors--like for example that she's now posting revised versions of the books she'd already finished. So she's not up the point where she left off previously--which tends to make people think that they'll just be rehashing old stuff if they read what's there now (note: they're wrong).


During her first hiatus, she arranged for guest posts which did a good job of keeping the audience around, as did the very active forums, but you can only go so long without additions to the story before people go away. Meilin also started another serial, but that pulled in a smaller audience.


From what I've seen, she hasn't yet rebuilt the original audience.


So... Sorry for the very negative perspective on that, but that's been my observation.


Personally, what I've done is take a break between "books" of Legion and written short stories and novellas from the perspective of other characters in the story. I've deliberately lowered my word count from around 1000 to 750 or so. That may well have lost the odd reader or two, but for the most part people seem to have been okay with it.


Actually, after a particularly long and involved story arc, I took about a year and wrote shorter, outside-the-main-arc pieces. On the whole, readership grew.


The key point for me though is that I've always set my word count goals with the idea that I would write the maximum words possible while still having time to do other stuff I enjoy.


JIm - Yeah I have been following Mu and Greater Kingdom less as a reader, and more as an interested advertiser. I've seen the erratic nature actually hurt Mu. On the plus side, now that Meilin and the Digital NOvelists circle are all actively posting I've seen their traffic as a network shoot back up... a good thing overall as I get decent DN traffic flow when I advertise there. But I don't know what their historical highs have been and it's quite possible they are at a small percentage of what they used to be.


Wildbow - Yeah , the more I think about it, guest art and guest fanfic from readers and other writers does sound plausible. I guess this might be a good experiment to try out. If I can get one or two pieces each month that'll help me keep the site active on a weekly basis.


Uber - I was thinking blogging really only about the development process for the next book. I think my readers would get bored about hearing me chat about the ebook. (They'd probably tell me to stop blogging and finish already!) I actually am thinking about using Nanowrimo widgets for WP to track progress of my editing and leave it at that.


Do you guys know of serials that run in "seasons"? I think Addergoole is one (and I remembered that after posting) so I'll take a look there. I'm not sure who else runs a similar model who is still around... if you guys can think of any that still have sites up, please drop the urls here and I'll look.


THanks!


Sgl: I don't know what Digital Novelists as a group's highs were/are. They may be doing better than ever in total. At one point though, Intimate Kingdom by itself was doing better by itself than Tales of MU is now.


As for serials that run in seasons... That's the general practice for the serials associated with Epiguide. The thing is, most of those have historically been on static web pages with no advertising, comments, or any easy way to tell what the effect of how they handled a hiatus was. It may be though that they'll answer any questions you might have about how things worked for them. They seem like a decent group.


One of the advantages of fanfic and art is that it could potentially bring in some new readers. The people submitting will tell their friends about getting their work published on your site. And since it is related to the story, it's another way of enticing newbies and outsiders to check out the story that inspired it, and also maybe catch up with the story so they can read it when you get back to blogging.


Camille


Hmm I'm approaching the halfway point of Rema and was thinking of taking a week off to focus on my comic project but now I'm thinking differently. I can't afford to lose any readers I already have. :x


Yeah, I'm not planning to take a hiatus anytime soon, for that very reason.


I'm segueing straight from Worm to outlining ideas for my next story/polling readers to writing my next story, while maintaining my schedule.


I found my stride, so to speak, and taking any sort of break makes me feel like I'd lose that, and I'd lose readers, on top of those I may well lose when Worm draws to a close (either because they hate the ending or because the story's done and the next one doesn't interest them).


Amy: I wouldn't be too worried about taking a week off. I've done that a few times. If you let people know they'll understand.


It's when you're unpredictable or take a really long time off (more than a couple weeks) that you've got something to worry about, I think.


Amy - echoing Jim. Don't worry about the planned breaks. There are a lot of factors that play into audience expectations.


One is that the engagement between author/writer for every serial differs. Some of the examples we were talking aboutdid have a high number of posts per week, thus creating a really big gap when there was silence.


(The DN example I use actually is a big deal since there were 4 authors posting a lot when I first joined the community and then they almost all went on break with little communication about their return except for one. That killed visits for them, but now that four-five are posting with regular frequency, they've gone back up in activity nicely.)


The hiatus I am considering is really several months. I need time (after two years of intense plotting/replotting) to do this a bit better. I want to get ahead of the game so I don't miss any posts once I start up again.. not even the vacations and family emergencies if possible. And I need to probably just gamble now and put out a good start date.


In any case, I wrote a lot of text for the passionate readers to work through. I'm going to hope that some will be motivated enough or hate my pairings so much they write screeds and pages devoted to the outcome they wanted x).


Jim - I can't register for EpiGuide without directly contacting the manager. Forums look so quiet there too, so may just keep reading the archives to see what advice might be hidden there.


DaringNovelist - excellent point.


Wildbow: I think you should overlap as well. In my case, the next volume is contingent on the ending of this one, so not really able to do that. Had I decided to pick up a different work maybe I could do a straight run through, but well.. we'll see. At least if they hate the ending, I'll know what to address once I resume work.


Hiatus is a killer. Once you lose an audience, it's hard to get them back. I make sure that I have at least 5 or 6 weeks of work ready for publishing before I take time off. that way, if I need a break, i still have work that I can post.


Do you have any old short stories that you can post in the mean time? Do your friends have any? I'm sure that you can find someone to fill the gap for you. Maybe ask around here. (depending on the genre, I might have something that you can use)


--C.A.


No takers on the fanfic/fanart/comics from the communities I'm in or from past contributors sadly.


However, I have a few leads from less shy readers on what sidestories they'd like to see. I've done these before and as long as I don't have to make them fit continuity, I don't find these as stressful to craft on a modified/reduced posting schedule.


One reason not to post unrelated work from other authors comes down to my site not being a hub for me the artist/writer, but a hub simply for the serial itself. (I wanted it to be a series of serials and short stories, possibly some non-serialized novellas someday.) Posting an unrelated work doesn't work with how the site is branded.


However, if someone ended up writing an essay on mythology, fairytales, or some aspect of the serial-- that would be okay to post. It has to be strongly related and of interest to the readership, otherwise I'm afraid of blowback. It's awkward to be a guest writer who knows less than the reader about the work.


Since this post, I've put myself down for a much shorter hiatus. Part of my excuse was wanting to have time to put the ebook together. That said, I plowed through and put out the first version and so it's off my plate and no longer an excuse.


I've decided to gamble on resuming in May (aka announced it) unless I have some serious obstacles thrown at me by work. I'm going to be on a major brainstorming binge now for two months. Not exactly starting over, but definitely dealing with an expansion of the world is daunting.


Hmm... I haven't written too many fantasy shorts in a while. Most of my recent stuff has been focused on modern/ realistic fictions.


Could you partner with someone? Host a few teaser chapters for them with the intention that they return the favor within a set time frame? Just tossing that out there.


Ah yeah - actually there a few people I could reach out to, but they all are trying to bring their own serials back to normal posting so it's not a good idea to bug them :).


appreciate the brainstorming though!


I've taken a hiatus a couple of times, but no more than a month. I usually give my readers plenty of warning (and a date on which I'll return), and I haven't seen a huge drop-off. It's possible this is smoothed over by new readers coming in anyway.


I usually try to post a bit of something while I'm 'away'. I usually put up standalone shorts that are related to the story, either in the same universe or little flashback pieces on the main cast (I'm building up shorts on the Starwalker's crew at the moment). It's a bonus if I have them pre-prepared, so the hiatus is a real break, but I've worked on them over the hiatus, too.


I usually need the break between major story arcs / books, to catch my breath. I'm currently careening towards the end of the Starwalker trilogy arcs and will probably take a couple of weeks off at least when it's all done. Then I'll be into major edits to turn the trilogy into ebooks, and I'm still not sure how I'm going to juggle that with active posting! But I don't dare (or want to) take more than a month off, because I know I'll lose at least a chunk of the audience I've spent the past 3 years building.


I love the idea of guest posts, too. So many choices! Good luck with whatever you choose, SgL.