So I've been posting things on the internet for a good long time now. At least a decade if not longer. Because of that, I'm pretty accustomed to comments on anything being few and far between. As someone who doesn't really ever comment on things I'm looking at and/or reading myself, I'm not at all put off by a lack of comments. It's just a fact of the internet I thought.

Recently though, Caelum Lex has been getting some comments specifically addressing its lack of comments as though it's unusual and actually a bad thing. So now I've gotten curious. I know a lot of webserials out there do get consistent commenting from their readers. I kind of just assumed our readers (and I know they exist. I can see them reading, silent as they may be) are just like me: quiet. Which is fine by my standards, but apparently there are a few of them who would rather have a bit more community.

So my question is how do you foster discussion in your serials? Are there things one can do as an author to get the audience to interact with one another or is it just a fluke based on your specific readers and their personalities? And how do you get around Wordpress only alerting commenters of replies if they specifically check a box to subscribe?

I'm a bit of a comment slut, I'll comment anywhere. I love getting comments too. So it works out. The only thing I do is comment back to them as quickly as I can. I want my readers to know I welcome comments and that I read all of them.

Ha ha I'm a comment slut too.

First of all could there be a technical problem preventing people from commenting?

I've found on wordpress sites sometimes it won't let me leave a comment, or it will from one computer but not another..haven't figured out why yet. (I just left a test comment on Caelum Lex chapter 25)

Barring that, you have to have a critical mass of readers before you get a commenting community going..but you've got that.

So would-be commenters are probably scared off by the non-commenting culture that seems to exist. I agree with Tempest that author participation is a good way to get the ball rolling and encourage more comments.

It doesn't matter about the subscriptions for replies, dedicated comment sluts will keep coming back on their own. More page views for you!


Talk to your readers in the comments even if there aren't any. Ask a question. Make a joke. Share something that happened to you while writing the post.

People respond.

I'm kinda hope I will get more comments once I get more readers, but i have mostly just been replying to my meager comments thanking them. Also thanks Jim, I will try that on my next updates.

Got your test comment so at least on that computer, doesn't seem to be a problem (thanks for checking :) ) But yeah Wordpress can be a little finicky so who knows if it's a problem for anyone else. Good point.

I think you're right, the lack of comments seems to be in a positive feedback loop. No commenting begets no commenting and on and on. We do tend to reply to every comment we get as soon as possible, but I always get the distinct feeling that they never see them. Or at least never feel the need to reply.

Maybe my original assumption is correct. We just don't attract the comment sluts haha. So since you guys enjoy commenting, what would get you engaged in a place that has some 400 posts and only half as many comments? I can't stop getting the image of discussion questions after readings in primary school out of my head haha. Help o.o

Jim, hm that's an interesting idea, leaving the first comment yourself? Maybe I'll give that a shot. Thanks :)

It's along the lines of beggars putting a couple coins in their own cup.

Somewhat unflattering comparison, but I'll take it :P

It's true that only a fraction of your readers will comment. I didn't set out to encourage comments when I started Starwalker; they kind of just grew themselves.

I make a point of replying to each and every comment/er (I usually reply to multiple comments at a time just to keep up), to let the readers know that I'm listening and want to engage. That encourages them to come back and keep commenting. I encourage all kinds of feedback, too (including readers pointing out typos, which is so handy for me), so they know they're free to say what's on their mind.

Also handy is putting up a non-story post specifically to foster discussion. I did one asking for names for a bunch of robots in the story and got a pile of responses and chatter. You could do polls, ask for suggestions, or just say hi and open the floor for your readers to say hi back. I'll probably put one up sometime soon about suggestions for improvements to the site, along the lines of 'what would make this a more awesome site for you as a reader?'. I've had some good suggestions and requests from readers to improve the way the comments work before. I think it all helps readers to want to get involved.

Good luck!

My dad recently told me that I'd been slacking lately in terms of staying in touch with my audience, commenting & replying to comments.

Jim's on the nose, I think. I've been making more of an effort to comment, if only to share a first thought, saying where my head's at, what I'm doing, and nudge people to vote on topwebfiction if they're so inclined (If I mention voting, I get the #1 spot, if I don't, I drop; I seem to remember every other week). Above all, I like to thank people for reading, because I really don't want to lose sight (or let my readers feel I've lost sight) of the fact that they're checking in a few times a week - that's meaningful. I thank people for donating for much the same reason - because I don't want people to feel like they're throwing their money into a void. That the coin tossed into the metaphorical well makes a sound when it hits the bottom.

The communication and the author-reader relationship aspects of web serials are what set the genre apart, in a way.

Raising topics of discussion in a first comment of your own is one way of doing it; you can do it overtly (what do you guys think about ___?) or you can leave things open for discussion or feedback in other ways ("I had surgery earlier today and I sat down to write, I'm hoping I didn't write utter gibberish..." "No, esteemed author, it was fantastic!"/"Yeah, it was nonsense.").

The other part of it is dependent on writing styles, and it's something that needs a bit of momentum to get going, but you can ask questions via. the text. Leave things unanswered, or insert a puzzle into the text that the readers may need to work together to answer (or, if they figure it out themselves, feel compelled to post). I did this a lot in Worm, and I'm still doing it some in Pact. Off the top of my head, there was a chapter in Worm that was four words long. The meaning wasn't immediately clear... but people asked and pieced together the meaning, and discussed that in terms of how satisfied it left them & more. (And they yelled at me for the bait & switch of a ludicrously short chapter after so many 6,000 word ones).

The trick of that is that you need people to be in a mindset where they're commenting amongst themselves instead of keeping ideas private & making the reading a very individual thing. That's a slow process, to ease them out of their shells.

Khronosabre: I hadn't thought about the comparison at all. I was just thinking that the general principal was the same.

Some of us are definitely still beggars Jim.

I have a few people who comment and say things, but they rarely do a big grand conversation. Not everyone is the type to comment, so you'll generally have a small percentage of your readers actually comment.

However, as I am the one to provide a hell of a lot of comments (and have had someone say that my commenting on a story is like a mark of quality), I guess I could say it helps in my case when the material I read provides me a certain amount of fodder for jokes, or for turning things on their head, or just to discuss. That discussion might just turn out to be one person going "I like this and here's why."

Not everyone gets a commentator like myself, though. That one is just luck, or bad luck the way some people see it. Also, I don't comment on my own stuff, because of what Jim said there. The elevation of one-off comment gags to running jokes, or even my "welcomes" in the Worm comments, also helps to build a sense of community.

The most I know as a good tip is kind of what Wildbow does, always leaving a first comment at least, which tends to prompt a response. Who knows, maybe the secret is to comment a lot on your own story?

Over a year in, I get about 8-14 comments on my latest chapters, which I'm really proud of. I think that's a pretty high ratio of readers-commenters, which is really nice (thanks everyone who comments!)

They are usually by the same people every time, and I was lucky enough to get someone who put a "thanks for the chapter" type comments early on, which was really good and probably helped break the comment-ice.

Looking at the stats, 277 of the last 1000 comments are mine, and I usually put a comment every time I post a chapter with a little note/thanks for reading. Seems to have worked.

Thanks for the responses guys. So I'm going to attempt this 'comment on your own stuff' method and see if that cracks open the wall a little or if my dumb space opera just happens to attract only lurkers. I'll report back with my findings. You know. For Science.

For Science!!!

Khronosabre I look forward to hearing how it goes!

In the very beginning, back when I did a webcomic, making a sort of questionnaire post to the reader really opened the doors because I noticed the same thing. Healthy traffic, but little to no comments. I made a post with a list of questions like "Who's your favorite character? or How do you feel about the pacing? The romance? Worldbuilding? etc. I think sometimes people are just kind of shy, especially when the comment section is a blank slate and the author has never made it clear whether or not they want to hear feedback.

I also respond to everyone, as quickly as I'm able. A lot of people came out of lurking when the book was finished as well. I feel very fortunate. Rema doesn't have THAT many readers, but the ones that have stuck around have been so, so supportive. They're like half the reason I keep working on the story.

Since it's been a few months, I thought it might be time to report on my findings with this.

I tried the suggested method of leaving comments on one's own work for abooout a month? I then got rather tired of it and/or couldn't think of anything to say and/or was lazy. But! That month was all I needed apparently. We now have a handful of consistent commenters and, with them speaking up, the number seems to grow each week. So great advice! If you are feeling low on commenting, definitely worth a shot.

However, we have also found that a large percentage of our comments are pretty misogynistic and offensive so...attempt at your own risk...

I'm not sure how to deal with that one in a way that doesn't ultimately involve stepping on some feelings. Some offensive people can be reasonable enough about it, but the misogyny issue is harder to work with. I had an idea on that, but I'm unsure it will work.