Getting Serious

Hey, everyone! My name's Adam and I've been writing webfiction on sites like WattPad and Jukepop for a couple years now. I've just recently decided to get serious about it, though, and built my own website. Does anyone have any advice they could give me? How to attract readers, specifically? I've got a modest following on the sites I've been using, and ideally I'd like to eventually transition 100% to my new site, but I don't know how to bring them over without explicitly asking.

I know that Jukepop is a site that really demands you aggressively market, and suspect Wattpad may be much the same. The people who hit the top tend to be the people who spam twitter, facebook & other social media sites. It's ugly, but that's the nature of that particular playing field - it's a lot of fish in one pond and only so much room at the surface.

In a general sense, being reliable, frequent with updates, and having quality updates will get you readers. In a broader sense, I've found that having a very 'open' setting helps foster imagination and excitement for the setting. Is it the sort of setting where a reader could envision their own character being thrust into that world? Worm, in retrospect, succeeded in part because it was so very rife with possibilities and open for fanfiction ideas and self-inserts. My series Twig proves narrower and Pact was harder to grok.

Persistence definitely helps. The massive growth never happened until I started editing excessively to improve my writing, though.

I also found it helps to maintain a constant sense of tension (and cliffhangers at the end of every chapter). I lost some (okay, a couple hundred) regulars during a lull arc that was focused on character development with little to no tension, and it took a while to get them back.

If I didn't know better, I'd suspect my readers really want to see my characters suffer! :P

Social media advertising has always been difficult for me. On Facebook the only people who see it are my friends, and they all already know I write books so that doesn't help much. Twitter is even worse because of the character limit. I either run out before I can say anything that sounds relatively intelligent, or I have to condense it to "I write books and you can read them here! (link)". Any suggestions for that?

Afraid I don't have any suggestions, Adambo, social media is a difficult thing for me too - that's part of the reason I steer wholly clear of it & of writing platforms that require social media marketing to really break through.

Another thing I was wondering. I built my website with Wix, and their normal comment program doesn't always work so I replaced it with the Facebook comment option. I'm worried that might scare people away if they don't want to give away personal information. What do you think, should I keep it or try my luck with the glitchy comment program?

Hard work, patience and consistency. Thanks to the wonders of social media, it's become tougher than ever to get your voice heard, especially if you're advertising websites away from those particular hubs (it's one of the reasons the webcomic industry has imploded these past five years, along with ad-blocking software taking away both the bulk of their revenue and their primary means of getting word out). It helps if you can find a Social Media Gatekeeper to support your work, but, unless you know some personally, that's going to take all that aforementioned hard work, patience and consistency just to stand a chance of getting noticed.

Basically, write for yourself and don't worry about how many people are reading.

As for what Wildbow said about the setting, I think that depends entirely on the audience you're aiming for. Young Adult stuff lives and breathes on the fanfic it inspires, but while there are plenty of people out there self-inserting themselves into the Hunger Games, I doubt the same could be said for Brave New World or 1984. Again, just write for yourself. If you write to capture a pre-determined audience, not only will it show, but it will make it difficult for you to stand out from all those other writers trying to do the exact same thing (especially here in the self-publishing world, where we don't have marketing teams to big us up).

I don't think social media does anything at all for web fiction. But I'm an old grump who grew up without Facebook and never got used to it, so maybe someone else can offer better insight.

Maybe check out Chris Fox' book 'Write to Market'. It's intended for books, but I'm positive that a lot of its wisdom can be applied to web fiction, too.

If you already have readers I would get them voting for you at TopWebFiction right away. I would also suggest luring people to your site by only offering the latest chapter there. I find offering bonus chapters as a reward for reaching certain voting goals works too to help our story rank higher on other sites.

What the goblin said! That definitely helps, too. :D

That's what I'm worried about. Like I said, I've got a modest following (not nearly enough to make any difference in a vote), but how many of them would be willing to website hop with me? The thing about sites like WattPad, Fictionpress, and Jukepop is that authors are in abundant supply, so we're easily replaced. If I told them I was going to stop uploading HERE and they'd have to go THERE for more stories, some of them might follow me, but others might say "Meh, whatever. I've still got ALL THESE authors right here." I'll have to think of a way to draw them over there, instead of giving them a take it or leave it ultimatum.

I personally have skipped out on voicing a comment, solely because it required using Facebook. I would go with the glitchier option, if it's not unusable. And on social media? I have no idea. I'll look into for myself when I've passed the content threshold, and people have something to read.

Wildbow: I grokked Twig. I had way too much fun talking about Twig with people.

To Dary: Yes to the spirit of what you're saying, but I just wanted to point out that no one is writing 1984 in the webserial world. I see almost total exclusivity given to a certain type of audience. That, and the serial format just doesn't really lend itself. I'm trying to write something of depth, myself, as others have, and my observation is that you need an alluring setting. Internet readers, especially the best kind, those that openly interpret the work, comment, and share, are the lifeblood of webfic. And those people have somewhat uniform tastes, as far as quality and interest.

Is that really the case, though? That's like saying "the majority of web fiction is superhero-centric" just because that's the predominant genre on WFG. The idea that there's only one type of audience for web serials, and that they have specific, narrow interests is kinda crazy. What about those serials that emulate soap operas with little to no fantastical elements, for example? Where do they fit in?

I think you're letting perception bias get in the way re: superhero stories. Fantasy and sci-fi stories far overwhelm the number of superhero stories on WFG.

What you ~may~ be noticing is that, like Shaeor is saying, people online and traveling in these particular channels tend to gravitate toward certain types of series, and they get excited about those series, which is the point I was (and Shaeor was/others were) trying to make. Like I said above, the more successful webseries tend to be of a certain type, a type that lends itself to fanfiction and whatnot. Fantasy, Sci Fi, Superhero, all predominantly of a type that allows readers to engage more heavily and plug in or explore their own ideas within those settings. In reference to the question Adambo was asking at the outset of this topic, writing so as to appeal to people who want this engagement is a really good way to pull in audience.

It is, in my eyes, a simple extension of what we're already doing as serial authors, in putting ourselves out there and encouraging fan feedback. Fans are already eager to engage, and this is simply crafting a world that enables those fans to engage on a deeper level, plugging themselves into the world. That's not necessarily 'young adult' as you call it, and I think you're doing yourself a disservice by dismissing it all as such. It's simply writing to maximize and reflect the medium we're writing in.

Do you have to do this? No. I've read and reviewed and am arguably writing a series that doesn't allow readers to play around in the setting to nearly the same extent you see in other popular serials. I have given good reviews to series that were essentially non-fiction or fiction but in a very slice of life context, and I respect the writers of such. But, keep in mind, getting traction and getting the available and potential audience engaged is far harder when you go down this route. That's just something you have to keep in mind when you weigh the pros and cons of what you're sitting down to write.

In the offline world, if you want to write fiction about something unconventional (like, say, penguin porn), that doesn't make what you write bad, or lesser. It does mean you face more of an uphill battle in getting your audience, who are browsing the bookstores with a tendency to look for and grab something else. If you're an excellent penguin porn writer, then you can find success, but you'll find more success writing what people want to read, here.

@AdamBo Like I said, you don't need to stop uploading at those sites completely.Just make it clear that the newest chapter is only available at your website. That's what I do, and it works for me.

Also, even a dozen votes on TopWebFiction will get you some traffic.

100% agree with ClearMadness about crossposting, though I think some people on here have said it gets tiring. (I believe T4nky said something to that effect?)

At the end of the day though, I'd perhaps take a different perspective regarding your readers. Yes, they may be able to get a large variety of web serials from Jukepop and Wattpad, but they can only get YOUR writing from YOU. The readers who can't get enough of your voice are the ones you want to keep and cultivate. If the rest find you replaceable, then they're not the audience you'll be able to rely on long-term.

As for social media, I work with it a little bit for my current marketing job, and agree with Chrysalis that it doesn't have much use for serials. That said, Drew Hayes's Twitter might be instructive. I believe he's said in the past that some people follow him there solely to find out about new serial updates. (Apologies if I'm misremembering.)

If you go that route, it's good to keep in mind a good signal-to-noise ratio. People don't JUST want to hear you talk about your serial, so maybe talk about research/writing-process/general-life-stuff for 2/3 of the tweets, then devote the last third to announcing serial updates. That said, take it all with a grain of salt. I personally stay away from social media for my web serial; just saying this is how I'd do it IF I did it.

Adam, I'm also interested in your experience w/ Wattpad and Jukepop. Do you think these sites made you a better writer? What did you think about the community? I'd love to hear any thoughts you had on writing for these sites. I find them fascinating, tho I never did get all that deeply involved w/ them.

I'm still tweaking my website during my free time, trying to make it look and operate better. Yesterday I got rid of the Facebook comments and replaced them with a more anonymous commenting system. Today I'm experimenting with animated backgrounds. Hopefully they'll make the site cooler to look at, but not so extravagant that they distract my readers from the story. What do you guys think of this one? I like the forest setting, since a lot of my stories take place in the woods, and the swirling clouds kind of add an eerie atmosphere. However, I'm worried that even with the dark background over the text, the white text and white clouds make it too difficult to read. What do you think?!silverblood77/f01bf

As for my experience with WattPad and Jukepop, they both had their ups and downs. WattPad is made mostly of teenagers, which happens to be my target audience, so I attracted a lot more readers there. Not to mention that, as teens, most of them haven't been writing as long as I have, which means my writing is usually a lot better than there's. On the other hand... they're teens. Sometimes they don't care how bad something is written if it fulfills their own fantasies, so there are times I'm still overshadowed by seriously crappy writing. Most of my audience is on that site, though, so it's still definitely done more good for me than bad. Jukepop is more of a mixed bag. You'd think that since they screen their submissions before puiblishing it, there'd be less competition for readers, right? Instead, it seems like 90% of the people on that site are its own authors. With four stories posted, I only have one guy who actively follows me. Plus, there are no forums or private messaging systems, so all your communication has to be through story comments. Still, the opportunity to win money every month if your story is ranked high enough is a pretty enticing draw.

I'm wary of animated backgrounds for much the same reason I'm wary of ads. I find they distract the eye from the text. I would urge subtlety above all else.

I thought of that too, which was why I chose the subtle ones (storm clouds, clouds over mountains), instead of ones like flying over cities, people drawing things,etc.

Bow has a good point about distracting the reader, but I'd be more worried about website speed. Your homepage takes 2.5 seconds to load (I tested it at Pingdom, but there are a bunch of free tools out there to test page loading speed), whereas you want something lower than 2 seconds. (A surprising number of people leave a page if it takes 3 secs or longer to load.)

I honestly really like Wordpress's interface, because it's common and easy-to-use. You have to worry less about stuff, because the system has been refined due to the number of users who've been using it for so long. It's gotten even better for web serial users recently, imo, now that it prompts you to ask if you want to link to other blog posts (perfect for next/previous chapter buttons). They also seem to have recently solved the spacing issue that was occurring when you copied a block of text from gdocs into the wordpress interface.

I mean, why re-invent the wheel? Wordpress is awesome.

Interesting observation about Jukepop. I wish their interface wasn't so godawful, because I think the idea for the site is good. And the community of authors is doing stuff that I've enjoyed watching, but at the end of the day, with the website as bad as it is, I'm just not sure it's worth my time to post there.

Also, your thoughts on Wattpad mirror what I've heard elsewhere, so that makes sense. Thanks for the info!