Hiatus - does it deconstruct everything you've built?

I'm writing updates as they come, usually in the hours before posting. So far I've kept to schedule but I worry that I'll slip... And I've been tempted to take a break and recharge a little, plan what I'm wanting to do a little, get a buffer back up.


Has anyone ever had a hiatus? Experiences? What's the audience recovery upon picking it up again?


Also, I'm planning on finishing it at some point. Are readers likely to move on to your new work or leave are you never going to see them again?


On finishing - if the first story was good, people stick around for the second. NMAI was well received and well reviewed but my follow-up, Diggory, seems more accessible and possibly more popular.


As for hiatus, it kills your audience. I haven't tried a come-back yet (soon I hope) so I can't comment on whether it resurrects.


I had 12,000 unique readers at the time of Worm's closing. About 2000-3000 readers came to Pact. I haven't yet pushed Pact at all, but it's steadily increasing in readership over time, still. Financially, aside from a dip (25% dip?) this month, I'm more or less in the same boat.


I've never taken a hiatus, but I have abandoned several series (mainly webcomics) that started to become sporadic.


Yes, it will hurt your audience. It won't *kill* it, because some will stay on. I have 18 years of experience with hiatuses with Help Desk. :)


But the way to keep your audience at peak levels is to keep updating.


You might try breaking down your hiatus into week segments, maybe three weeks on and a week off, and see if staggering it helps any.


I feel like some of us are perhaps a little TOO afraid of going on hiatus. It won't necessarily kill an audience. Hell, it might even give your readers a newfound appreciation for your work once it returns. I think it largely depends on how long the hiatus actually is. If we're talking months and months here with no updates at all, then yeah, that could just straight up murder your audience, but if it's just a week or two, I think most readers will be quite understanding.


Also, it would depend on how much you prepare them for the hiatus. It's important that they understand you haven't just vanished, that this is premeditated, and that you DO intend to return. And if you can return in a really big way, bringing some nice surprises and narrative goodies, then I'm sure that could be quite pleasing for folks as well.


Maybe it would help to have an email list to notify readers when the hiatus is over, so they are reminded to return.


Readers are understanding of hiatuses, but with busy lives they may forget to check back once they get out of the habit.


Except for me who keeps feeds in a RSS reader so I always know when they update, but apparently that is passe and old school, at least according to Google. I don't know what the kids do, maybe Twitter.


From my experience, one or two instances aren't going to be damaging if you're generally on track most of the time and people were pretty hyped up as you took the break. How you return is just as important as how you take that break. If you say you'll be back in a month and you fulfill that promise, your next break isn't going to be a problem.


But there's a lot of things that drive readers to a page. If the majority are relying on habitual surfing (to your site) you're probably in a more vulnerable position than those who have a lot of their readership on other communication channels whereby they will be alerted to your new posts. (One problem I saw was with some comics that generally ended or went on hiatus that the readers I shared with those sites did not always come back to my page. It was vexing but just the way it rolled at the time.)


The question is whether this is a brief break or one wher eyou don't know the end? If it's indefinite, try for an opt-in mailing list . You may also want to query your readership now on how they get alerted to what's going on.


Also -- do you have the option simply to drop your posting frequency per week? That might allow you more flexibility and less concern about missing an update. You'll not miss updates, you'll just have more time in between them :).


Retention: Oh yeah, you lose people unless you launch right away.


I was scolded by a few readers in my final installments of the first serial for not being ready to go immediately with its sequel but not much I could do. I had a lot of life things that took priority. (Sorry but job >> free serial.)


Statistics-wise for me, the denominator for the second serial I started was only going to be on a scale with those who finished the first. I haven't looked at the website (and the impact of three months off between serials).


Wattpad definitely saw a drop.


I have no hard numbers on Wattpad but guesstimates. I think I saw anywhere from 20-40% of people who finished the first book move on to the second. I'm not sure as they don't offer linked data. I can only presume that people would not start reading a "volume 2" without going to volume 1.


I haven't run numbers on the website yet to know if the drop is similar in scale. Also, not sure how to factor for differences in blocking nuisance traffic. Wordpress' Jetpack picks up a lot of crap so I'll have to dig into analytics to get a better sense of what's going on.


The website attrition is partly my fault, however, as I had no mailing list to reengage my audience when I was back. The majority of readers do not use Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Deviantart, etc. They were direct visitors for the most part.


My pool of readers is very small and dedicated so I didn't see any change in the first hiatus (about one month). However, the later hiatus for a revision update got maybe half of the traffic or less. My mistake was not giving a solid deadline of when to return for the new material, so only the ones that were really curious stuck around, and also a revised ending is far less interesting than any ending the first time around, even a faulty one. So, I would say it really depends on how you handle it and at what point in the story you're taking the hiatus.


I guess that would be my advice. If you must take a hiatus, be sure to set a solid deadline of when the come back.


A hiatus can actually be good for building suspense. In theory, you could get to a huge cliffhanger (such as ending the third Game of Thrones book at the Red Wedding, whether he did or not, I don't know, I've been reading the first one off and on for two years), then be like, "see you in a month!" And the audience would (theoretically) build the suspense up in their heads. This could minimize losses of readers, although, no matter what you do, a hiatus will make some people quit reading.


Thanks for the opinions everyone.


Look at me, late to the party again. :)


I had a chunk of readers follow me from the Apocalypse Blog to Starwalker, so it's definitely possible. I took a month off in between to rest/get ready for the new one, and it didn't seem to hurt much.


I also tend to take a hiatus between books in Starwalker - sometimes a couple of weeks, sometimes a month, depending on what's going on at the time. There's sometimes a dip in readership, but not much, and it always recovers. For the month-long hiatuses, I try to have something else to throw up while I'm away that's related to the serial (usually a short story or something), and that definitely helps. The shorter the silence, the better.


And I agree with what the others have said - set a date when you'll be back. It's generally better to say 'the story will resume on 32nd October' rather than 'in a month', because then people don't have to remember when you went on hiatus, only when you'll get back.


Good luck! :)


Well, officially on Hiatus minus a few words to tie everything up a little.


Got myself until April to get the feeling for the story a little. I already feel loads more free to experiment and less stress to get the writing right first time. I can write a few thousand words and just throw them away if I don't like how it turns out.


Be careful with (hiati? Hiatuses? Hiatae?) I slipped up when I went on one and didn't write for four months, and lost pretty much my whole readership, as well as forgetting most of the plot and characters I had planned. If you go on hiatus, don't stop writing- it's too hard to start back up. Us it to plan, build a buffer, and try doing multiple drafts of important scenes and events. Even if you don't end up using them , it's really helpful experience.


Just had to go on hiatus because my day job went nuts on me and I won't be much use to anyone outside of work for the next couple of weeks. Bah.


My readers have made the most awesome, supportive comments, though. Okay, they beat me up a little bit for having a cliffhanger dangling over the hiatus (ahahahaha), but they're all fine about it. I'm so grateful for them.


If you're curious: http://www.starwalkerblog.com/authors-note-slight-scheduling-change.