How Do You Attract Readers?

Hi all,

I'm new here and have been lurking about these forums for a bit. You all seem nice. ^.^ I'm hoping you'd share with me some stories about how you've attracted readers. I'm an illustrator by trade (mostly children's books, some card games and horror) but I don't actually know many people IRL, and those I do know have very different interests from me, so I can't rely on word-of-mouth as an advertising tactic. I live in a country where English is used rarely, if ever, and because of that my regular contacts don't account for much on the "gettin' the word out" front, since my stuff online is currently only in English. Did anyone else here make it by web alone? How'd you make it happen? Any advice, related or otherwise, is kinda ridiculously appreciated. I'm a bit ambivalent about my first book, but I'm about to post my second one, which I think people might enjoy, so I'd actually like to learn a little about how people tell others about their work. Also, I've never really posted on a forum before, so I don't know the protocol and such, but I thank you in advance for your help.

Hi chiba,

I made it by web alone. I didn't advertise. I let the story carry its own weight.

Consistency, quality, and frequency are essential. You produce work and give people a reason to talk about the story and a reason to keep coming back, and you'll get there. It's not about marketing yourself through people you know and getting them to recommend the story, it's about just putting your work out there (without fail!) and keeping it entertaining - that gets your initial readers to talk about the work, and they'll talk about it with people who have shared interests with them.

Definitely all of what Wildbow said. Putting good content up is pretty much the key to keeping attention. But! As an illustrator, you have a bit of an extra advantage in finding readers to begin with.

A lot of people, myself included, are far more willing to look at images than read text and maybe some of those people will never read that text, but a lot of them can be persuaded. Show people awesome illustrations from your book and they might just be intrigued enough to check out the book itself to explore the characters and settings they've seen. A huge chunk of Caelum Lex's reader base comes from people who were followers of my artwork first on Tumblr or Deviantart. And I put about 2% effort into putting my art out there so just imagine if you tried harder!

So yes, like Wildbow said, put your writing out there, but put your illustration out there too! An image is always going to be a faster sell than a summary.

I might as well throw this pessimism reply in early, so it can be overshadowed by better stuff. If you like, take it as a host of things that MIGHT work if you're NOT ME? Because all I have is the web too, once you discount my beta reader and my wife.

I'll start by agreeing with Wildbow's remarks above, yet noting that (from my experience) consistency and frequency aren't enough... online promoting needs to be a thing, somehow. Starting out, for 66 weeks, I published 118 updates, and (in the end) had only 10 views on them. Alternatively, my current effort has been running nonstop for 28 weeks and I'm getting about 5 views each post. (I won't comment on my writing quality... but I used to win convention fanfiction awards when I was in University, surely it can't be THAT bad...) The additional bad news is that in BOTH those cases, I was/am self illustrating the stories, and it obviously has made no difference. (Or if it has, that's... kind of sad.)

Despite that, I'll now agree with Khronosabre that illustrations would be beneficial in general. It's partly what interested me in Nina's "Fooled", and images draw the eye if you post on Facebook, Twitter, or other social media (as I do) more than mere text. Plus my new webcomic is getting 20 times the hits as my serial, and my drawing is MUCH worse than my writing, so I'm guessing it's the visual medium - or maybe the brevity. Point being, images will all probably will work better in your case, you draw professionally.

Speaking of social media, a Facebook page probably can't hurt? (My four-year-old project is up to 26 likes, my current one has 6 likes.) Meanwhile Twitter tends to be where I get an offhand remark (in 140 characters, rather than anyone commenting on the posts themselves), and I can schedule the update Tweet through Wordpress. You will want to send out more than one notification there, probably four or five, though I start feeling bad after two. Hashtags are your friends. (For anyone who saw the latest Doctor Who with the "Bootstrap Paradox", the Doctor acted pretty much exactly like my main character. I tagged #DoctorWho with a link to part of my story. One person looked, they didn't stay, but no one ever stays, so I'm still calling it a win.) Other people here have talked about Reddit, but I haven't tried that. Tumblr doesn't seem to be doing anything for me, but it's only been a month.

You might consider commentary asides, or guest posts from other writers... for whatever reason, my online friends will read THOSE, because non-fiction, but not my actual FICTION that follows; maybe you'll have more luck? Guest elsewhere, if you can - I had a huge spike with my "April Fool" update for "Legion of Nothing", even though no one's stuck around as far as I can tell. Also, commenting on other serials might help; there's another time travel one I monitor (I don't think the author's on this site) and after some remarks back and forth for a month or two, that author mentioned me in his online newsletter. (Again, seems to have gone nowhere for me.)

With "Epsilon Project", I had reader votes on plots every week, which is probably not where you're going (sounds like you have your Book 2 mostly written) but if you reworked it towards reader preferred illustrations or something, it might be another way to engage people online (even though it - you guessed it - failed for me). Hell, I suspect about the only thing I HAVEN'T done at this stage is actually sink money into social media advertising (because seriously, at this point, what's my motivation), but if you want information on marketing, Patrick Rochefort has put together a set of posts (search "Marketing Stats"). Oh, and I'd recommend putting a story link into your footer on the forum here. Occasionally, I get a random hit from WFG after I say something here in the forums.

In the end, I think some of it is luck, and some of it is genre. (Everyone used to like vampires, now it's superheroes. Romance is huge on Wattpad, time travel, not so much. Or, y'know, it's probably just me!) The rest is... Gods, whatever I'm doing, don't do that? Or do it much better. Then let me know.

If you want to build an initial base of readers, cross-post, request reviews, self-promote tirelessly across every avenue of social media you have available.

Do this while writing until you have enough of a backlog that it will hold the attention of places like Reddit, and consider paid advertising. (In all seriousness though, standing out on a street corner offering each reader a dollar if they'll come over and read your webserial will almost certainly be more cost effective. I'm not kidding. See my post series on metrics of paid advertising.)

Be aware that a few high-traffic premium sites can drive an explosive amount of traffic and readers your way. Front-paging Reddit will earn you more views in 4 hours than you'll see for years. Get picked to front on BoingBoing, and same thing.

As an illustrator, use your channels to drive traffic to your writing. DeviantArt, Tumblr, anywhere and everywhere that you can find, post it.

Tip: Save yourself some time, try to find automated tools that will handle cross-posting for you. There are software suites out there that marketing-savvy folks use, but they're usually not free.

Thank you so much, everybody! All of your advice is quite helpful. I have a lot of trouble meeting people so it feels a bit like I'm shouting into the void right now, but I'll stick with it and see what happens. Regular updates aren't a problem as the book is done already. Getting illustrations out is tougher, since I spend a lot more time doing "work work" than "fun work", but I agree that it's probably a much better way to let people know what I'm doing.

How much impact does having a comment section on chapters have on readership, do you think? I was considering adding one or simultaneously putting up chapters in a more blog-like setting for people who'd like to comment.

@Wildbow: I really like your work. Thank you for your advice.

@Khronosabre: Thank you. I'm not on tumblr, but maybe I'll give that a try. Where can I see your artwork?

@mathtans: Hang in there! And thanks for your honesty. I'll check out your story/stories.

And thank you Mr. Rochefort. I read your entries about advertising before. They were very informative.

This site houses so much talent. It was really hard for me just to post here (thanks for the courage, whiskey!), so you guys are very appreciated!

At this point, Warbler has been running for three weeks, and I've got about twenty regular readers according to Weebly's metrics. That's just from people I personally know (I think) and it's fairly steady. (It went down from the initial announcement to the first regular episode, though due to the fact that there was already a ton of content on the site when it launched, the pageviews metric shows a dip from 150 to 75 pageviews over Monday and Tuesday of the same weeks.)

At this point, though, I'm definitely seeing some level of organic/word-of-mouth growth.

I'll rain on your parade (or shine on it, it depends).

Be popular from the start, which tranlates into get lucky.

While I don't have even a fragment of the readers some of the more well-known authors here have, I still chose to spread out. Meaning that I republished my stories on numerous different publishing sites. The result varies from virtually zero reads to a virtual lock-down on the popularity list.

On most of the sites I've uploaded four of my novel, or short novel, length stories, and as stated above the result is all over the place.

I'm not counting my primary site, because that's my own blog ;) Still, that blog comes in at a paltry third place, which would suggest spreading out might pay off in the end.

As for active advertising I can't say anything about it. I'm as clueless as incompetent when it comes to advertising.

Yeah so when I say I only put 2% effort into putting my illustrations out there, 'work work' is my exact reason hah. So I get the pain. But even a little bit can help. I only post something once every few weeks and I still get a lot of traffic out of it. And if you're not as contractually obligated to keep your work work secret as I am, maybe you can post some of that too.

Tumblr's great in that it's pretty common for artists to post even little doodles, not just finished pieces. It's a little manipulative, but a solid tactic is to draw quick fanart of popular things in a similar genre as your own work, tag the hell out of it, draw people in and then expose them to your related work as well. Though personally I would never have the patience to do that for something I didn't already love enough to draw anyway...

As for my stuff, 95% of my non-work art the last 3 years has been for CL so it's all up here but there's a more consolidated collection of the better pieces on my dA :)

Posting often is incredibly important, as far as "getting out there" is concerned. My story's just hit its second anniversary, but my schedule doesn't really permit me to post every week or every two or three days like some people do. I post like three times a month. I post on twitter hashtags and tumblr tags about it. My readership has been growing, but very slowly. I'm sure if I could post three times a week, there would be way more exponential growth, because people would be tuning in more, thinking about it more often, and in turn, probably talking about it more.

It also depends on the content, too, but more specifically the kind of story that you write. Some genres are way more popular than others. I'm writing a World War 2-inspired fantasy war fiction focusing with some level of technical detail in tactical and strategic combat. That's a rough deal and nobody's really doing that. Now if you write a superhero story I guarantee you people will look at it even just in a cursory fashion.

Some quick follow-up remarks... first, a_chiba, congrats on getting up the courage! Do feel free to chime in on other threads too - I figure, if I can do it, anyone can. Second, I can be pretty stubborn when I set my mind to something, so you can bet I'll hang in for the 90 episodes by some time in 2017. (Landing page might change though, as per my prior topic here.) Also, don't worry about checking out my stuff, I know time travel's not for everyone, plus I take a while to get the plot going... heck, Part 29 up today, and I STILL haven't gotten around to introducing the people with the freaky mental powers, only the crazy mad scientist. (Uh, spoilers? As if it matters.) I mean, I won't stop you, just know it wasn't my motivation. (I can have difficulty balancing "practical" with "despair" when talking about my fiction writing.)

Third, I don't know that a comment section necessarily has an effect on readership, but it might have one on writership? In other words, I don't think I'm more likely to read something when I know I can comment... but as the author, suddenly getting a remark after a month or two of silence can quell the fears that I'm orating into an echo chamber. Which is nice. (When I first started over 4 years ago, it was on a google site, but I incorporated a spreadsheet where people could leave remarks, and I'm glad I did.) Of course, I may not be the best person to answer there, and a spam filter is a good thing. (For some reason 1.11 gets LOADS of spam...) Fourth, random follow-up thought to Dennis - perhaps the bright side of nobody else doing it is your audience is less likely to get distracted by other stories?

Finally, question for Sten - what "different publishing sites" do you mean? (Maybe I haven't been paying enough attention?) Just curious, since I tried simultaneous posts on Wattpad and it was a "virtually zero reads" for me there... maybe I've been looking in all the wrong places.

I too have found Wattpad to thus far be an utter black hole of time and effort, but I'm curious to know what sites are fruitful for drawing readers in.

Wattpad is only worthwhile if you can make it onto their featured stories page, which requires a complete book, editing, and a good cover. Otherwise, there are just too many stories on there for readers to find you. Wattpad is way bigger than WFG. Every single day sees several hundred uploads.

You could really delve into becoming part of the community there, but what author has time for that much social networking?

I haven't seen this mentioned before, so I'll throw in my 2 cents: the blurb. Just as with a real book in a store, the blurb has to resonate with the readers, and popular genres like superhero fiction definitely have an advantage, Besides, superhero fiction isn't available in huge quantities elsewhere - Amazon's superhero category contains about 90% paranormal romance.


I have used the following. Results (and how I value them) only valid for me:

Wattpad since May. From the low 100 to just over 1K total reads. In other words a poor result to decent, but the community is useful.

Jukepop since June. Utter disaster. A grand total of under ten reads in total.

Inkitt since July (possibkly June). Lacks any statistics. Feels like disaster with about zero reads in total.

RoyalRoadl since August. Decent to good turnout. From 60 reads (one chapter short story) to 5K reads. 5K counts as a very nice number for me.

Inkspired since May. Good turnout. From 300 reads (one chapter short story) to 4.5K reads. I'm hogging the list of popular stories since over a month, which automatically generates more reads.

I've yet to upload to Fictionpress because the interface fills me with despair.

In contrast my own blog has generated 3K reads, and that's the aggregate for three stories, which only counts as a decent result. In reality it's only marginally better than Wattpad.

Wow, all of you have given me some great ideas and helped me get well motivated! I'm now a bit more excited than terrified. Woot! ^.^ To be honest, hearing "you kinda need to get lucky" from others is encouraging. As a complete social f**k-up with a one-man support system, I always guess it's just me that feels like actually having people *look* at what I've done is impossible.

@JPV1000: Thanks!

@Khronosabre: Ah, the joys of the NDA, right? If you're gonna illustrate (or do pretty much anything in media or engineering), those are pretty much always buckled up right with the contracts. I checked out your work for CL. I like the atmosphere. You have a good eye for color.

@Dennis N. Santana: World War II fantasy war fiction!? Okay, I'm gonna have to take a peek at that.

@mathtans: No worries! I don't have a preferred genre. Any story that whisks me away and gets me involved is right for me. And I think those were teasers, not spoilers. >.^ I think maybe I might get up the courage to post on another thread. You guys are chill people.

@Patrick Rochefort and Chrysalis: Thanks for the heads-up about Wattpad, and also I do need a good blurb.

@Sten: I was considering branching out a little more. Your list and information really helps!

@Sten: I'd be terribly interested if you put together a breakdown of cross-posting and showed us what your reads were like across all those venues, and your commentary on each one. If you can afford to do it the way I did for paying advertisements, that'd be a heck of a lot of useful information!

@Patrick Rochefort Sure.

I'll split it in more than one post because wall of text isn't really my thing.

Metadata first:

The Taleweaver is the first in an unfinished series. Completed at 128K words. Fantasy.

Frays in the Weave is the second in an unfinished series. Completed at 100K words. Fantasy.

Exceptional is a 8K short story published in one chunk. Teen Fic. Set in the Transition and Restart universe.

Transition and Restart, book one: Arrivals. Completed at 65K words. Teen Fic.

Transition and Restart, book two: The Billion Dollar Empress. Completed at 65K words. Teen Fic.

Transition and Restart, book three: Wingman Blues. Currently writing and publishing. Teen Fic.

I'll refer to those titles with fewer characters later on.

Now for some sites I'll handle here due to poor performance:

My own blog:

2700 total views (including monthly robot-spams of about 50 or so views each). Doesn not count my reads.

I don't publish The Weave there, and nor is Exceptional published there.

All transition -books are published there as one on-going serial.

Does not count my own views.

5 individuals click through to the actual post whenever I publish. Down from around 10 while I was still publishing Arrivals.


Small site. Poor community. No statistics to speak of.

Taleweaver and Frays published.

Arrivals and Billion pubslihed.

Probably zero reads in total for the four books.

Unknown how to get displayed, probably collect a lot of reviews.


Small (or seldom used) site. Friendly community. Depressingly low readership numbers even for popular stories, a few thousand reads each. Only counts individual reads once, including mine.

Taleweaver published.

Arrivals published.

Less than twenty reads per book.

If you publish daily and read your own last installement you'll be displayed until you run out of chapters to publish. I used this trick but it still didn't make any result.

@Partick Rochefort (continued)

I'll use the term 'subscriber' for an individual who read the entire story.


Largest site on the planet. Popular titles have in excess of ten million reads, some over fifty million. Childish but very useful community. Counts individual reads daily (as in max once per day), including my own.

All six titles published.

Be extremely popular or be invisible. You'll have to be very, very active in the community to drag your readership above the first few hundreds.

Breakdown below:


1.1K reads (mostly due to extremely small published chunks).

Currently maybe a dozen reads per month.

Two subscribers.


141 reads

Currently no reads

Two subscribers


11 reads (nuff said)


455 reads

Currently 20 reads monthly

5 subscribers

Billion Dollar:

328 reads

Currently 20 reads monthly

3 subscribers


55 reads

Updates weekly and I get two reads weekly

2 subscribers (kind of makes sense *grin*)

There's another 'title' where I collect the full length Transition chapters (10K each). Seems to have a single reader who prefer that format.

@Patrick Rochefort (continued 2)


Very large site. Popular reads in the hundreds of thousands. Displays your own reads as average number of readers per chapter published.

Doesn't count my own reads.

Rather dead community.

Arrivals and Exceptional complete there.

Currently publishing Taleweaver and Billion Dollar.

Breakdown below.


240 reads per chapter

Currently one or two daily reads

40 subscribers


60 reads (and with one chapter that's the number of subscribers)

No current reads


100 reads per chapter

Updates daily, so 100 currently reads daily

A dozen subscribers, but slowly rising

Billion Dollar:

50 views per chapter

Updates twice weekly. Collects those 50 reads within two days of update.

30 subscribers and very slowly rising (my guess those who read Arrivals started reading Billion Dollar)

@Partick Rochefort (continued 3 and last)


Small site (maybe a few thousand users)

Doesn't count my reads. Counts book-cover views (as in opening and reading a chapter isn't needed)

No community at all

Random title displayed for a while, apart from that be popular or be invisible. On this site I'm hogging the popular titles list, which I'm certain is the only reason the completed novels still collect views.

All six titles published there

Breakdown below



Currently 10 daily views

40 subscribers



Currently 10 daily views

25 subscribers



Currently no new views

42 subscribers (only one chapter so I'm using the number of reads for that chapter)



Currently 10 daily views

60 subscribers

Billion Dollar


Currently over a dozen daily views

30 subscribers (suddenly drops 5 readers for the last 2K installment and Epilogue)



Used to be 5 daily views, but exploded to over 20 the last three days. Clueless why.

Weekly update. 20 subscribers, but drops like a flying brick to 3 for my last three updates. I may not be the best author, but my writing quality didn't deteriorate disastrously the last 6K words out of a currently 140K word long serial, so there has to be another reason for that drop.

All in all it's clear that current updates generate views. A completed work dies unless displayed prominently. Personally I noticed that I have next to zero backwards readers (ie a new update on book three doesn't generate new reads on book one).