Increasing Awareness of Web Fiction

Just letting people know that people are discussing directions for increasing awareness of web fiction. I'm linking to Sgl's blog post on the subject...


http://online-novel-blog.blogspot.com/2013/02/increasing-serial-readership-needs.html


It's another contribution to an on-going conversation that we've been having since there was a community worth mentioning. The theme of the conversation is basically "How do we let people know that a community surrounding web fiction exists?"


SgL's suggestion is to look into reinventing the webring. It's worth a look.


You can follow more of the conversation on the hashtag #weblitpromo.


A couple thoughts on this:


1. A webring (or some new version of it) is a pretty good idea. We can brainstorm ideas for how that might work, but basically the concept is a name/logo on members' websites, and a way to link interested people's works.


The key point to my mind would be that it has to be technologically easy to implement and has to take into account that some people are on Wordpress/Blogspot/Whatever and don't have the ability to install plugins.


2. The other piece of this is that this really isn't a computer problem. In the end it's a networking problem. If we end up with everyone in the webfiction community putting a logo/link on their websites, that's not really a success. Basically at that point we'll be marketing to the people who already know about us.


That's not a good thing (or more accurately, it's kind of pointless).


Personally, I'd be inclined to suggest doing something that would pull people in from other communities. For example, my ideal situation would be if this could pull in comic book bloggers, and online superhero webcomics too.


Regarding your last point there, I agree that it would be ideal if we could touch on other communities.


I'm seeing steady growth in my readership, and a lot of it's coming from outside sources now. Tv tropes, and some forums where people are discussing the story. I'd like to think that some of the readers I'm pulling in are new to web serials and that they (on getting caught up with Worm) may be moving on to check out others. I point people to webfictionguide and topwebfiction, and I know Jim's commented that he gets views/votes when I do (unless I misinterpreted).


I'd definitely be interested in a ring, and I feel more prepared to take part in a general blog post rotation or whatever where members of the ring can blog about more general topics. Sharing the load means it's not a major thing (one post a month per author, if that), and while anyone could link to the ring or feature banners, but perhaps the ring itself would only feature participating authors on the front page, so it's not simply a linkdump.


I think a webring type thing could help precisely because there are always some serials that are pulling in new readers and if they are part of the ring they might feed into the community as a whole. It is, however, only a tiny part of the solution to a large problem.


We need to brainstorm for other solutions.


I had a thought about maybe starting up a smaller guide, something like a collaboration of 7 writers so that we each put up a chapter a different day of the week. That way a reader is garunteed to have something daily to look at as the schedule rolls along. I wouldn't want to host it (I believe there is a lot of value in driving readers to websites) but just have the first few paragraphs as a teaser.


Maybe it's a little simplistic, but the best way to promote webfiction is with more webfiction. the more people that choose to enter the community (and tell their friends, etc) the more promotion it will develop.


Casanders: In the long run, I think you're right. In the short to medium term, I think that there are ways to accelerate the process.


As I see it, there are two basic potential readers.


Group 1: People who know what web fiction is and are willing to check out a new story if it sounds interesting.


Group 2: People who haven't read web fiction either because they don't know it exists or assume it must be crap because it's on the Internet for free.


Group 1 is the group you'll get through WFG or through advertising on other web fiction sites. The good news? It's the easiest one to convince to check out your stuff. The bad? It's a small group.


Group 2 is probably who you'll be reaching through advertising on other websites. The good news? This group is huge--practically the whole world. The bad news? It's harder to convince them to read.


Personally,I tend to believe that trying to convince people that web fiction is wonderful would be a mistake. Readers don't get excited about distribution methods, they get excited about stories in their areas of interest.


What I'd love to see is a button that when you press it recommends a maximum of four sites--say a blog, web comic, web serial and/or a site recommended by the original site owner. Ideally, they would all be similar to what the reader is currently looking at.


I'd say there's a third group. People who read free fiction online - and thus are willing to give it a go - but who only read at what Sgl calls a colony (Wattpad, Fictionpress etc). The Good News? There's a lot more of them than there are readers in our little community and they're already willing to read online fiction. The Bad News? They still don't know we exist and it's not immediately clear how to make them aware.


Becka


I got into it through a banner add for Tales of Mu on a webcomic. I think its the only time I have ever clicked on an add. I was in the 'doesn't know it exists' category.


It did take me years of casual reading to look for something else, at which point I found this site from a google search. I guess this made me group 3. I knew it existed as a concept, but only really stuck to one place. I didn't know anyone else was doing it. I think I would have gone looking earlier if Tales of Mu had links to other stories/sites like this.


The second thing I read was Worm, which had 'similar stories' links leading me to Legion of Nothing etc which seems like a really good way of transferring readers around that I'm surprised Tales of Mu doesn't do...


The other thing to bear in mind is that many readers are slow to warm to the idea of not being able to read an entire work in a single sitting. They don't want to wait a week or two between chapters, they want to read more and they want it now. I'm trying to find ways to get that group engaged. Starting a second serial for myself was one way, though because of how MtT is set up (having to wait for a vote and then write once it's been cast) it's very hard to keep on a schedule on its own. If I had time I could, maybe, do three serials concurrently thus having three "sittings" worth of reading for someone per week but that's still not enough to keep them locked in.


And I think that's something that has a lot of value: A one stop shop that locks someone into the colony so that they don't ever ~need~ to go out of it to keep reading something "right now". Sites like Wattpad do that very well with their shelves and their "you might also like" coupled with a "what's hot" list if you just don't know where to start. The biggest problem I see there is that it's just a little too diverse in interests and doesn't do a very good job of tailoring to niches/ genres/ tastes.


Overall my gut says that the vast majority of readers online just don't want to dig to find stuff to read. The easier it is to get ~what they want~ quickly and easily the more they're going to stay for a good long while.


In my opinion one of the best ways to reach new people is via people who already read web fiction. We need to find a way to get our readers to signal boost us to people in their circles who don't yet read web fiction.


So one of the things I'm trying to do is revive Weblit Wednesday.


I did a guest post about it here.


Your link doesn't go anywhere, Shutsumon.


When authors band together to give the whole group higher visibility, there is always one problem: Dilution of interest.


Say you have a bunch of authors, they may be into indie publishing, or all local writers, or web fiction writers. And they hang out together because of what they have in common. Note that the three groups I mentioned above have something in common OTHER than their genre or style of writing. It's mode-of-delivery or geographic location.


But if their work doesn't have a style or taste in common, then each writer's audience is a separate group. So when the authors promote as a group, each individual audience member finds that there isn't a whole lot of what they like in the group -- so the promotion actually turns more people off than it turns on.


Or at least, it dilutes their interest. A romance fan isn't going to engage with any promotion that will show her only a couple of romances and a lot of horror and sf. And if everything she reads about web fiction is about how it's _web fiction_ and not about how it's great romance, and if it's also full of stuff she doesn't want to read... she's going to stop thinking good thoughts about web fiction.


On the other hand, if she is hearing good things from sources and in locations related to her genre -- places she can trust not to be full of horror fiction -- then she's going to have positive thoughts about that web serial even if she has never thought about reading one before.


However, if she has also been burned by following some "web fiction" promo -- that is, she's been lured into checking out some web fiction and none of it is what she likes -- then even if she _does_ hear from her romance friends what a great romance a particular web story is, she's going to think "Oh, but it's web fiction. I tried web fiction and it's not what I like."


Which isn't to say we shouldn't promote web fiction in general, and we can certainly pool our knowledge as a group even if we act as individuals: it's just that if you're going to pour on the extra effort, IMHO, you should put it into the things that people already know they like.


Camille


Wildbow: I fixed Shutsumon's link. It works now.


DaringNovelist: I agree. The orignal webring approach to this problem would be to put groups together--all fantasy novelists together, all science fiction novelists together, and so on...


My suggestion (see above) would be that we'd want to deliberately bring other groups (with larger readership) into the mix so that we'd benefit from webcomics' or bloggers' audiences (and ideally they'd benefit from ours).


Yeah, I can see your point -- but web comics and bloggers are still interest groups which come together partly based on the interests of the producers rather than the audience.


Not that I'm against doing such things, don't get me wrong. I actually think that all of the ideas thrown out here are good, and are pieces of a puzzle. And I completely agree with you that we should look at such things as web comics and bloggers to see how they draw in their audience.


So yeah, we have a lot to learn from them, but when it comes to sharing an audience -- that is trying to leverage the followers of web comics -- we shouldn't be looking at them as a group, but rather making connections with individual web comics and book bloggers who have the same sensibility and same audience. Not just by genre, but by tone. Sometimes a funny horror web comic might have most in common with a funny action web serial.


The individual approach is a lot of work, but honestly, we can help that as a group just by sharing our intellect with each other.


Here are some thoughts of my own -- coming at this from a slightly different angle. Okay, I'm coming at it from a Bass Ackwards angle. Keep in mind the following two things:


*I'm not looking for things to use to get people to my web fiction, I'm using web fiction as a part of a larger strategy to get people to my blog.


*My strategies are looking to win over new audiences. This means people who don't read web fiction, who don't read my work... or maybe even people who don't read fiction at all. (Who watch TV or movies or read comic strips.)


So with that in mind:


I want to create a publication that will entertain and attract the readers I'm interested in - repeatedly and frequently. I'm only getting started on that, just now learning the ropes, figuring out what works for me as well as what doesn't.


My biggest challenge here right now is weaning myself of "writer addiction" -- that is, the ease of attracting writers to my blog with material which isn't of much interest to readers. I suspect my best material will be in an overlap area, but I don't know yet.


My main strategy is classic Blogging 101. (Not fully into gear on it yet, but moving in this direction.) Frequent posting. Variety of posting. Posting about subjects my target audience is likely to be looking for and interested in, so that the right audience has a chance to find me via search engine.


My work, for instance, is very old fashioned, so I tend to write reviews and literary discussions of classic books and old movies. I talk sometimes about old time illustrators and pulp magazines. I try to keep my blog easily browseable -- or at least aim at it for future. Certainly the fiction and cartoons are short, and I try to keep them easy to dip into. I'm working on making the whole thing moreso.


In short, I concentrate on making my blog into a magazine, and if I had money to hire people, and pay contributors, I would post multiple times a day like the big magazine blogs do. The goal would be to be a place where a reader could be guaranteed of finding something new and entertaining.


Could a group do that cooperatively? Well it would split the work and ramp up the output.... but a magazine works partly because it's curated. It has the stamp of the publisher, and the audience can count on certain flavor and style. Somebody has got to be able to say no to material that doesn't fit the house style (not just based on "quality of work") and that seldom works with a group. You get that Dilution of Interest thing going again.


But... I think that principle is still useful for a group. (For instance, if folks made an effort to keep this site's front page more active, it would help this site gain more traffic.)


Camille


Well I do agree that there has to be some curation and I think that's what you start to see with more and more websites like Jukepop and the like. Once the staff of the "blog/magazine" is formed it can't be a "we take all comers" detail. It has to have a certain exclusivity to get into so as to keep the standards up, and to help build a brand. If you accept all writers/ contributors it makes it look just like any other website out there for hosting. If you say "we only except things we think fit" then you start to up the bar and you encourage people to take a closer look because of those standards.


But while the idea of doing full time blogging/ magazine writing is attractive because you can get all the material you need if you have time to generate it.


The challenge is right there: Can you develop content at a pace, and in an organization scheme, to keep up with the demand to keep eyes on page?


What you're talking about reminds me a bit of 9rules, a blog network that was a pretty big deal at some point. Basically they admitted members based on certain standards, and then promoted them. It's still around now, but is less exciting than it was.


Basically, there's a page showing all the most recent updates in the network, and all member sites have a graphic linking back to the main site.


I think that that would be an interesting model to follow.


I was sort of thinking about something like that, but the main hub with the recent updates could have other content. Blog posts from writers, art, and maybe the occasional piece of collaborative fiction.


Sounds like some interesting ideas! I'd love to get involved, and I'm curious about a few things.


How would the page tackle the idea of focussing on content that would be of interest to your readers? Are we thinking a general network, or separate pages following specific themes/genres, or somewhere in between?


If it's a general network, apart from being more selective about content, how would it be different to WFG?


If it's more focussed, are we talking about creating smaller rings, like Circle 8 Writers (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Circle-8-Writers/163212760355932) or Deadline Dames (http://www.deadlinedames.com/)?


Or are we talking about something different again?


Kess: Nothing's decided upon, so in one sense, there are no answers to any of those questions.


On the other hand, if you want my opinion, here are my general guidelines by which I evaluate any solution:


1. Promoting web fiction in general probably won't work. Promoting a specific work to people who like that kind of work has a better chance.

2. Find ways to include people outside of our community, and ideally, their audiences.

3. Using it should be easy for the writer and the reader.


All that said, here's what I'd imagine an answer might include:

--a website that would divide into different pages for different genres and possibly sub genres. Ideally, these pages would include blogs, web comics, and web fiction in a genre.

--a bit of code on member sites that might bring people to the next site in the ring OR to the appropriate interest page on the general site.


It wouldn't be WFG because there would be no reviews and no ratings. If anything, WFG would be included on appropriate pages.