Readership

I'm curious and thus I hunger for advice. I crave wisdom and beg of you to dispense it in its bejewelled shards.


Less elaborately, I've been having fun trying to spread the word about my own work and, having read through several of the serials on the site (particular mention to Arcadia Snips and Servicing the Pole, so far) I'm curious as to how the more successful authors around have managed to cultivate a readership.


So, how have you managed to do it?


-Khelden


I've no idea what denotes a 'successful author', but I've got some Top Gear Top Tips at any rate.


The key is TACTICAL ADVERTISING ACTION. You're using Project Wonderful. This is good. It's pretty bloody cheap, really. Sacrifice a pint a week and you can afford an effective advertising campaign if you control your budgeting!


Work out who your audience are, then target the webfiction/comics they might read (or those with a similar demographic, genre or theme etc). Don't go splashing your budget on an adspace just because its cheap and the site gets decent hits - think about whether your story will even appeal to the people seeing it!


This is where having a decent advert comes in handy. I have no idea what makes a decent advert. Make sure it appeals to your audience and ask yourself "would I click that?". I've experimented with several different ads and the most successful by far are the ones that attempt to make some kind of 'personal connection'. Making a personal/emotional connection with the reader through a character they may identify with is far, far better than "ACTION! ADVENTURE! LUST!" or "INTRIGUING NEW SCINERD EPIC! READ FOR FREE!" imo.


I could be getting it all wrong, mind. These are just observations I've made during my time playing around with this advertising malarkey.


That's the hard part, though, figuring out what ads I pay attention to. I tend to ignore ads on the web and TV when I see them (especially the Envoy boob-shot ads and ESPECIALLY the teeth ads. Please stop with the teeth), so I suppose I know what I don't line. I guess I'd have to go for visually interesting. That'd do it.


I think the first key is establishing how exactly you are going to COUNT readers? To many writers do it by unique visitor stats, I think this is probably the worst way to go about it. There's a lot more garbage traffic on the internet now and not everyone who lands on your site reads a single word of your work.


Some options:

+Measure by RSS subscription/blog watchers .... some flaws to this in that not everyone who comes to your site regularly is going to be interested in subscribing. Maybe they don't understand or use RSS, or they don't have a blogger (or whatever) account. Plus just because they click "subscribe" doesn't not mean they ever really come back after that.

+Measure by sales ... only relevant if you offer sales in the first place :)

+Measure by analytics ... complicated and involves some math, but using a sophisticated analytics tool like Google Analytics you can separate your quality traffic out from your junk traffic and look at your update days to average how many readers you have.

+Measure by membership ... This is the way I do it, can't get access to the new/fresh content until your a member. Has some of the flaws of RSS subscriptions, tends to underestimate true readership but suits my purposes.


It goes without saying I think, you can't fairly evaluate attempts to boost readership until you establish a method to measure readership :)


Raw analytics are probably the most accurate bet because things like feeds, subscriptions and memberships may only pick up a handful of your audience. Few people have touched the subscription/update options I've provided and prefer checking the site out whenever.


The method I've developed is to check the stats for every 5th chapter once a fortnight. Since each chapter is told across multiple pages and not via a blog post it provides a much better idea of numbers. On the other hand it also raises the point that not all your readers will have reached the current chapter. Judging by mine, readership seems split 60/40 between those still reading through and those up to date [/james may].


And then there's the idea that not everyone will read once a week and may prefer to read, say, once a month...


You just need to analyse the figures and come up with a reasonable judgement XD


I built my readership largely through myspace. (Of course, this was before myspace was dead, so I guess now you'd want to use facebook if you tried it.) However, my target readers are teenage girls, and I think myspace was a perfect place to find them.


What I did was to buy a myspace bot (which you're really not supposed to use) and then go and find authors who wrote similar stuff to what I did. I stole their friend lists and sent out friend requests to everyone them with a little note saying, "Since we're both friends with XXX, I thought you might like to read my book."


This resulted in a bloated bunch of myspace friends (about 5,000) and maybe 200 readers. But the readers I gathered were loyal and willing to tell their friends.


Some people would advise against doing this, because they say it's spam and will make people hate you. I didn't get very much flack, however, and I think it's because in my messages, I established a connection with the person right away. I told them where I found their profile (the author's myspace page) and that I thought they might be interested in my product because of our shared interests.


Still, I notice that the only friend requests I seem to get on myspace these days are from authors or bands. It seems less of a social networking site and more of an advertising site in my opinion.


Honestly, I think the key is to get a small base of readers and then just provide a quality, consistent product. Personally responding to messages doesn't hurt either. I think word spreads when your stuff is good.


I wouldn't recommend using bots or spamming people - no offence meant @vjchambers


I wouldn't insist that readers become members if they want to read your story either. Some stories can take several visits, over a number of weeks, to grow on you and some people, myself included, are often put off by that kind of approach. Unless I'm hooked on a story, I am not likely to become a member in order to post a comment either - but that's just me and I suspect that I am in the minority there.


I agree with @ vjchambers: "provide a quality, consistent product. Personally responding to messages doesn't hurt either."


Whenever I take the time to visit a site, stay to read the story, and then put the extra effort in to leaving a comment, I always feel terribly unappreciated if the writer then fails to acknowledge my comment with one of his/her own in return. The only thing worse than this is when the writer ignores my comment and then interacts with his/her friends in the comments section. If this has never happened to you I can assure you it does happen and it is not uncommon either.


So my advice (and I am not one of the more successful writers out there but I am an avid web fiction reader, and in some ways the kind of reader you may want to attract) is to take the time to visit other web fiction sites, leave comments if you have something genuine to say about the story, ensure that you respond to those that leave comments on your own site, and build some solid relationships with readers and other writers. At the very least you will read some great fiction in your travels as well as gain some new friends, and at the other end of the scale the sky's your limit :)


Miladysa: In fairness that's not what we do. You need membership to access only NEW content, not ALL content. So since many of our serials have been running for 20+ weeks or so, there's PLENTY of content to read for free with no strings of any kind attached, and since we archive content into these free areas every week there's never a point where we say "oh you have to be a member to get the rest of this story"


Membership helps us determine who our regular/committed readers are because they are the people who CANNOT WAIT for the next part, so they sign up to see what happens next right away rather than waiting for the content to be archived in a week. Non-members also have no access to extras (fanfic, porny sidestories, etc) and no ability to comment on the story ... but yeah, I completely agree that you need to allow readers to become hooked on their own time. Some will become hooked by chapter 5, some by chapter 30, it depends on the story and the reader.


Incidentally this thread inspired me to write up a blog post about using Google Analytics' advanced features to estimate readership. If anyone wants to check it out:

http://biz.fluffy-seme.net/?p=129&dsq=21791007


@Isa There was nothing in my post that was aimed at you :)


There are sites that I have come across that do require readers to become a member first and those are the ones that my comment was aimed at.


"no ability to comment on the story"


I love to receive comments from readers! In fact - as all content on my site is free with no membership requirement & accessible by all - I suppose I see the comments as my reward for writing and they are certainly what drives me :)


So far I have not come across a writer who doesn't like to receive comments. I have been on sites though were writers comment that no one is seems to be commenting and I would, but am not, because you need to be a member to do so! LOL


I admit that I have a membership hang-up and as I said above, I suspect I am in the minority and put that down to the fact that I am in a totally different generation for instance to the 'fan girl' readership that some sites are positively (& rightly so) encouraging.


Having said all that, I am a member of some sites and will probably become one of others in the future. I just don't enjoy feeling that I have been forced into a corner about it.


Incidentally this thread inspired me to write up a blog post about using Google Analytics' advanced features to estimate readership. If anyone wants to check it out:

http://biz.fluffy-seme.net/?p=129&dsq=21791007


Which was a very helpful article indeed. ONE THING that might help, however:

"so all we have to do is click on the date range and tell Google to restrict the data for just one week."


Or set the 'graph by' to 'week'!


Still trying to figure out a foolproof way to catch those readers who sneak past the front page. I combined my original methods with the advanced segments and it appears around 40% of readers sneak by the front page by book marking elsewhere. I'd pegged it at 20% max D:


Hey, do you update to the same web address, or do each of your chapters have their own address?


I publish each chapter on multiple pages with around 5-600 words on each - it prevents intimidating walls of text and minimises scrolling! It's how I can check to see how many people have read chapter X, and also why just checking front page analytics becomes deceiving, because plenty of people just bookmark whichever page they got up to (which is another boon towards readability imo - also makes it a lot easier to break reading in the middle of a chapter!)


Dary: Oh~ Good point :D fine fine you can do that TOO XDDD


How many webserials do you have hosted on your site? If you only have one, just take out the Page restriction and Google will catch every user regardless of what page their visit starts at. Fluffy-seme hosts multiples so we have to specific by restricting stats to one page


The only readership that means anything to me are folk who comment or write to me and make it clear that they are interested. Since mine is a longterm project -- over 20 books of over 10 chapters each -- I really do not care. A text will ultimately stand of fall on its being discovered and circulated via word of mouth aka word of Web.


Tangentally, I am trying to figure out the future of sustenance. Narrowing it to this topic, I am hoping that at some point people understand the payment of a royalty as a contribution is the equivalent to buying a book for a fraction of its traditional sale price. For example if my work would sell for $30 a contribution of $3-$5 would be a fair compensation. Were this to become an accepted standard I think we would all be better off. The alternative might be to use something like page rank to create a standard for compensating content on the Web. This is not on topic but a discussion of traffic is a discussion of compensation in a broad context. Whether one values x visitors a day or x dollars in your paypal acct.


Wow, this thread filled up quickly.


@Miladysa - Thank you for that particular insight. I've been afraid of responding to comments out of fear of appearing unprofessional (hah).


I tried blogCounter as a method of measurement, which is largely useless. I've actually been using the ad-tracking facility of Project Wonderful to estimate readership, working on the average uniques and pageviews to do a rough estimate - seems to vary around a base of 15 or so regular readers with occasional spikes when new people arrive. Since the ad boxes are on every page, it ends up covering all site activity.


Hey, Khelden,


How to CULTIVATE a readership is the $64,000 question - but as for how to MEASURE it...


I use blogspot, like you, and I've found that the best way to track readers is with a sitemeter (www.sitemeter.com)It's a free, easy to add widget that tells where my readers are coming from, and how long they're sticking around. It even goes so far back as to show the random search terms people are using in google that make them stumble across my site. (I've got a mystery reader in Portland, Or, that visits one particular entry for between 5 - 30 minutes, like, THREE times a week!)


Basically, it confirmed what I already knew - that most of my readers come from similar webfics that had links to me (i.e. Legion of Nothing, Urban 30, etc.)


I'm on blogspot and have a sitemeter too - it's brilliant :)