The fans aren't a-coming (Potentially whiny topic =p)

Well, it's been about a month and a half since I started my web serial. I've advertised it via Project Wonderful on a number of kid-friendly webcomics that I imagined would draw fans. I've advertised it via my signature on various message boards. I've tried to spread it via word of mouth. Sure, I get visits from curious newcomers here and there, but as far as I know, none of them have stuck around (except for Chris--appreciate it, man!), and, well, it's frustrating. It's definitely not fun working hard on something, struggling to meet the deadlines you set for readers you don't have.


So, I'm looking for advice. What's the prob? Is there a secret to promotion that I'm just not getting? Is my site layout too hard for people to navigate? Do I not have enough content? Or does my story just need work? I just can't quite put my finger on why I can't seem to garner a readership.


Once again, apologies if this topic sounds whiny. That's definitely not my intention. I'm just looking for advice, and any you guys can give me is very much appreciated! :)


A month and a half is not long in the grand scheme of things. Sure, some people hop off the boat with hundreds of fans, but for every one person like that there are hundreds of others who take infinitely longer to develop fanbases. So if I were you, I wouldn't be worrying yet.


It's definitely not fun working hard on something, struggling to meet the deadlines you set for readers you don't have.


I think it's really hard for authors if they're only writing for the fans/to get fans. I'm a bit worried from your comments here (and at the other thread about fans), that your focus over the last few weeks might have unconciously shifted towards writing for the fans. Please don't do that -- I've been down that road, and it's a hard funk to get yourself out of. Inherantly, writing for the fans is just impractical. On the larger scale, fans invariably shift/leave and they'll invariably dislike some things you've written -- having a non-fan related motivation helps you to stay centered during these times, and not end up floundering. Fans are great, and deserve their due, but they shouldn't be the center of a writer's universe.


Is there a secret to promotion that I'm just not getting?


Promoting a series is generally something that authors learn through hits and misses. They try some places that don't work, and then try others that do. It depends a lot on each author's budget, content, availability, graphic skills, etc. I like to joke with some of my friends that advertising is almost like an occult mystery -- it can't be taught, and instead it must be learned firsthand.


Is my site layout too hard for people to navigate?


Some slight annoyances I have with your site: the layout's too wide for my computer, and I have to scroll over to read it all. Perhaps you should change your values to percentages instead of fixed numbers, so that it'll work well on all screen sizes. Perhaps also some space between your news updates, so it doesn't just strike readers as a text blob. I'm also not a fan of the white letters on a bright background -- strains my eyes (and I don't have bad vision).


And, erm, why have a FAQ if you don't have anything on it? Either delete it until you get some questions, or make some up to answer (things you think writers might want to know -- heck, some of the questions on your "about" page might even be better suited on an FAQ page). I can guarantee you that's how most FAQ pages start out. If you really want to keep the page blank, than at least include on that page in the "no one's asked yet" area a way to contact you with a question (other than forums, because people don't always feel comfortable asking things on forums).


Another blank area thing -- if none of your creatures yet have pictures, don't put up a spot just to tell us they don't have them. If there's not one there, we can guess that one doesn't yet exist. Instead, just give us the descriptions, and once you've get a good percentage of creature pics done, than make an image column. It looks less empty/more professional that way.


Ditto on the forum. I'd wait on that until you had more readers. As discussed in a different thread, an empty forum can be a turn-off. But that's your decision, and others might feel differently. If you keep it, make a point of adding a way for readers to navigate back to your stories from the forums.


And your nav bar is occassionally inconsistent. There's only one page that allows readers to navigate back to the main page (news section), which is the character guide. Try to keep it consistent by adding the Main tab to the other pages.


Final layout note: not to insult your artwork, but perhaps commissioning someone to do something more professional for the header might help with the audience. People generally only give sites five seconds to draw them in, and an extra-snazzy header might help with that. Though that's by no means neccesary. (*Disclaimer: my wife does art for a living, so I might be pickier when it comes to header art than most.*)


Do I not have enough content?


You seem fine on the having content front. It'd be enough to get me to read through, if I were curious.


Or does my story just need work?


I haven't read it yet, so I'll admit that I don't know if it needs work. Chris makes some general comments in his review, though. If you're worried about that, you might try workshopping it with a RL or online critique group.


I just can't quite put my finger on why I can't seem to garner a readership.


Another thing is that you've only had it up for a month and a half (yeah, I know I said this, but follow me here), which means you put it up around late August/Early September. School started at the same time for your target audience, so not many people were online. Relax...there's a few big holidays coming up, where people will have chances to start reading something new (to pass the time). Take a few breathers, and stop worrying so much about readers. That doesn't mean that you should stop advertising, but that you shouldn't freak out about fans not appearing instantly.


Remeber also: Readers are a fickle bunch. It's quite possible there's nothing wrong with your site, you're just hitting the wrong people at the wrong times. Let time take it's effect. If you're up for three years with no readers, then you can start to worry a bit. Of course, by then I'd hope readers would be a bonus, not the main focus.


One potential problem I can see right off the bat is your url. geocities.com/pcmon2/dindex is neither easy to remember, nor very appealing (makes it seem like it's just something you made on a whim, not something you take seriously).


www.pc-productionz.net/dindex is a little better, since it's not at geocities, but I would still have no idea what the site was about. Maybe a subdomain at pc-productionz.net would work better?


About the look of your site: the lack of borders and even spacing makes it look a bit slap-dash, which would fit with most sites that have urls like yours at geocities. Try smoothing it out and making it more visually appealing in general. Check out this guide for layout and readability over at Novelr for more help with that.


These things are important to get people to actually start reading. Once they do, then it's about the story. Until then, the story can be amazing and it wouldn't matter. (Also, having a nice clear "START HERE" or "CHAPTER 1" link would be nice, rather than an easily overlooked instruction to follow to an easily overlooked link.)


Finally, don't sweat it. If you work hard and smart enough, they will come. It may take a while, but most good things do.


Six weeks ain't nothin', friend. Seriously. It takes more time than that. True, I got off to a fast start, but not that fast. For at least two months I was talking to myself and a handful of RL friends. I just gave your URL to my 11-year-old; she's always looking for good stuff to read.


What immediately comes to mind:


1) Your URL. A subdomain would be good.


2) Your background. With the white text, it's very hard to read. I am really anti-light-on-dark, though, so take that with a grain of salt. If you're intent on white lettering, take the background darker.


3) More "white space" between teasers on the front page, and a larger font for them.


4) Rename "Books" "Start Here."


5) Your home page should have something on it to tell readers right away what the story is about and why they want to read it. Don't make them click to an "about" page. They won't bother.


6) Where have you been advertising? Have you paid attention to your click-through rates? What's worked and what hasn't?


It's far, far too soon to give up! :)


It took me a year with Street to gain any significant readership, so I wouldn't worry about it just yet. A decent archive and significant running time are big draws for a web serial because they give the reader more to sink their teeth into, and more confidence that this project won't simply be abandoned halfway.


As for the site . . . I'm not going to lie to you, the design puts me off instantly, and so does the logo (but then I'm not an anime fan). It all needs work. Start with taking off those ghastly turqoise bars on all your headers, if you don't know how to make proper graphical headers then stick to a two-tone layout -- one colour for text and one colour for background. Then see if you can't find a better (sub)domain name.


Another thing that can help you get traffic is cross-linking with other web serials. There seems to be a few kid-focused ones around, you could get in touch with them. If you have any money to spare, invest some in a decently-priced artist and/or web designer. That alone can help a lot.


And, most importantly, just keep trying.


Regards,

Ryan


Yeah, the site is a bit off putting. When I see something from geocities, I think old 90's websites and no offense but it's a bit cheesy. I would recommend a website that's more professional looking and well put together like wordpress.com or weebly.com. I would also try to get a more professional looking header as well. The pictures are cute, but as an avid anime fan, they are a bit too cutesy for a story of this type. I know that the web serial is geared towards younger fans, but this seems like it can also cross-over to fans of old school anime/manga.


Also in my experience, marketing a story as "anime-inspired" is a turn off to a lot of people. Not everyone likes anime and those who do are likely to see the anime influences without being told that the story has it in there. I imagine a lot of people who aren't into anime being turned off and not reading the story. If you don't mention anything about the influences, it may be able to reach an audience that otherwise wouldn't read the story.


First, you need to find your target audience. A lot of kids don't have the opportunity to read stories online. They are in school for 6 hours a day, come home and possibly do homework, then eat, then sleep. You have to market to places that service children like the local library and places like that. Most children don't roam the internet the way adults do and if they do, it's probably not places that most adults look. You have to go to where the kids are, not hoping that kids come to you. Also market to the parents as well. I'm under the impression that most parents still care about what their children see on the internet and if you can convince them that your story is wholesome clean fun and it appeals to the parents as well, you're in the clear.


So to recap, I think you need to get a new web design that is easy to navigate and is clean and crisp with as little extraneous info as possible. Also, market to places where children are, find internet sites that child friendly and try to advertise there using project wonderful. Get new artwork that can appeal to not only children, but adults as well. Also I agree with Morgan, don't write for your fans, write for yourself. Sure you can throw in a little fanservice, but don't cater your story to fans. Stay true yourself and your story. If you do that, the fans will come in time.


I don't have any fans either, so take my comments with a grain of salt ;) but just looking at your site, it's off-putting to me. (Maybe less so to your target audience, since kids like bright colors.) The hand-drawn header, especially since it takes up almost half the screen on my computer, implies that it's a webcomic; people expecting a webcomic will be turned off by the fact that it's not. The blue and teal clash a bit on my monitor, and the white text is hard to read. The font of the story itself is also kind of small. The fact that the site is difficult to read makes me not want to make even the minimum of effort to find the beginning of the story.


I could recommend DigitalNovelists.com, but that would be self-serving. *whistling*


Thanks for the advice, everyone. ^^ I'll keep it all in mind.


MeiLin, you're as smooth as a buttered-up baby's butt.


wow, that's a disturbing image. sorry everybody.


Alex . . . The edit button, man. The EDIT BUTTON.


Regards,

Ryan


somehow i don't think alex was all that sorry ;)


OK, PC, I sent the oldest (age 11) to your site and she'd love to read it--except she can't read it. On her browser (Firefox for Linux), the links for the first chapter are covered by heading text, and she can't click on it. We tried to go into one of the later chapters in hopes of navigating back, but no dice. Your interface really needs work. She wanted to read it, but no luck.


And you'll get yours, Alex, and your little dragon, too. ;)


I can less-self-servingly recommend Digital Novelists! I mean, it would be good for me if there were more people on it so it got more exposure, but I wouldn't get money directly from it! Also, I can say that MeiLin is an awesome webmistress and only sound like I'm sucking up, not like I'm egotistical.


Thanks, Clare!


Thanks again for all your assistance, everyone. I'm thinking about completely doing away with the background and having simple white background and black text.


New artwork in in the works, hopefully more appealing to people.


Now, readability, that's something I can't seem to figure out. I've been using Geocities for years on various websites I've had, and everything worked swimmingly. Every time I viewed my website on different computers, it looked just fine. But now, I checked out how my website looked in different browsers at browsershot.org, and I was surprised to see how vastly different my current site looks on several web browsers. Maybe it's time I ditch Yahoo and try out another web host, as suggested. I'll keep you all informed.


Thanks again, everyone!


I think the biggest problem right now is how huge the sidebar/ sidebar text is, especially compared to the body text.

I can't stop looking at the sidebar and my eyes never actually move to the content.