To Comm, or Not To Comm?

Okay, so innuendos aside, I have a question and would appreciate advice and feedback.


Currently, I'm updating my novel on LiveJournal at my writing account. I'm aware that I have a few regular readers, but not many commentors, and I would like to increase the traffic. I've got a twitter set up, and I post there whenever I update my novel, but I was wondering...


Is it worth setting up an LJ community in tandem to the novel pre-emptively? Should I wait until I have regular commentors and more readers? Or does anyone have an alternative suggestion?


First off, others have talked about how commentors are a small percentage of readers, so really the best way to get more comments is to increase overall readership.


One thing I have seen on someone's weblit site was a comment prompt at the bottom of the chapter (clearly separate and subordinate to the story text above). It was usually in the form a question or two related to the current chapter that people could respond to in a commenting section immediately below. If you wanted to drive a community on a separate LJ group account, you might try linking the prompt directly to that community where people could respond, if you decided to go that route.


Is it going to hurt you in any way to setup the lj community now? If not, then I don't see why you can't go ahead and do so.


As for alternatives, well, you could always migrate to a different site that integrates story posting with a forum instead of maintaining to different locations. I'm thinking of the Drupal-built sites a number of weblit folks use.


I don't know which of those ideas would work best with your current situation, but those are a few things to think about.


The average is:

One in every ten readers will leave you a solitary comment at some point.

One in every hundred will comment with regularity.


This is just the way of the internet.


Another thing to consider is that a lot of readers might not be reading every update as it's released, and people are most likely to comment on the last page/update they reach.


To inspire them to comment you also need to have something for them to discuss. The above mentioned method of raising questions at the end of a chapter has worked well for me, but you also need to have a story that can raise and answer these sorts of questions on a regular basis (and this is one of the areas where I find serials have a big, big advantage over novels).


And a LOT more people will answer the poll I put at the end of each chapter than comment directly (and even then, the majority will just ignore the polls!).


Whatever the case, stick to that one-in-a-hundred figure. It'll keep things realistic.


While I understand your desire (to get more comments), I just don't think it's achievable. Even if you spent a lot of time and money, the odds are so unfavorable that it'd be better to study up on your blackjack strategy and hit Vegas.


See this thread as to why:


http://forums.webfictionguide.com/topic/reaching-out-to-new-readers


@capriox: thanks, I've taken your advice about setting up the comm, and I'll try to think of a few questions for tomorrow, maybe keep a list of them for each update.


@Dary: thanks for the suggestion of comment questions - my next update is tomorrow, so I'll try and think of a few by then!


@RiP: I don't think I explained myself very well - I wasn't asking for the easy route to get more people reading. I'm aware that I already have several regular readers who do f-list me in order to watch for updates, and I know there's no magic totem that's going to make me an overnight sensation. I'm aware that I'm doing pretty well given I've started doing this only fairly recently and what not. The point of this thread was whether or not it was worth setting up a comm/forum for those readers I already have, and maybe work from there.


I have already read the 'Reading Out To New Readers' thread, but thanks for suggesting it. I'm not in a position at the moment to be spending money on things like Project Wonderful, but I'll try to look into it when I have some steady income. Like I say, I wasn't fishing for some deus ex machina, just an opinion as to whether it would be worth my while or not.


I've used Livejournal to run my own web fiction for several years now, and have hosted four different projects and some one-offs. My experience:


* People like to click polls but will rarely discuss them.

* People will discuss "issue fiction" more than they will normal fiction. If what you're writing is controversial, people will dive in and debate one another over it.

* People comment more if they think you'll engage them. This is a hard line to walk without giving away plot elements, but you can discuss setting and character background to get them engaged.

* Giving people direct incentive to comment can be fun for you and them: things like "are you interested in an extra episode?" "Do you want to see more of character x?" "If I get this many re-tweets, I'll do an extra chapter!"


And my number one observation:

* Often you won't know how much people are enjoying something until you're late delivering it. :)


--Maggie