Today’s ramble shall be about reviews, reader responses, sales, page views, and pretty all the little things I check compulsively every day. In an overview. I could spend hours babbling away with unfocused words about any single aspect, but shall restrain myself.
To this end – I shall try to first explain the mixed blessing that is having the public access something you have done.
Anyone who has dared to produce material for the internet (writing, music, artwork, long winded rants that are ultimately
pissing against the wind pointless) knows the pain of public opinion. It’s bad enough being criticized at work for performance, things that were unknown, or terrible finished products. I’m scooping out clumps of my thoughts from the depths of whatever fractured mass of brain matter propels me forth – and asking people to like it.
To me, writing is done with a mixture of…
- hope – to give back to a collective pool that has provided me so much entertainment
- desperation – to complete the project at all and be something more than a desk monkey
- fear – of any sort of feedback
- hope – that people may like it enough to pass it on, or extreme hope that some many chose to pay me for my time
These fears drive me to look for all the feedback available. To measure both my own success or failure, and refine my skills to move forth. Since I do not wish to deal with the revolving door of publishing houses – reader interaction and my wife/editor/CFO are the only feedback available. I don’t advertise to my real life friends about my writing since most of them aren’t ‘readers’ – of my stuff or any others.
So back to the numbers. Ultimately, I receive one comment for every one hundred views or so (With a slight increase in comment to view ratio towards later chapters). That means there are at least 50-99 other people that don’t leave a direct note. That’s fine, I don’t mind (please, lurk and read all you wish) – but it’s the unknown response in each reader’s head that worries me. It’s not even a fear that I could do something different – it’s sheer nosiness. In an effort to see what is being said I roam through Goodreads, Royal Road, Amazon, Web Fiction Guide, backtrack WordPRess hits, talk to other writers, listen for the sound of my iPad getting a WordPress comment and generally drool on myself nervously.
I shall admit that this is a terribly dangerous habit that is both validation providing and mentally stressful.
Here’s the why – if I go by numbers alone…
- Chapter 1 (Session 1, not including the Commencement)… has roughly 14,000 views on Royal Road, and another 3,000 on my WordPress – take note of that really quick, the Royal Road traffic is almost five times higher.
- Chapter 2 (Session 2) …is about 11,000 on Royal Road, then 1,700 on WordPress.
It keeps going in that sort of curve – such that my latest chapter after one day has 530 and 130 respectively (Rounded based on
laziness saving my ego). When seeking validation, feedback, addressing personal hopes and fears for audience valuations, I’m reached a few possible conclusions.
- People start the story, it’s not what they expect, and they drift off. This is an option I’m okay with.
- People start the story, forget where they are, come back and try again, and repeat an ADD attack. This is an option I’m okay with.
- People start the story, like it enough to earmark it for later, and binge read once every few months. This is confusing and throws off my perceptions, but I’m also okay with it.
- People start the story, don’t notice the clear lack of an ‘action tag’ or already existing reviews – hate it, scream about it to the high heavens and anyone will listen. I am not cool with this option because it’s self-inflicted pain where they’re lashing out, and me, fool that I am, read everything I can find.
This is what I mean by the curse of numbers. I pay so much attention to the reader’s actions in desperation for feedback that I get myself all worked up about it. Now please be aware, I am not seeking to name names or call specific people out. To rephrase for clarity; This is not intended to be a whine fest or rallying of the troops. I abhor that kind of action.
My point is that numbers are a curse, because I constantly seeking possibilities behind the data. My day job involves number crunching and report building, it only makes sense that at home, with a side job (It really is a side job at this point, one I enjoy) that the same actions happen. I seek patterns, reasons, and ways to improve.
This is a mixed thing of course. Here’s an example, Continue Online, the main reason people drop by – gets a ton of attention due to being a ‘LitRPG’. As pointed out on the reviews from Amazon – it is, and isn’t one. The format and backdrop is there, the psychological / love-lost / main character overpowers it with more personality questions. What if? How do we react? Simply things like that. When I read the feedback available and try to correlate it to my numbers, there’s a disconnect. Were I to try and sloppily gauge reader feedback from my 1 in 100 responses (stated above, again sloppy math) against the current values I would believe the following
- 50% just drift away, or binge read, or forget about it. That’s fine.
- 25% of the people who start the story really love it, enough to follow it through to the end. (this is a quote) “Continue Online is a remarkably well-crafted story which shines even more brightly in comparison to the standard fare served up on RoyalRoad. If you are expecting a traditional VR tale, you will either find yourself delighted and surprised or bewildered and disappointed…it all depends on your personal reading preferences.”
- 25% hate me for writing such a (this is a quote) “are one of the shittiest character I’ve ever found in RR. A coward sissy, dumb like drugged monkey, mentality sick, a genuine nerd boy in an old man shell, irritatingly passive sissy, irrational and illogical, freaking out with every little thing like a bitch, a gloomy looser but somehow had the luck and achievement of a great man which is total bullshit, in short one of the shittiest personality type.”
Again, I don’t mean to call anyone out. I merely want to use the most visceral example I can find to prove the crowd.
This sort of written feedback is what I’m given to measure against every statistic I can find. My sales being a huge example. (I watch…and nail biting as I am prone to do) Do people not buying it because of the reviews? or the synopsis? or they read it for free (IE why pay for free?) – numbers matching against feedback paint a decent picture, but it’s not a certainty that my conclusions are actually true.
In some ways, it could just be a measure of time.
This is what my gut believes. The sheer difference between the first chapter and last has more to do with months of time – readers trickle in, they don’t show up in a horde clamoring until there is a weight of time and product. Using Worm as an example – the nearly rabid fan base there is not one that popped up overnight. It was built over full years, at least four times longer than I’ve been presenting myself to the interwebz with my biggest puppy dog eyes saying ‘read me’.
I don’t have a formula for time impact upon this all. I can’t say 10 views a day with x diminishing returns per day calculates out values. Well, I could, but let’s face it, that sort of formula does not in the face of Reddit spikes or other shoutouts.
That’s the problem with numbers though. I have so much right now to go off of, and no accurate way to predict what might happen in the future. Will things continue with the same growth pattern? Will I eventually fade into obscurity and face every actors worse nightmare – an empty auditorium?
In the end, once this whole project is done, regardless of public opinion, I hope to feel proud for having completed something of this scale. Too often I speak to people who are ‘in the process’ of ‘writing a book’, which feels like they’re talking about a high school journal that will never see the light of day. I totally understand that status and existed there for years, but I didn’t want to end there. The idea of coming to the end of my years thinking about that book / project / dream I never realized bothers me. I wanted to not fall into the Library of Lost Books. (Read the line about Neil Giaman’s work)
At the very least – I want to end somewhere out there in the future, with dozens of terrible B-list books and a screaming fan base who both hates my work and still somehow finds it in their angry hearts to buy the next book or read the next update.
I just can’t let the numbers crush my spirits before that.
|Back to Rambles|