It’s been an interesting few days looking at online fiction. To be honest , most of us who are writing novels online a piece at a time (i.e., “webfiction”) aren’t experts in SEO or marketing. I’ll come back to this worrisome thought in a moment….
As I begin this blog, I want to make a distinction between “reading novels online” versus the “online novel.”
I do own an e-reader, a tablet, and a mobile phone with plenty of book apps. By “online novel,” I’m not referring to trying to experience a book that might have had a dead-tree paper format through the internet. I’m talking about the novel being written online as its primary distribution mechanism.
And I should make this clear, for close to ten years or more I’ve been writing some form of novel or fiction online. I tried posting stuff on the web on my own website years ago when AOL was around (on my own servers on the defunct Mindspring service) while 3 various people I knew tried the same. That kind of died down quickly…but mostly because I think none of us knew how to write our way of the settings we had created.
However, shortly thereafter I ended back in fanfiction and grew comfortable posting via installments on the still existing fanfiction.net. Under two or three aliases I wrote for different fandoms, some stories completing and others kind of derailing horribly. It was a good experience. I learned how you couldn’t just write off the top of your head if you wanted to have something to pick up from the next time you sat at your computer and wrote out your favorite characters.
Ultimately I had to stop writing fanfiction. After finishing the equivalent of a novel (100k?) for a fairly obscure pairing in an aging fandom, I kind of realized that I spent almost ten months crafting something that would likely never get read and worse yet, had to overcome the baggage of fandom. I had picked something unpopular to start with, you see, and my goal had been to convince the reader that the unpopular concept (and almost impossible concept) was tenable.
So I backed off writing and kept kicking around ideas, using some of the tricks that made the fan work successful – complicated romance, a more old-fashioned setting, and conspiracy. (You can hear some of the thought process in the podcast I did with Greg X. Graves at Webfiction World at http://www.webcastbeacon.com/webfiction-012-monsters/ . )
Publishing a story on its own though was difficult. What do you call this original equivalent of a fanfic? Fictionpress.com (the fanfiction.net staff’s archive for original works) lacked any sort of cross-over benefit from its more popular sibling it would appear. And the site name itself/structure is vaguely difficult to cope with for those who weren’t already acculturated to the ff.net format.
And random googling didn’t really help find where/how to get listed.
If it weren’t for TE Waters, I’d never have found my way out through this. She’s the one who found “Webfiction Guide”, “Muses Success,” and later “Wattpad.com.”
Listing the stories through these kinds of sites has certainly helped connect with a small handful of readers but the traffic data for my main site Tales of the Big Bad Wolf has never really resulted in a huge push of traffic. Nor do I see keyword searching using “webfiction” leading them to the serialized novel.
Using Google Trends (and adwords if you have an account) shows that the number of hits are pretty insignificant. I’ll refer you to this chart and recommend you throw in some other terms familiar to you to see what happens.
This link is similar, but removes “ebook” so that the trends are easier to observe
In thinking about this, my conclusion is that the term webfiction itself is highly underutilized and too “niche.”
A concept can have many names and an author may like one best, but ultimately, the web author has to play the webgame and figure out how people are going to find them.
I’d like to figure out how /what to best find readers and this graph makes me crazy. Authors seem to obsess about high visibility on the webfiction index sites but the overall point is being missed. Who is looking for these index sites?
I’m hoping that things might change in the future. But right now, the language that some web serial writers want to use is not the language the public uses. SO, be smart about your keywords and your branding.
And back to thinking aloud.
Wattpad and Serials I guess are the next story I ought to cover, if only because they have had more media play as entities thanks to Margaret Atwood, venture capital infusions (to Wattpad) and Amazon announcing its new serial experiment for Kindle.
I might occasionally come back and talk about the “market situation” for online fiction at a later time. But for now, hopefully I can entice TE Waters to go next 😉