I’ve been serializing Memory of AUSOS on a free WordPress account since December 2010, also mirroring releases (with a several week lag) at Wattpad and FictionPress. From August 2011 to May 2012 I went on hiatus while I focused on personal issues and on getting my other novel, The Ghost Tiger’s Lament, finished… during which time I totally neglected the serial. I published “Ghost Tiger” the first week of April 2012, and was approached by Wattpad for a feature towards the end of May. I started posting Ghost Tiger on Wattpad in June, and was officially listed as a feature on July 5th. I also relaunched AUSOS at the same time (in May), posting twice a month rather than weekly as before, and this time making sure to keep the mirrored releases better updated.
Also, my social media presence is pathetic.
I did some minor advertising via Project Wonderful shortly after I first launched (December 2010, though the site itself has been around since October 2010), and peaked in traffic at a, uh, very modest 150 visitors a day. Since my relaunch in May 2012 I’m at a relatively consistent 400-600 hits a month (if I update in a timely fashion :P). The only other “promo” I’ve done is announcing updates on Twitter (if I remember to), and listing the story on Web Fiction Guide and Muse’s Success.
As I only have the free WordPress tools, I can’t drill down as specifically as SgL has on her stats, however — i.e. I have no idea what percentage of those hits are readers, returning or otherwise, and what percentage are SPAMBOTS.
Frankly speaking, my record on Wattpad is modest compared to the success other featured stories have had (i.e. up to millions of hits). There could be any number of reasons for this: I write in a relatively unpopular genre, I don’t do much promo, I don’t do much networking, etc. But I have been very happy with the results anyway, and the opportunity it’s given me to reach countless new readers.
My stats as of Jan. 19, 2013:
[Title (Genre*) | Date first posted | Total accumulated “reads”**]
* up to two selections allowed
** hits added up per chapter
1. Memory of AUSOS (Fantasy/Science Fiction) | February 2011 | 970
– 181 reads on the first chapter
– 14 reads on the most recent chapter (out of 20 installments total)
The first story I ever posted on Wattpad. And the only one, for a long time. Before my feature, I had at most 10-12 installments posted (recall that I’d been on hiatus for months, and before that I’d only been updating the Wattpad listing when I remembered to). I do remember having about 200 reads by June 2012, right before the feature was listed. That said, it’s a bizarre story in a very niche genre, so I’ve never expected much attention on it, and am not at all surprised by the low follow-through rate.
2. “Thousand-Year Cat” (Fantasy/Short Story) | May 2012 | 304
This is a roughly 8k short story* with romantic undertones that I originally self-published back in 2011. I posted this on Wattpad mostly as an experiment (this was before I had been approached for the feature if I recall correctly), as it’s my one story with the most “mainstream” appeal, or at least the most appeal among the majority of the Wattpad population. I did get much better hit rates on it than I did with AUSOS. (And judging by comments, readers adore the story.) Even so, I doubt I would have gotten half the attention this has if it hadn’t been for the subsequent feature.
* approaching novelette territory, actually, considering the length
3. The Ghost Tiger’s Lament (Historical/Fantasy) | June 2012 | 314,104
– 28,539 first chapter
– 11,147 last chapter (out of 23 story chapters, though there are 3 additional appendix chapters that are included in the total count above)
(Completion rate was 50% at one point according to SgL — I didn’t record this though, alas. Nice to know I’m still getting readers working their way through though — or trying to. :P)
Well, that’s a drastic difference there. For the record, I had about 300 reads prior to the feature getting listed. I was actually really worried about the story’s potential reception when I first got featured. Obscure historical time period, obscure setting, melancholy narrative arc, most decidedly not YA, and not really a typical fantasy novel in many ways. But, well, aside from some pathetic tweeting/social media notification, and a guest post on the official Wattpad blog the same day the feature listed… I didn’t do much. And yet readers flocked to the story the moment it was listed. Some of them even liked it. 11k readers have apparently liked it enough over the last six months to finish the whole thing.
Which is honestly pretty mindboggling to me — as a self-publisher who’s quietly kept track of the scene over the past 2-3 years, I’m well aware that many people have been able to give away thousands of free downloads via Amazon (and receive subsequent sales boosts). But out of those sales/downloads, it’s impossible to know how many people are actually reading to completion. My Wattpad stats, on the other hand, are very clear. And very humbling.
Are those readers subsequently crossing over to read my other work? Well, honestly, I don’t have enough comparable work out there. (I don’t even have the Ghost Tiger sequel out yet. :P) But a few readers are branching out, nonetheless (there was a definite boost in stats on AUSOS and the Cat story post-feature, if not so drastic).
Still, without the feature, this particular story would have definitely wallowed in obscurity. Is it possible to find visibility on Wattpad without a feature? Yes… but from what I’ve observed it requires a lot of investment in the community (frex the annual contests/events, forums, comments, etc.) and networking with other writers/readers on the site — and you probably need to be writing in a popular genre. YA, romance, paranormal…
4. The Land of Eternal Winter (Fantasy/Adventure) | Jan 16, 2013 | 24
The first chapter of my most recent, not-yet-released novel, which I decided to post for further comparison purposes. This is definitely an improved hit rate compared to when I first posted AUSOS (*crickets*) and when I posted the Cat story (about 10-16 hits over the first couple of days). Beyond that, I can’t say much yet, as it’s far too early and there are any number of factors that could be coming into play:
– I’m now a known entity on Wattpad.
– This is a fantasy with much more mainstream appeal.
– I tweeted it to my nonexistent followers.
– There is a human face on the cover.
I only have AUSOS posted on FictionPress, better known as the little sibling of the much bigger Fanfiction.net. AUSOS was written with the intention of serialization; the other works I have listed at Wattpad were not. Also, note that FP provides two different kinds of stats records*; I’m not entirely sure they match up (and only one kind gives chapter breakdown), but I will provide both.
* Also, the fanfic/fp community has traditionally valued comments/”reviews” much more than they have valued silent hits (despite typical reader behavior skewing to the latter) — take that as you will.
My “legacy” stats (since December 20, 2010):
Total views: 1311
– 241 on the first chapter
– 71 on the most recent chapter (out of 39 installments total — I break down updates differently here than I do on Wattpad)
That number on my most recent chapter is really an outlier though. Most of my other installments have about 10-30 hits (the earlier chapters have a bit more). I have outliers on a few chapters (99 on ch. 35, 108 on ch. 37). I’m frankly not sure why — possibly those were links I promoted on Twitter or that people got in their email alerts, or people like clicking to the last available chapter to judge whether or not they’ll like the rest of the story. But like I said, I’m not entirely sure how these stats are calculated, so who knows.
Monthly breakdown for the last six months, plus January so far:
[month | views | visitors | ratio of views to visitors]
January 2013 | 129 | 36 | 3.58 : 1
December | 191 | 57 | 3.75 : 1
November | 290 | 71 | 4.08 : 1
October | 378 | 108 | 3.5 : 1
September | 50 | 17 | 2.94 : 1
August | 5 | 4 | 1.25 : 1
July | 34 | 14 | 2.43 : 1
What happened between September and October is two things: I got sexy official cover art (FictionPress used to not display cover images, and when it started, I think sometime last year, I was using placeholder art). I also made a rather belated switch of categories from Manga to Science Fiction, a much more high-traffic category. Unfortunately I can no longer remember when I made the category switch exactly, but it must have been toward the end of September or sometime in October. And in August I believe I didn’t have a chance to update as I was overseas.
The subsequent decline in numbers is expected — regular browsers of that category now recognize that story either as one they’re interested in following or not. And I suspect some have been leeched over to my main site (since there is still a lag in updates). Also, as I post two installments at a time on this site, it’s hard to judge exactly how many people are returning readers and how many are new readers.
What has been interesting to me though is that there is a clear genre/audience discrepancy between the two sites (Wattpad and FP). I don’t have the data to back me up and I’m not going to say it’s a gender or age difference (I strongly suspect the female population is in the majority on both sites, and that ages of active readers/writers skew young on both sites as well*) — but I do wonder sometimes if certain types of readers are actually more comfortable on FP than on Wattpad.
Which may or may not tie in to the fact that there is also a significant difference in discovery/reader behavior on both sites. FP readers rely somewhat less on the social reading aspect (there are forums there as well and that certainly plays a factor, but my guess is that typical story discovery results from regular browsing) — whereas on Wattpad it’s much more difficult to browse “neutrally” (nor is the site structured in such a way that you are encouraged to do so). “Growth” on FP is of course much slower in general because of this, but “cricket chirp” situations are arguably fewer too.
The other major difference, potentially, is reader attitudes toward finished and unfinished stories. Due to the overlap from fanfiction culture, FP readers are used to following serialized work — it is more or less expected for a story to be uploaded and consumed in chunks (in contrast, a story uploaded in its entirety at once is quickly buried behind newer updates and forgotten). When I was approached by Wattpad, however, and I asked whether I should upload my whole story at once, or by installments, I was told that Wattpad readers by far prefer completed stories that they can just sit down and dig into. And based on casual observation, at least, I think it is true that Wattpad readers enjoy reading through an entire story in a single sitting. I don’t know how much of a difference there is, but it does seem to be there.
Of course, FP has been revamping itself in recent years, so who knows if these differences will persist.
* if you look at the fantasy/romance/YA categories on the respective sites, you’ll see that there isn’t that much of a difference actually
Isn’t this post long enough already? I’m tempted to end on something pithy like “go where the readers are, not where the writers/social media gurus are,” but I think I’ll let the numbers speak for themselves.