Writers, Don’t Be Discouraged
I sometimes get comments on my stories or read in the forum about the lack of comments from readers about stories and/or the lack of “thumbs”, either up or down. I’ve written erotica for a lot of years and have been published on several sites other than Noveltrove. I’ve found that to be the case on every site to which I’ve submitted stories and it’s the same for all writers no matter what the genre or erotic content.
I’m a technical guy by profession, and we nerds love data almost as much as we love sex, so I kept track for a while. What I found over a couple years is that most people who read stories don’t leave anything except the addition of one to the read count.
The number of reads a story gets is like the number of books sold for a particular title. It tells the writer how many people at least thought it would be a good read and paid for it. It doesn’t tell the writer how many people actually read it, how many people liked it or how many people used it to start fires in a fireplace.
The number of reads seems to be as dependent upon the time on the site and genre as the author. I think some readers like a particular genre and read everything they can find in that genre and not much else. Some readers like a particular author’s style and read everything that author has written but don’t really read other works. The longer the story has been posted, the better the odds that someone will read it.
Don’t be all that concerned if your story has been posted for a month and has only a hundred reads. It may just be that few readers have found you yet or that the genre isn’t as popular as some.
Reputation does help. I checked out one of the oldest erotic story sites for the top stories. Looking at just the last twelve months, eight out of the top 25 most read stories are by the same author, and he’s been writing on the site for ten years. He’s established a base of readers who read most of what he writes, hence the number of reads.
He also tends to write stories as a series of several parts rather than writing individual works, and I would suppose once fans read the first of a series, they’ll read them all. When you think about that a little, what he’s really written over those ten years is half a dozen long stories and his read count is really about four to five times what it might be if each story stood alone. It’s like clocking up a read for the same story more than once, because in reality it’s just one story broken into parts.
The genre can also affect the number of reads. Some genres attract a large audience, others not so much. That most read story on that same site is about an incestuous relationship, and that genre is one of the most popular on that site. The second author’s stories are all science fiction and fantasy. Both seem to be popular on that site as well. It all depends on the demographics of the readers. It’s a generalization, but younger readers will favor one style of writing or genre and older readers another. The same thing exists between male and female readers.
The number of reads is valuable information, though. It can tell the writer if he or she is writing in the genre people want to read and may indicate he or she is gathering a following.
Some sites have a numerical rating system and some, like Noveltrove, use a binary system of thumbs. A story gets either a “thumb up” or a “thumb down”. On some sites it’s “like” or “don’t like”.
The numerical rating system sounds great, but it’s really no better. Readers who take the time to “score” a story tend to give a story the highest or lowest rating. Low ratings are rare, I suppose because most readers don’t want to be identified as overly critical. If readers don’t like a story, they just don’t rate it. If they liked it, they give it the maximum. The highest rated story on the aforementioned site is rated 4.93 out of a possible 5, and the story rated 200th is rated 4.90. That’s effectively no different than a binary system of “like” or “didn’t like”.
Either rating system is better information than the number of reads, or would be if readers used it more. Unfortunately, they don’t. I’ve come to the conclusion that a small percentage of readers regularly rate what they read. A few of the rest might rate a story they find particularly good, but usually they just read the story and then go on to the next one.
To put all this into some finite numbers, let’s look at the most popular author on Noveltrove, Tristan LeMay. I totaled the “thumbs” for all his stories, and as of this writing, he had 839 “thumbs up” and 0 “thumbs down” for 91,368 reads. That’s about 1% of readers “voting” for his stories. My experience on other sites is about the same and most writers don’t do that well. A certain story or stories may draw a higher percentage of reads, but overall, even the most popular authors will only get votes from less than 1% of readers.
Comments are the most valuable feedback an author can receive. Written comments tell you what the reader liked or didn’t like, and that can help a writer improve. It is unfortunate and at times frustrating that even fewer readers leave comments than leave votes.
If we again look at Tristan’s stats, he has 547 comments for the same 91,368 reads, or about 0.6% of his readers leave comments. That’s also what I’ve found on other sites. The most popular authors get comments from less than 0.5% of readers. Only the very best get much higher than 0.5%.
The net result of all this is a writer doesn’t really have a good way to judge how his or her work is being received on any erotic story site. Most of us write for the fun of writing rather than competing for readers, votes, and comments, so that doesn’t make a difference, but the desire to know what readers think is natural.
All writers, professional and amateur, want some verification that they’re not wasting their time. It’s just difficult to satisfy that desire on any story site because most readers are just that - they’re readers, not critics, and for whatever reason, would prefer to remain anonymous.
The best approach is to just keep writing what you like, and if you’re concerned about such things, watch what seems to draw readers, votes, and comments and write more of the same. Do read what the most popular writers have posted and use their writing style and genre to develop your own. All authors do that, even the authors who get paid.
Above all, don’t stop writing just because that one story only got a hundred reads, no likes and no comments. If you posted it, you must have enjoyed writing it. If writing does nothing more than provide some time away from everything else and exercises the imagination and ability to put that imagination into words, it’s still worth the effort, and we wouldn’t do it if we didn’t enjoy it.
I leave you with an appropriate quote.
“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of men who have minded beyond reason the opinions of others.”
Image by voltamax, cc0