Last week we talked about five tips to promoting your fan fiction masterpiece. To review, here they are:
Tip # 1. Dedicate Accounts Exclusively to Your Fanfic Writing.
Tip # 2. Put Your Profile to Work.
Tip # 3. Create a Provocative Story Description.
Tip # 4. Direct Your Contacts To Your Fic.
Tip # 5. Broadcast Your Updates.
These next five tips build upon the previous five and I’m making some assumptions: you’ve got dedicated Twitter/Facebook/tumblr/blog accounts under the same name as your fan fiction identity; your profile is reflective of your writing persona and directs readers to your work; your story description is intriguing and compels potential readers to check out your first chapter; you’ve appended the story’s hyperlink to all social networking profiles and communications; and you’ve begun to alert current readers when you post new chapters. *Rubs hands together excitedly.* Excellent! Let’s go!
Now, not to freak you out, but here are the facts: FanFiction currently lists 200,300 Twilight stories. Did you know that? And look at the rest of these:
Harry Potter —- — — 606,892 fics
Narturo —-— —309,171 fics
Glee —- — —78,658 fics
Supernatural —- — —65,912 fics
Buffy —- — —44,593 fics
NCIS —- — —31,687 fics
Bones —- — —18,235 fics
Grey’s Anatomy —- — —12,307 fics
iCarly —- — —12,754 fics
Castle —- — —10,815 fics
Once Upon a Time —- — —4,150 fics
Pretty Little Liars —- — —2,953 fics
Walking Dead —- — —1,988 fics
Okay, calm down. I’m not trying to make you feel insignificant. My point is that getting eyeballs on your story can be a challenge. You’ve already figured that out; hence your eyeballs on this article.
Here’s the deal … what you get out of your marketing efforts is directly proportionate to what you put into them. Ocular (eyeball) traffic isn’t about the quality of the work itself. Sorry. It just isn’t. The world is full of brilliance that never saw the light of day because no one bought a megaphone and stood up on the bleachers at half time to sing it’s praises. Quality will, however, affect your retention rates — how well you keep those eyes coming back — but that’s a topic for another day. Today we’re talking about traffic, a.k.a. eyeballs, clicks, views, visitors, and reviews. These things require provocative marketing tactics with a hard focus on recency and frequency.
Am I saying you’re gonna have to brag? Hell, yes! What if it’s hard or embarrassing? Assume it will be. What if you annoy some people? You can count on it, so get over yourself, cupcake. If you’re here to be well liked by everyone, you’re in the wrong business. If you are here to share the wonderfulness that is your story with those eager readers who will fall in love with it and be forever changed by it, then this is a good place to start.
Look, you obviously had the ovaries/cojones to post a story. Apparently, you’ve gotten it into your head that your story deserves more ocular traffic than it’s currently getting. So, guess what? You’re already up to your armpits in bragging activity. You might as well hold your nose and take a dive. So — ego in park, brain in third gear, let’s get going!
Tip # 6. Tease, tease, tease. Get people interested enough to click on a link to your story. The tease generates new readers and keeps current ones hungry for more. Keep a list of all your social media followers who have self-identified as your readers. How do you get readers to self-identify? Ask them! Announce in your chapters that you give progress updates, excerpts, and sneak peeks on Twitter (from now on, I’ll just say twitter, but know I mean Facebook/blog/tumblr, etc). Some will bite, some will just lurk, and that’s okay.
Once you have that list of self-identified reader tweeps, notify them personally when you tweet a tease. What’s a tease, you ask? It can be anything from:
A) A quote … which fits in a tweet. If you have to use a tool like TweetCut to shorten the text to fit in the tweet, do it. Even better — choose a short but powerful quote that fits in the social media field without abbreviation! Discussion of the mandatory components will follow in the next tip.
B) An excerpt … which requires a tool like Twitlonger. I recently used to deploy a 2,500 word excerpt of an upcoming chapter.
C) A full-on chapter preview … which is just that — an early reading of a not-yet-posted chapter. This will most likely require the use of Dropbox. Dropbox allows you to save a file to a secure site, then provides you with a short link to that file which you can then deploy through social marketing channels.
D) A review of a recent chapter … which is exactly that. You’ll need Twitlonger for this, but keep it short. “Here’s what readers are saying … bla bla bla.”
When you have a new chapter to announce, send out 2-4 tweets spread throughout that first day it posts. Do this every day, experimenting with which days of the week and what times of the day net the greatest response rate. How do you determine response rate? Keep a close eye on the Traffic Stats>Story Stats graphs on your fanfiction account and on your trackable hyperlink back to the chapter. More on that later. Keep tweeting, decreasing in number as you go, until the URL is no longer being accessed, or until you post your next chapter.
If you wanna go hard core, there are services that will automatically deploy your tweets at predetermined times. If you do do that, always alter your text. No one wants to see the same thing over and over.
Whenever possible, use your story’s full title. The more your readers, tweeps, and friends hear the title inside their heads, the more likely they are to remember it. Be careful, there is a fine line between promoting and spamming. Use that Twitter account to interact, have fun, and build relationships with your tweeps. You want the majority of your tweets to be from you — the person — not you the Mac Daddy of fic pimps!
Tip # 7. Track Your Following. In an ideal situation, every marketing effort will net you either quantifiable results; education you can put to work informing future marketing choices.
An effective chapter announcement might look like this:
A quote for that same chapter might look like this:
“That would depend on if you were the kisser or the kissee,” said Booth. “Should we experiment?” Ch 208 TWATH:AB2P http://bit.ly/QepuHn
At the very least, every effort should contain the following:
A) Provocative text … the quote, excerpt, preview, review of your fic. To see samples of each of these, check out my samples.
B) The source of the information … the name of your chapter/story. This can be
- The full title: ‘The When and the How: A Bone to Pick’
- A squished title: ‘TheWhen&theHow:ABone2Pick’
- The title’s acronym once it’s achieved name recognition: ‘TWATH:AB2P’
C) A trackable link back to your story/chapter. This requires the use of another very simple tool which will create a unique and trackable URL for your chapter/story. I use bitly.com. Copy and paste the new chapter hyperlink from FanFiction.net into bitly. Bitly shortens the URL from something like this:
to look like something like this:
Now, I can either deploy a tweet straight from bitly, or I can copy the URL and use it where ever I want. Bitly tracks every time that link is clicked and provides me with that information.
D) Hashtag to fandom threads. Always include the hashtag (#) for your fandom. For example: #Bones, #iCarly, #NCIS. Twitter followers visit the threads of these accounts to see what’s going on, to chat with others who love their show, and to find other tweeps to follow. This is the perfect place to find fellow fans who may become readers one day. However, interact here, don’t just pimp. People want to know you are a person, not a machine. People don’t have relationships with machines. Well, none that we can talk about here on this website at least!
If you make sure your tweets contain those components, and you watch the activity they generate, you will soon learn what works and what needs improvement. As long as something works, keep doing it!
Tip # 8 Return the Favor. When you are fortunate enough to have another writer comment publicly about your story, do the same for them. If you read another writer’s story, make sure you review generously. Every review is precious to me … but there’s something especially sweet about a review from another writer. Your fellow writers know what it takes to birth a chapter. A nod from one of these precious people hits me right between the eyes and sets my writer’s heart on fire. What comes around goes around, people. Spread the love and it will come back to you in unexpected ways. But, do it out of love, not looking for something back. That’s not what this is about. If you want respect in any endeavor, you first have to give it.
If someone asks you to read their work, be gracious and do it if you can. I struggle with this myself because I feel like I’m cheating off someone else’s homework when I read other fics in my own fandom. On top of that, I find myself overwhelmed as it is with my own writing and endless reviewing. However, you don’t have to read another person’s whole 208 chapters … just take a look at a couple and comment on what you appreciate about it. And always … always … without exception, compliment in public, provide constructive criticism in private. It should go without saying that if you ain’t got no money, take your broke ass home. In other words, if you have nothing nice to say and you have not been explicitly asked for feedback by the writer … keep your comments to yourself and move on. #ThatIsAll
Tip # 9. Above All, Be a Gracious Recipient. One of the best tools for the fanfic writer is the website engine itself. Not only do they provide activity metrics in the Traffic Stats section, they also provide you with other invaluable tools. Quite frankly, it is amazing we are able to get this kind of marketing for free!
On the Account>Settings>Account Options section of your fanfiction.net account, make sure you have elected to Accept Private Messages. Then, under Alerts>Settings/Guide>Alert Settings, make sure you have elected to be notified about Plus+ Alerts, Review Alerts, Author Alerts, and Story Alerts.
When you receive a notification from fanfiction.net that someone new is following your story, go to their profile and send them a personal message welcoming them to your story and thanking them for their readership.
When someone Favorites your fic, or you personally, well, that act deserves a bouquet of flowers and a box of cyber chocolates because this person has just given you free pimpage. Yes! Every time you post something, those people will receive an email alert. How slick is that? Just remember, every message is an opportunity to be gracious, welcoming, and proactive about promoting your work.
When you receive a review, always respond and thank the reader for taking the time to share their thoughts with you. (Are you noticing a theme here? It’s called ‘expressing appreciation’) Readers frequently get so engrossed in a story that they whip from chapter to chapter without stopping to breathe, much less write a review. Their time is as important as yours is … thank them for choosing to spend some of it on giving back to you.
Regular reviewers are golden. They are your cream, but the lurkers and anonymous reviewers are your bread and butter. I promise. Acknowledge them in the opening notes of your next chapter. Never, ever, deride lurkers, anonymous reviewers or one and done reviewers. Not all people come to fan fiction looking for a relationship. Many come solely to extend their experience of their favorite character universe. Readers don’t owe you anything. You chose to write that story and put it up there. They have taken nothing from you. If they choose to express their appreciation, that is a gift to you. Treat it as such.
Tip # 10. Become a Pundit. And the last tip … write an article for a website like this. Get your name out there. That’s how you garner greater ocular traffic, drive more eyeballs in the direction of your brain child. That being said, allow me to lay some pimpage on you:
The When and the How: A Bone to Pick
“Following VNM’s death & spurred by an unlikely catalyst, B&B navigate the rough terrain of their neglected relationship. Facing their mutual pain over the previous year while working a shocking case, they discover the true meaning of partnership—in life & in love. Quoted by one reader: “This story will make you laugh and cry, think and feel. It’s the secret that every Bones lover deserves to be let in on.”
If you’re a Bones aficionado, sample a chapter: ‘A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes’
There. Now that wasn’t so bad, was it? Now get to work, chop chop!