Good morning! Thursday morning and let’s kickstart this day! First week of September and we shall embrace fall 2018 with open arms. Now, sit down and bring a hot cup of coffee while together going through the topic of today – ”How to get fanfic readers?”
How To Get Fanfic Readers?
A few days ago I stumbled across my very first written fanfic. I tried to remember if I happened to be a bored teenager with an overly dramatic sense of daydreaming, or if fanfics back then tended to be just like that. I would probably say it is a combination of both. However, the story caused me to cringe and I had barely any courage to go on reading. This is obviously also because I have written it myself, and I carry this fear any person I know would find those stories. The freedom of writing precisely what goes on in my mind caused me to create different anonymous accounts, which I later carefully examined and compared.
I noticed very fast that some stories, some categories and some OTPs are attracting way more readers than others. How can that be? Let’s dig into this and I will share what I have learned through my years of both reading, analyzing and writing fanfics.
If we are out there and struggles with getting a higher number in readers on the fanfiction sites, I think I do have some genuine advice. After creating my very first account (which account containing stories I now cringe to) – I did rather quickly get my head around about what works and what does not work. So here it goes:
This is crucial. Also, admittedly a great way of learning how to pitch stories is to pretend our fanfiction is one to sell. The summary must be engaging and attract the audience right away. I cannot emphasis the importance of writing in perfection. If we forget a letter here or there, a misspelled word or odd sentence, we give the readers a reason not to open our fanfiction already there. Because, if we cannot even manage to spell 384 words correctly, then how could we possible be able to spell a story containing thousands of words? It is simply not believable.
I know the pride, the excitement and eager when finally posting our very first fanfiction. But by writing ”First fanfiction written by me,” it will result as nothing but a fun fact. It is definitely not something that in most cases do attract readers. Because a pro is a pro, knows what it does, how to deliver and very often do – deliver. If this is our first time out – it will probably be amateurish because we are – amateurs. By writing this as early as in a summary, we surely do lose a lot of traffic without even getting a chance of showing our written story. When we read stories, we can take a moment to analyze our behavior. Chances are high others work in the same ways. ”Why waste time reading clichés and misspellings, when I can go on to a professional author with experience?”
My personal favorite, “English is not my native language.” Another statement meant to scare readers away. I go more into this in another post, but this is pretty much nothing but an excuse in a tryout of pushing aside possible comments about what a bad grammar, language or amount of typos that exist. By saying this we kind of prepare to reply to an angry reader, ”Well, I told you it wasn’t my native tongue!” Like it is the reader’s fault we cannot bring out a proper sentence. Better to step up our game if we want to try writing in another language. And if we are ready to welcome a lot of constructive criticism to grow as writers, this is perhaps the way to go. But it definitely does scare readers away.
And then we can scratch a bit on the surface about how to write a proper summary. Let’s just assume we were to summarize Titanic. Most people have seen it and knows what it is about. We present it as either:
”Two members from different social classes fall in love aboard the ship during its ill-fated maiden voyage.”
And then I turned to my boyfriend and asked how he would sum up the movie.
”Two people meet on a ship.”
Now my boyfriend is a fantastic seller, but let’s face it, if we heard these two pitches – we would pick the first movie. Not the second, even if this happens to be the same one. To summarize the story well is so important. I cannot emphasis it enough. Another classic trap is the following:
”Two people meet on a ship, and things happen.”
”Two people meet on a ship, and things happen. What are they going to do?!?!?!?!”
(Oh, my god. Can’t you tell me?!)
The best way according to me is to within one sentence (three tops) being able to tease the conflict of the story/the concept and in this part reveal the genre, as that should be engraved within our words. We should get a bit of the tone, feeling and not being able to browse past this story. We must feel the need to open it and check it out. This is the only task the summary has.
Concept Is Enthralling
To pull a reader straight into our stories, we must have a bomb ass concept. It should be unique and differ from all other stories. Truly, any reader would get bored reading the same concept all over again, written by various authors. It simply gets boring.
For writers strolling with imagination of coming up with new concepts, an advice can be to write the precise opposite of what others do. It creates a curiosity among the audience and surely they will click on the story and wonder what the nut we are all about and where we will bring this one.
”The graver the conflict, the better the story.”
Personally I simply love to put out a grave conflict, and make it is as profound as possible. That way I really must use my creative side of my mind and solve the problem I caused in the storyline. However, the deeper the conflict goes, the better. This is known among screenwriters and I was happy not long ago when I came across the line. It really does point out so much within a simple sentence. Pretty much what a summary also should do.
As mentioned before, conflict is the story. And shall be mentioned teasingly in the summary. Sometimes a reader will follow the ride of our story simply because of the fantastic writing. But without a fantastic concept, the chance that the readers gets bored is huge. Also, revealing a great concept in the summary gives us more opportunities to ”fail” inside the story without losing the reader.
Note: In another post, I will go on about structuring the story.
The concept saves our butt when we by mistake have a typo, miss out on a character or simply are too slow to reach the presentation of the conflict. The opening pages are a first impression (or second, as the summary is the true first impression). Do not waste that impression. Really, do not.
Obsession Over Shipping – Know What Your Readers Want
I remember how it was in my teens. I have a friend who totally shipped two characters from Harry Potter. Another one had two members of One Direction as OTP and then myself, shipping people from this adventure franchise. To know what is “hot” out there and what people obsess about, is a great factor to increase our traffic as a fanfiction writer.
Another thing to consider is whether we want to have different accounts for different categories, or if we want to have various stories from different movies/books and franchises under the very same account.
A pro regarding to stick to one category:
- Readers who worship the same movie/book will find that we are an expert within the section, therefore bigger chance of them following us. We are niching and when they follow us they get exactly what they want, and never alerts from other stories coming from other movies they are not really interested in reading.
A con regarding to stick to one category:
- The audience may differ from when movies are released and be less in between. This means we fall out on an audience to other books or movies that are in their prime time.
It is good to have in the back of our mind that when people obsess over their OTP, they will literally go nuts and we will become their “idol” during that time. That is to say if we manage to gain them as readers. One important thing too is to know what people obsess about when it comes to sorts of concepts and shippings (not just books etc). Because chances are higher the audience is huge within that section. Knowing what people wants is the key.
Cliff-Hangers And Surprises
By leaving every single chapter with a major cliff-hanger we may irritate a reader. Unless it is done the right way. I think something we shall just cut out at once is the “dun dun dun,” moment. Honestly, it gets too over dramatized. We need to create a page turner, but nothing is worse when the chapter is plateau until the very last sentences just to lure the reader to the following chapter.
Now, we need to surprise the reader instead. Lead the reader one way and leave clues with the creative input of making the reader not really notice the clue. When the solution comes, the reader will be surprised – and impressed of the author. Suddenly we rise in their eyes and chances are bigger they will return for our next installment.
One thing to look out for is cliché cliff-hangers. Like we cause a major problem at the end of every single chapter and easily solves it at the beginning of the next. It should go slightly (much) deeper than that. I personally think a story can get very exciting with cliff-hangers but they always have to reach a solution. I think the greatest skill of art an author has it when it leaves the end as a cliff-hanger, making readers interpret the ending as a happy one but they cannot actually say it out loud as a fact. This leaves the audience into wanting more – and according to my opinion – it is the greatest compliment.
First Impression – Let the story take off from start
As mentioned in the summary, we have a first impression to make good. Suggestion is to let the story take off from start. Knowing where we are going and remember that we are judged by the first period of our story. Of course the story shall be one hundred percent right through, but the beginning is extra important. By reaching a turning point at the start, this will engage the reader at once. If another post, I will go through turning points and how we can achieve best possible result from this guide.
To emphasis the headline – “Let the story take off.” It is rather cozy and lovely with a depicted introduction. Of how beautifully it rains and all. We get a chance to guess the character and feel the tone of both the story and the skills of the author. However, when someone skillfully brings us just right into the story in a smooth way – I am beyond impressed. This is often real page turners. The tease is even more important, but jumping off right at once to dig the conflict deeper is what usually pulls the reader into continuing reading. This way the person will not be able to open the fanfic and go “Nah,” after the first few words. A mistake would be to think that once we have pulled them into opening our fanfic, they will simply stick to the finishing line ‘just because the summary was fantastic.’
Decide to update frequently, or at least in the loop of a certain amount of time. Readers want to know we will not leave the story hanging forever. They want to check our status every once in a while and see an actual update. There is simply no apology for updating six months later and believe we still have the crowd intently following us. They will move on, and chances are even that whatever they were shipping has passed. For a new reader finding us, they may also give us up even before starting, as they see our low activity.
Finish what we start, even if we think it sucks. We can always do our best in saving our work by changing parts of the story. Always have a notebook where we can write down the important scenes we want, certain dialogue or other crucial events in the storyline. These papers I always have beside me whenever I write, to know where I am heading and what emotions I need to build up for whatever event. If I want to achieve an intense breathtaking event by chapter 10, I always have it mind right from the very first word presented.
Another common thing is writer’s block. To avoid it or to get out of it, find it important to continue writing anyhow. If we are facing this page of our story when we feel uninspired and simply cannot put the words out right, skip it to the next chapter and write there. Eventually we will feel inspired and it will be much easier getting back and fill in the missing piece. That is what I do. If there is a part I just cannot get right, I skip it. Another thing I want to emphasis is the mental work discipline. To write even when we do not feel “motivated” or “inspired”. Sometimes we need to awaken this feeling ourselves. Also, by frequently uploading chapters – we will end up a lot on the first pages of the fanfic section. As this is the first thing many readers see when opening the site, chances are higher they will come across ours.
I also want to discuss the matter of keeping the characters in character. Some are OOC (out of character) and we may say so from the start. But nothing can be more annoying for a reader and eyerolling when finding the most stable character completely over-dramatizing. Character development however is king.
We follow the wave of our character, keep it within the lines and at the climax something makes the character go out of it in their development. Such moments make people go insane, in positive ways. They think suddenly their character did something heroic, romantic, heart-breaking or sad. It simply puts them to amazement. But by from the start making an otherwise stern iron person into an emotional wreck? While there may be someone liking this, I dare to advice that the great amount of readers will feel repellent to these types of stories. If they have a favorite character or OTP, they probably want to read about this and not a complete other thing. AU and OOC are great when clarifying it. If intending to not write an AU or OOC yet ending up like one – this does not look too good in the eye of a reader.
In the end of the day, fanfiction is as quoted “to unleash our imaginations.” But I think we owe it to each other to really do our best, do some research and put a lot of effort into this. At least if we want to publish it online for others’ enjoyment.
Now, off to write and we’ll see each other in another post next Thursday! 🙂