Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

First as a reader I want to thank all the amazing writers who make this whole site and community exist and function in the first place, second I hope that this can help you build a bit more of a community with your readers. Second, this is a call for all the wonderful lurkers out there to give our excellent authors one more reason to keep on writing.

In a time where almost all socializing and communicating is done through the internet you'd think that people would be more open to engaging with the producers of the content keeping them sane. I get that the drop off of reader engagement happened quite a few years ago (i've heard from people who were writing fanfiction for decades and some time ago people just stopped commenting on chapters and posts, no more quick "thanks" or more in-depth engagement with the work, just the silence of the lurkers) and obviously I don't have all the answers on how to reverse this trend, but i'd like to brainstorm with those willing on how to encourage real engagement in the stories on this sight, building communities of readers and authors on the smaller story-by-story scale.

I guess I should start by explaining why commenting on chapters and leaving reviews helps authors. Though, as a not-author please correct me/expand on this point. From what i've heard from authors all over the internet authors love getting comments, the constructive criticism can lead them into improving their writing, the simple "thank you for the chapters" can remind them that people really are out there enjoying their work, the theorizing can help them know if the readers are picking up what they are putting down, and more than that it can build a little community where everyone can come and chat and hang out.

As to why this matters for the readers, happy authors don't murder your favorite characters (jk). No but really, commenting and engaging with the author, asking questions, exploring the world, guessing characters favorite food all that can pull you further into the story. And talking with other readers (gotta love that reply button) can give you new ideas and clear up what's going on 100 chapters in and a year after you read the first chapters, but also and perhaps most importantly it's good to meet new people (this has been a PSA)!!!

You can see all this great interaction on a lot of the larger stories on the site and it's so much fun to read through and participate in, so if you are a perpetual lurker think about starting with one of those stories that like regularly get 80+ comments on each chapter. Find someone who asks a question and see if you can answer it, or as your own, maybe second someone who had a good point. Once you realize that it's totally ok and most people aren't there to bite you (they just leave .5 star reviews anonymously lol) you'll hopefully get more comfortable and then if you see one of your favorite stories doesn't have any comments on that chapter you might leave a simple little thanks to show the author you care.

So staff has kind of tried to encourage it through gamifying social interaction a la giving eachother rep and that...kinda maybe helps? But it's not like, a lot and I see tons of chapters from smaller name authors with no comments (but have a solid and consistent reader base.) So i figure it's just not that big of an incentive (it honestly doesn't do anything so...yea.)

Anyway, onto the ~ideas~ (again, I'm a reader, not a writer)
       This first one is a big one, but only something that the devs can do. PLEASE have it automatically selected to get notifications if someone responds to your comment, i had to search for like an hour to even find the option. If readers feel like they are talking to the void because they didn't know someone actually responded to their comment than they are actively discouraged from commenting. Please, even if it's just for new accounts!

        REP, I think everyone is able to give out rep 20x a day. With that in mind, authors can just go buck wild, like did someone comment "thanks for the chapter" and no one else has commented yet, give them some rep! If you are getting a few comments give some rep to people who say literally anything you want to encourage. Readers can hand out rep to! don't be shy, did someone make a good point? REP did someone ask a decent question, or answer someone elses? REP, did someone mention that they stubbed their toe but the chapter made them forget about the pain? REP! are readers making horrible puns or pointing out the authors horrible puns? REP! It's free REP~
       Polls: honestly i have no idea about this one, so anyone with actual experience making and using polls please correct me/expand on it. For authors it seems like polls are a good way to get some more interaction from those who aren't willing to comment, but are willing to click an option, and if you make the poll something that might open up discussion in the comments then you can maybe encourage a few of those to comment. Readers when answering polls maybe explain why you chose it in the comments, or debate other people for their inferior taste (jk) polls can be used as an easy way to steer authors on smaller choices, or learn about other readers terrible taste, have fun with them!

      Constructive Criticism: readers an important thing to keep in mind is that you don't only have to keep you constructive feedback to reviews, you can also write them as you read in the comments! if the author wrote something you're a bit squicky about, tell them (if you want to keep it on the dl it's more than ok to tell them with a private message). If you caught a few typos/grammar errors (and the author is ok with it) point them out, but if there's already a comment with typos just reply to that comment so the author doesn't have to hunt, try and say something nice or even just a "tftc" along with it to keep it positive. Authors it's more than ok to ask for specific feedback, readers aren't professional editors, but there are a few that are willing to point you in one direction or another if you are stuck, or point out a couple of typos. If you keep getting a bunch of separate comments with typos you can organize it a bit better by making you own comment soon after you post the chapter where all the typos can go (something simple like "typos here, thanks!") so you don't have to hunt around. You can totally give readers some rep if they point out typos to, just to encourage it :p

so yeah, a lot of lead up to just a couple of suggestions, but hopefully others will have more suggestions! Maybe some authors will respond and tell us readers how much comments matter to them. Maybe i'll just get a bunch of people telling me to stay in my lane (totally cool, more than willing to edit my post), or begging me to stop commenting on every single chapter lol

TLDR: please comment, your authors appreciate it :)

PS readers please keep in mind that authors don't owe you anything and are doing you a favor by posting their work for you to read for free, they don't owe you a strict schedule or a completed story or x length chapters

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

Great post, thanks Sereminar!

As an author, I enjoy interacting with readers, answering questions, thanking them for pointing out a typo or plot-hole I missed, etc.

It's very motivating, in addition to seeing view counts and ratings, to receive constructive feedback from people who are enjoying the story enough to share. 

I'm not a typical author on this site, as I tend to post my rough draft, and then edit it offline for the next year. I also tend to finish what I consider a book-sized book, and then move on to the next, rather than publishing a never-ending serial. That reduces my visibility a lot since I don't have constant posts, but makes those comments from readers all the more noticeable and meaningful as a result.

Constructive criticism is something that excites me, as what I post tend to be drafts that I continue developing offline - but criticism of any kind at least still tells me I've put something out there that someone cared enough about to take the time and effort to comment on, even if it's negative, vague, or otherwise unhelpful. My point with this is that comments are worthwhile, at least to me. 

Sereminar's TLDR is spot on :)

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

I generally try to stay active in my own comments.  Sometimes if there are too many or they're coming in too fast I'll duck out, but I know that a lot of my commenters will have questions or want to chat about the chapter they just read.

I'd also agree that repping the first couple good comments is a good way to encourage a lively conversation that will keep readers interested. 

I will say that coming back from a couple hours of work to another 3-4 comments is always nice and makes the ridiculous hours I spend writing these stories seem a lot more worth it. 

So a general 'thank you' to those who bother reading

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

peolove Thank you for the lovely post!

As an author comments mean so much to me but unfortunately they are, at least in my case, hard to come by. I think sometimes even a “thank you” or “this is the worst trash I’ve ever read” would make me happy. It shows that I have made something more than a pile of words mashed together. Alas, except for very few, but luckily very constructive and highly appreciated, remarks here and there, my work remains devoid of comments. I have been pleading with my readers every couple of chapters to just say a word or two… I know I am petty, greedy, and whiny but I would like to know how my characters and story are seen. Are they boring? Engaging? Funny? One-dimensional? Is the story dragging?

I hope that more readers see your post.

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

I don't particularly crave critical feedback comments for influencing my work--I usually write far enough in advance that it doesn't matter--but I love each and every comment I receive anyway, and I try to reply to almost all of them. Authors love commenters, even when it's something small! I hope readers know just how important they are.

As a reader, I don't always leave comments on every chapter for time reasons, but I try to comment as much as I can, especially when I'm reading for fun and not for a weekly review/review swap or something. I try to make stupid jokes more than I try to make insightful comments or ask questions, because as an author I feel like those are usually my favorite comments to receive anyway. So when I am in reader mode, I like to engage with web fiction stories as if they are, well, normal stories that just so happen to have a direct line to the author.

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

Great post! You make a few good points.
(Why didn't I think about rep before? Ugh!)
As an author, I really love comments, but I'm new here, don't have many readers and therefore not many comments. (Actually, in my last chapters no one commented, which is a little discouraging, I guess I need to start asking for feedback more.)
As a reader, I've been a little hesitant to comment and review, and this reminded me that I really should. So, thanks for that, and I'll try to do better.

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

First, let me say Thank You.  Thank you for always leaving a comment on my chapters, I always look forward to it.  I'm one of those "small authors" and I feel Ariana's pain in that comments can be hard to come by.  Sure I can see a number next to the "reader count" stat but getting a comment on a chapter, even if it's just a "thanks for the chapter" is validation that someone is at least actually reading it.

I've gotten a small number of really horrible/troll comments that I chose to ignore (no rep for you!) but I'd be lying if I said that I don't still think about them from time to time :(

My book is already completed, or so I thought, but thanks to some of the comments saying that they felt my characters were too 1 dimensional or whatever, I took a look back at them and saw they were right. That so-and-so showed up to push X plot point and then faded away, and so I've been injecting new chapters into my book ahead of where the RR release is at to help flesh them out some more.  Of course, as a result, my second book's progress has halted as I'm writing like 5 new chapters into book 1... Still, the end result will be much better for it and I'm setting up stuff in these new chapters that can pay off in book 2 ^__^

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction


kazesenken Wrote: I don't get many comments either. Maybe because I don't understand the Rep thing, so I haven't done it at all.

Usually, I just comment back when someone asks something specific, but I really don't know much about 'engaging' with the readers.
I've been trying to give out +1 reps when someone takes the time to leave a comment, and +5 if they call out one of the many easter eggs I've dropped (of if I find the comment interesting).  But I haven't been great about responding to them all, so I'm going to try doing that more.

Obvs, I don't rep or reply to the troll comments that want to bash my fledgling work...

I've found that the more interested my readers are in my work (evident by the comments), the more interested I am in it as well and want to keep creating.

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

Thanks for all the great responses! I'm glad that authors appreciate this, I feel like i really should have spent a bit more time cleaning up my post lol. I feel like i should have aimed it more towards readers now :p

I would like to say that I don't mean to push authors to engage with readers if they don't want to. Like, if you don't get much out of reading comments or responding to them that's more than cool. This is mostly for authors who want a little more engagement, or readers wondering if authors actually want or get anything out of comments.

It's really fun to see how different authors like reading/leaving different kinds of comments, it's so cool to see that some authors like typos or puns/jokes or easter eggs (i'm never going to find your easter eggs sorry lol). So readers please feel free to leave any of your (not mean) thoughts! clearly some authors will totally love it even if they don't respond to every one!!!

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

I love getting comments, whether they be criticism or about the story itself. I love what I've written, I'm posting it to share, so engaging with readers who want to know more really makes my day. 

Even if the comments seem harsh (which I've gotten) I more or less ask for it, as it helps me really fine-tune what I have written out. If there's something wrong with what I have up, I want to know about it so I can fix it. 

With the way I have my book set up it can be a bit challenging, as I have grammatical errors made on purpose to suit the characters, who are written in by first-person POV. Since they aren't English majors, it never made sense to me that they know perfect this or that, whether speaking or thinking. I don't think in perfect English, so why would they?  

Most readers do get that I think, and even then, if there is one that doesn't fit right and I'm let in on it in a respectful or even playful manner, then it's all good. It's when you get those trolls that bring you down just because they can that will have a writer want to turn away all others

Re: How to encourage more reader interaction

This really is great information and I can suggest more ways to respond as a reader then reviews or thanks for the chapter.
Meme tribute , Fanart , Puzzle generations from the novel , songs, rhymes, limericks , jokes , grammar corrections , spelling errors , replies to author comments.
 Of course not everything a reader makes will be appreciated as too how some authors can be unappreciated.
The line is thin and I have in the past been on the wrong side of it , this can become tiresome to do as well.
Generally admin are pretty good though and keep most things running smoothly should authors / readers complain enough some stuff gets deleted.
Responses to comments from authors will go a long way to helping to retain commenters and readers.
Lastly don't read my fiction its trash , wait until I fix it much much later after reading all of grimtooth first.