What is the optimal posting rate/schedule for a new story to gain readers?

#1
I asked a similar question a while back but I realized I phrased it the wrong way. I wasn't asking what I really *meant* to ask. I have a story I've been working pretty hard on for a couple of months and I've now got a backlog of about ~56k words, 30+ chapters written. I've tried several different schedules with stories in the past. During last year's Writathon, I published a lot all at once, and then daily until my backlog ran out, and ultimately weekly. I amassed almost 50 readers but I feel most of that was through aggressive review swapping.

I've published two other stories on here, both with weekly uploads and without review swapping, and neither of them ever cracked 30 readers.

This is the largest backlog I've ever built for a story without publishing it, and I feel like I want to give the story its best chance of succeeding. I know the algorithm has changed because authors have gamed it in the past, and I totally understand wanting to keep the algorithm itself under wraps to give everyone a fairer chance. But I know there must be some best practices I can follow.

Based on past threads that I've read through, I was thinking of posting 6 chapters right away, then daily until I hit 12 chapters (end of Part 1 of my story), and then post three times a week after that indefinitely. I want to give early readers a bit of a foundation to read through once they get eyes on it--especially if I ever hope to hit Trending. I don't want people to see three or four chapters and be like "I'll ignore it for now until it actually has a few thousand words I can read through," you know?

Can anyone give me advice on how to structure the first month or so of my posting to give me the best chance at succeeding? I think after that I will post three times a week, if that's sufficient to keep readers satisfied. I'm confident that I could maintain that kind of writing schedule, and I'll continue to write during the first month of posting to ensure I maintain a one-month backlog. I just want to hit the ground running and could use some help.

Re: What is the optimal posting rate/schedule for a new story to gain readers?

#3
Gasmaskbro Wrote: Daily posting, probably at peak hours. Frequent posting in forums with your story below your post.
I've also read in some other threads that slowing down from a frequent posting rate to a less-frequent one, even every other day, can harm reader retention. Does anyone know if this is true? If daily posting truly is the best strategy then I should wait and build up a bigger backlog to maintain that...

Re: What is the optimal posting rate/schedule for a new story to gain readers?

#4
Raz Wrote:
Gasmaskbro Wrote: ...
I've also read in some other threads that slowing down from a frequent posting rate to a less-frequent one, even every other day, can harm reader retention. Does anyone know if this is true? If daily posting truly is the best strategy then I should wait and build up a bigger backlog to maintain that...

I don't know if this is true.
Personally, I've slowed down from triweekly to biweekly to weekly and haven't noticed a drop off in views or comments. What I have found is frequent posts can drop the amount of comments you receive - posting two chapters a few hours or day apart will lead most readers to only comment on the second chapter when they binge them both together.
It makes frequent posting feel like you get less engagement (when you have a chapter with only a few comments because of it).

Re: What is the optimal posting rate/schedule for a new story to gain readers?

#5
Raz Wrote: Can anyone give me advice on how to structure the first month or so of my posting to give me the best chance at succeeding? I think after that I will post three times a week, if that's sufficient to keep readers satisfied. I'm confident that I could maintain that kind of writing schedule, and I'll continue to write during the first month of posting to ensure I maintain a one-month backlog. I just want to hit the ground running and could use some help.

I know that answer is not really helpful, but the answer really is: It depends.

There are many different factors deciding whether a story get some initial fan base, with often contradictory though also sometimes synergetic effects. And depending on your story those effects are increased or decreased, so a schedule that can be optimal for one story can be quite the bust for another.

For example if you have really great initial chapters that are very good at giving hints about world building and what will happen in a way that people thinking longer about it, then starting slowly can be a great boon. For such a story starting with a chapter once a weak can be optimal, as releasing more often might cut time too short to gain enough craving through expectations. Though that might still fail when not getting enough initial awareness, so stories using this strategy to reach front page before their third chapter are often works of authors with a larger fan base that can redirect their readers there. Though I think it was already used by authors completely new to this site.

Another factor is having enough initial material to catch readers. If the first chapter is not enough to give readers a good feel for the story (Which is sadly quite common) then it might be best too start with multiple chapters very quickly (like less than 15 min apart) to not lose readers by trying it earlier when there is not yet enough content to forge some connection with the story.

If your chapters are long and exhausting to read, then posting new chapters more than daily can be a disadvantage. Even more than once a week could lose more readers than gaining them.

Posting new chapters more gets more important the less suitable your story is as a web-serial. Works published over time in parts need quite some work to keep readers familiar with the story, making sure characters are recognizable and characters and settings reintroduced every chapters in non-obvious ways. The story also needs to make sure to not end chapters at uncomfortable times but only where the reader is interested to continue the story. A story failing to do so will usually lose readers over time which can be offset by gaining new readers organically once established. But while not yet established it can be compensated by posting often enough to keep the reader in some kind of flow.

Showing up on the recently updates list is a bit like an advertisement banner. Just showing up there can pull in readers. Again there are many contradictory effects. If you have an cover image that stirs interest and a synopsis that makes most readers of your target audience start reading, then it can be best to optimize being seen once. For that initially posting in different time zones can help, especially in time zones where there is much reader activity (which is not too much different from author activity). If your story is not that catchy, then it might be best to optimize for readers that are bored by not enough current updates to look at those that are more in detail. For that it would be best to post at time when there is less author activity (even though that also means less reader activity). Then there can also be the situation of having a cover that makes people interested, but they needing multiple tries to get over your synopsis. In that situation it should be best to be seen in a consistent way. Ideally a few minutes after or before some other high-profile story with a very consistent posting schedule.

(Effects due to appearing on the last updates list are also better with an cover optimized for that. The cover images are usually shown as small thumbnails, and readers only look over them, not look at each cover image. To get noticed there, an image ideally has strong color contrasts, is recognizable without all the small details, ideally has no details at all but large areas of only one color (i.e. more like a comic than a photo).

And then there are many more factors, some of which perhaps no one might even have thought about. And each has a different impact depending on the story, its first chapters, it's cover, its synopsis, ..., ... It simply: depends.

Re: What is the optimal posting rate/schedule for a new story to gain readers?

#6
I had a backlog of 21 chapters when I launched so I had to ration them for the best chance at RS (the book was finished but needed editing). What worked for me was 3 releases spread out over Week 1, 4 releases over Week 2, then daily releases for the next 2 weeks. After that I reduced it back to 4 chapters per week until my backlog was gone, and since have done 2 chapters a week.

That first month is the most important, and most books seem to hit RS somewhere around the 2 week mark, so that's where I prioritised.