Reviewing and You: One Last Note -- How To Advertise Your Fic
One of the questions I see the most frequently is this one: how do I get reviews? This comes in a variety of flavors, ranging from an actual question on a writing forum to a note attached to the fic itself complaining about a lack of reviews. Review farming itself has its own basic rules of etiquette, but to make things easier, let me just list them off in two categories: dos and don'ts.
1. Make sure you have an eye-catching title. While there's that old cliché "never judge a book by its cover," unfortunately, the first thing we judge of your story is its cover. Make sure your title is spelled, punctuated, and capitalized correctly. We're more likely to click on a title that is (just because clean grammar usually says to a potential reader that you're taking your work seriously and have put in the effort to clean it up). Likewise, make sure it's actually interesting. We're more likely to pick up a title that says things like "Influx Aeterna" than "The Kanto League." The first one gives off an air of mystery, whereas the second just tells us it's another original trainer story.
- 1a. Do not use tildes ( ~ ) or asterisks ( * ) in your title. Potential readers might not take your story seriously if they see that kind of thing.
- 1b. As a tip, certain words (as I've implied above) tend to give potential readers certain ideas about your fic that aren't necessarily good. As in, these words convey to us that the story is just another ordinary fic in a certain genre (namely, original trainer), so it's probably best to avoid them unless you're creating a parody. These words include: quest, adventure, chronicles, any region name (including fan-created ones), journey, battle, and words similar to these.
2. If you're posting your fic on a writing archive that allows you to include a summary (such as Fanfiction.net), be sure to do the same with your summary: proofread it and make sure it's worded in a way that catches our attention. Even if you're writing a new trainer story, try to make it so that it doesn't sound like every other new trainer story out there.
3. Don't be afraid to add warnings to the summary or title of your fic. Warnings (M/M, AAML, transformation fic, rated R, et cetera) actually help advertise your story. While they chase away groups of your readers, they attract people who actually like some of those things you're warning about, and they can attract them in droves (particularly if the community happens to like that kind of thing).
4. If you're posting on a forum, pay attention to the stickies. Some places have areas where you can advertise your fic. Take full advantage of these threads because, hey, easy advertising, right?
- 4a. Writing archives occasionally have these if they also have discussion groups. For example, Fanfiction.net has C2 archives and forums where you can request reviewers. Try contacting C2 managers to get your fic advertised on their archives, and browse forums to find places where you can request reviewers.
5. Forums tend to have signature features. Put a link to your story in your signature (and don't be afraid to dress it up a little with BBCode, a summary, or even a banner if you've got artistic skills or can find someone who does), and post like crazy. Find places to wedge yourself into the discussion. Review other stories. Do something to make your signature be seen by more people in the writing community. The more people who see your signature, the more likely it is someone will click on the link to your story.
6. Reviewing always helps. Not only can you make friends with members of the community that way (meaning you can ask them to review your story eventually), but people who get reviewed will sometimes review you in return. In other words, be active in the writing community, and you'll get more of a response.
7. Don't be afraid to ask a reviewer directly. If you see someone reviewing on a community, try asking them through PM, e-mail, or whatever other contact means you've got if your kind of story would float their boat and if they have enough time to drop by. A lot of the time, unless busy thanks to real life, a reviewer would be happy to check out your story and leave a response.
8. There are two different kinds of stories that get the most reviews: awesome fics or terrible ones. If you want the most compliments, you'll want to aim for the "awesome fic" category. In other words, proofread. Always make sure your writing is clean, easy to read (by removing all of the errors that will trip a reader up), and enjoyable (i.e., with solid characterization, plot, and details). Never submit a story you haven't spent a lot of time not only planning out and writing but also proofreading.
1. Never post to complain that you're not getting any reviews. (This includes making entire threads to complain about never getting reviewed or just derailing a topic to say it.) Potential readers tend to see this as obnoxious, so they'll actually be less likely to review or at least review you seriously.
- 1a. Don't do it in your story, either. Same deal, really.
2. On a similar note, never tell your readers that you'll post the next chapter/follow their advice after X number of reviews or that you're going to quit writing if you don't get reviews at all. This is also seen as obnoxious to future readers. Alternatively, saying that you're not going to post if your story doesn't meet a certain goal can possibly backfire because it discourages readers from posting. They'll think, essentially, that it'd be a waste of their time to review because there's a chance you won't actually continue the story.
3. Never break the rules of the forum or community to advertise your story. Always make sure you read any rules sticky, the board rules, or the guidelines of the writing community before posting anything, including advertisements to your fic. Readers usually don't want to pick up a story from an author who doesn't show the community that they actually want to be upstanding members of it. It causes you to look like a troll, basically.
4. Never demand to be reviewed, and be grateful when you get someone to look at your story, especially if you've asked them to look in the first place. Remember everything I've said in earlier guides? Here's where all of it really comes into play. A reviewer will be happier to review someone who's polite with them: someone who doesn't nag them on whether or not they've finished their review yet and someone who doesn't outright demand that they review their stuff. Likewise, they'll be happy to review your work in the future if you don't ignore them, if you say thank you, and if you try not to argue with them using any of the usual arguments I've shown you a couple guides ago. In other words, the more pleasant you are to your future and present reviewers, the more likely they'll want to review you.
- 4a. This doesn't just apply to the people you ask, either. Reviewers on communities tend to look at your response to other readers. The more polite you are to other people, the more your future readers will think you're open to reviews in general. Then, they'll think you're worth their time and sit down with your story.
5. If you want to be reviewed, don't drop off the face of the earth. It's writers who are active in the writing community who get reviewed the most often. Participate in discussions, submit helpful reviews to other writers, and generally be a productive member of that online society. The more you fit into the community as a whole and the more you let your name pop up on threads all over it, the more people will jump on your story when you post it.
6. Don't let your story die. Contrary to popular belief, going months without updates tends to make readers forget about your story, so they'll be less likely to jump on it when a new chapter comes along. Alternatively, they'll assume you've abandoned your story (which isn't exactly an uncommon practice in any fandom), or they'll just not want to go back through pages upon pages of thread titles to finally get to yours. Update frequently enough to balance quality with keeping your story within the first few pages of the thread list. That way, your readers will know you're still interested in continuing, and they'll be more likely to see your story and be reminded that they have yet to read the next chapter.
7. Conversely, don't update too quickly. Posting three chapters a day tends to heap tons of material onto a reader, especially if they're lengthy chapters. (It can also say you're not actually serious about writing a quality story if your chapters are brief and haven't been proofread.) The more material you give a reader to look over, the longer they'll put it off for when they have time to sit down and read through it. Of course, if you add more material to this pile, they'll just keep putting it off. It's not exactly common for a reader to go through all of your chapters in a few sittings unless you're already an established writer. (For example, a person will read through forty or more chapters if you're already getting a lot of reviews for your work as it is. They won't do that if you're a new face to the community because you don't have that same following of readers that will encourage them to join in your fanbase.)
8. Never lose patience. It's very rare to get a ton of reviews right away, and it'll take a lot of hard work to get to that point. Follow the above steps and put a lot of effort, both into the advertising end of things and the story itself. While I can't tell you that you'll eventually be a writing sensation, I can tell you that after awhile of exposure and after putting a lot of care into your work, you'll get at least a decent following of readers.
In other words, getting more reviews for your fic isn't a particularly difficult process. It's a matter of knowing how the community works, combined with communication skills and understanding what readers are thinking. Sure, that sounds like a hard formula, but all I'm saying is know your community. Make friends. Read the rules. Participate in discussions. Review. Be an awesome person to hang around. All of this can boost your review count pretty easily.
Of course, there's other factors that go into all of this, such as the concept of the fic itself. Reviewers will tend to tackle fics with plots that happen to be in vogue at a particular time. For example, on Fanfiction.net these days, more people will review stories where readers can submit original characters than pretty much anything else. If you want to really get a lot of reviews, sure, go with the "in" plots, but otherwise, it's really just all about how well you get along in the community.
That's all I can offer in terms of advice for reviewing and being reviewed. For those of you who made it all the way through at least one of these guides, thanks to all of you. I hope some parts of this will help you in the future, and best of luck to each and every one of you.