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Halrloprillalar

You can call me Hal.

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On Feedback
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prillalar

Feedback discussions are happening again. I thought we weren't due for six months yet, but what the hell. :)

Fanfic authors will always want more feedback. It's like money -- what you have is never enough. It's like food -- you digest it but still need more later.

It's easy to tell yourself that your story is good, even though hardly anybody said so -- it's harder to believe it. Or even if you know it's good, you still want to know that people are reading it and liking it.

None of us are immune. Last fall, I was pretty depressed after posting Blood Will Tell, because there was so little feedback, especially given how hard I worked on the story. I had to whine to a couple of friends to keep from whining about it in LJ. (And look! Here I am doing it after all! But I'm no longer depressed. *g*)

But there are things you can do to get more feedback, even if it will never be enough. It's all about making people think they ought to send feedback and making it as easy as possible for them to do so.

This is marketing advice, not writing advice. I assume you are already doing your best at improving your writing.

How To Get More Feedback Without Changing What You Write

1. Ask for it. You don't have to go on about it, or be self-deprecating. But put a line that says "Feedback to marysue@example.com" on your fic. (You might have to tinker with this for LJ -- "I'd love to know what you think -- please comment" might do it.) But do not demand it or say if you don't send me feedback I'll stop writing. No matter how much you want to.

2. Ask for it at the end of the story. That's when you want them to send it, that's when you should ask.

3. Pose a question. I don't do this so much anymore (and I should really revive the practice) but I got really good results by putting a simple, often silly, question at the end of the fic along with my email address. For example, for a story about Hermione, Fred, and George, you could ask which one of the twins the reader would prefer. This helps the people who don't send feedback because they don't know what to say. Plus you can get some funny answers that way.

4. On your website, put a "send feedback" link at the end of every story. Don't think of it as begging; it's not. In the marketing biz, this is what we call a "Call To Action". Phrase it as an imperative. Seriously, it helps.

5. Provide a feedback form. This is better than a mail-to link, I think, because it's even less work for the reader.

6. Use Movable Type or other blogging software that has a commenting feature to run your website. On my website, each story has a "Post Feedback" form after it. The feedback is emailed to me, but it also appears on the story page itself.

People use these forms. (It's true that sometimes they use them to flame me, but I enjoy that too.) It's my theory that people are now so used to LJ and web forums that they'll post good things about your story in public that they might not take the time to email you about. Since switching to Movable Type, the amount of residual feedback I get (that is, feedback on old stories) has gone way up. Not to mention it's a lot easier for me to update my website now.

7. Reply to the feedback that you get. I confess that I'm often a week or two behind, but I do get to everything eventually. New stories get reply priority over older ones. It's not a moral imperative to reply, but you'll make most of the feedbackers happier for it and encourage them to write you (and other authors) again.

8. Send feedback when you read. I don't read as much fic as I'd like, but I do try to send feedback when I do. I think I'm about 80% right now for feedback sent. It's not just good karma -- it will put your name in people's heads, so when they see a story with your name on it, they'll be more likely to open it.

9. Participate in discussion, on mailing lists and in LJ. Not just your LJ, but other people's too. Just like sending feedback, this will make your name more recognizable.

I'd like to add a number 10 about keeping your fic and blog in the same LJ, but I don't actually know if that's effective. I only know that I'm not likely to seek out someone's fic LJ and friend that -- I already have too much stuff to read -- but if their fic drops on the LJ I'm already reading, I might give it a whirl.

In conclusion, I would like to pimp my own fic, which I wrote long years ago during one of the bi-annual feedback discussions: Agent Scully and the Dirty Story. If you read it and like it, don't send feedback to me, send it to someone else for another story you recently enjoyed.

Oh, and I'd love to know what you think about my feedback tips -- please comment!


I'd probably say : "post it in places where people are likely to read it."
The more people you get reading your fic, the more feedback you're likely to get. Amazing how some people never got that equation in their heads.

Otherwise, all the tips were very good.

I'd like to see a discussion : "is changing what you write worth the feedback?"


Oh yeah, I saw an instance of a good story posted on LJ a few days ago that at first got very little feedback because of that. Posting only on LJ and at 11pm? Not a good way to get comments back on a story.

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I'm the reader type. I don't write fic, vid, or anything fannish beyond consume what fandom offers, so I don't know how typical I am of the people who do give feedback, specially in a fandom like SV where it seems fen are all doing *something*, or maybe it's just an LJ thing?

So, all the tips you gave? They work on me, and can only repeat that its always nice to get a note back on feedback, at least telling me they read it :)

God, I love that icon.

So, all the tips you gave? They work on me, and can only repeat that its always nice to get a note back on feedback, at least telling me they read it

Cool! I think people forget to approach this as a marketing situation -- it becomes fraught with art and conscience and people worrying that they need to sound like they don't care if they get feedback or not when really they care very much.

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I just wanted to quickly say that one of the greatest things about you is that you do respond to the feedback, always. Honestly, that keeps me posting it. I get shy about leaving feedback for many authors - after someone's fic has just blown my socks off, it's hard to imagine anything I could write would be of any importance to the author. When I don't get a response, it just makes me feel as if it didn't really matter.

(Now, having dabbled a few times in the HP100, I know what a pain it can be sometimes to answer everything! So I can also appreciate the work that goes into replying to feedback - you are my hero!)

So it's nice to know that I'm taken seriously by someone great who's written something great.

I love everything you write, and I've been a fan for a long time; but I'll keep writing whenever I get the chance to tell you because I know you'll appreciate it. =D

Now, having dabbled a few times in the HP100, I know what a pain it can be sometimes to answer everything! So I can also appreciate the work that goes into replying to feedback - you are my hero!

Aw, thanks! I think one of the hardest parts is coming up with a response that's sincere and doesn't sound completely canned. It's harder in LJ because everyone can read your responses, so you can't use the same joke every time. *g*

Sensible is what they are.

I've found it a bit beyond my limited skills to use Moving Type, so that's a solution that needs a bit of tech know-how. Or a friend.

The advice about engaging in fandom - 8 and 9 - is vital. Other fans need to know you're part of fandom, not just some unknown who sends stories out into the ether but otherwise doesn't give a fuck about being part of the fandom.

Or that could just be me :)

The advice about engaging in fandom - 8 and 9 - is vital. Other fans need to know you're part of fandom, not just some unknown who sends stories out into the ether but otherwise doesn't give a fuck about being part of the fandom.

Exactly. People respond to what's familiar and to people they consider part of the group. It doesn't mean you have to run ten archives or anything, just participate.

This is one area where I never feel I do all I should, though. I don't have as much social energy as some, even online, and I find I'm always behind with the comments I want to make or the people I want to get to know.

As one of those horrid people who consumed for years without giving feedback...(7) is incredibly important...not just for you but for everyone (i almost stopped writing fb after i finally got my nerve up and then got a couple of no replies...and then a few people were really sweet and made me feel like i'm part of this...otherwise i would have crawled back under my rock never to come out again :-)

And I had to laugh about (9), b/c I was just discussing that with a friend tonight. I had read a post about someone asking how you get comments to your posts and really started thinking about it...and there are a lot of variables and some crucial points (like I will stop commenting after I've done it several times without ever getting anything back), but I realized that I am much more willing to comment on people's posts who have talked to me before...and not just in their lj only, i.e., at least for me, LJ is all about dialogue, and if someone talks to me, I'll talk to them (whether sending them a hug or commenting on a fic). If someone comments in my lj it means they don't filter me *g*...and that makes me much more willing to read their day-to-day discussions and give their fics a try (if I'm reading in their fandom).

If someone comments in my lj it means they don't filter me *g*...and that makes me much more willing to read their day-to-day discussions and give their fics a try (if I'm reading in their fandom).

This is why I left you that "I'm reading the meta" comment the other day. I usually find those discussions very interesting, but I'm out of my element so I don't really have anything to contribute to them. (Plus, by the time I get to reading, it's all been thoroughly discussed.) But I wanted to say *something* to let you know I wasn't just skipping over it all.

Youse a smart lady. Them good tips.

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Youse a smart lady. Them good tips.

<Very sleepy.>

In line with "ask an easy question," I've found that one typo is more likely to prompt me to talk than an utterly flawless masterpiece, and that once I start, I try and add something more worth saying.
-Mari

Oh, that *is* interesting. Maybe we should be leaving in deliberate flaws. *g*

Any chance you could put together some sort of tutorial for getting an MT system like yours up and running - and to look as cool as you've got it? I've installed MT before, and know a bit about style sheets, but I looked at your page and found myself daunted.

I did do a *lot* of customization. Not that much of it would be necessary for most fic sites, but I needed to have the text links automated. Plus getting the year indices working was a big deal.

I'll think about the tutorial. It's been a year since I did the work, but I'm hoping to do a bit of a redesign soon, so that might be a good time to revisit it.

These are lovely tips, and I agree with them (though I'm still undecided on the efficacy of the "send feedback" button - I had one on my old site, though it was not, of course, a form but just an email link).

What I am trying to figure out is this: as an example, I see people saying "Oh, HP needs more femslash! Why isn't anyone writing femslash?" and yet, when I write femslash, I don't get near the response I'd get if I posted Remusfic. And these are people on my flist, or with whom I am on lists, so if I don't think it's a question of marketing, necessarily, or, at least, not a question of not putting the story in front of the right eyes.

So I'm left with a question - is it just that I'm not good at writing femslash? (This is a distinct possibility, as I find it more difficult to write.) Or is it that people won't read femslash by me? Or is it that, despite what they say, even the people who want more femslash don't send feedback for it? Or, of course, some combination of them all. And objectively, I understand that.

But what I take away in my gut is that I'm just not good at writing femslash and I should probably do it even less frequently than I have in the past. And as I said in my post, part of my problem (and it is *my* problem and I understand that, as well), is that I haven't really got a consistent circle of beta readers who can tell me, "Yes, it's good" or "No, it's not" so I'm kind of relying on feedback for that, which I *know* is a bad idea, but I guess right now I'm kinda stuck with that and with jumping people I do know and trust to look at the stories I think they'd be best at giving me crit for.

Hmm...

So I'm left with a question - is it just that I'm not good at writing femslash? (This is a distinct possibility, as I find it more difficult to write.) Or is it that people won't read femslash by me? Or is it that, despite what they say, even the people who want more femslash don't send feedback for it? Or, of course, some combination of them all. And objectively, I understand that.

Yeah, it's confusing. And I've had that happen -- people beg for something and then when I post it, they're not reading. Or they didn't like it. Or something else.

There are times I think this about writing HP fic at all. It just doesn't seem to generate the fb I expect it to. It's not like it's my only fandom. But it's still my fave writing fandom, so whether I feel I'm making my feedback quota or not (and I usually do have a mental quota when I post -- I think, this story ought to generate X fb), I'll still keep writing it.

In re the femslash, I haven't read any of yours, basically due to time constraints. But if you want some concrit, I could look at one at the weekend. Comment or email me if that appeals to you. I'm a writer, reader, and enjoyer of femslash from way back.

Oh, and I'd love to know what you think about my feedback tips -- please comment!

*laughs hysterically*

No, really - very good advice.

I love the smart that is you.

I will now pretend that not doing these things is why I don't get much feedback.

The point about the convenience of feedback forms is very true. But MT seems . . . complex. I wonder if putting a link from the web page version of the story to the "comment" link for the story as posted on livejournal would be convenient enough to help in the same way...

It might help, but then again, you'd probably end up with a bunch of anon comments from people without LJs. I never know how to respond to those. I suppose if someone leaves their email address, I should reply by email, but it's much more of a hassle than replying directly to an email message. But if I reply to the comment, they'll probably never see it.

It's true that an initial setup of MT can be time consuming. But it doesn't have to be as fearfully and wonderfully customized as mine is.

Interesting. I think I'm already doing most of these that I'm able to, but I don't maintain my own website, and I don't want to bother poor lisew more than I already do by pestering her about feedback forms and Movable Type. I'll ask her to put the mailto link at the end of the story from now on though, so thanks!

It's hard if you don't/can't do the website stuff yourself, true. And you can't control other archive formats either.

I think there must be more we can do to increase LJ feedback as well, but I'm going to have to think about that more. It's pretty complex and I don't yet understand it as well as mailing list culture.

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Hee! I remember doing that an age ago. The people I scored highest with I thought I'd either be in love with forever and ever or one of us would knife the other within the first week. *g*

But I don't seem to have my knife here, so come on over and we'll have a drink. :)

(linked here by fearlessdiva), just wanted to throw in my agreeing 2 cents.

As a reader I cannot stress enough the importance of sending some sort of aknowledgment back to people who give you reviews. I've been reading this brilliant RPG and I left some really detailed feedback for each of the players, but I never got any sort of aknowledgment back from any of them. I was pretty disappointed after that because I felt like I had tried hard to give constructive feedback with specific examples, and I have no idea now if they even cared. So I think stuff like that can definitely make people think twice about sending another piece of feedback later because they won't be sure if it's wanted.

Also, I've been reading stories on lj so much that I've become very much accustomed to the ease of hitting the "post comment" button. The idea of using a moveable type form on your webpage is really smart.

As a reader I cannot stress enough the importance of sending some sort of aknowledgment back to people who give you reviews.

It's good to hear that. I think people sometimes underestimate the role community plays in fandom, even in things like story feedback. Replying to reviews isn't just polite, it fosters the connection between fans.

And if I read and feed two stories by authors I don't know, the one who replies is going to stand out in my brain, even if later I don't remember why. I'll be more likely to open one of her stories again.

*applauds* I think #9, "Participate," is possibly the most important point, though I'm very happy you included #7, "Reply to the feedback you get." I know not everyone prioritizes that but I always respond to email/lj feedback, and would be haunted forever by the Ghost of It's Just Common Politeness To Write Thank-You Notes if I didn't!

I think #9, "Participate," is possibly the most important point

I know! And I think it's where I most often fall down. Partly because of time constraints and partly because I'm just not the most social person. But I'm trying. Perhaps I need to map out a better strategy.