Halrloprillalar (prillalar) wrote,

On Feedback

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!

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