I want to start this article by addressing the elephant in the room first. There are a number of authors who want to write what they want to write and simply do not care whether people want to read it or not. I'm not here to change your mind. If that's how you approach writing, that's fine. You do you. The purpose of this article is give people who are interested more insight as to the audience they are posting their stories in front of. A lot of factors play out in how much a story gets read and writing something that appeals to a wider audience merely gives you more possible eyeballs to read your story.
Some Survey Results
Still reading? Great!
I think most of us probably fall in the middle here between not caring at all and wanting more opportunity. We want people to read our stuff, but we want to tell our story our way. Back in the spring, we did a site survey and had over 600 people reply. This is a pretty sizable response, and it really ran a large range of readers. I'm going to share the results of three of the questions in particular. Authors following the Writer's Circle club may recognize my recent work on Genres. This was instigated by feedback from the survey.
One more note on the survey results before we begin. This is a straight up survey, not a controlled statistical sample. This means that the results you see reflect the thinking of those people who were surveyed and may or may not represent the site as a whole. We are going to act as if it does though, as these are the people who took the time and effort to fill out the survey, meaning they cared enough to do it (and more likewise more likely to read and react to Stories content). Since I have had Masters level statistical courses, I felt compelled to point this out so as to not get smacked by others who likewise understand the magic of numbers.
This is the breakdown of what the survey responders say they like to read, genre-wise:
As you can see, our readers self-report a fairly balanced view on what they read. Interestingly enough, this and the questions I asked authors highlighted a few shortcomings on how I asked questions on the survey and how we actually use data here at Gay Authors. The author portion of the survey weighed interest on a 1 to 5 scale for each genre from a writing standpoint. But the reader scale was a yes/no on each. That means I wasn't able to do anything directly as I didn't have apples to apples to compare. For example, over 450 people said they read romance... but that could be "I'll read it if there was nothing else to read" all the way to "I'll stop sleep and anything else to read a good romance story". It's hard to do anything with that other than say, this is what people say they do or don't read. I'll get into what we're working on to address this in a bit after we go over the next parts.
Next up, sex. As it shouldn't surprise anyone paying attention: sex sells. An overwhelming majority of readers will read a sex scene if you put it in front of them.
Fortunately, when I wrote the survey, I didn't completely miss the boat. I also asked, how much sexual content do you prefer in your stories. Again: sex sells.
As you can see from the survey results, of the people that answered this question, people prefer a decent level of sexual content in their stories. It should be noted that site rules says level 5 erotica text porn level sex in stories isn't actually allowed on site. The safest conclusion from the survey is that you are not scaring people away from your story if you include sexual content, and that there is a group that really enjoys it. Again, this is not a statistical sample and thus we can only apply this conclusion to the people who answered and guess, but not know, that it would apply similarly to those who did not take the time to answer the survey.
So what to do?
IF you are interested in keeping up with the latest information on writing tips and what is getting read on Gay Authors:
- Make sure you are following the Writing World Blog so you get notified when we post stuff!
- Go to your Notification settings and make sure that "Newsletter" email is checked.
- Go to your profile (click your avatar image on the upper right and then click "edit profile" on upper right side of page) and then make sure your Author and Genre News are both set to "Yes" and that you select at least one Genre on the list of Genres. If you like everything, select "everything" from the list.
We are currently emailing a weekly Genre News update and a monthly Author one. If you want to stay in touch with what's going on, sign up!
What else are we doing? We are working on some changes to the story archive software that will allow us to more tightly categorize story genres. This will allow people interested in writing or reading in the growing micro-genre niches to do so. The way the system is designed, authors will be able to stick to the more generic genres as well. More details will be posted as we get closer to release. We are also developing a couple of administrative tools to allow us to more easily analyze the data the system is naturally collecting. For example, we collect time-based read data on every story in the system. It's generic insomuch as we can only tell if it guest or member reading. The tool we are working on will be able to tell us how many reads are occurring per genre and eventually per tag.
There is where "Writing Where the Audience Is" comes into play. If the report is showing werewolf stories are popular right now, maybe it is time to dip your toes in the water and try one. Or maybe you see that popularity and decide now is the time to try posting that Were-Tiger story you've been secretly working on. Or maybe you want to see which way people are going so you take the other fork in the road and avoid the crowd. You can do any of that or none of it. We'll be working to give you the option.
You could also try mashing together two trending genres. This is how many of these micro-genres have formed. Romance was popular. Werewolves are popular. Suddenly, you have Paranormal Romances / Shifter as a sub-genre. We might see Horror and Western both getting hits so you decide to write a Weird West story. Zombies at the OK Corral. This data could work for anything. Or take one genre that's popular, take one that isn't and create your own space with one foot in popular stuff and one foot in a new frontier.
There is nothing wrong with using data to fit in with the popular crowd or avoid them so you have your own swimming spot.
What is the Gay Authors motivation in this? We want eyeballs on site reading. If you come for the popular and stay for the niche stuff, that's fine by us. Or if you come for some of the unique content and try out some of the other things, that works too. So long as you're hanging out here, that's our interest. 😉