I'm so sorry if this sounds ignorant, and I'm sure you're tired of explaining it, but do views or "hits" on Ao3 mean anything? Because i'll see the posts about authors needing kudos and comments (which i understand completely) but i'll also see the view count and i'm like "but it's got so many hits, just go by that too!" So what goes into an author truly knowing how well they're doing?
Hi there! And yeah, I’ve explained how this works before, but I’m always happy to explain it again. Because it bears repeating. :)
Hits on AO3 mean very little. Someone clicks through to the fic, reads the tags and summary, maybe the first few paragraphs of a novel-length fic, and then nopes out without finishing. It still registers a hit.
Writing a multi-chapter fic posted in weekly installments that has a significant following? Yeah, hits are also meaningless here, because every time you post a new installment and all your dedicated readers click through to read the next chapter? They each register new hits. They’re not UNIQUE viewers to the entire fic, yet it can still look that way in the hit counter. And if it’s a 50 chapter fic that posts over the course of a whole year? The “compound” hits really start to add up, despite each of those unique readers only being able to leave 1 kudos (albeit multiple comments, if they so desire).
If something we post generates a thousand hits but only 100 kudos, it can start to feel like a lot of readers may not have bothered to read to the end, you know? If I make it to the end of a fic, I hit the kudos button. It takes literally one second, and in my mind it’s the equivalent of saying, “Thank you for writing this and posting it for free for my enjoyment.”
I personally don’t have the “false hits equivalency” problem that writers who post WIP’s do, because I always post complete works. Even when I’ve tried to post serially, I end up giving up after a few days and just going ahead and posting the entire thing. I tried to do that with Ultraviolet, posting a chapter a day, and lasted five whole days before just posting the rest all at once. I have no patience for drawing things out unnecessarily. :P
As a result, the hits count on it are artificially inflated:
2269 hits as of today, when I posted it back at the end of June. But heck, there’s more than 10% kudos-to-hits ratio, so even considering that I know a number of people had been reading along as I posted the first five chapters, that’s still a pretty decent average. Believe it or not, that’s considered to be fairly excellent as a hits-to-kudos ratio.
Now on to the thing I just posted a few days ago, Dean’s Days Off. I posted it all at once (note the posting date):
That’s a lot of hits, considering I can assume that most of them are not redundant, with the same readers clicking back through to read a new chapter. Still, even working under the assumption that A LOT of those are unique hits from different people, I’m left with the assumption that less than 20% of them actually read all the way to the end, because of the kudos.
This theory works FOR NOW, because this is a new story. I doubt many people have had a chance (even if they loved it and intend to read it again someday– which is just wishful thinking on my part, but whatever) have had a chance to go back and read it again already, you know? So these are largely most probably original hits. But over time, there may be a fair few people who return to read it again and CAN’T leave kudos again. The hits-to-kudos ratio will inevitably drop over time.
Plus there’s also the factor in the other direction– readers who click through and then download the story (I always do this with fic I love, partly because it’s easier to read on my kindle, but also because I’ve see too much fic I love get taken down by the authors, and I like to make sure I have a copy in case that ever happens). I have fic I’ve reread NUMEROUS times, but the author has no way of knowing how much I adore their writing in that case UNLESS I EXPLICITLY TELL THEM.
AO3 doesn’t keep statistics for downloads. Unless a reader tells me, I have no idea that they may have downloaded my story to read again. It doesn’t even generate another hit in that case, you know?
In any case, kudos, comments, OR hits– none of them is a perfect gauge for readership. Hits may be meaningless. I think 3 of the hits for T&S were generated by me– one of which was me noping out within a page or two of starting because there was no way in hell I was gonna keep reading, and two of which were unlabeled links to the effect of, “OMG I JUST READ THIS THING AND I NEED A MOMENT TO RECOVER,” which is an intriguing sort of post where the words “THIS THING” were a link to it… I had no idea, but lo and behold, I generated a “hit” to it. >.>
I’ve clicked on fic recs that from the description in the post sounded right up my alley, only to see something in the tags on AO3 that made me nope out of reading, or got a short way in to the story before realizing it just wasn’t my thing and closing out. All of that generates hits. Meaningless, meaningless hits.
I have opened fic, decided to “Mark For Later” so I can open it again and read it when I’m in the right mood, or when I have time to devote to it, or whatever. I have A LOT of fic Marked For Later. Still, opening it to mark it and add it to my list generates a hit. It’ll generate another hit when I do eventually go back and read it. Possibly generating another hit when I open it yet again trying to remember if I’ve read it…
Or the worst– I’ve had the thing open in a tab for two weeks hoping to find the time to read it, and every time Chrome refreshes the page (because Chrome does that) it generates a new hit… I kinda feel guilty about that…
Hits are ultimately meaningless.
Kudos at least have SOME meaning. A unique reader read the entire thing, got all the way to the end, and felt good enough about reading it to hit what essentially amounts to the THANK YOU NICE WRITER PERSON button.
Some people are willing to spend a little more time writing a comment. Anything from a “Thank you for writing this” to “Oh gosh I love this story, and xyz was my favorite!” all the way to leaving a running commentary on every chapter or a five paragraph book review at the end. Or heck, just an incoherent keysmash with a bunch of exclamation points.
Or one of my personal favorites, “I just read this again and can’t leave more kudos, so have this <3″
I don’t understand the resistance to clicking the kudos button if you read the entire story and derived any enjoyment from it whatsoever. If you’re embarrassed about it, you can always log out of AO3 and leave kudos anonymously. No one will ever know it was you. :P
But I’ve had people ask me this before, wondering why they should even BOTHER hitting Kudos, and it’s like… you read this entire story, for the low low cost of zero dollars, and can’t be fussed to even click the Instant Thank You Button? That’s… shocking and frustrating as a writer. Some of my longer fic may have taken me HUNDREDS of hours to write, edit, etc. And it doesn’t merit half a second of time to click a button. I mean, sure, Dean’s Days Off is kinda short compared to some of my other work, but it still represents about 80 hours of my life. I spent about 80 hours working on that story. I spent several hundred hours working on Revenge of the Subtext. And even more than that working on Around the World in 24 Days. That’s a lot of hours. Can I get half a second of your time as an acknowledgement that it was worth it?
If I make it to the end of a story of any length, that’s automatically kudos. Job well done, Writer Person. You have suitably entertained me.
I admit that I am still personally weirded out by leaving comments, but I do try and force myself to, especially if it’s a longer work. I get this OH GOSH PLEASE DON’T LOOK AT ME BUT YOU HAVE GIVEN ME FEEEEELINGS mentality about leaving comments. I turn into Dean Winchester and clam up. I TOTALLY GET THAT REACTION to leaving comments. That’s why the kudos button exists in the first place. No embarrassment required. Just a Thank You that writers can acknowledge in a measurable way. Unlike hits, which honestly we have no idea how many of them even read past the introduction let alone the entire story.
I wish there were some more accurate metric for calculating just how well received our works are, but really this is all we have. We don’t have bestseller lists. Our readers don’t have to pay for our work. Leaving kudos or liking our tumblr posts is great, and lets us know at least our followers appreciate what we’ve written. Leaving comments is fantastic because we can share the joy, answer questions, reply to theories y’all have about our stories (heck nothing is better to me than having someone meta-analyze my writing! I LOVE THAT AND WOULD LOVE TO SQUEE WITH JOY AT YOU!). Reblogging our tumblr posts is like the ultimate recommendation. It says not only someone read and enjoyed what we wrote, but wants other people to find the thing too.That’s how we find new readers, especially if the post ends up tagged with stuff like, “OMG THIS WAS SO EXCELLENT!” or whatever. Damn near makes my week. :P
But if we post something, even if it gets tons of hits, if no one bothers to hit the kudos button at the end, it can very quickly start to feel like maybe nobody ever read all the way to the end, so why even bother…
I probably shouldn’t have turned this into an essay, but since that seems to be my trademark, I guess I’ll just go ahead and post it…
When Harry and Louis come out, if it appears I am not online, I expect a whatsapp message or tweet from every single person who is online and has my number. It can be incoherent keysmashes but I MUST be alerted. I will not miss this beautiful coming out. Reblog if you want your friends to do the same :)
To the two three folks who have used that donation button that I put up earlier today, please, at least let me write you a fic or make you a graphic or something. I am beyond touched, you have no idea how much you’ve helped me out here. Combined, those donations will pay for two physiotherapy treatments, or cover a quarter of my plane ticket to 221Bcon. I think I will try to be responsible and put half of it in a pile to spend now on necessities, and half of it for the con.
I know who one of you is, and you already make amazing graphics but please let me know what you’d like me to make or write. The other of you, if you want to remain anonymous I do understand, but if you want to let me do something for you, it would mean a lot to me.
Holy mother of theatre, I am so excited that I actually get to see this live on stage. The play sounds brilliant. The trailer is brilliant. And it’s Andrew freakin’ Scott playing the main character. How can it get possibly any better?