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I am one of several authors on a fairly new shared blog. The blog has a mix of serialized and one-shot posts. Because it's a new blog (2.5 months, ~30 posts so far), there is quite a variety of posts and authors (though all on the broader theme for the blog) and we're not yet at the point where authors or topics can be assigned regular slots (e.g. "Tuesday is Monica's fiction" or whatever).

I am posting a serialized work of fiction, one chapter at a time. I get positive feedback anecdotally, but I can't help noticing in the stats that views are dropping off a bit with each chapter. (There have been four, thus far.) It's possible, of course, that people just aren't into my story, but since I'm also getting that positive feedback, I think I might be doing something else wrong.

Each post has previous/next links for the adjacent chapters. The blog platform quotes the first paragraph (or portion of it) on the front page, so I've been leading with the new material rather than repeating the end of the previous chapter (a trick I've seen another author use). I've just created a "the story so far" post that I'll maintain and start linking with the next chapter on the theory that this might help.

Serialized fiction is hardly new, so this shouldn't be a new problem. Given the constraints I've described here, what else can or should I do to maintain an audience as my story unfolds over time?

  • What sort of numbers are we talking about here? For a new blog with a small number of readers, with only four entries (on this story), it could easily be that you're seeing a pattern that isn't really meaningful. – evilsoup Nov 16 '15 at 18:47
  • @evilsoup hard to say. The blog has 42 followers. A few blog posts have had close to 200 views; 40-50 is more typical. Chapters of my story have gotten 60, 38, 29, 14 (last one posted fairly recently). That last is comparable to the other posts from about the same time, but the second and third are a little low compared to similarly-timed posts. These are for direct visits; we've no way to track the RSS feed. – Monica Cellio Nov 16 '15 at 18:57
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One of the issues I have had with serialized fiction, as a reader, has been the consistency in the availability of the material. I have found some authors that I follow pretty regularly because I know when to expect the next chapter, and I go to their sites only when I know the ne material is supposed to be there. If an author isn't consistent on when they make the new material available, then I'm not going to waste my time going to their site every day just to see if there's anything new yet.

I suspect that your work may be suffering from this type of situation. If you don't have a consistent window of time in which your new material is available, then you will start losing readers, regardless of how good the material is. Something you might consider doing to get around this would be to make your material available elsewhere, more specifically, through your own site. If you are managing your own content on a consistent schedule, then even if your next slot on the initial blog hasn't been scheduled, your readers will come to know that they can go elsewhere without having to wait or keep checking back.

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    Or if for some reason you can't post on a consistent schedule, find another way of letting your readers know when new content is available, such as tweeting each new post. – Josh Nov 16 '15 at 15:50
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I am not so much a reader of serial text publication, but I have some view which might be useful from comics. For comics, it is quite typical to have serialized publications. Consider the following examples:

  • American superheroes comics are published one adventure at the time.
  • Mangas are published weekly: a chapter each time.
  • Webcomics are published more or less regularly.

I haven't read much superheroes comics, but mangas, they have a rather fixed narrative structure. Each chapter is thought as a story on its own: presentation, tension building, climax and relief. All of it is contained in the chapter (sometimes not much more than a few pages). This is to get the interest of the casual reader, which can step in any time. They often end on the climax, to keep people interested to follow.

Some webcomics don't have aany long-term evolution (Dilbert, etc.), so they can't compare, but some do. And those face the same problem as you have: keep the readers interested to follow their publications and also bring readers in at any time. Indeed, most people don't start a comics from the start, but from the most recent publication. If they like it, they might go back to the start. If they don't, they won't bother. Two techniques are used to achieve that:

  • Regular publication. Most set some publications days, and with that fixed schedule they keep their readers and/or increase their numbers. From the notes published, I gather that when they have no regular schedule, or that they break it too often, they lose "followers" (for want of a better word).
  • Self-sufficient. Each and every publication can be read on its own. Humouristic publications try to add in a joke at each page (see for instance, the Order of the Stick).

You can, and probably should, consider both options together. But think about it with the following points

  1. If you don't have an established base of readers, you need to make sure that anyone can jump in, with just the current chapter. And get interested.
  2. If you don't have some kind of climax each time, people get frustrated.
  3. If you don't have a regular (frequent) publication schedule, people have to check daily to see whether you published something.

The combination of 1. and 2. means that you'll loose readers.

Generally, I would conclude saying that a serialized publication has to be thought as several episodes/chapters and not as a single piece of work. You can also get some ideas from TV-Shows. No great novel would have had the success it had if it had been published pieces at a time and less so with unregular schedule.

As a side note, you mention that you receive some positive feed back, you should evaluate the type of feedback you get. See, for example, that question. Maybe the feedback you get isn't so reliable, even if it is well meant.

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