Shortbread Statistics

As you may know, I’m a fan of numbers and graphs. I like to try and quantify everything I do (so far my marriage is operating at a healthy 97% satisfaction rating*). Therefore Shortbread Stories which I’ve blogged about in the past scores well with me in that it records and provides with you with numbers on how many people are viewing your stories and how well they are being rated on average (any reader can give your work a score out of 100 – once).

Since I’ve just tipped the 10 Stories mark on Shortbread I thought I’d take a look at how my contributions have been received thus far and as is the tradition, have used Excel to produce some charts.

Now these are show with the most recent contributions on top, then descending in age – this should probably be the other way around but I’m sure no one’s going to lose any sleep over it.

Let’s start with the number of views as this one is the most interesting. My debut story on Shortbread – “The City That Never Spoke” – has significantly more hits than any other. This is because it was very kindly selected by their editor to be Shortbread’s Story of the Week and got e-mailed round to several thousand people. This is of course generated a lot of extra hits to that particular story – people coming to comment or read it again, etc. After the viewings drop off to a more average level, “The Sniggering Man” presumably does well straight off “The City That Never Spoke”. Interest then picks up and peaks with “The Pit”, dropping off from then on. Now this intrigues me – the rate at which I was uploading stories slowed at this point so perhaps I lost some momentum or maybe by that point I was beginning to settle into a regular readership – those of liked my style continued to read, others knew they weren’t so keen and so didn’t bother reading. I’m not sure. “I Am The Road” literally only went up last week so the low number of views isn’t a surprise.

Now we look at the ratings. Anyone on Shortbread can rate any of the stories on there once – these scores are then averaged and used to rate each story. Now not to boast I’ve done quite well on Shortbread, most of stories have been rated over 80% if not 90% but then… then we have “Chemicals”. “Chemicals” receives a disappointingly low score of 60%. Not good in my book. Now I personally can’t see anything wrong as such with “Chemicals” but I can guess at several factors that distinguish it from my other contributions. Other than the tiny “I Am The Road” it’s my only real world story – there’s no death-rays, magic rings or zombies. Perhaps regular readers were disappointed by this. Secondly – it is very dark and very depressing. Thirdly – there was debate about the realism of a critical point at the end of the story. If it had come at the start then I might have gotten away with it but so close the end it stuck in readers’ minds and soured everything that had come before. I think.

So there we have it. I think there are two points that can be taken away from this in regards to building a presence in any “social media” space:

1. Maintain momentum. It’s not enough to put good content, you have to put it up regularly otherwise people lose track of you. It’s the same with this blog, I’ve noticed periods where I’ve managed to get a post or two of every week for several in a row and my hits look really good but as soon as I take a break they drop and drop off sharply.

2. Stick to your theme. There’s no point selling apples for months and then one day expecting your audience to bite into bananas instead. If you’re going to mix it up then mix it up early and continue on that pattern. Stephen King writes about this in the preface to Different Seasons – his agent warned him about doing many similar works at the start of his career and getting typecast. He didn’t listen and now even though he’s got some of the widest range of genres he’s still referred to as “that horror guy”.

Thanks for listening!

* I’m joking**
** About the fact that I would try and give something like that a score, not the fact that marriage is going well. My marriage is going well. Well over 90%.

Title image courtesy cushinglibrary

Published in: on May 30, 2011 at 8:35 PM  Comments (10)  
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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve noticed #1 with my blog too. My visits/views dropped since I switched to two posts a week instead of 3. I think eventually I’ll get back to 3 posts per week if I can.

    One other thing I’ve noticed about consistency – the views stay regular if I say I’ll post to a schedule (ie. Mon/Wed/Fri) instead of random posts throughout the week. I also lost a few readers since I stopped participating in Friday Flash, and posting fiction regularly. Reader expectations seem to extend to the blog itself, not just the genre.

    I always enjoy your number crunching. I do love a good chart 😀

    • See now I’d struggle to find the time, let alone the ideas to up 2 or even 3 posts a week consistently. You make an interesting point about putting your posts out on set days of the week – turn them into events for people to look forward to. And Friday Flash is great for picking up extra readers, no hits always jump up a bit after posting a Friday Flash.

      • Yes, I usually check your blog on Fridays, since I expect a bit of flash 😉

        Blogging’s a lunch break thing for me, and I don’t often pre-plan what I’m going to write hehe. I really have no time outside of that.

      • Well let me see I can get something posted for you this Friday then… (;

  2. Hello – Nice to see you again. That’s very interesting. I’m not a good numbers person but the patterns are nice. I have put up a real mixed bag on Shortbread and I am often surprised that ones I think may do well don’t and ones that I sort of think well good luck little story actually do ok. Isn’t life a mystery.

    • Hey Diane and thanks for stopping by the blog! Yes it is hard to predict what readers will like and dislike, “The Sniggering Man” got a far better response than I’d expected whereas “Chemicals” which I was quite excited about wasn’t really enjoyed. You make a good point about word length though – if I’m just looking for something to quickly read on Shortbread I’m more likely to pick up something less than a 1000 words.

  3. Hi David I would continue to experiment with genres and to some extent style – you will no doubt settle upon ‘a voice’ no matter what genre/POV/style you write in. I guess how long this takes depends on how long you have been writing and how much you experiment. I have read five of your stories to date and they were all fairly original and very professionally done – more to the point I enjoyed reading them – which is perhaps as much as you can ask.

    • Hey there Adam and welcome to the blog. Thank you very much for the advice and as always, the very kind words!

  4. Hi David,

    I’ve just came across this so please forgive me for being a little behind the crowd. I would like to add that that the genre can have an affect on how often a story is found, and therefore read. Our most searched tag is Children’s stories, and often you find these are the most read on the site. Very interesting stuff, and enough variables to make interpreting Shortbread Statistics a Science!

    • Hey Fiona. Thanks for stopping my site, thrilled to see you see here! Your point about genres is definitely interesting, particularly about Children’s stories. I wonder if they are so popular because people are actually looking for their children (I’m assuming it’s not the kids themselves searching the site) or just because the subject matter is more likely to easy going for a quick read? I’ll definitely have to try putting up some more children’s stories to test this!

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