The Invisible Reader

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction and Writing Resource' started by Jedi_Bant, Sep 17, 2004.

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  1. Jedi_Bant

    Jedi_Bant Jedi Youngling star 1

    Apr 13, 2004
    To the Invisible Reader.

    If a tree falls in a forest but no one sees or hears it fall, did it fall at all?

    No, this isn't a lesson in ontology. But it is an analogy for what happens to some fanfics when they're released by their authors/parents into the wider world--if no one acknowledges their presence, there is no way for the authors to be sure that their stories are being read. (Well--there are hit counters for some archives, but not for all.)

    Reena addressed a similar issue a while ago. I remember agreeing with her when I read her post--if I were to release story Y, for example, and Z number of people were to review, I simply would not be aware of any readers not in that subset of Z. I wouldn't be able to see anyone else--therefore, any other silent readers would be invisible to me. They may as well not be there.

    Note that this isn't some sort of military call to duty--no one can be expected to review every single fic they look at. Heck, I don't. Quite often, I start a fic to realise that it simply isn't to my tastes--not necessarily that it's good or bad, but that it just isn't what I'd like to read today. I then drift off in search of another fic.



    If I do like the story, or find it interesting for some other reason, and read it--if I find interesting enough to read to its completion--then yes, I do review it. Or rec it. Or both. Quite often I get excited and end up reccing a story before I post/send a review--which is silly, but I am at least making an outward mark, a stamp, if you like, saying: 'I've read your story, Author X', and I almost always try to inform the author of it. (That is to say, I am not an invisible reader.) Still, even if I decide not to rec the story, I do review it once I've finished reading. Most of my negative responses are very minute by that stage, because if the story interests me enough to have me read it to the end, it is, more often than not, a story I like. I mean, duh. I might be a masochist in some aspects of my life, but not in this one. I read what gives me pleasure. If I have suggestions for improvement I send them to the author privately--but you get my overall point, yes?


    Why don't some people review a story even if they enjoy it? I know that this happens, because I've talked to invisible readers who have since stopped being invisible--when it comes to other people's fics and mine.

    There was a time when invisible readers (who liked or at least finished reading a story but nonetheless kept mum) made me irate. I have ranted about this topic before, actually, when I just got pissed as hell that certain brilliant authors I was reccing ended up getting a lot of 'invisible' readers (that is, hits on a page that didn't materialise into reviews). And I knew that some of these people had read and even liked said authors, because I heard things through the grapevine (okay, my inbox), but the authors themselves got precious little in the way of feedback.

    This isn't a rant anymore, because I have since gained some perspective on the issue.

    *unclenches hands*

    ... Er. Sort of. :D

    All right. Instead of being all antagonistic, let me cover some of the top reasons I've heard from many ex-invisible readers. Reasons for not reviewing, either publicly or privately.

    1. All those other reviewers before me have said it already.

    2. I'm so ineloquent. I can't do justice to this fic!

    3. This author doesn't look like s/he responds to reviews. Will my review even make a difference? Will they even notice? What if they aren't informed [by the archive]?

    4. This author already has a decent number of reviews. [NOTE: 'Decent number' tended to vacillate from person to person.] They don't look like they need another review.

    5. I liked the story enough to finish reading it (perhaps even a lot more than that), but I see problems and/or areas for improvement, and I don't want to hurt the author's feelings. So I'll just keep quiet.

    6. I don't have the time to post a proper review.

    7. I'm read
  2. VadersMistress

    VadersMistress Jedi Knight star 6

    Apr 7, 2004
    LOL. I am a lurker at heart, but I am getting much better. I tend to use some of the excuses which were posted. So, everyone I have a note for you all. Just because you are not getting many reviews, doesn't mean that your stories are not being read! Don't get discouraged. :)

    *steps off podium*

    Ahem... I am done. :) [face_laugh] [face_devil]
  3. Lonewolf89

    Lonewolf89 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Sep 26, 2001
    The main reason I don?t respond to a fic, is is lack of time. I hate just replying with ?good post, more soon?, so I usually decided to wait until I have a opportunity to sit down and give the writer a more in-depth reply. Unfortunately, I sometimes forget to go back to the story, and therefore, the writer never knows I?ve read!

    Recently though, I have made a real effort to reply to all the stories I read. It?s easier to do that on vignettes simply because you can go over them in one sitting and reply quickly. It?s harder on long stories, though, because to reply once is making a commitment to keep reading.

    But, I do know the importance of giving good feedback. I?m lucky enough to have several loyal readers who stop in and share their thoughts on my stories, and that is one of the things that has helped me continue writing all these years.

    Overall, I?d say the golden rule for replying is simply: give feedback unto others as you would have them give feedback unto you. ;)
  4. dianethx

    dianethx Jedi Grand Master star 6

    Mar 1, 2002
    Many good points, Bant.

    If you can manage five heartfelt lines instead of the 50 you're sure this jewel of a fic deserves--give it what you can afford to give it.

    Heck, I'd take 2 words or even one over no review at all. "Good job" covers it all or "nice" or "looking forward to more". Anything positive is better than the vast silence! So get out there and review....
  5. solojones

    solojones Chosen One star 10

    Sep 27, 2000

    Outstanding little essay there, Bant. I think you hit pretty much all of my arguments on the head save for one:

    Authors put a lot of time into their work. None of them are getting paid for it and none of them are going to have the audience of a novelist. Therefore, a 2% reply ratio that a novelist might get in letters from readers is still a far greater number of responses than fanfic authors receive. The sad thing is, some fanfic authors deserve it more than novelists. We all know it's true; there's such amazing talent in the community. But regardless of skill, authors pour their hearts out into their work and they deserve a few minutes of your time as a reader to make even a small reply. They deserve to know their craft is being shared, not just being proliferated.

    I personally make a concerted effort to review everything I read. I also try to always pick out at least one specific thing, a line or scene, that really resonated with me in some way. Just giving your honest response is all that's needed. Now, I admit, being a very analytical person, I usually go beyond that but that's just me. Some authors probably don't like my replies very much because of that :p But whatever your reply 'style', it's better than nothing at all.

    [hl=darkgreen]-sj loves kevin spacey[/hl]
  6. obi_ew

    obi_ew Jedi Master star 5

    Apr 14, 2002
    I don't expect a long detailed review of my posts, I know many people are short on time. I would be just as happy with a smiley face or a good post. I think the majority of writers would agree that replies from our readers are instrumental in letting us get a feel of how we are doing. For me replies act as a wonderful form of motivation also. If I'm getting a good response then I'm that much more excited about writing more. If my post gets few replies I find it hard to get enthused about keeping on it. Drop in whenever you can and let us know you're there. It doesn't take anymore time to post an emoticon than it does to click to another story. :)
  7. darthmace7

    darthmace7 Jedi Youngling star 4

    Oct 15, 2003
    I have few enough readers without some of them not reviewing my work...
  8. JadeSolo

    JadeSolo Manager Emeritus star 6 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Sep 20, 2002
    I just like knowing that whatever I wrote had the desired effect - that it made the readers laugh or cry or whatever. If I write something that's meant to be funny and someone says, "Hilarious!" then that's all I need. I like knowing that I've made other people feel something. :)
  9. DarthIshtar

    DarthIshtar Chosen One star 9

    Mar 26, 2001
    I don't remember where I heard it, but there's this fun little song that goes


    That's how i feel about the treatise!
  10. _JM_

    _JM_ Jedi Padawan star 4

    Jun 26, 2001
    I would say that if you are taking the time to re-read the post(s) more carefully for ?good bits? to mention in fairly lengthy replies then Reason #3 can be a discouragement. It takes as little time for an author to say ?thanks for the reply? (especially if they list the people (?A, B, C... thanks for the replies?)) as it does for a reader to say ?Nice post?.

    That said the opposite of Reason #3 is even more discouraging, it can get very confusing when the author replies to someone who replies to them who the author replies to who replies to them...actually stopped reading a few stories because it got so hard to tell what were comments on story and what were comments on comments on comments. :(
  11. SpeldoriontheBlended

    SpeldoriontheBlended Jedi Padawan star 4

    Apr 12, 2002
    Don't forget the sandwhich method for critisicm: say something nice, say something slightly less nice, then say another nice thing... :D

    *Friends on LJ*
  12. RK_Striker_JK_5

    RK_Striker_JK_5 Jedi Grand Master star 7

    Jul 2, 2003
    Awesome essay, Bant. It hits everything in a nice way and offers suggestions on how to become visible.
  13. Jedikma

    Jedikma Jedi Master star 4

    Feb 5, 2004
    I was a lurker for some time before I started to respond. Part of the reason was just learning how to work the boards and then I had some of the same excuses above.

    Then one day I started to write responses and once I started I realized it was a whole lot more fun to say something than to remain silent. :) A good deal of authors do respond to your responses and that truly does add to the fun of fan fiction. (I always go back to see what authors have said to me even if it is only "Thanks for reading". :) )

    Then the day came when I decided to write something myself. I realized then that writing is not as easy as it looks and that it definately feels good to have responses. As someone said above, just a smiley face or a crying face if the fic is sad. To know that someone is getting something out of my efforts and enjoying it totally makes my day. :)

    This is an excellent essay and I think all the authors here would agree that they would love to see more lurkers delurk, if only to wave and let them know they are there. :)
  14. VadersMistress

    VadersMistress Jedi Knight star 6

    Apr 7, 2004
    Whenever one of my fics does not get many readers I am less enthused to go back and write more on it. And while a little voice in the back of my head tells me to write more on it, I find myself putting it off. So, point is (and this is coming from a kwazi-lurker) put something, anything in a reply and then the author will feel so much better. Like others have said, a smiley will do. :)
  15. JaersteinCysse

    JaersteinCysse Jedi Master star 1

    Apr 21, 2004
    I second this motion, most of the post in my stories are from me :( . I suppose I should make the time to read others stories too though, I don't think I've read more than a few lines of any, but I will ... esp. if it was a story of someone who posted feedback for me ...
  16. JediMaster_Jen

    JediMaster_Jen Force Ghost star 4

    Jun 3, 2002
    I'm trying to et better at this, especially since now I'm writing my own stuf and posting it. I try, at the very least, to leave feedback for the people that are doing it for my stories. When I first joined the boards, I was a lurker-big time. [face_blush]
  17. padawan lunetta

    padawan lunetta Jedi Grand Master star 6

    May 15, 1999
    Very well said Bant :)

    As an author I try my hardest to do individual responses every time, and only don't if I really don't have the time, but I always promise myself I'll do them next time.

    I have to admit that I have found myself lurking before, usually it's just being lazy, and eventually I end up responding.

    Fanfic has kind of made it hard for me to write my original work though, becuase there's no one telling me "good job" or what they liked about this or that on every chapter I write. Then there's the daunting concept that if it were to be published, people could be buying it all over the world without sending me their individual comments. So, perhaps, lurkers are preparing me for the real writing world ;)

    Not to encourage lurking at all, I'm just being optimistic. ;)
  18. leia_naberrie

    leia_naberrie Jedi Master star 4

    Sep 10, 2002
    ::stands up and claps::
  19. Jedi_Bant

    Jedi_Bant Jedi Youngling star 1

    Apr 13, 2004
  20. Ewok15

    Ewok15 Jedi Master star 4

    Dec 1, 2002
    I liked it Bant! Awesome job!

    Like VadersMisstress said above, I don't feel the drive to write more of a story if it seems as though no one is reading it.

    I guess I have to work on reading and replying to others' stories too. [face_blush]
  21. Mar17swgirl

    Mar17swgirl Chosen One star 7

    Dec 26, 2000
    This should be made an article in the Archives. Absolutely true. Now I feel so guilty, because I'm sooo number 6! :eek: :p

    Good job, Bant, and thanks. :)
  22. Jara_Dax

    Jara_Dax Jedi Youngling star 1

    Oct 6, 2004
    Great post, all feedback is good feedback. As a reader, I try to feedback the fics that touched me (sometimes I make a slip and forget about it). As a writer, I make a point to respond to all feedback I receive. It's only polite to acknowledge all feedback no matter how small it is (but yes, sometimes it happens that an email escapes you).

    Feedback is a reward for your writing. When you put a lot in your fic and then are able to get positive remarks, it just feels good. It can be very discouraging though when something you worked hard on receives very little response.

    But like another writer I know says: <i>"Feedback is a privilege, not a right."</i>

    *goes off to rec post*
  23. WiliQueen

    WiliQueen Jedi Youngling

    Jun 11, 1999
    Excellent, insightful post.

    Even if it doesn't necessarily convince people to give more feedback, hopefully it will function to remind writers that there *are* people reading out there, even if they're not commenting. :)
  24. 1Yodimus_Prime

    1Yodimus_Prime Jedi Master star 4

    Mar 13, 2004

    Remember readers - You are like Schrodinger's Cat. If we can not see you, regardless of whether you read the story or not, you do not exist.

    See? who said science and literature don't mix? :p

  25. Dantana Skywalker

    Dantana Skywalker Manager Emeritus star 5 VIP - Former Mod/RSA

    Apr 7, 2002
    Very, very nice, Bant. See? I'm responding. ;)

    I know that I, personally, feel very much more inclined to work on a story if someone responds to it. Even if I haven't worked on it in a while, sometimes just an "Up!" (though I prefer more than "Up!" in a response) can be enough to make me work on the story again. Even after months of nothing.

    I'd also like to add, if you like a story, and you genuinely want it to continue, don't reply once and walk away. Give the author support. Like was said earlier in this thread (I'm sorry, can't remember who said it, think it was solojones), we don't do this for money. We do it for enjoyment, and we give of ourselves with this. Just a little feedback could mean the world to an author.

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