This article is specifically aimed at new and old authors who feel their stories are not getting the attention they deserve. If you want to know the ins and outs of this place and want to improve on the number of reads and comments your stories normally get, then this thread is definitely for you.
The first thing you'll come to realise as an author on here is that this place is highly competitive.
There are four story sections, but most of the activity revolves around the two "fictional" story sections.
Only the newer and/or more active story threads feature on the spotlight page, whilst the older/less active ones are relegated to the seldom-visited lower reaches of the forum.
The name of the game here is to get your stories noticed.
How can you do that? Keep reading and you'll find out.
Tugstories.com has no shortage of new authors. Quite the opposite, in fact.
There is a constant influx of new authors signing up every week, each one of them hoping to get a taste of the important feedback some of the more established authors enjoy.
The vast majority of them follow the same recipe, and more often than not, are met with little success.
We've seen hundreds of authors sign up and post numerous multi-chaptered stories in a very quick succession, only to revert back to silent lurking a month or two down the road. If you recognise yourself in that, then pay close heed to this important bit of advice.
The best way to get yourself and your own stories noticed on here is to participate in forum life.
Creating an account on here and expecting numerous readers to flock to your stories is both fanciful and unrealistic.
The truth of the matter is, time is a limited resource for many (if not all) readers. Many only have time to follow a very limited number of stories at any given time.
Creating a catchy or intriguing story title is one way to get the attention of your target audience, but for a majority of readers, the author who originated the story is even more important than its title or the content it features.
While this certainly doesn't apply to everyone, the results on one of the latest forum polls are quite unanimous: readers tend to gravitate towards authors they know. If you have a limited amount of time and can only read x number of chapters/week, why risk wasting time reading something you may not enjoy (from an author you don't know) when you can read stuff published by an author you consistently enjoy?
This is why new authors often fail to leave their mark on here.
So how exactly are you supposed to get noticed if you're new or don't have a large following yet?
The solution is fairly straightforward. Participate in forum life!
More often than not, we see new authors posting almost exclusively on their own works, whilst at the same time ignoring the rest of the forum and works from other authors. This is a time-proven recipe for failure.
What you need to remember is that each and every post you leave on here increases your visibility.
The best way to reach your target readership audience and get noticed is to leave comments on similar stories and participate on related threads. There is no other way around it!
Many authors will pay close attention to the readers who comment their works, and many of them will return the favour when said readers (you) decide to publish original content as well. The more regularly you comment on stories featuring elements you enjoy, the more visibility you'll be getting among readers who enjoy the same stuff you like. Fellow readers commenting on those same stories you've commented on will rapidly come to associate your username with the stories/elements they enjoy, and as a result, will be MUCH more inclined to giving your stories a chance the next time they see them.
You need to be out there and you need to let your target audience know you like the same stuff they like.
Keeping your activity focused mostly on your own stuff will more often than not fail to yield the results you're hoping for.
If you want reviews on your own stories, lead by example and review the stories you've enjoyed reading.
This is very much a give-and-take system.
On the subject of visibility, be sure to add an avatar image to your profile.
If you've published a new story, create a banner image for it and add the link to said story in your User Control Panel's "Signature" slot.
Another common mistake we see a lot is new authors rushing to answer reader comments as soon as they get them.
As tempting as it may be, you'll want to avoid doing that. Allow a few comments to stack up and allow some time to pass before responding to those users who took the time to leave you encouraging notes.
Each comment you receive will bump your story back up to the top of its section.
You'll want to keep it in that area for as long as possible. If you rush to respond right away, you'll be wasting that opportunity.
The goal is to keep your story in the spotlight for as long as possible. You can do that by spreading your activity out and by allowing at least a handful of hours to go by before responding to said comments. Your response will bump your thread back up to the top of its section, which in turn extends the period of spotlight visibility it'll be enjoying at the top of its section.
It will usually take less than a minute for your potential readers to decide whether to keep reading or click "back".
Setting the stage is very important, but keep in mind that the opening paragraphs of your tale are CRITICAL to its success.
This cannot be stressed enough.
You need to hook your readers.
Once you have them hooked, intrigued and interested, THEN you can build up on character history and whatnot.
Starting off with a list of characters and their clothing/attributes is the WORST possible way to start a story.
Those details should be included in the story and hinted at throughout its chapters rather than clumped up at the start of the 1st chapter.
Ex: "The lanky blue-eyed nerd swung around and stammered in surprise as his heavily built, six-foot-tall assailant came into view."
Opinions may differ, but the consensus is clear (visit the TUGs POLL section for proof): the majority of readers prefer shorter chapters over longer 2500+ word ones.
The frequency of your publishing routine is also important.
Considering that most readers here do not log in every day and that the majority of them are following multiple stories at any given time, you should be careful to avoid the common pitfall of posting multiple chapters in the span of a day or two.
Many readers will get cold feet upon logging in and realising they have a ton of chapters to catch up to.
It can be a little daunting, particularly if said chapters are on the longer end of the spectrum.
With that being said, allowing too much time to pass between the publishing of new chapters will cause many of your readers to eventually lose interest.
The solution is once again straightforward.
When possible, favour shorter chapters over longer ones. This will be less daunting and less time-consuming for you as a writer (especially if you are dealing with a busy schedule) and will make it easier for you to publish chapters at a more steady/regular rate.
In general, publishing a new chapter every 36-48 hours is considered reasonably quick on here.
Waiting more than two weeks before publishing a new chapter will usually cause a portion of your audience's interest to dwindle. By contrast, publishing too fast will overwhelm some (especially those following multiple works) and will prove daunting to many new readers stumbling upon your work for the first time.
Try to favour a steady and regular rate of production.
Avoid posting multiple chapters in the span of -36 hours.
Edit the title of your story to keep your readers updated about new chapters.
Ex: THE EXCRUCIATING HOGTIE (M/F) *CHAPTER 3 POSTED*
Many readers on here will refrain from reading works that are considered "long".
Even in the case of authors with large followings, many of the readers who follow and enjoy all of said author's tales and stories will avoid reading his/her longer, multi-chaptered ones.
I have dozens of regular readers/commentators who follow/enjoy every single one of my stories but who refuse to even try my main one, simply due to the number of chapters and reader comments it features.
Authors of larger tales may find this trend somewhat disappointing, especially considering most of us see our shorter works as being pale reflections of our longer novels.
Considering the predominance of users who get cold feet when faced with longer tales, I propose the following:
If your story features more than 15 chapters, avoid displaying it on the story title. Go for a title update that does not feature the chapter count.
Ex: THE EXCRUCIATING HOGTIE (M/F) *NEW CHAPTER: MAY 17*
New readers who are kept in the dark about the extensive chapter count will more often than not end up enjoying said story and start consuming those chapters at a phenomenal rate. Concealing the chapter count is the only way I've been able to attract a steady influx of new readers to my own novel (which many would consider too daunting to start reading).