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About popularity... Anonymous 6846

So, I've been thinking about something recently. More specifically, about popularity.

No, not about how something becomes popular or whether being popular should actually matter. What I'm wondering is why are some things popular while others are not?

I mean, I've written something that enjoyed moderate success (on FimFiction, at least). But, when reading other stories that I enjoy and think are criminally under-appreciated, I feel as if though my own story enjoys far too much success. And, at other times, when I'm reading a stinker that's somehow achieved great popularity and feedback, I feel as if though my story hasn't been nearly as successful as it deserves to be…

So, what makes something popular? Quality is evidently not the only needed ingredient (or sometimes even needed at all, apparently), so what more is there to it? Should a work be more easily digestible than some more complex, and often more fulfilling, works? Is it about luck, timing, or what? How many goats are appropriate to sacrifice!?


Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 6847

File: 1374414640954.png (826.15 KB, 1188x672, epic_pony_battles_of_history_p…)

Appeal. Whether or not the central idea behind your story is appealing to a wide audience is the biggest factor that determines whether your story is popular or not.

>An important scroll was been stolen from the Canterlot archives, and the only one who could have done it was one of the main 6, who were in the room when the heist took place…

will obviously garner more views and attraction than:

>The west has always been wild. It's never had a proper leader, a proper figure to uphold justice and order. Braeburn decides it's about time he change that.

both seem reasonably interesting, right? but the first is obviously more appealing because it features the entire main cast, while the second features a minor character from one episode, and is a western–a niche genre right now. I have people come to me from time to time saying "I want your help to make this story do really well" (specifically saying they want it to get views) and sometimes I don't know how to tell them that the basic premise of their story, the thing they can't change, won't allow it.

For something that doesn't have inherent appeal to stand out, it has to be really, really good. And often that's not a level you can take an author to; they have to get there themselves.
This post was edited by its author on .


File: 1374427344508.png (740.19 KB, 1024x609, 339853.png)

>the first is obviously more appealing because it features the entire main cast, while the second features a minor character from one episode, and is a western–a niche genre right now.
>Over 8k views
Of course that series have 31 chapters so far over the two stories. And that's not counting the other two less popular stories that author wrote.

I have a theory about why certain stories are more popular than other ones. See it's about consistently putting out content that's at a certain level of quality. Let's take Josh Meihaus. http://www.fimfiction.net/user/Josh+Meihaus A Rose Reverie and My Maker are some of the best sadfics that I've ever read. While they're not unpopular, they certainly deserve to be in the five digit view range.

On the other side we have Chengar Qordath, the author of the 'Winning Pony' series. The series isn't bad, but it's not amazing either. Yet is has over 25k views. Why the big difference in popularity? Simple, Chengar Qordath writes more than Josh does. Winning Pony updates once or sometimes twice a month with novella length chapters, plus all of the side stories, and then there's the author's Dresden crossover.

People say that becoming a successful author isn't about luck, and I think that they're right, but not in the way that they think. It's sort of like playing the slots, but with time instead of money. If you keep writing and putting stories out there, sooner or later something will stick. And when it does, the people who really loved it will read your older stories.

Of course there are ways of helping something to stick faster. For example, the readers who enjoyed your adorable shipping fic probably aren't going to be interested in your Lovecraftian horror story. Getting on EqD also helps. From looking at the average view counts over the months, I've found that getting a story on EqD will get you about the same amount of views as the featured box. And since EqD judges by quality and not by how many favorites you get in the first few hours, it would be in your best interest to get your stories featured by them. And lastly, talk to other people. Try and make a point of commenting on most of the stories you read. Join a few of the more discussion oriented groups and participate in those discussions. If you makes friends with other authors, they might check out your stories or even plug them in a blog post.

vimbert!23hC9EoLsg 6849

File: 1374432496608.jpg (26.75 KB, 294x291, 80743.jpg)

I don't have much to say on this topic, but I will note that recommendations in blog posts can go a long way. A story I wrote on a commission for the prolific Short Skirts and Explosions received a frankly terrifying number of views from his subsequent blog post about it. (It was also featured at the time, but it still has a lot of views for a featured fic.)

Actually, while I'm at it, let me also say that a snappy cover image (post's picture) and title can go a long way. Plenty of people commented on the above fic just because of the cover image. And that isn't some high-profile pony artist's drawing or an expensive commission. It's just a hilariously out-of-context screenshot from the show combined with a title that's just a little out of the ordinary.

"Get Thyselves a Room" has never received an EqD feature, nor is it likely to (due to reasons from the other pre-readers' opinions that I find justifiable and will not go into here). Still, from a combination of snazzy picture, weird title, a big-name recommendation, and (probably) help from the followers I already had, it got a good number of views, despite being a stupid comedy that isn't exactly the greatest thing in the world.

Soundslikeponies!bQsJPGMNfw 6851

File: 1374435319642.png (156.43 KB, 900x869, vinyl_scratch___uhg_classic_mu…)

8k views doesn't in any way prove what I said was wrong. It got 8k views by being a good story. However, I think an equally well written story with an equally interesting plot involving better liked characters would have done even better.

There's a ton of different factors that play into something becoming popular, but in terms of 'what are the easiest things I can do to write a popular story?' I'd say base premise is the most basic place you can go wrong. There are some really popular stories that are lacking in execution, writing quality, and plot, but they got clicks because they had a popular background character, say Vinyl, crossed with an iconic pop-culture reference, say vampires.


More than anything, stories get popular because their authors are already popular. Case in point: The Cuckoo's Calling receiving a surge in popularity once it was revealed that Robert Galbraith was in fact J.K. Rowling.

How to be a popular author, and how to write a popular story, are similar but different. Let's assume we're talking about the latter and that you're not a popular author.

First, as Vimbert said, front matter is everything. The metric of popularity you're actually using here is views. I doesn't even matter what's in the story, because once they've opened it, you've got their view. The actual content of the story itself will have an impact on recommendations and whether or not that particular reader will follow you or read another one of your stories, but in isolation it's irrelevant to that view. What matters is you have an eye-catching image with a bombastic or intriguing synopsis.

Write enough of these stories, as Azu said, and eventually you'll build up a substantive number of followers, at which point all of your stories are guaranteed a view from each follower plus the eye balls you'll get from the feature box.

That said, to get a story to be popular to the same degree as Fallout: Equestria or My Little Dashie, the content is important. It has to strike a chord within your audience strong enough that they have to share this feeling with other people. A throwaway comedy with a snappy cover image will never get more than perhaps ten-thousand views and will be forgotten a week later.

Of course, there are a whole bunch of other factors as well. Easily digestible stories will obviously win over complex ones. Timing is a huge factor. What is it that the market is lacking right now? This very easily explains the popularity of books like 50 Shades of Grey. (Of course, the Internet is not particularly good at understanding the mindset of mid-'40s stay-at-home housewives, so they'll say the reason is obviously pure luck.) Similarly, Fallout: Equestria was the first epic-length story in the fandom and owes a lot of its popularity to timing (and the added exposure that its permanent position on the EqD sidebar provided). It became culturally relevant to the point that when a new chapter was released, most people would read it that very day. Likewise for Past Sins.

But I'd rather change the question at that point from "How do I make something popular?" to "What should I be writing?"

Tactical!fRainBOoMw 6854

File: 1374454003553.png (123.09 KB, 216x275, gladiat.png)

Consider that picture stolen and used. Beautiful.

To write stories that try to grab people with frontloaded appeal is to hope for a lightning strike of popularity. And that's all it is: a lightning strike. Faust knows I've thrown rods out hoping for a lightning strike, and Faust knows I've failed. How the fuck did a story titled Soarin and the Magic Bondage Bridle not hit the featured box?

You want views? Try to put something on EQD. The pre-reading process may not be as fair as the PRs themselves like to claim, but it sure as hell is a better system than the featured box. A story going on EQD says that one or two of the PRs–who are perfectly literate and intelligent, to a man–liked your story.

The featured box says that the hordes of morons who praise second person anthro clop as high art liked your story. I mean, sure, that counts for something, but really.

Chill out and go back to working on your craft, because that lightning strike really shouldn't be your goal. Your goal is to keep writing and keep learning–remember that.
This post was edited by its author on .

not OP 6859

I feel like every post here has hit the nail on the head, just using a different shaped hammer each time. lulz

I would, however, add one thing to this thread that incredibly thoroughly answered your question: Why are you asking that question in the first place?

If it's just out of curiosity, well that's the reason I clicked here too, so I get it. But if you're an author and are asking in part to see if there's a way to refine your style, I'd suggest you don't. Now, that's not to say your writing might not need refinement, but just don't ever refine it with views/popularity/mass appeal in mind. It seems like anyone who does that inevitably falls into the trap of dumbing their content down, spreading it too thin to broaden out it's appeal, or in some way lowing the quality of the content their creating. And even if that does get you mass popularity, do you want to be like pop music that everyone agrees has no redeeming qualities other than its mass appeal?

If you want to do mass appeal, just write more stories that appeal to different niches. For example, if someone writes two stories that are solid quality and one appeals to the star wars niche while the other appeals to the mlp niche, that person will get more views (even correcting for the fact that they're two separate stories) than their counterpart who wrote one story of a slightly lower quality to pull off making a crossover story between the two niches. Even though the first person's following will now consist of people that don't understand each others niches, their following will be bigger. However, that following will have taken more time and effort, as they had to write two separate stories of higher quality, so in the same time with less effort the second writer could've put out another lower quality mass appeal piece and doubled their following. But the question remains: would you rather be the person with the higher number or the person with the higher quality pieces and usually more dedicated following?

It's not impossible to disregard mass appeal and still attain it, but even if you don't ever attain it you should still take solace in the fact that you wrote the highest quality stories you could, and that was a more worthwhile pursuit than simply writing popular things that got their 15 minutes and then lost their value would've been.

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