Ficticities version 2 has been up and running for 9 days; here’s how it’s going so far.
Short Fiction Readings
I’ve found, read, excerpted, linked, and posted 7 short fictions on 7 different days — those aggregated excerpt posts are titled Flânerie 1 through 7. In my readings I’ve selected recently published pieces more or less randomly from 49 different online open-access literary magazines. I’ve read each piece in its entirely, selecting excerpts I found particularly compelling and that could be adapted to fit the central conceit of a stroll through a fictional City.
Nearly all of the pieces I’ve read are very good; a few I’ve found striking, memorable. Most of the short fictions are clearly framed as stories and, while there’s pretty wide cultural and geographic diversity represented across the collection, most of the stories share the same basic premise: a central character is dealing with a minor crisis arising in some aspect of contemporary life. The fictions that aren’t stories tend to be the ones that stand out in my memory, which isn’t surprising since the non-storied imaginary is what I was hoping to come across. I’ve also been struck by stories that aren’t so resolutely focused on the people, as well as stories set in the distant past or distant future. If I were to keep reading short fictions at this pace for a few more weeks I’d probably be able to start assigning them to categories — no doubt the first readers and editors of these literary magazines, exposed as they are to perhaps hundreds of submissions per week, become adept at sorting them into piles without even reading more than a paragraph or two.
Outreach To Authors: Click-Throughs
Version 1 of this site made an extended case for fiction writers organizing themselves into e-book publishing houses; Ficticities Version 2 is predicated on exploring the feasibility and desirability of moving forward with this hypothetical scheme. Writers who publish in open-access litmags should be in an excellent position to evaluate the attractiveness of a collaborative publishing scheme. The expectation is that, in googling themselves and seeing that their pieces have been cited here, fiction writers would click in to Ficticities and participate in online surveys designed to explore their views on the writers’ syndicate idea.
Google’s indexing of blog posts isn’t instantaneous. How long is the time lag? I’ve been keeping track: it turns out that it takes 5 days for Google to index content from a new Ficticities post. That’s not particularly problematic in the long run; in the short run it is more difficult to evaluate the pull-through from posts to authorial visits. On a daily basis WordPress shows how many people have visited the Ficticities site and which posts they’ve looked at. As of yesterday 3 of the Flâneries posts had been indexed by Google. A self-googling author coming here to see what’s up would click in on the specific Flânerie post on which he or she was cited. Of the 21 authors specifically cited in those first 3 Flânerie posts, 3 authors, or perhaps 4, have clicked in to Ficticities. It’s a small sample size to be sure, but so far the click-through rate is under 20 percent. The rate might increase as the days go by, but those actual 3 or 4 click-throughs all happened within 24 hours of Google’s first indexing the posts being visited — which makes sense if the authors have a standing order placed with Google to notify them of any mentions of their names and publications.
What about the rest of the authors — don’t they google themselves? As I’ve tracked the authors cited in the Ficticities posts I’ve discovered that it’s very rare for anyone other than the magazine publisher to cite these published short fictions. It’s conceivable that the authors are aware of the public obscurity into which their works are launched, and so they don’t even bother tracking themselves on Google.
Input From Authors: Surveys
At the top of the right column on every Ficticities page and post an invitation is issued to writers to complete a short online survey. Of the 3 or possibly 4 cited fiction writers who have clicked in to the website, how many have completed the first survey? None. So far there have been 2 responses to the first survey, one of which came from me, the other from someone who showed up on-site before the first Flânerie posts were indexed by Google. Granted, only 3 or 4 authors have shown up in total, but still: a zero response rate? Is it because the visitors didn’t notice the invitation, or did they prefer not to participate, or did they find the questions boring? I don’t know.
I’m going to keep at it for at least another week, reading and excerpting short fictions pretty much every day. Within the next few days I’ll put up a second questionnaire, featuring questions more aggressively geared toward the writers’ syndicate scheme, to see if the response rate goes up. But at this point I’m not optimistic about Ficticities Version 2 as a means of exploring the writers’ publishing house idea. Let’s see how things are looking by next Friday.
Meanwhile if you’ve got any thoughts about it please leave a comment on this post or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).