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May 29, 2009
Posted at 9:03 am

When is not voting a good thing?

I hear from all kinds of people, which shouldn't surprise anyone. There are, after all, all kinds of people in the world and one thing common to all those different kinds of folks is an interest in sex.

I also hear all kinds of philosophies about voting on stories at SOL. Here are some examples of things readers have written to me:

1. I never vote for any story I don't finish. If it's not good enough to finish, it doesn't deserve a vote.

2. I never give any story a ten. A ten is reserved for the very best story there is. How do I know if I give something a ten today, I won't find a better story tomorrow?

3. I give everybody a good score. I mean like they went to the trouble to write the story, so they should get a pat on the back. Voting doesn't really mean anything anyway. I've read really good stories with low votes, and really bad ones that had a really high score.

4. I don't vote. (This might be followed by an seeminly proud claim that the writer has NEVER voted.)

5. I vote on every chapter so that the author knows how he's doing.

There are other philosophies on voting, but you get the idea. And there have been discussions about voting in Laz's blog that went on for page after page.

So why am I trying to ressurect this particular dead horse?

I'm not, actually. I'm not here to debate whether or not there should be votes, or who should get a good vote or bad vote. I have my own philosophy on voting and I use it, for better or for worse.

What I AM here to ask is for you to think about when NOT to vote. My frame of reference here is a story I just finished posting today. It's called "Something Old, Something New."

You need to understand something before I say more about that story and about voting. I've told several readers this, but I'll just come clean and tell everybody.

Some of you may know that I never start posting a story until it's completely finished. All I had to do was read one of those potentially good stories that ended with the "inactive and incomplete" tag on it to know how cruel it is to do that to the readers. So I finish a story first, and then start posting it.

My normal posting schedule is to start on a Monday and then put up a chapter (or two or three) on every Wednesday, Friday, the next Monday etc after that.

So if the story is finished, why do I string it out for sometimes weeks? Am I just cruel? Am I so in love with all those cliff hangers I favor that I have a pathological need to tease you?

Nope. It's nothing so diabolical at all. Basically, it's just business.

How can it be business? Nobody gets paid for this!

Well, here's the deal. If I post an entire story at, say eight in the morning on a Monday, it hits the "new stories" page around nine. Then twenty other authors do the same thing and by noon my story has been pushed to page TWO of the new stories pages.

I bet a lot of you didn't even know there WAS a page two. When I check for new stories I almost always scan through what's on page one and then either read one of them or go on to do other things.

So if I do a one shot posting, I have roughly a four hour window to catch your attention so you know I did something.

Now, take a four chapter story like the one I mentioned above. I put chapter one up on a Friday.

I know, I know, I said I usually start on Mondays. Sometimes things get complicated. But that's a different blog entry.

Anyway, that gave me four hours of exposure on Friday. Chapter two went up on Memorial day, on the "updates" page, which gave me four MORE hours of exposure. Chapter three was posted Wednesday and I just put up the final chapter today, Friday, a week after I started posting it.

So, instead posting the whole story at once, and getting four hours to say "LOOK AT ME! LOOK WHAT I DID, PEOPLE!" I quadrupled it by stretching the posting out over a week. The readers had sixteen hours in which to notice me, and maybe read that story. I guarantee you there were a hundred people who did NOT see that story when chapter one hit the boards, but DID see it when chapter two or three went up.

Basically, experience has told me that if I string out the posting of a story, it gets three or four times the reads that a single chapter story gets when it is posted.

OK, so now you know the mercenary reasons I taunt you with all extended posting schedules. The cliff hangers are just obvious places to put a chapter break. I mean really, it's a no brainer. I'm not mean, I just follow the old Vaudeville maxim "Always leave 'em wanting more."

I hear some of you sighing "What does this have to do with voting?"

"Something Old, Something New" is a story that was reverse engineered. I thought of a (brilliant) ending and then invented a story to get the reader there. So the really important part of the story - the whole POINT of the story even - isn't revealed until the last three or four paragraphs.

I've done this before. If you've ever read a story of mine that surprised you in the end, it was probably a reverse engineered story.

So if you vote on chapter one ... you're missing the point. Voting on chapter one doesn't help me, or anybody else, because you're voting WAY too early. It's ilke looking at a pregnant woman's belly and saying "What a beautiful (or ugly) baby!" How do you know?!

So I guess I'm saying that the time NOT to vote is before you understand the purpose and point of the story.

Now, back to some of the philosophies on voting of the readers. One of those philosophies is that a good vote (meaning a high vote) encourages other people to start the story.

I get that. When I'm scanning stories I use the accumulated vote to help me decide which ones to give a try to. In my experience something with a vote below a five usually deserves a vote below a five.

But voting on faith (which some of my readers tell me they do) isn't really honest, now is it. If you started "Something Old, Something New" and gave it a high vote after chapter one, you were being nice, but dishonest, because you really don't KNOW yet whether you actually like the story or not. In this case, you won't know that until after chapter four!

And if you gave that story (or any story) a LOW vote after chapter one, because it didn't rock your boat, or have enough sex in it, or the kind of sex you like or whatever ... well you're just fucked up, and need to think about becoming one of those proud readers who NEVER vote.

I'm not going to tell you how to vote. On the other hand, I don't mind suggesting that, if you DO vote, please save it until you actually know how you feel about the story you're reading.

Thanks for your support.