I’ve written only 3 posts here since April, so it’s not surprising that there haven’t been many visitors to Ficticities. Still, I do get a hit here and there, now and then. Today for instance someone came to look at this post — one of a series of fourteen posts from almost exactly a year ago, in which I interacted textually with short stories I selected at random from online literary magazines.
These occasional Ficticities visitors got me to wondering about hit rates. If I were to google the author and the title of each of the 14 stories on which I wrote a post last year, how high in the stack of google results would my posts appear? And how does each of my posts about these stories stack up popularity-wise compared with the original story itself, or the author’s website referencing their story, or the litmag’s tweet announcing publication of the story, or others’ reviews or comments on the story?
Well, let’s find out, shall we? I’ll google the stories in chronological order, using this search format: author’s name “title of story”:
“Cockatoo Tears” by Daniella Levy — the Ficticities post is the first result listed; the story itself comes in fifth.
“Pity and Shame” by Ursula LeGuin — Ficticities post comes in third, following the story and an interview with the author.
“Breadcrumb 398” by Olivia Hardwig — Ficticities post first, story second.
“Nobody Knows How To Say Goodbye” by Richard Spilman — Ficticities post first, story second.
“Christmas Lights” by Demian Entrekin — story first, Ficticities post third.
“A Legend is Born” by Calvin Celebuski — Ficticities post first, story third.
“The Singing Tree” by Shawn Goldberg — Ficticities post first, story fifth.
“Rattle and Spin” by Jeannette Sheppard — story first, Ficticities post second.
“The Wallaby & the Python” by Alexis Kale — Ficticities post first, story second.
“A Deceptively Simple Word Problem” by Samuel Rafael Barber — story first, Ficticities post third.
“Pop” by Carlo Gallegos — Ficticities post first, story not at all.
“Death for Serafina” by Rayji de Guia — story first, Ficticities post second.
“Big G Little G” by Kelsie Donaldson — Ficticities post first, story third.
“Entry 038::After Ash Wednesday>>Moon Quincunx Pluto” by Sade Lanay — story first, Ficticities post second.
So, for this random sample of 14 cases, the Ficticities post is the top google result for 8 stories, while the story itself gets top position for the other 6. That might be exciting for me, if I didn’t know how few hits these posts have received during their year of online existence. Still, on average these 14 story-based intertextual pieces fared better than other Ficticities posts I wrote that were original content, untethered from other published texts — which I find a bit disheartening.
I might find it even more disheartening if I were the author of one of these short stories. Why, I’d ask, should some random guy’s blog post about my story generate more Internet traffic than my actual story? To be fair, the stories might well have been read by a lot of people like me who happened upon the story while looking through the latest issue of the litmag in which the story was published. But still…
- People are more likely to search for my posts about other writers’ stories than for the stories themselves.
- People are more likely to search for my posts about other writers’ stories than for my independently inspired posts.
Gossip? Do people want to hear what other people are saying about other people, rather than finding out what they have to say on their own behalf?
My takeaway, in the context of this website’s larger agenda, is this: If you’re a literary magazine, try to get other people to write something — anything — about the stories you publish, in order to draw greater attention to the authors and their work. If your magazine happens to be the work of a writers’ syndicate, then get one or more of the other authors whose work has previously been published in the litmag to write something about each of the newly published stories.