QUILTBAG Anthos: Pre-Reading Period Analytics and Thoughts on Marketing/Audience Targeting

So, as is sometimes the case, I wrote a long post on Facebook, which I am now going to repost here. First, this lets me actually have content on the blog (it’s been a long year, with low post content, so I feel I should amend that). Second, as this information relates to the QUILTBAG anthologies (Start a Revolution and This Patchwork Flesh) it makes sense to post this information here so that I can tag it as part of the ongoing series of posts concerning the individual anthologies and the collective posts addressing both (like this one).

What I spoke about in the post is more or less self-explanatory, so I’ll just let you all get to it:

Okay, so longer post than I intended. Sometimes I just ramble at length/get lost in breakdowns of information:

As some of you already know, I find aggregate data and statistics interesting, and though I can’t get specific analytics for how people are coming to the guidelines pages for the QUILTBAG anthos (Start a Revolution & This Patchwork Flesh) because of the way WordPress aggregates data, I can look at general information, and I think where the numbers (referalls/clickthroughs and page hits/views) are coming from is worth looking at:

Bearing in mind that this is all generalized, anecdotal imforation relating specifically to these projects (influenced by context, pay rates, localization of production/content, and other factors specific to the books, not the least of which is the QUILTBAG aspect), so far the most powerful outreach tools for the two QUILTBAG anthos have been ralan.com and Twitter. Though the listings are up on, or linked through, Duotrope, Ralan, various timelines and groups on Facebook, Twitter, and the Submissions Grinder (both anthos were placeholder listings on the Grinder until the 24th, possibly the 25th), as well as linked through on a couple of discussion groups and other websites I’ve seen trackbacks from (and will eventually go up on Places for Writers once the listing submissions get processed), the numbers coming from Ralan handily outstrip everything else. Followed, after a fair distance, by Twitter.

The reasoning for this has many bases, but I can readily identify some of the factors at work:

Ralan is outstripping Duotrope because the listings at Ralan are free on a searchable basis (you have to dig specifically for the two anthos on Duotrope to get around the paywall), and there are fewer listings on Ralan in general. It’s a case of more readily available access (in several capacities: non-paying, and random discovery) and a lower signal to noise ratio. Also, Ralan is based in Canada, and the anthologies, and the publisher of them (Exile), are Canadian. It’ll be interesting to see how the numbers shift both with the New Year and the addition of the listings to Duotrope’s weekly subscriber-based fiction e-mail newsletter. The listing is probably already in the weekly Duotrope fiction newsletter (the listings have been active on Duotrope and Ralan for almost a week now, a day or two longer at Ralan), but again it’s a matter of being lost in a list of upcoming deadlines that’s usually 100+ items, stretching over multiple months of upcoming deadlines (and This Patchwork Flesh‘s deadline may be too far out to get it included in that list right now–I’m not a DT subscriber, so I haven’t seen anything more than an abridged fiction newsletter from them since they went behind the paywall).

I suspect Twitter is showing higher numbers than Facebook (the split is not as directly comparable as Ralan/Duotrope, but it’s the closest comparative here) largely because of how I chose to target the audience for the book. Individual timelines on FB are good for outreach insofar as who is receiving notifications for that timeline, and are thus comparable to individual Twitter accounts/streams. And shares on FB are vaguely equivalent to RTs on Twitter: they can both be potentially exponential ways of multiplying a given item’s views. But the advantages of groups on FB are not the advantages of getting RTs from a group speaking to/addressing a specific audience on Twitter.

Case in point: I can share information about either antho in various groups on FB, at length. Or have other people share them in a group (many of which are organized by region, organization, or genre) and that targets a specific audience. The first anthology, Start a Revolution, gets somewhat lost on FB groups, because it’s multi-genre and doesn’t tie to a single genre marketing trend, while This Patchwork Flesh fares better because it’s horror-focused. But the proliferation of shares is relatively slow on FB, not least of all because I have a smaller network on FB: I use FB largely as a method of keeping in contact with friends and other people in various aspects of the publishing industry, whereas I use Twitter primarily as a way of keeping up with/spreading information about upcoming projects/industry news, and a host of other things.

On Twitter, the RTs for the antho guidelines have been fairly consistent since I first posted the links to the guidelines pages (GL for Start a Revolution went up on Nov. 15; GL for This Patchwork Flesh was a few days later as I recall). Partly through people I know, partly through others who know them. It’s a consistently exponential pattern of proliferation (to a wide variety of groups, with some RTs reaching a mid-to-fair-sized audience). But another aspect of Twitter’s effectiveness in this regard is being able to directly target the QUILTBAG SFF community by asking Twitter accounts like the Outer Alliance to help spread the message. Which resulted in a fresh round of RTing from other people I know of (people involved in various aspects of the QUILTBAG SFF community: writers, publishers, reviewers, and so on) but who I don’t generally have direct contact with. Some of them RTing to a fairly large audience. All of which results (repeatedly) in getting the message that these books exist and are in the process of seeking content/contributors, as well as (eventually) an end point audience (readers), out to a variety of groups. Groups with specific and general overlap, but also the core QUILTBAG audience that makes up a large part of the reason to produce these books in the first place.

Now, as with all instances of targeted outreach, these results are entirely specific to these books. And all of the numbers I’m processing exist prior to the opening of any actual submissions window(s). These numbers also reflect my choice of how to represent these books (content and audience, rather than direct genre), prior to actual reading periods opening. All of which is another function of outreach/long-range marketing. And the end-game marketing for the two books won’t be exactly similar, even though they do constitute a kind of duology: the two anthologies have audience overlap, but the marketing strategies for the two are different because of the divergence of their themes and the kind of stories they’re looking to tell. Also, This Patchwork Flesh will be able to fall back on single-term genre marketing, whereas Start a Revolution will not (for all that we like to speak about how Horror is looked down on, the application of that term to a project opens up a huge market–a market that hasn’t been “niche” since the love-it-or-hate-it horror boom of the ’80s; yes, I realize that opens up a larger conversation about what actually constitutes Horror, capital H, but for the purposes of this discussion we’re talking about the larger umbrella, good and bad).

The numbers are also representative of a preliminary pool of sampling data, which will change radically once the reading period for Start a Revolution, and later This Patchwork Flesh, opens. And I can see a whole host of instances where FB marketing would be more effective than Twitter, and I suspect an American project would still fare better on Duotrope than Ralan, despite the potential for becoming lost in a greater wealth of signal clutter. But it’s nonetheless interesting to note, at this particular point in time, where the real outreach for these anthologies is coming from. And to have that information available for future projects.

Feel free to chime in, sound off, or offer complimentary/contradictory instances of data/experience

That call for participation applies here as well. If you feel like commenting on or adding to the discussion of the things discussed in that post, by all means, leave a comment.

And, of course, submissions updates for Start a Revolution, and reading period analytics/more general posts about the anthology will be forthcoming once the reading period opens.

In the meantime (and after), please, by all means feel free to keep spreading the word on both anthologies.

And now we’ll see if all of that still seems coherent later this morning.

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