You may as well know, since you’re feeding my habit right now, but I’m addicted to hits.
After I post to my blog each day, I obsessively refresh the page that tells me how many hits I have. I like it when one (mine) turns to two and ten and twenty, then one hundred, two hundred, more ….
I also analyze my stats. I try to figure out what themes and topics appeal to people, what time or day to post for the best results, and just who the heck is reading me in Jakarta.
My findings are highly unscientific, but what I think I’ve learned is that people like the inside-baseball stuff—tricks of the submitting trade, and a sense of how the editorial process works. Even readers who are themselves editors seem to enjoy a glimpse into other journals processes, other possibilities, or other governing philosophies.
I remember when I was starting out with submissions. I felt like there were secrets to the process. My bio seemed like an important element—and a deficient one. What I lacked in a publication record, I tried to make up for in trivia. Enjoys nature. Likes cats. And dammit, I do like nature and cats, which feels like it should matter, and cats in nature? An unbeatable combo.
It seemed to me like I wouldn’t get published if I hadn’t been published, much like the conundrum of the never-employed feeling unemployable. And I think my readers either feel the same or have felt the same, and a post about that issue resonates.
There is a lot of disagreement, actually. How helpful are previous publications? For me, decisions come down mostly to the work itself—but a record of publications can reinforce my judgment about bold or unusual work. I can’t be too far wrong if other editors have found work to their liking, right? (Of course, I’m quite middle-aged and very firmly in the who-cares-what-other-editors-do camp, but at one time, maybe, when I was younger, this sort of reinforcement mattered.)
And I’m digressing, and someone in Jakarta is beginning to reach for the remote.
I think a lot about the people who read my work. I’m interested in how my poems, stories, and essays are received, obviously, but that stuff doesn’t have a dashboard. The poems don’t come with comment sections, which I don’t mind—I don’t really want to know how to make $10,000 at home, or the ways in which my poems obliquely relate to the theme of MAKINGAMERICAGREATAGAIN.
On another side note, one thing that may surprise some readers is the poor response a book review receives. Most writers talk a lot about the literary community, and so I started publishing daily appreciations of poetry book titles. I devoted hours to each, and I tried to offer some insights into the work I was addressing—but the stats didn't follow. Writers like the idea of book reviews, but perhaps they are not terribly interested in reading them. I’m happy to add to the conversation, and I post the reviews on sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads to help give writers a boost, but the posts themselves don’t get a whole lot of traction. This is one of the lessons I’ve learned from blogging.
I have to admit, even aside from overlooked book reviews, there are days when I’m convinced I posted a real winner—some groundbreaking stuff—and I get very few hits. And then there are days like yesterday, when a post expresses something encouraging but small (specifically, the value of writers sharing our good news with one another), and the post just takes off.
I write these posts because I’m hoping for connection. And I think people read them because they are, too. Writing is hard, and we just want a little company on our journey—not so much company that it stalls our journey, mind you, but a knowing glance in our direction, similar to that two-fingered steering-wheel wave on a sparsely traveled road.