Hispanic individual practices martial arts at Morro Rock, MorroI call it web-fu.1

It’s the ability possessed by Neil Gaiman, boingboing, slashdot, or lifehacker. When they mention or recommend something, servers fail under the load.

All of us have some bit of web-fu (or its real-life equivalent). But how much? When is it worthwhile to seek out?

While at GenCon, I witnessed this conversation (summarized a bit):

Webdude: I run book reviews on my blog, and I’d like to get a review copy of your book.
Author: Oh? How many visitors do you get?
Webdude: About fifty uniques a day.
Author: Perhaps you should talk to my publisher; they’re over there.

There was a lot of guesswork – on everyone’s part – about how much influence the webdude wielded. Would a good review mean fifty sales? Or ten? Or none?

Nobody’s really sure. There are too many variables. But when The Burning Servant went live, I was really paying attention. So let me share a few insights (I’ve normalized numbers to the maximum number of per-day hits, presented in chronological order 2):

Release date on Chain Story Website: 0.6
Day after release, when I mentioned it on blogs, Twitter, FB: 1
Baseline after release (pretty constant for two weeks): 0.05
E-mail promotional blast (everything I’ve had out over the summer): 0.1
Jim Hines mentions in a list of “Friend Promo”: 0.1

This is in contrast to when Jim Hines mentioned my work on the First Novel Survey results (numbers again normalized to the same standard):

Jim mentions me: 0.6
boingboing mentions me: 2

Because the Burning Servant was never part of the blog, it never showed up in RSS feeds which makes things a little easier to parse as well.

So, what do we have? When a bigger site mentions you specifically – and individually – it has more web-fu than a smaller site, or the same site when you’re part of a list. When I mentioned it to people who bothered to follow me on Twitter or this blog, they also seemed to respond more. This isn’t anything new, right?

Here’s the new wrinkle: When Jim mentioned me as part of “what my pals are doing”, the people who came stayed and read lots of my stuff. When the recommendation was topical – such as from the Chain Story site or any of the coverage of the First Novel Survey results – I got more hits. When the recommendation was personal, fewer people came to my website, but those who did, stayed.

When you evaluate whether or not the “exposure” is worth seeking, don’t just consider how many people lay eyeballs on your work for a brief period of time. Consider how many are interested. For the latter, a personal recommendation seems to have far more power over time than any server-crashing load.

1 The irony, of course, is that Jim – who I reference throughout – practices martial arts. Consider it a homage.
2 For example, if the most per-day hits was 100, then that would be “1”, 50 would be “0.5”. That is not the formula though, because I’m not comfy presenting exact numbers in public. Let’s just say I’ve not broken five hundred uniques ever and let it go. Raw numbers also distracts from the point I’m making here – it’s proportionate gain that I’m talking about.

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