If you've published any stories on FiMFiction, then you probably have a pretty good idea what your story's statistics are. You know, views, up/downvotes, total comments, that sort of thing. Maybe you obsessively track every time one of those numbers goes up; maybe you're not quite that attentive. But either way, you could probably say, or give a very close estimate, what those numbers look like on your biggest story or stories.
I want to talk about those numbers for a minute, because I think sometimes context gets lost. Click down below the break to read what I think about all those stats, in a slightly more rambly-than-usual format.
In the last month, I've seen two different authors lament that's nobody reads their stories. Both of those authors, incidentally, had stories with over 500 views.
Think about that for a moment. That's 500 people. Okay, I think the counter might track total views rather than unique views, but you've still got to figure at least 250 individuals have put their eyes on those stories. And that's... that's kind of a lot of people. That's a middle-large church; that's every chess Grand Master in Russia; if you're into Dunbarian theory, that's the upper limit of how many people you're capable of knowing socially. It's that many people, all reading--or at least, starting--your story.
It's not hard to see why those numbers don't look too impressive, though: just look at the context in which these numbers are appearing, that is to say, stories on FiMFiction. As I write this, My Little Dashie is getting close to half a million views, and another half-dozen or so stories are over 100,000 views each. Granted, 500 is much, much smaller than those kind of numbers.
But I don't think that's the right way to look at things. Stories are fundamentally about communicating; whether you're trying to communicate emotions, ideas, worldviews, or whatever else depends on the story, but all fiction is about communication at its core. In many cases, it's also an intensely personal form of communication;the best stories we tell show readers more about us, as authors, than most people would be comfortable putting into less metaphorical terms. That's a level of communication that's almost exclusively available through the arts, and while it can be achieved through other mediums, my experience is that it's far easier to "say" something via the written world.
So, of those 250 people, how many "got" a story? There's no good way to know, but as long as the answer is "more than one," an author should feel like that's something to hang his hat on. To reach out and touch a stranger is a powerful thing. To make someone think about the world in a new way, to brighten up a down day, to bring someone to tears, or to cap a stressful week with a smile... this is what stories can do, and it's humbling to imagine that one's story has done that.
I've never written anything near as popular as the most-viewed stories on FiMFiction. I can pretty much guarantee I never will. But my stories have been seen by more people than I could have imagined reading something I wrote just a few years ago, and I know for a fact that, at least in small ways, I've touched some of my readers in important, lasting ways. When you put it in that context, the numbers look pretty amazing.