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  • I'll come right out with it and say I'm trying to amuse my muse. For my own fun and profit.

    My cowbird stats are important to me. I won't be coy about the pride I take in many of my stories and my desire to have them appreciated. It's part of my master plan to become known as an awesome writer, a go-to guy about certain things, a frequent guest blogger, and land lucrative book contracts.

    After I joined Cowbird on May 24th, I wrote almost every day and worked with more intensity than I had been accustomed to. I found writing stories to be quite a bit different than writing a book or a blog. That was what I was doing when I started cowbirding, which managed to crowd all that out, for good or ill. You cowbirders became my muse, and I offered you a new story almost every day.

    Like many of you, I am curious about whether my efforts at Cowbird have improved the quality and encouraged appreciation of my writing. Having come of age as a geek, naturally I decided to "have a look" at my Cowbird stories in an analytic way. I wanted to know how my popularity has trended, and use that information to illuminate what's been working and what hasn't.

    Gathering the data I needed required me to visit each of my stories to pull out some numbers, which I copied into a spreadsheet. I also mined my email to find notifications of new audience members (you keep all those messages too, right?). That, and a simple calculation gave each story a title, date, number of readers, number of loves, the percent of readers who loved it, and the size of my audience at that time. This is what you see in the chart above.

    The first thing I noticed was that the "percent loved" index is a wobbly walk that seems to be trending upward. That's a good thing. The second thing that struck me was that in the second half of June, my audience hardly grew at all. After that, it resumed its earlier growth of about one new member per day, although it appears to have recently leveled off again.

    So what was it about my output in June that didn't grab readers? The content of those stories is all over the map, but one thing many of them share is a fairly low level of readership. Half were above average for percent loved (45.6%) and half were below that. There is no relationship between their lovedness and the number of people who read them. However, most of these stories are reality-based rather than fiction although two are haikus (not surprising to me).

    Throughout July, I put out a lot of fiction and very few nonfiction stories. My audience resumed its plodding growth. More people didn't necessarily read these tales (mostly a 20-part serialization tagged That Sound), but those that did seemed to like the episodes more than not. It appeared that my core audience was following them, but new people weren't drifting in. That makes sense, because why would anyone who stumbles on episode 8, say, want to go back to read the backstory?

    So let me express heartfelt gratitude to my loyal readers, and may I return the compliment often.

    As I continue on my Cowbird odyssey, I can keep adding stats to my file to let me know how I'm doing, and so hone my craft. Thank you for allowing me this indulgence.

    @image: Excel chart of the author's Cowbird story statistics.
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