A/N: This is written for all those authors on here who have looked at a story with thousands of reviews and wondered how the heck they got them.
These observations are my own. They may be, and probably are, wrong. Generally, whenever I need an example, I will use my own fics, not for self promotion (though I'm sure that will happen to some degree) but because I don't have access to stats for any other author here, nor do I follow their "career's" here, so to speak, as avidly as I follow my own.
Ploys for Reviews
(just so I don't sound like a hypocrite here, I have used some of these in my fics too...)
*The Poll Method - The author ,within their fic, requests a poll of the readers, using reviews in order to answer a question about the plot of the story. This usually takes a form like, "Should character X die or live?" Generally speaking, this method works, so long as your readers are actually interested in the question.
Author's Opinion: As an author, it is nice to see that other people care about your work and/or have a specific opinion about the fic. However, there have been times when I have read the chapters resulting from polls and been disappointed that the author didn't follow their first instinct and write what they thought, instead of bowing to public opinion. On the other hand, it is always good to see what your readers are thinking, and those reviews can help you make a hard decision about the plot that you were unwilling, or unable to face.
*The Begging Method - Everyone does this, just to different degrees. For some people it takes the form of asking people to review at the end of the story, for others it's a involving method that conjures pictures of the author on his/her knee's begging and pleading for a review.
Author's Opinion: I've noticed, at least in myself, that the amount of effort I put into begging for reviews is directly proportional to how much I like the story. If it's my favorite story (Uric the Oddball and the Wild Hunt for those of you who were wondering.) I will go to much greater lengths to get reviews than for the one shot I wrote in lectures the other day. Generally speaking, I think as long as you don't make a fool of yourself while asking then any sort of plea is okay.
*The Ultimatum - This usually takes the form of "I will not post the next chapter until I get five more reviews!" or something similar, and is usually found in the description line of the story.
Author's Opinion: I don't like these type of requests. I find them...tacky. I am reading these stories for fun and don't want to be given an ultimatum just so I can read another chapter. It also shows that you are desperate for the next review, and not really interested in posting the rest of the story if you can withhold it just because you got no reviews. The purpose of writing on if for fun. Sure reviews are nice (and I can't claim not to want them) but in the end you should be writing for yourself and what you enjoy.
*The Game Method - With this method, the author plays a game with the readers. This can take the form of having them identify sources/inspiration for certain things or having them find changes within the revised version of the story. Sometimes there is a reward, usually in the form of having a preview of the next chapter or sometimes just acknowledging them in the story. I read one that even offered to allow the reader a slight cameo in the fic.
Author's Opinion: I always find it interesting to watch people do these things, though I've never had the urge to participate in them. If the author is having fun and the readers are having fun then I don't have any objections. It can be annoying though, when the game takes over the story.
*The Popularity Method - This takes the form of writing a story with a character/plot line that readers obviously like to read. A typical example is a Snape comes to the Dusley's story in the HP section (not bashing them, I'm as guilty as anyone of reading them, no matter how similar some end up being)
Author's Opinion: I'm all for writing about characters I like, but if you're doing it just to get reviews and/or without a proper understanding of the character, please don't.
Anyone who has ever posted to the Harry Potter section of has noticed a huge discrepancy in posting there compared to anywhere else on the site. The difference: By the time your story is posted on the site it is already 3-4 pages in on the updates for the day. It seems on average that at least 150 stories are posted/updated in the HP section each day! With that many stories to sort through every day, it is no wonder it is a lot harder to get reviews in that section than elsewhere. There are only so many readers and they only have so much time.
Speaking from experience here, I have stories posted in every sized section on this site. From the largest (I'm pretty sure it's the HP section, though Gundam Wing's is getting up there.) to one of the smallest (read obscure anime/books). It is fascinating to see how different it is. My fic in the Blade of the Immortal section for instance, is still being read regularly and getting reviews. Why is that? Because the Blade of the Immortal section only has twelve stories in it. Any reader who wishes to read anything from Blade of the Immortal, has limited choices, and while they don't have to review, they usually do read the story, if my stat counter is to be believed.
For my second example, I present my Star Wars story, Altered States. I have been slowly updating and writing this story for two years now (wow, that makes me feel old...and guilty...sorry to all readers who've been putting up with me). Now it only has a few reviews, so I wasn't sure who was reading it, even if the reviewers are very enthusiastic. But then I got a stat counter, and I was shocked to discover that despite the lack of reviews, each new chapter was bringing in at least a hundred readers. A quick perusal of the SW's section reveals why the story gets so many readers: Only about 15-20 stories are posted/updated there daily. Altered States is easy to find, and I'm sure a lot of them read it out of curiosity if nothing else.
Now for the big one, the Harry Potter section. I hate to say this, but your chances of getting reviews, no matter how good you're story is, go down exponentially when a story is posted here. There are just too many stories to deal with. I follow at least 20 different stories in the section, not to mention reading new ones occasionally and I am constantly missing when these people update (yes, I use author alert for a few of them, but can you imagine how many emails that would be if they all updated? And a lot of people update their other stories, just not the ones I want) One shots in particular in the HP section can get lost in the crowd. People just don't notice these things. The only solution is to update your story often and hope that it catches on. I know I'm always recommending stories I think are good to my friends.
On a related note, I once tried to read through the entire HP section in alphabetical order. I made it to the late D's before collapsing in agony and forgetting what page I was on...
*Favorite Stories/Authors: Will everyone please put stuff up in these sections? I don't know about anyone else, but if I like the stories you write, chances are I'll like the stories you read as well. By putting your favorite author or story up, you are also guaranteeing that the story will get more exposure, instead of being lost in the sea of stories. Also, when you're a new reader in a section, chances are the author's who write in that section already know the best stories. This is how I found all the Snape stories I read, by following the stories from one author to the next. (Obviously before the HP section started sorting by character...)
*Review: I know this sounds obvious, but please do so, even if you didn't like it, tell them why. Also, try reviewing every chapter as well. Author's want to know what you like and what you hated. If you just skip to the end and say it was good, they can't really improve can they? (Yes, I'm guilty of skipping to the end as well, though I am trying to be better...) Other fun ways of giving people reviews: choose a random story, read it and review it no matter what. Or (something I have fun doing) go to your own reviewers pages (if they were signed in...) and read whichever of their stories you like. This doesn't always work, since some people don't write in a section you would read or they just don't write period, but it's still a fun idea, and chances are their favorite stories section will have some other nice stories in it for you to read anyway.
*Reread/Beta: Please, before you post, reread or have someone beta the story. Sometimes the simplest typo can ruin a good scene/story and once the reader has lost the thread, it is hard to pull them back in. It is hard to find a beta reader. Altered States is the only one of my stories that is beta read before being posted (and that's only because Kailla used to write it with me and now beta's as a compromise). All other stories are read over by me, once, though usually twice before being posted. I'm always amazed by the simple mistakes I can make just in typing up something. (For instance, when I read this over, I discovered that all my your's were written as "you're"...I know the grammar rule, I just don't seem to remember it when I am writing.)
*Read the Lists: A lot of authors are reluctant to post to this section because they have a list that pertains to a certain section, and if they post it to lists no one will read it. This is, unfortunately, true. But you can be penalized for posting a list else where. It has happened and it will happen again, so it's a good idea to send it to the lists in the first place. That being said, people should read the lists section. Some of the funniest stuff on is up there and you can always find one or two lists that will catch your interest.
Written 20/02/02 by Ariana Deralte (who obviously has way too much time on her hands, and should be writing her very important essay on Pictland) The sections I have stories in are, HP, SW's, X-men, LOTR's, Blade of the Immortal, Lists, Inu Yasha, Cowboy Beebop and Short Stories (for this little essay actually). I also read a lot more sections than I post in, but I still apologize if I haven't addressed an obvious shortcoming that hasn't come up in my reading.
And now that I have your attention. Go review.