Can it wait? Can THEY wait? – Serene Gao

Posted by Human-Centered Data Science Lab on October 29, 2022

Originally posted on December 28, 2020 at

A study on fanfiction stories’ update frequency and number of reviews received

As a grad student, I often find myself debating over finishing tasks all at once or spacing them out over a reasonable time period. In the fanfiction community, we have seen stories where multiple chapters are posted on the same day, while others are updated every few months or even years. As authors, if our goal is to attract readers and reviews, how long should we wait between chapters? Is it better off to satisfy our readers with content all at once, or to keep them hooked by posting a bit at a time?

Our Approach

To answer these questions, we defined the “frequency” of updates in a story as the average number of days between chapters posted, and looked at stories with more than one chapter and at least one review from during the period of 1997 to 2017. In this particular study, we are considering the first story posted by each author to avoid miscalculating the accumulated review count for their subsequent stories. Note that the original chapter publish date/time was not available in the dataset so researchers estimated it from either the story publish time or time of the first review. As a result, this dataset is representative of stories with more reviews. 

What We Found

In this graph, each data point is a story mapped to the total number of reviews received (y-axis) and average days between chapters posted (x-axis). The x-axis is then divided into 14 bins, to represent “buckets” of stories where chapters were posted every 1, 2, 3… 14 days on average. While there are quite a few stories with up to hundreds of reviews, the median line plotted for each bin indicates that the data is skewed to the right. 


My initial guess was that stories with chapters posted 3-4 days between each other might receive the most reviews, as readers are likely to revisit the same story for updates every few days. This graph seems to be consistent with this speculation and shows that the first peak is at five days. This means that half of the stories with chapters published five days between each other are observed to have 9 reviews. Other peaks are observed at ten and thirteen days.

Your Thoughts?

How often do YOU update a story? What factors do you consider when planning to post a new chapter? As a reader, would you prefer coming back every few days to read the new chapter and review, or reading them all at once? We look forward to seeing your comments and learning more on this topic!