Originally posted on December 6, 2020 at https://fanfictiondatascience.tumblr.com/post/636802272661274625/do-longer-chapters-get-more-reviews.
One of the questions we occasionally get from authors is: “What kinds of submissions get the most reviews?” We think this is a really interesting question and we’ve started doing some exploratory analyses related to the quantity of reviews that authors receive based on a variety of factors. One of the factors that we decided to check out was the number of words in a chapter. We were curious: Would shorter chapters get more reviews because they might take less time to read? Or longer chapters because there is more for reviewers to dig into? Or maybe there’s a sweet spot somewhere in between?
To look into this we took a random subset of 10,000 authors from FanFiction.net with chapter publications over a 20 year period from 1997 to 2017. We then created a scatterplot with each point being one of these 10,000 authors, the x-axis showing the median number of words across their published chapters, and the y-axis showing the median number of reviews received on those chapters. The points are segmented into six groups based on percentile of the total number of reviews received on all chapters they have ever published. We then put trendlines in for each of these segments, so we can more easily observe if there are any relationships between chapter length and reviews received across each of these groups. We also performed this analysis at the chapter with similar findings. The results are preliminary and warrant further exploration, but we’ll share what we’ve found so far.
It turns out that the small number of most highly reviewed authors in the top 1% saw an increase in reviews received up until chapters of almost 5,000 words in length, at which point their chapters began to receive fewer reviews on average.
For those authors whose works are in the top 25% of reviews received (excluding the top 1%), as chapter length increases, the number of reviews received on those chapters does as well. Interestingly, there does not appear to be the same drop off in reviews received for longer stories for these authors as there was for the authors in the top 1% of reviews received.
On the other hand, the remaining authors whose chapters are less highly reviewed saw little change in the length of chapter published with the number of reviews received.
These preliminary results point to some interesting potential implications on how an author might be able to get the most reviews. For the most highly reviewed authors, shooting for a chapter of around 5,000 words in length is most likely to result in the highest levels of engagement. However, for the vast majority of authors, writing longer chapters is not likely to have a negative impact on engagement from reviewers, and may even result in more reviews.
How about you?
What are your experiences with receiving or providing reviews based on chapter length? We’d love to hear whether this is a factor that motivates you or something that you consider when writing or reviewing!