"Penpal" Author Dathan Auerbach: From Anonymous Reddit Poster to Published Novelist

The Importance of Engaging Readers on the Internet

"I thought of the concept for 'Balloons' [the second story] that same night I posted 'Footsteps.' People were asking me, "So what happens?" They wanted more information, and I was giving them vague, half-assed responses in the comments section.

"As more and more people made it clear that they were interested, I knew that I had to give them something. I figured out 'Balloons' and waited no more than a week to post the next story. At the time there were 50,000 subscribers, and nobody knew who I was and I'd only written this one story. I didn't want to lose people's attention. 'Footsteps' gave people an awareness of me, and I didn't want to post another story too far down the line when people had already forgotten about the first one. That's how I posted the rest of the stories, about five to seven days apart from each other.

"Stephen King has done stuff like this. The Green Mile was published piece-meal over time, as well as The Dark Tower series. I knew that there was precedent; at the very least, there was a semi-proven model for how this kind of publishing approach worked. The immediate feedback that I received was what motivated me; if I wasn't getting feedback immediately, I'm fairly confident that I wouldn't have continued."

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