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

Unintentionally Building a Buzz Through Reddit

"I read a bunch of stories on this subreddit called NoSleep, and I thought it was interesting. The whole premise of that part of Reddit is that readers are expected to give the benefit of the doubt to authors about what's true. I thought it would be neat to throw a little short story out there and I hoped people would dig it. That really was my first official venture into writing.

" 'Footsteps' and 'Balloons,' those I wrote on the fly. I didn't have a stock pile of stories or anything; I posted 'Footsteps' the day that I finished it, and I wrote it in one day. When I saw that people were responding to it, I came up with the plot for 'Balloons,' wrote that over the next couple of days, and posted it that following week. The whole timeline for everything, from first finding my desire to write and then writing and posting everything, has been fairly compact.

"At first, my stories were only ever going to go on NoSleep, that was the plan from the beginning. That's one of the big benefits of a site like Reddit. There's Reddit.com, and there are dozens and dozens of subreddits. There's NoSleep, and then there's a subreddit for movies, a subreddit for news, and they all have their specialties and focuses. Each of them have subscribers who put the subreddit on what's called their Front Page and people vote on the posts. So when you subscribe to something, it allows you to see it when you log onto the website.

"NoSleep, at the time, had somewhere around 50,000 subscribers who were at least semi-regularly reading NoSleep. As soon as I posted it, I was excited to get feedback. If you write a story and it's published in a magazine or an anthology, you have to wait weeks or months to receive letters or any kind of feedback. When you want a book review, you have to send the book off and wait for weeks to hear anything back.

"With NoSleep, it was immediate. I was seeing people's reactions in the comments section almost immediately, and that was a huge inspiration for getting me to continue the story. I knew that night, maybe about an hour or so after I posted 'Footsteps,' that people wanted more. That offered me a kind of gratification I wouldn't have otherwise gotten if I'd posted it anywhere else."

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