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October 1, 2015

Experimenting with a Monthly Theme

by Donna Huber

Some time last year (maybe?) I considered setting up monthly themes. I could see the pros and cons to it and in the end I decided not to do it. But I'm thinking about it again and I have decided to do a little experiment this month.

One of the advantages to setting up monthly themes was the deciding on the editorial calendar each month. I would know what to do for "filler" posts (those posts that appear on days when there wasn't a review, guest post, your regular feature scheduled).

Quickly though I realized a major downfall to setting a theme. I would be locked into what kind of books I read for the month and what if I got behind? I wouldn't necessarily be able to review a book that I had already read, but hadn't reviewed.

A related dilemma was what about the staff reviewers and feature writers. I don't dictate what they read or write outside of some guidelines to keep the focus of Girl Who Reads.

October always gets me thinking about doing a theme as I see a lot of other sites focusing on monsters and mayhem in the lead up to Halloween. So I thought I would try a little experiment this month to see what people thought about it.

I'm aware that my readers might hate it. If a reader doesn't like horror s/he might wind up avoiding the site all month. (I don't read horror so that would never be all that was featured).

I made several decisions about how to handle a "themed month" in hopes of getting feedback on the idea as well as not alienate anyone.

First, I decided to let reviewers and feature writers do their own thing as usual (though they are welcome to play with the theme if they choose). I'm currently reading a chicklit short story and Chris tomorrow is sharing his experience with self-publishing. So there will be variety.

Second, I did a call for submission for Halloween themed flash fiction. While I hoped for some scary stories, I didn't want to limit it to horror genre in case someone was dying to write a comedy set at a Halloween party. I've wanted to feature creative writing pieces more so I thought this was a good opportunity to try it. While I had hoped for a few more submissions, I'm pleased with what was sent in. You will be seeing them on Fridays starting next week.

Third, any filler posts as well as the Saturday promos will be theme related. An author friend is setting up a Halloween hop and I've volunteered to help host. So reader looking to get their literary fill of all things scary and supernatural will have plenty to look forward to this month.

As you may know, I'm a scientist by education and no experimental protocol would be complete without a way to determine results.

One way to judge success is looking at traffic. If numbers are higher, then it could be the cohesive nature of the daily articles are retaining readers. However, alone visitor numbers mean little. Perhaps there a lot of people are looking for Halloween related books.

Likewise, the number of shares a post gets will give me insight to reader behavior.

A second way is through comments. Comments, definitely when paired with numbers from above, can give me more understanding of what readers think about a monthly theme. Are non-themed posts getting more comments? What are people saying about the themed posts? I really hope you will give me some feedback through comments, either on this site or one of the social media channels where the posts are shared.

And finally, the best way to determine if monthly themes are appealing to readers is to do a poll. So look for that at the end of the month.

I do hope you will enjoy the bits of Halloween-themed pieces that will be coming this month, but there will be plenty of the non-scary as well to hopefully keep all my readers happy.

Top photo credit: Jack-o-lantern Wikipedia
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  1. You really can't go wrong with a Halloween theme! And free reads? I cannot wait to read all the stories you will be posting here, SO fun! TY!



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