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The Value of Web Presence

How I use other platforms to build my audience on Vocal

By Zack GrahamPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 10 min read
The Value of Web Presence
Photo by Alexander Shatov on Unsplash

The Breakdown

I’ve been writing on Vocal for eight months, and the experience has coaxed some of my best short fiction out. They reeled me in with their unique short story challenges. I spent a couple of months submitting and losing in contests like the Runaway Train and The Aquarium – but I caught early spirits with a Runner-Up placing in the New Worlds challenge.

I haven’t stopped submitting since I saw my name on that list.

Like many of us, I’ve been writing fiction for decades and submitting to various publishers for half of it. Nothing with my name on it has stuck, ever. I went through a brief period where I wrote trending news articles for Inquistr Online, and a few of my articles went viral with something in the ballpark of 100k+ shares per story (most of them were about Bernie Sanders during the height of his campaigns – if you have a Facebook account, there's a pretty good chance you scrolled by one or two of my articles lol).

Needless to say, that gig didn’t work out. Creative writing and writing the news are kind of at odds; the other part is that writing the news requires one to be awake and conducting research at all hours, because the news is happening essentially all the time. It sounds exciting on paper, but very few leads are satisfying to take on.

Since scoring Runner-Up with my sushi scifi story, I’ve placed three more times: The Mysterious Box, Behind the Last Window, and Reset Your Password all fell victim to my weird cosmic horror fiction. One of my Lovecraftian tales, Voyeur in the Bascàl, even got a special shoutout for being so bizarre.

Regardless of any success, none of my stories have a lot of reads. I thought the viral nature of a successful news article would transition into the world of fiction – it doesn’t. We all experience the rollercoaster of reads and reactions to our work, and the data is borderline meaningless. My story that placed this afternoon earned Runner-Up and still only has 5 views.

The Reality

Vocal hosts the challenges for +members, and acts as a web publisher for creative writers across the board. They don’t advertise anywhere as being an online marketer or web trafficker. Even if you upload the next Shakespearian classic, it’s no one’s duty but your own to generate an audience. It took me roughly six months to realize this through both submitting and observing the various Facebook group discussions.

I remembered that I actually went through this kind of struggle before: after I got out of writing the news, I tried to take that marketing knowledge and apply it to my fiction. I created an author page on Facebook to try a grassroots method of gathering an audience. I posted daily haikus and American Sentences (Ginsberg’s version of a haiku, Vocal curators take note for future challenges). I created a website where I could upload my longer work and pair it with very professional imagery that I would lift from Google.

I never got the page above 200 likes. Looking back, it was super cringy pretty much start to finish. I thought my creative hobby was comparable to trending headlines, and that people would care about them in the same way. What I learned is that people are apprehensive to read a stranger’s writing, unless it delivers something they're desiring on a need-to-know basis.

My fiction is not on that level.

At heart, besides being a creative, I'm a problem solver. I love generating plans, methods of execution, and watching the results culminate in success. With my new realizations, new winning stories, and an old Facebook account, I set out to generate a real online presence.

The Experiment

I wrote out my goals and some potential methods of achieving them, and the turnout has been surreal.

Instead of just shamelessly posting my own thoughts and musings, hour after hour, I literally started shitposting roughly four times a day. Memes, funny one-liners, really anything I came across that seemed like good content.

My Facebook author page gained 1,100 new followers in the last three (3) months! I even received a rising creator badge because all of my percentages were fictitious numbers: hovering green buzztexts that said things like “9686% Up This Week!”

Like the Runner-Up placements, this only encouraged me.

I decided to leverage both platforms against one another.

I announced a book giveaway on my Facebook page, wherein one lucky winner would receive a pair of collector Lovecraft books, one print and one a graphic novel, and then a one of a kind copy of “Here, Mr. Splitfoot”, a modern study of the occult, from my own collection.

Not bad, huh?

I ran this contest parallel to the Behind the Last Window challenge.

The rules were simple:

  • Go to Vocal.Media
  • Create an account (for free)
  • Subscribe to my author page
  • Like and comment on my latest story

As you can imagine, my latest story was also my submission to the challenge. The story, which ended up placing, received 43 reads, 11 likes, and 11 comments. Hands down the most traffic I’d seen on a story overall.

It doubled down on the chaos because now my author page was buzzing with the results of both the book giveaway and the fiction challenge. After the story won, my audience blew up and went wild. I was seeing a self-begetting circle that could really only go up. I’ve made it my mission to give away 25 books throughout the rest of 2023.

Here’s where things got really wild. My short stories are doing well, and their exposure is increased because of my growing social media presence. I was invited onto two different podcasts through that exposure.

Is this really happening?

One of them is an awesome little feature across all platforms: it’s called The Mythos Minute Podcast, and it’s hosted by writer Jason Huls. Jason conducts dramatic readings of various horror poetry in under sixty seconds. No one is doing anything like this, and he allowed me to submit a few creepy pieces for him to use later this year.

The Official FB Avatar

I’d encourage all of our haiku poets to check this podcast out, and even submit some of your own work. It’ll add a whole new layer to your work. I promise.

The other podcast had a whole different invitation. It included a dramatic reading of my Behind the Last Window short story submission, followed up with a one-on-one interview about me and my work. I agreed and we recorded the episode a week later.

This podcast, The Box, started last October with the intent of delivering old-school radio theater drama. It’s performed by writer and actor Seth Scott, who typically pairs together horror poetry and short fiction for his dramatic readings, which he further amplifies with ghostly soundscapes and terrorbytes. It’s a one-of-a-kind podcast, and I’m fortunate enough to be his first interview.

And like The Mythos Minute, this podcast is open to submissions. I would encourage anyone with solid pieces of scifi, horror, or mystery to send in your work to have it turned into a dramatic reading podcast episode - you could be the next interview!

My meager web following of ~1,400 people led to what I consider to be an audiobook version of my Vocal short story. This started as a weird pipe dream wherein I envisioned maybe winning a contest – now those stories were leading to other things.

The podcasts weren’t the end.

I had another writer reach out to me for the original text document for In the House of the Wasp, but for a totally different reason. He explained that he wanted to draft a side-by-side screenplay manuscript based on my story.

“I don’t want you to think this means it will sell, but at least now you can pitch it if the opportunity arises.”

I ask again, is this really happening?

This might read as pretty braggadocious, but I’m trying to nurture motivation. I know what it’s like to not win, especially within our craft. I got so discouraged from rejection emails during and after college that it actually turned me off from writing.

Like my original author page, what I was submitting back then wasn’t honest. It was second rate writing about dead-end cliches, and I was trying to pass it off as headlines hot-off-the-press.

I spent ten years operating under that structure and never got anywhere. I turned my dial to a more honest, creative avenue, and now I can’t turn it off. In my short time here I have seen a number of people secure their first wins, some of them back to back. I’ve seen others casually secure awards and top stories over and over again.

When I lost that first Runaway Train challenge, I was devastated. I poured a ton of energy into drafting a wild adventure, and then paid $50 to submit it, all within 72 hours. I was certain I’d get at least Runner-Up, and I didn’t even need the full timetable to do it.

I didn’t get shit. Why?

Well, when I went back and read it… it wasn’t actually that good. It was a cool story, but it was clunky and read poorly. It didn’t really have any characters. Aimless. I could go on.

I wanted to pack it up and quit, but I resolved to do better. That’s what I saw the rest of the Vocal community doing – some of them had hundreds of publications on the website. The only way to join the ranks was to knuckle down and keep writing.


The Vocal experiment is a total success. In my short time conducting research, my conclusions are simple: keep consistently writing. I try to submit 2-4 stories per month.

Web presence is unbelievably valuable. Maintaining a steady audience not only helps generate reads, but it also weaved a professional network right before my eyes; one podcast led to another in an organic interlinking of creative energies.

You have to keep saying ‘yes’. Yes to everything: to every Vocal contest that appeals to you, and to drafting the best piece of writing possible! I actually used an editor for my first three or four submissions because I wanted to be as trim as possible. It’s what the pros do, so why not? I found an editor and paid his rate for 10,000 words (boo AI).

I also found an illustrator. This is totally unnecessary, but adds a cool visual layer to my fiction submissions. I’ve been having the most luck with my cosmic horror stories, so I pair them with horrific drawings that my friend Ivan cooks up. He has moderate rates and loves my work, so it works out for both of us. This kind of investment can also serve as concept art – it generates a ton of interest on Facebook. People prefer pictures over just a link.

Ivan's latest illustration for A City in Grooves

These are different things I said yes to. As I mentioned at the start of this article, Vocal can only create so many opportunities – it's up to us to take the reins and get creative with how we steer. Do you want more reads? Do you want a huge following? Do you want to win a challenge? There is an avenue of opportunity that will lead to any and all of these goals.

Now you just have to draw a map.


If you have any questions, or want to participate in my next big book giveaway, don't hesitate to reach out! Thank you for your time!

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About the Creator

Zack Graham

Zack is a writer from Arizona. He's fascinated with fiction and philosophy.

Current Serializations:

Ghosts of Gravsmith

Sushi - Off the Grid!

Contact: [email protected]

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Comments (23)

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  • Jeanell Norvell, S-LPC, Ph.D.5 days ago

    Thank you for sharing your process. At the core of your message seems to be tapping into whatever motivates us to do more of what we enjoy. This could be market jumps, social media likes, wins, etc. :)

  • MOTIVATION 26 days ago


  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Fantastic!!! Loved it💕💖😊

  • Austin Baraka2 months ago

    Nothing is more better than a story with a little touch of mayhem. Awesome👏👏

  • Lana Fauzi2 months ago

    Thanks, Zack. I fell like I should try to learn write fiction

  • Brocke Avisha2 months ago


  • Janet J. Smith2 months ago

    This is rather valuable. Good going bud.

  • Chua Yuan Heng2 months ago

    I am thinking of creating a page too on Facebook. Nice story!

  • Daniel Jeyaraman2 months ago

    Highly informational, thanks for this article, Zack. Subscribed to your work.

  • Very informational. Thank you for sharing.

  • Lakshmi Narashiman2 months ago

    Great one!! Thanks for writing. I am new around here, can you look at my writings as well and let me know if you liked it.

  • Kayla Maneen2 months ago

    This was such a fun read and I felt gleefully on your side the whole time. What a clever little experiment! I feel a sense of camaraderie with you, too—and reading your experience helps bolster my own determination to dig my fingers into the keyboard and keep pounding out quality content. Stay amazing, and thanks for sharing!

  • Allie Bickerton2 months ago

    Zack, thank you for your words of encouragement! This is what I needed to hear today. Congrats on your Top Story! It was very well written. I’m looking forward to diving into your stories.

  • Alfiya2 months ago

    Loved the article, you are both creative in writing and promoting, thinking outside the square is difficult for someone like me who doesn't really like social media, but I get there are definitely positives in using these platforms, I'm so happy for your success.

  • Gina C.2 months ago

    I really enjoyed reading this - great insight and tips!! Thank you and congrats on Top Story :)

  • Heather Hubler2 months ago

    Congratulations on your Top Story!

  • KJ Aartila2 months ago

    I love this statement - "it’s no one’s duty but your own to generate an audience. - you are so right! I also greatly appreciate your honesty & ideas. :)

  • Congratulations on your Top Story 👍

  • Scott Wade2 months ago

    Excellent article Zack and most generous of you to share your valuable nuggets of success. Thank you. 🥰

  • This article is super helpful. It is a source that I can come back to keep encouraged to keep growing the writing side of my career. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences!

  • Some great information in there. I just see challenges as prompts

  • Lamar Wiggins2 months ago

    Wow! You have exciting energy and determination. I loved this article. It gives insight on trying new things to propel forward, which should be the goal of every serious writer. I definitely subscribed and hearted. Thanks, and congrats on all the recent and future success.

  • Heather Hubler2 months ago

    Great article! Thank you for sharing your experiences :)

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