online fiction

New feature, List of Completed Serials 2013

Happy 2014 everyone!

It’s been just a little over a year since we started this blog (back on Blogger).  And early 2013 we defected to WordPress.com and found it a good place to hang out.

When I first joined the original fiction/webfiction community there were still a large smattering of different voices and authors talking about the craft.  There’s been a bit of a lull or contraction in these spaces to “talk shop” so this blog in 2014 will continue to try to touch on topics that we hope are helpful to you.

I have yet to decide how to address readers of serials in terms of posts. However, as a start I’ll point you to a new feature as of today: “The Completed Serials” tab up there on the top right of this page, next to the SFF listing that TEWaters and I started a few months back.   That, if you’re a reader, might be a place to start looking

That’s 2013 crop of indy serials that I’ve heard about through the various webfiction channels/outlets.  There are many people who start serials but not as many who finish them.

For the authors —  consider getting your stuff up there in that space a goal for you as an author.

Lastly, this blog is  always open to guest bloggers (See About/Submissions) who want to share something unique that they’ve learned from the process of publishing a webfiction/ web serial.   Hopefully we’ll have a lot more voices on this blog over the next year.  I’m always open to pitches and hope to hear from you.

Looking forward to 2014!

Catching up on the remaining 2013 News stories | Call for completed works

Site News

I apologize in advance for what will be some instability in the look of this site.  This blog is hosted on the wordpress.com backbone and makes use of free themes. Finding one that incorporates all the widgets and menus I’d like to build into the site can sometimes be a bit messy.  I may upgrade this blog in the next few weeks but please be patient if things seem to move left to right back to left over the next few weeks.

On to more interesting things, on January 1,  I will be hanging a page off the top menu for serials completed in 2013.

While there are ways to access/find complete serials on  Webfiction Guide or Tuesdayserial.com, I still think that the completed works aren’t highlighted enough within this community of writers and readers.  For this first attempt, I’ve made a call to the existing communities where authors who have contributed content /input into this blog participate.  So look forward to yet another post this week 🙂

Now on to the rest of the news! 

Forbes.com blogs cover Wattpad and other self-publishing efforts

Suw Charman-Anderson regularly covers the self-publishing world for the Forbes.com site and unfortunately I neglected to post this last month when she decided to talk about Wattpad. 

Make sure you watch her posts — she also covered the unveiling of the  new look at Smashwords  and their partnership with Scribd.  This should be of particular interest to to those of you looking for eventual outlets for your compiled serial.   Mark Coker’s blog  brings insight into the deal’s benefits for authors:

For Scribd’s subscription ebook service, authors will earn 60% of the list price on all qualifying reads, and here they’ve added a cool twist.  With subscription services, the author or publisher earns credit for a full read when the reader reaches a certain trigger point, measured by the percentage of the book that is read.  The first 10% of the book is a free sample, similar to a retailer.  Excluding the sample, once the reader reads an additional 20% of the book, a full sale is triggered and the Smashwords author earns 60% of the list price, up to a maximum of about $12.50 per read…
 

Harlequin makes good, signs deals with several Wattpad Authors

Wattpad’s partnerships with the traditional publishing world seem to prove the adage that perhaps publishing online isn’t a kiss of death, after all.  Harlequin is among the best known of romance publishers (although to be fair, they also have their fair share of critics for some of their deals they cut with authors.)    But this overall news is positive . Instead of four final selections,  six authors are signed for books . The winning book titles are listed at the Wattpad blog.

Huffington Post continues it’s ongoing love/hate with serialized formats

Huffington Post’s cadre of bloggers do occasionally pay attention to serialized fiction (see tag: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tag/serialized-fiction ).    I think, however, compared to other formats it hasn’t been as well covered . Still there are a few references from this past month worth looking through. You have the overall positive comment from Mark Siegel, “The New Serial Revolution” which really talks about fiction and comics, among other works.  And there’s the sort of impatient content consumer argument outlined in John Branch’s dissection of “serial television.”

Good Business Advice

In her post, Crowdfunded Anthologies: Concerns For Writers, Victoria Strauss translates a lot of the knowledge the crew at “Writer Beware” has acquired over the years about predatory /careless practices by publishers.   Anthologies are starting to become increasingly common as Kickstarter projects for several reasons — some altruistic and some perhaps not so much.   She poses several interesting ethical dilemmas/questions as do some of the commentators. Excellent read.  And the blog is an excellent resource if you as an indie or new writer isn’t quite sure if something is on the up and up.

Discoveries — Serial sites /Publishers

Wither Webfiction and Weblit? Reflections on 2013 – A reality check.

As we head into 2014, it’s rather perplexing to find myself wondering if webfiction made much progress this year overall.  Webfiction (or online serials if we follow this year’s fashionable name for this writing format) may have made considerable progress if one looks at the story of Wattpad , Kindle Serials, and Jukepop Serials this past year.  There’s a lot of media energy around those start-ups. Wattpad has brought electronic fiction to the attention of the major traditional publishing houses. Kindle Serials has proven its mettle and seems like it’s here to stay. And Jukepop’s author community has revitalized the Twitter/WFG forums.

The shrinking independent community

Smaller startups like  text-novel.com and fictionaut.com look to be plateauing based on their read /viewer stats on their newest works.  Plympton and Eat Your Serial have evolved into different types of publishing entities altogether.

More worrisome is that a large number of independent  players in webfiction remain silent (novelr.com) or slid off grid.  The publisher 1889.ca/Ergofiction has largely gone quiet in forums and social media channels.  (ETA: Ergofiction’s home page is also gone, replaced by an interior design page.) Fluffy-Seme.com and Weblit.us (originators of the #weblit hashtag)   have gone offline. Novelr.com — one of the more influential blogs on webfiction — went 100% dormant  in 2013.  The podcast Webfiction World lost its mainstay hosts and Webcast Beacon realigned their content to focus more on webfiction readings and allied with the long-running podcast EpiGuide. 

While it is good to see larger more corporate entities participate in digital fiction, there is not necessarily much trickle down effect to other authors. None of the big three are open to advertising or cross-pollination.  So their success hasn’t necessarily reshaped anything for those not within those platforms.

If there is one small branch being offered to the webfic community it comes via WordPress.  Wordpress.com highlighted serial novels/online novels during the month of August (http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/going-serial-2/) . However, there’s not been a necessarily obvious increase in traffic to a wide group of authors posting under the various fiction tags on their sites.

Therefore the plight of marketing the independent sites seems to be left to those  entities like EpiGuide, Webfiction Guide, and Muses Success.   However, for those who think these are the venues that will bring readers need to be aware that these are not solutions.

EpiGuide celebrated its fifteen year in existence recently. (Congratulations!)  I suspect it will ride out the ups and downs of the digital fiction world for a while longer as they have both the web  video series and webprose to cover (and web series do seem have more viral capability than web prose).

Webfiction Guide and Muses Success Directories: Not your marketing strategy

I have always encouraged folks to use the directories to list their works. But expectations of these directories themselves have to be grounded in some kind of reality.

What is that reality?

I know that website ranking tools are not necessarily reliable. In fact, short of the website owners telling us directly their statistics, we can only use them to guess at a range or magnitude of visits coming to directories (and “how” as you can see hints here at the now quiet novelr.com in a post by the main site maintainer for WFG, Chris Poirier).But spend one or two hours on google trying to look at these sites and you have to realize that, at best, you are getting a few hundred visitors to these websites (with WFG likely outperforming Muses Success). How many of these visitors actually engage cannot be guessed at with this pseudo-data, but there’s no reason to believe that 100% visitors actually stay and browse the directories.

wfgguide-estimate2 webfictionguide1muses-success-websitelooker 2013muses-success1

This, of course, makes sense.  There’s only so much these directories can do because they’re not marketed and the social influence of those who developed these platforms is kind of limited. (Most of the coders/editors are not active on Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.)  None of these guys are aligned with bigger names out there in content creation.  Those big names align themselves with the corporate /venture-capital funded entities, after all such as Wattpad or Amazon.

Of interest to me (although it may not be true) is information from TrafficEstimate.com on WebfictionGuide.

webfictionguide-3
My  assumption is that if the data is even partly true, then the lesson is for those who put great efforts into WFG (in terms of ensuring visibility) that the directory may be a decreasingly ineffective platform to “market.” For those who put a lot of stock in directories, this kind of data should be a wake up call.  While we should continue to thank the directory owners and hosts for their support, the reality is that author efforts to market their work should not rest upon these directories.  If their traffic/influence continues to go down  then an author needs to look at other options.   There’s sometimes considerable energy being devoted to worrying about persons’ ranking on the WFG sites (Top Web Fiction, Novels Online) while the data suggests that there are fewer visitors coming in to begin with.   The site itself is operating in a fairly passive mode with few new readers coming into the system through new methods (other than organic search) other than those brought in by other authors. In particular, this year, WFG indices and forums received an infusion of authors from Jukepop Serials.

The idea that other authors also are going to help you market your work has some value.  Other authors can make a difference in terms of raising the visibility of your work via links/tweets.  However, the continued turnover and disappearance of sites I mentioned before (many of which were author-created) should be a warning. You can never rely on the existence of other sites to take up the general cause and make “webfiction” famous so that you, as an author, can benefit.  You are, as an author, ultimately responsible for your own marketing as pages and directories come and go .

It’s not all doom and gloom, however, for the webfiction/serial novel community.  While the ebook field is crowded and appears to have plateaued in 2013, there are small hints at ebooks helping specific authors. While I don’t have data from those folks who have published their ebooks and linked them squarely to their own fiction sites, there’s anecdotal information out there suggesting that it does contribute.  As we evolve into an era of tablets over e-readers, one hopes that going from ebook to website will become a norm.

In closing out 2013, I have to say that I have no new resolutions to offer.  Last year’s post still holds true.   Instead of spending time regurgitating that content, I’ll be revisiting the must-read posts at Novelr.com and mulling the future. 

Wattpad does crowdfunding

I received an email from Wattpad earlier this week with some rather interesting implications for serial writers/self-publishers. Long story short, it seems they’ve decided to start experimenting with some form of crowdfunding a la Kickstarter/Indiegogo.

To my knowledge this is the first time there has been an attempt at creating a platform purely for crowdfunding and tailored solely to writers, in particular serial fiction writers and self-publishers. (Pubslush is the other attempt I was aware of, but that particular program had or has relatively messy execution/ambiguous aims in that it was also originally intended as a hybrid traditional publishing model, i.e. suspicious rights grabs ahoy. They did relaunch last year with a revised model, but I am not aware that the relaunch has been particularly successful. Further reading: Writer Beware, Publisher’s Weekly. Some brief research also uncovered the UK-based Unbound, but I haven’t heard much about that one and a brief glance at their site seems to indicate a similar hybrid model as Pubslush, where funding is not so much the end goal as “getting picked up”.)

At any rate, it’s certainly the first organized attempt I know of to leverage a preexisting, built in reader community/structure… as opposed to the cold pitching model Kickstarter and its imitators are known for on the surface, if not in actual practice. On Wattpad, the readers are already there — and, in theory, a participating author would have already carved out a fanbase from that readership. Rather than having complete unknowns appealing to the masses and attempting to gain traction that way, the setup here has more to do with converting free readers into paying fans. Which has, in the past, been a much stronger basis for successful crowdfunding attempts (this last being more of an example of preexisting network -> active supporters).

I think it’s a very natural move for Wattpad to make, especially after all the fanfic -> publishing successes over the years (minus the legal gray areas of fanfic*). And though I’ve said before that Wattpad’s audience seems to be vastly skewed to a younger (credit card-less) population, things won’t necessarily stay that way, and successful crowdfunding doesn’t actually require a high percentage of supporters…

* Obviously Wattpad does host (and encourage) fanfic as well, but I highly doubt they are going to allow this crowdfunding program to mix with that end of things, as it would raise all sorts of complications I don’t even want to begin to imagine.

There still isn’t very much information on the program posted yet (all requirements so far seem pretty standard for a crowdfunding program, though perhaps people with more familiarity with the process will notice stuff I haven’t), but it’s definitely going to be worth seeing how this experiment plays out. In fact, I’m actually more curious to see how they’ll deal with issues of fulfillment, which have been notoriously hairy for Kickstarter.

Barometer post – Proposed Twitter Chat for Webfiction and Online serial authors

After a few tweet-exchanges with @ubersoft and @shutsumon last week, we thought there would be merit in organizing a tweet-chat later in the month to focus on online serials/ webfiction.

The first proposed chat would be a “Get to know each other” chat focusing on

  • Who You Are
  • Your free-to-read serial
  • Why you’re doing it
  • What you have learned so far.

Invitees are welcome from multiple platforms — including authors who host their own work (via their own blog/website) and those that post at free-to-read communities such as Jukepop Serials and  Wattpad.

Of course anyone else will be free to join in, including those who are curious about starting their own serial.

The reason for this call is that we have three major timezones to attempt to coordinate (North America, UK, and the NZ/AU) .   I’m looking to maximize participation and so want to poll those of you who are serious about participating about several proposed dates and times. (For reference, we are looking at two weekend blocks of times.)

I suspect many of you are on twitter (and we haven’t yet connected) so would you please comment/contact me via this post (or twitter @whirlyshirly or plumopera at gmail dot com) if you are serious about participating with your email.

Look for a more formal call on this blog once/if we can get things together.