Project Solis: The Problems of Collaboration

3 years ago | Blaine Sabin (Member)

I think it's safe to assume that the writers on this database have a pretty decent idea about the strengths and weaknesses of writing web serials. If you don't know me, I'm the author of Kings & Queens, and the owner of Project Solis. The idea behind it - using the nature of a constantly updating world to bring in writers to write spin-offs that are incorporated into the main codex of the story. It was a way to make something that is more active than reading a novel even more so.

However, I've had my fair share of stumbling blocks. For instance, finding writers who will stay the course. Many "writers" have expressed interest in writing for Project Solis but won't follow through once the planning phase starts. I pay writers $0.03 a word for short stories somewhere between 4,000-10,000 words. To me, that seems fair, but maybe I'm being short-sighted and it's nowhere near fair. I realize that it takes quite a bit of time to get a short story written, especially one where they are having to learn about the pre-established world. They have to plan to make sure what they write is feasible in my world, and then there's editing that has to be done. It's an involved process. I do get that.

So my question is: is there something I should be doing in order to get more writers? Should I be paying more? I've never seen a business model quite like this. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

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Responses

  1. Chrysalis (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    Have you tried advertising on r/writing? It appears to be chock full of writers who'd love to just see something they wrote published someplace. The quality of the writing is going to vary, though. Maybe ask for some samples beforehand.

    Anathema, a web serial about the effect superpowers would have on our world. http://anathemaserial.wordpress.com/
  2. Grey (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    Last time I applied for a writing position, the rate was around 3 cent a word, I think? I can double-check my emails. That for a videogame, though.
    I think the problem is that most people want to have written and don't actually like writing, but goddamn they'll claim they do - and the people who do write are too invested in their own ideas. That said, I think you need to showcase the world so people are excited about setting stories there, advertise aggressively, and vet your writers.
    In principle it's not unlike an RPG, except I can't get paid to run RPGs.

    Sidenote; now I know this exists, I'll take a look at the setting and see if it inspires me to contribute.

    I write games and guides, too.
  3. Patrick Rochefort (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    From a business perspective, getting serious, professional writers to buy into a project at 3 cents a word is already a big challenge, but it's potentially feasible.

    The greater challenge in that equation, I think, is that there has to be time invested in reading your established universe, before one can contribute to it. That's to be expected, but that's *unpaid* time. What can you do to improve that? Start with a universe bible. As short as you can make it. Establish the universe, the setting, the themes, and make it concise. Enough so that if a writer wants to read a short story or two at most, and then read your universe bible, they can take what they've read and write something that fits into your universe. Reading time should be at most an hour.

    Other things you can do: Accept reprints, if they would fit into your world, or are just plain good enough that you want to showcase them. Likewise, retain exclusive copyright on the stories provided for your project for a limited span, say 2 years from date of publication. That way 3 cents a word can, at least potentially, expand to more for the author writing it.

    All that being said, congrats on being able to offer 3 cents a word. A lot of my publications have come at the paltry half-cents-a-word model of amateur and fandom publications, it's very nice to see someone aiming and delivering higher. If you don't mind my asking, what's your income model that allows for you to pay at that rate for the work? Donation funded, advertising?

    From Winter's Ashes: A Detective with nothing left to lose, against a Necromancer with a world to gain.
  4. Blaine Sabin (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    @Patrick Rochefort

    I think most of what you said is correct. The time invested in the series is a major factor. I'm still fairly early on in the expansion of my story, both by design and choice. I felt that if I was going to write a really fast paced story that there wouldn't be enough time for people to catch on to the series, which in turns halts the amount of writers that can help the project grow. I have a concept sheet that I have been using with my first couple of writers (some of them have stayed); however, the more involved I get with them, the more I have been working on a massive codex that is also featured on the site. It's not an hour's read at all. It's much longer, so I'll look into making a more concise version, etc.

    As for reprints, that has been a bridge I haven't crossed yet. As the short stories are supposed to be in the same continuity of my world (think the Expanded Universe from Star Wars before Disney purchased it), I am a little worried with the kind of legality logistics that come with that. Maybe as a bigger following begins to crop up, I might look to being able to publish elsewhere, but it just hasn't been that big of an issue yet.

    My funding is mostly private. I get the occasional donation here or there, but I make a decent amount of money that I can allocate to this until I see some real growth. Merchandising and Patreon seem to be good methods to help a bit, but I'm not desperate to make revenue or a profit just yet. Thank you for your thoughts, though. I really appreciate you taking the time.

    @Grey

    You're more than welcome to check it out and let me know if you might be interested. Out of curiosity, what do you mean by showcase? I agree that in principal, this is like an RPG.

    @Chrysalis

    I have advertised there. That was about a year ago when I had 10 chapters or so? However, I do know that reddit tends to frown on self-advertising. I've seen people banned for it, so do you know if that's the case with /r/writing?

  5. Ryan A. Span (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    Don't knock 3 cents per word! It's a pretty respectable rate. I've worked for much worse when I first started freelancing. Try putting out a call on RPG freelancing boards, like RPG.net's: http://forum.rpg.net/forumdisplay.php?12-Game-Freelancing&s=1693f748305fb086e61e040b6e50f1b8

    I don't think you're going to get bites from true professionals for less than 4-5 cpw, but there are good mid-list freelancers who will take you up on 3.

    Patrick's advice is solid. If you want people to write for you, you need to make it easy for them, and creating a setting bible is a must. Accepting reprints (at the same rate or less) can be a good idea for stories that haven't seen much circulation. My one point of contention is that while the rights you're contracting should definitely expire, theoretical future reprints are probably not going to mean much to anyone. Markets that accept reprints are rare, and most writers generally leave their older work behind rather than try to submit it again.

  6. TanaNari (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    Personally, I'm too attached to my own ideas to do something like join another project group like that. But what genre is this, even? That's a factor, as some genres are easier to get such writers than others.

    To say nothing of exposure... for something like this project, the more people see it the better. There's a *reason* Star Trek has like 8,000 full length novels in its EU. Some writers are willing to accept the less than awesome base check and having no creative control of their own characters after the fact, solely for the exposure.

    Not that I'm saying you should expect to be competition for freakin' Star Trek... we all wish we had that option, but no... but you might have an easier time selling people on access to a potential reader base as an alternative to the pay alone. Which means, you'd have better odds for getting writers if you advertise on sites to gain readers.

    Author of Price.
  7. Blaine Sabin (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    @Ryan A. Span

    Okay then, it's settled. I have a "concept sheet" that I have given writers who have jumped onboard, but it was more bullet points than a "setting bible" so to speak. I'll streamline it and try to incorporate more of the base world. Thank you though for the advice, especially on the cpw. I was pretty sure that .03$ was middle of the pack, glad to know I'm not off.

    @TanaNari

    Actually, you bring up a good point. First of all, Kings & Queens, is Secondary World Urban Fantasy. As far as genres go, I see it being easier to get people to write rather than say, historical fiction or slice of life. But you mention a kind of catch-22 situation. Besides the main plot, the appeal is the growing number of short stories that get added and the community I'm hoping to build around this collaborative process. The more short stories I have, the more readers will hang around. And the more readers I have, the easier it'll be to get more writers. I appreciate the feedback. Definitely. So thank you.

  8. TanaNari (Member)

    Posted 3 years ago

    Yeah. I never said you weren't kinda screwed. It takes a lot of resources to force a story through the roadblock you're facing. Either that or a lot of luck.

    I'm planning to do something similar with my own setting... but I'm anticipating that I'll need to set down four or five actual novels in the setting before I start seeing results.

    Author of Price.

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