Publish Written & Audio Serials in a New Way!

6 years ago | Amanda Meuwissen (Member)

Hi! I am the Managing Editor for the online serial publishing site BigWorldNetwork.com. We're not like most of the sites listed here because we're not merely for serial posting; we are a publisher. Meaning we take in submissions for what work we'll represent, and if we choose to use a story, we offer editing, narration for audio versions, cover art and merchandise, and as much marketing for the story as possible. We also offer the chance for publication once a story is complete, compiling the serial into a paperback, audiobook, and eBook for sale.

I see so many posting sites around, many quite amazing, and a few that even pay for content, but none that offer what we are. Does anyone know of any other sites out there that are offering editing and publication like this? Or audio? We want to be sure this is something serial writers would actually be interested in, and we'd love to hear feedback.

No, we do not ask for any payment at any point EVER. We're here to make YOU money. We're a new site, having only been around for a little over a year, so we're still struggling to bring in revenue to pay our authors for their serials. We have, however, published 9 of our series as books, and are happily providing payment to those authors through royalty sales. We recently upgraded our entire site and are now offering our content to readers and listeners for $3 a month subscriptions (hence not being normally listed on this site, though I was encouraged by a Moderator to post here in the forums), but the first three chapters of any story are available to read or listen to for free, so fans can see what they like before they commit. But that $3 covers everything on the site, not only one story, and we have over 40 available so far.

It's a slow progress to pull in more writers, editors, narrators, artists, and the readers and listeners we need to really be successful and make everyone the money they've earned, but we really believe we have a new and exciting concept that puts publishing back in the hands of the creators, while still providing the type of professional polish you expect from a traditional publisher.

I'd love to hear thoughts on our concept, if anyone's interested, or even examples of other sites that might be similar (or that you think are better) so that we can continue to improve. We really want to exist for the creators first, and as a new company we're interested in whatever input we can get.

Thanks!

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Page: 12

Responses

  1. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    This thread may disappear, as Chris doesn't like advertising in the forums, and this is perilously close to being such. Might want to contact him and ask.

    Anyways, I look at something like this and before I've even heard the pitch or started to look it over, I'm wondering... what's the catch?

    As I investigate, I'm trying to answer that question. First off: why would I go this route as opposed to striking out on my own? Bigworldnetwork asks for 1000-2500 word updates (4-10 pages double spaced = about that). Right off the bat, we're imposing a restiction on a textual genre that's appealing because of its flexibility. My updates range from 4000-9000 words. Is Bigworldnetwork not for me?

    12 episode seasons, four seasons per year. Again, restrictions. Does the author have freedom to write as they see fit, or are they expected to write a complete storyline in that 12 episode season? An author is initially brought to the table with a 12 episode season, but are they automatically accepted for a second season? If so, why have the restriction of 'seasons'? If not, then what happens to the stories that only got through one season (or more, but haven't yet finished)? One season is less than 30k words, not even half a traditional novel - does Bigworldnetwork go ahead and publish the short work?

    There's other questions: does Bigworldnetwork own the rights to the story? That's a big one. It's the first place many publishers (big or small) will go after an author. Losing the rights as an author can cost one big time, and it's an easy thing to unwittingly sign over.

    What restrictions does BWN impose, beyond the apparent ones on wordcount and 'seasons'? Does it require that the author avoid publishing in other areas? If someone signs up with BWN and then goes off to release their book on Amazon, or continues to post their serial on Wordpress, does that void the contract? Does it impose penalties? What if the author seeks non-BWN-associated means of income (soliciting donations, offering incentive chapters or selling merchandise)?

    I look at the offer, and there's mentions of nebulous payment, but that requires readers (more on that after). I'd actually feel less concerned about what BWN is proposing if you were being upfront and blunt about how you intended to make enough money to pay for the cover art, editing, publication and your own salaries. As is, I can't see how you'd stay in business once you've paid what you're promising. I mean no offense in saying so, but that leads me to think that you're either overly optimistic about BWN's success, you haven't thought it through or you're screwing over the writers (either by producing low quality goods to fulfill your promises or gouging the authors in other departments).

    And is the offer as good as it sounds? I look at the art that's on the site now and I don't like any of the images that are currently up - is that what's being offered? In terms of the stories, none wow me with their presentations or premises. They come across as very generic, to the point that I'm not sure if they're real or just placeholders.

    So much of this, it's little things that turn me off or make me that much more skeptical. Before I've seen your site, I have no idea what it is; the name is 'Bigworldnetwork' without any reference to books or serials or the written word in the title. The moment that I see your site, I get a splash image with 'A network that will change the way you enjoy literature.' The emphasis is on BigWorldNetwork's premise/image, and not the amazing stories you have available. That leaves me wondering if you really 'exist for the creators first'? I actually have to dig to find the stories themselves. There's no apparent forums, comment threads or discussion areas where one can see if other customers are happy.

    From the perspective of an author, I'm not sold. You need evidence of interested readers to entice me, success stories and works that have 'made it'. Failing that, I'd want full transparency about what's going on and what's being offered/demanded, so I'm going in with my eyes wide open.

    From the perspective of a reader, I can't see any reason to pay $3 a month for this. I can find other stuff to read for free elsewhere online. (And as an author, this fact makes me wonder if you'll find the subscribers to keep it all sustainable).

    It's a catch-22, balanced by the fact that, as you admit, there's a bunch of other sites out there trying to do something similar.

    Forgive me for my skepticism and critical attitude, but there's a lot of sites out there trying to take advantage of hapless authors or scam people out of money, and in the absence of more information, I have to assume the worst.

  2. Amanda Meuwissen (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Chris was the one who suggested I post here. I am looking for feedback on our general premise more so than submitters and fans, but of course there’s always the hope that someone might be interested.

    We like to think of BWN like a television network. Notice how we update specific series on specific days each week, and that’s why we decided to start with the 12 episode seasons, just like a television series. However, as we’ve worked with authors, we’ve extended episode length in many cases, or allowed for shorter bonus seasons to finish off a plotline. The reason we limit to a season at a time is for several reasons. Sometimes an author needs to take a break from a story, and taking off a season gives them that time. Also, sometimes we feel a story needs more work after the initial season, and we request an author takes the time to consider their story more before returning. We always work with our authors through editing and consultation to make sure they can and do return, so that the story plays out until completion, regardless of how many total season that might be. 4 seasons in a year just means that is how many there are in a year’s time, not that we expect an author’s story to be complete in 4 seasons, though often 4 seasons is a good length for a book, or volume 1, if the author wishes to compile then.

    Our authors so far have worked with our restrictions, but we want to be open to other possibilities too, so we do play it by ear as new authors come to us. Publishing a compiled, complete series is also case by case. Someone who publishes on our site is not obligated to accept our publishing proposal for a paperback, eBook, and audiobook; this is simply something we offer. It’s an entirely separate contract agreement, since royalties are involved.

    We consider the rights to belong to the authors, but do ask that stories not be previously published elsewhere, or if they have, that they cease being published elsewhere while being published with us. Our contracts state that from the point the last episode of a story goes up on our site, we can keep that story up for 2 years. If, at that point, the author would like to publish somewhere else, we will take it down to allow them to do that. We do welcome authors to market their stories additionally however they wish, but do request they keep us informed of what they do, mostly so we can help out where possible.

    Right now everyone involved is providing time and content pro bono, because we believe in the idea, but the site only needs 5000 subscribers to be able to pay our current authors, narrators, editors, and lastly eventual salary for the three person executive team. Each of us on the team right now has a day job and is putting in a vast amount of hours outside of work hours on BWN. We’ve only just started, but we feel that 5000 subscribers is an attainable goal, and we have been working with advice from one of the investors in Audible as we grow the business.

    It’s unfortunate you are not pleased with the cover art we have so far. I don’t think there’s a single one I don’t like, since they are so varied for the content, but that is always subjective. We work with our authors to create the best cover art, sometimes provided by the authors themselves, our Creative Director, or outside artists we contract. All of the art you see have been approved and are loved by the authors.

    Our content may not be for you, even though we have some truly stellar work from all over the world, and from several published authors as well. Heather Justesen and Michael Young are some of our indie authors who have helped spread the word, and we have contributors from the States, England, Australia, and Austria. I am consistently amazed with the stories we get and produce, though we certainly try to help out the up and coming as well.

    With the new site we’ve added the ability to comment on series and episodes, but since this is so new, we haven’t had many come through yet. Unfortunately, the site switch we underwent recently means we lost all of the previous comments from 2012, which were hosted through Facebook, and we do apologize about that, though we believe the new site is vastly superior and worth the trouble of transferring everything. A forum in and of itself is something we have considered as well, but we worry about that taking too much focus away from the stories.

    You remind me that we should have our testimonials up. They are in our marketing video, which we are working on a new version of, but I’ll keep that in mind so that actual responses from our authors and what we’ve done for them are visible on the site.

    While there are tons of sites that simply allow people to post stories, I have never seen one like ours, which offers editing, art, and actual publication at the end of it all. If you know of any sites like that, please let me know!

    One of the reasons we created this site was because often good authors either never get a chance with traditional publishers, or they get screwed over by scams, so I completely understand skepticism. We’re a site by creators for creators, so we’re doing all we can to make a unique dream work. Your comments are helpful and appreciated as we strive to grow and be a better site.

    Let me know if I missed any of your concerns! Thank you!

  3. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I noted a lot of concerns, so it's understandable that you missed one or two. Rephrasing/restating some and adding a few more

    1) Is the author free to solicit donations or offer incentive chapters?

    2) You say you produce merchandise as part of the complete package, but can the author get and sell merchandise through other channels?

    3) You say, "We consider the rights to belong to the authors" - but do the rights belong to the author? there's a significant difference between acting like the rights belong to someone and the rights actually belonging to that person.

    4) Can I ask how many subscribers you have, and perhaps get a sense of the rate of growth as it's developed since 2011 Where was it in early 2012?

    5) You've stated that:

    You have 40 active authors at present.
    You have 9 already published.
    You have an unstated number of staff members.
    You need roughly 5000 subscribers to sustain this.

    I can get a sense of the numbers, but can you clarify how many subscribers you'll need to pull in for each new author that joins? Is there an established ceiling to the number of authors you can maintain? (Assuming that you'll exhaust certain channels for reaching the potential subscriber base and/or each author will only bring so many readers with them)

    6) On a similar note, can I ask how you're marketing? How do you draw in new readers?

    I like the underlying idea of this, a more defined & clear route for serial authors to find a degree of success. I have a mess of questions relating to the publication process and the chances (I note that you say chance of publication) of getting that far, but I'll cut it short for the time being.

    That said, I'm assuming you can't outline the exact payment offered to an author, and I'm left wondering if taking this particular option would hurt one's chances for runaway success. You've got the barrier to entry for new readers ($3 subscription/sign up), limited format in release schedule and word count (with some flexibility, as you note) and less freedom to use other channels (for publication and presumably income) as one serializes.

    Now, I'm making assumptions here, both about the nature of any success (how one defines such) and the income, but would I be too off base if I were assuming 10 staff members, 40 authors and the goal of 5000 subscribers to mean that each person working under BWN was dividing that income relatively evenly and pulling in ~$300 a month?

  4. Amanda Meuwissen (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    We’ve never had any request to solicit outside donations or to offer incentive chapters, so we’d probably want to discuss how the author would go about that and be aware of their plans before they go ahead with anything, but I don’t see why not.

    We also have never had an author request to get additional merchandise, though we have provided books and merch to authors when they’re touring or attending conventions. Again, we would want to be informed of their plans, but I can’t imagine we’d refuse. When we produce merchandise, we take a percentage of sales. If they were to request to produce and sell something on their own, obviously we would not. If they produced something themselves but wanted to still sell it on our store…we’d have to work out a special arrangement I think to determine any royalties for us in that unique case.

    Sorry for any ambiguous wording. Our contracts state that the author retains full rights, but require that they follow stipulations in the contract that they don’t publish elsewhere while with us, as previously stated. The only thing we hold the rights to is the audio version, and only so far as that we often provide a narrator and add music and BWN bumpers. Obviously, if the author were to record their own version or produce a different audio version, they own that, we simply own the version produced for our site. If an author decides to publish a paperback version with someone else after working with us, they can, and we’re open to working out special circumstances to take down our version of the story even before the two year contract mark if it would otherwise interfere with them publishing through another company.

    My apologies also about misleading subscription comments. We only just started asking for paid subscribers less than a month ago, so we do not have accurate numbers. I can tell you that last year we had 300 FREE subscribers who signed up for alerts about specific series updates, which would email them new episodes each week. We still offer that feature, but it’s no longer an accurate count of subscribers. We’ll need to have been running with the paid subscription option longer to be able to provide those numbers. We have been getting around 250 unique site hits each day on the new site since launch, which was February 9, 2013.

    It’s hard to give a staff number, since some of our editors also narrate, some authors also narrate not only their own series but others, but I’d say we have a dozen staff members (Associate Editors and Narrators), if you don’t count those who are also authors.

    5000 was a number we worked out to cover that amount, yes, which would all be flat fees, and we have debated putting a cap on how many current series we have running at any given time, so it wouldn’t be exponential to continue covering payments per season. We’d probably cap at 28 per season, 4 series per day, but as we grow, we could consider extending that. This has worked well since authors tend to trade off who’s taking a season break, then getting someone new in, etc.

    We have a new marketing plan in motion that includes blog hops/tours for our authors, attendance at conventions (our executive team are guests at Chicago Comic Con this year), regular contests we run, guest blogs, social media content, and a very long list of additional areas we’re looking into, including a push to get our author’s books on shelves in Barnes and Noble, rather than focusing only on the eBook versions. It’s something we’re really hitting hard this year, and is constantly being updated as we explore new ways to promote the authors and the site.

    I say ‘chance’ of publication because we understand if an author chooses to publish the final version elsewhere. We also wait until a story is complete before we publish, and we have one or two authors who fall off before completing their story, which can always happen. We offer every single author who completes a story with us the opportunity to publish it, if they choose.

    We’re a cross between an indie publisher option, especially for those who might otherwise self-publish, and an outlet for serial writers, so while we want to please all sides of that, it is difficult. There is no barrier for those who complete their series and publish the final story with us, and we even utilize the Kindle borrowing feature, so compiled books can be read there for FREE while still providing us revenue. We also encourage authors to provide new unique content for inclusion in their compiled stories so that there is extra incentive to buy for someone who may have already read the story on our site. But yes, for the serial component there is the barrier of $3 a month from readers. We really worked hard on how best to create revenue for this concept, originally planning for ads, but in the end this came out as the top option. We are a publisher, so we have a set schedule, and we do limit publication elsewhere, that is true and won’t change, so we also understand that not every serial author would be right for us.

    5000 subscribers is our initial goal for paying the set fees we believe are best at this point for everyone, and could also provide limited salaries for the executive team with the goal of quitting our day jobs and pouring that much more into BWN to grow even further. To start, our thought is to pay each author $5 a page per season, narrators $2, and editors $1, and as subscribers grow, we’d increase that before ever increasing staff salary, though we’d love to be able to hire on editors and others over time, rather than only providing flat fees.

    We’ve had everyone working with us for free for over a year, and appreciate them all so much for their belief in the idea, but starting small is how it goes, and we’re willing to work hard to get there. We see how so many people struggle with self-publishing because they can’t get a word in at a traditional publisher, and how people post for free with nothing in return on sites and blogs all over the net. Our hope is to create another option that will hopefully also provide some revenue, and maybe even quite a bit of revenue over time.

  5. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Thanks for answering my questions thus far. Sorry to grill you - just trying to get a sense of the project as a whole.

    4-10 pages per episode, $5 a page, that's $20-50 per week, $80-200 per month, for participating authors. It's better than some serial authors get, to be sure. For from a pure business point of view, it might be worthwhile for some authors.

    I keep going back to the idea of success- how do you define it? For some, earning that kind of money can be considered success, as would be getting published and having a book out there to earn further income. For others, though, it's establishing a following and getting to the point where they can make a living doing what they love (writing).

    I don't know if the model you're posing would put anyone on the fast track to building a loyal fanbase or following. In these very forums, and in discussions with other WFG authors, I've noted parallels between frequency/quantity of updates and one's success, with consistency (and obviously quality) playing strong roles as well. The most successful serials I'm aware of have far surpassed the kind of pagecount & schedule you're describing, and those are the serials that you'd want to have available to draw readers in.

    That opens up a whole can of worms though - if you break from the restriction of 4-10 pages per chapter, you get people writing quantity more than quality, as they're being paid by the page. If you stick to that restriction, though, you put yourself in a position where an author's updates are too small and too few and far between to really garner an audience all on their own.

    That said, it leads me to think that BigWorldNetwork is more of a collective, reliant on other authors (and staff) to maintain interest and uphold a standard of quality.

    I don't know if I'd be able to do that. Especially with the knowledge that writing one update a week for $50 would be bringing in less than I'm earning from my writing at present. A subscriber base of ~250 individuals is less than a quarter of my current readerbase.

    Would I be willing to write a second serial as a side project to supplement my income? It's possible. But as I mentioned before, I think I'd want to see it taking off (in subscribers and publicity) before I made the leap.

  6. SgL (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Hi Amanda - we met at the Goodreads forum.

    I think for me as an author the key hinge points around the terms are
    1) Royalty percentage
    2) Exclusionary period
    3) Value of adapted services

    The menu that you have is unique in webfic so far, but its components exist elsewhere.
    * 1889 Labs does the backend of publication, i.e., when something is done and in needing of that transition to ebook/print. They provide editing and support with marketing. They do take royalties which none of the authors have disclosed but the amount was "reasonable, considering" or something to that effect.

    They don't do the audio and multimedia thus far, but other webfic authors have done it on their own (most recently MCA Hogarth who also frequents these forums).

    * Wattpad, Movellas, Figment, ar eall community-centric. They do not offer additional services of taking a serial to some other multimedia format, but their terms generally do not require exclusivity or a "cooling off" period.

    *Chromatic Press (to launch this year) will not be community-centric, but largely by invitation/audition/pitch. They clearly have the same concept of multi-platform adaptation. Reference "Tokyo Demons" listed on WFG and you'll see that the audio dramas/ebooks are actually probably more a factor in their success than the actual prose stuff.

    * Jukepopserials - period of exclusivity is six months. Decent traffic (if I'm guessing by the vote counts of the top 30). Not sure how they capitalized their payments to authors though, so not sure how this will work longer term.

    The model I would suggest looking at further is not any serial community, but something like Mangamagazine (http://www.mangamagazine.net/). Highlighted/select stories get to share in the ad revenue pool. Others not in the "elite" pool do not. A great many webcomickers who produce higher quality works have been defecting there because they aren't required to be exclusive. Rather, they lag their other sites by a few weeks to allow MM have the first "release". Better yet, they don't tell the webcomickers how to run their own sites from what I can tell. They obviously advertise MM, but they also can keep their existing ads.

    In terms of enticing authors in to the system , do you have two tiers of admission? Perhaps there are those who just want readers and want to avoid the terms of adding/benefiting from the services.

    The two year "cooling off" period is honestly scary to those of us who don't have a clear plan ahead of time for the ultimate length and shape of the serial.

    For the younger authors, sometimes if the "community" aspect is rewarding enough, they will abandon the big sites for medium sites. Every so often I see young authors wanting to "quit Wattpad" for Figment or some other more youthful, shiny, and smaller environment in which they can become popular or gain attention. I think there's something to that constant talk of defection and that anyone who wants to unsettle the current status quo and form a large reading site has to go all in on reader engagement. Free books. Reblogs. "Meet the reader/reviewer" etc.

    As a reader:
    Free reads exist in a lot of places. Readers like free reads. Paid content is not a model that even the newspapers /magazines have gotten a good handle around. Said it elsewhere, so will just link it here: http://online-novel-blog.blogspot.com/2013/02/why-you-should-read-about-paywalls-and.html

  7. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    If I could 'like' or 'upvote' posts here on Webfictionguide I'd do so with yours, Sgl. Nice compilation of info, and you touched on ideas/issues with the paid service that would have taken me a whole lot more rambling to get around to, phrasing them very succinctly.

  8. DaringNovelist (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I both agree and disagree with some of the things said here.

    Where I agree: As an author, I need to know details of contractual rights. I would never sign with someone who didn't express a clear idea of exactly what they were buying in legal publishing terms. (But I don't expect every detail to be explicated here. For this discussion, imho, a ball park is good enough. But I would have to see the contract language before I would even consider submitting to a new effort like this.)

    Where I sort of agree: what you're asking for is specialized, and I don't have anything that fits, so I'm not particularly interested personally -- but that's nothing wrong with your business model. That's just a personal compatibility issue.

    Where I disagree with what others have said:

    1.) I LIKE that you have restrictions. That's a professional reliability factor. Your audience needs to count on you. Maybe those particular restrictions will or won't work for you, but _having_ restrictions is the exactly right approach. A site can't be all things to all people. You need your own identity and focus.

    2.) At the same time, don't worry whether somebody else is doing something similar. Yes, be aware that they exist and what they are doing, but a unique business model is not really a very good selling point, especially for readers. Readers want something they can understand and count on without having to read the faq. Customers usually prefer that your format be invisible. Something they don't even notice. It's your content, not your format, that needs to be attractive and unique.

    CONTENT CONTENT CONTENT
    (Just thought I'd repeat that in all caps.)

    It's fine that you say you're going to have editors and all that, but what readers really want is to count on the personality and flavor of the content. It isn't really the fixing of typos that makes curated content appealing: it's the promise of a flavor.

    So, you choose the content... what are you looking for? Don't tell me "excellence" or "any kind of good story" or "serial fiction of xxxx length." Are you looking for particular genres? R-rated? Stuff for kids? Is your audience made up of hipsters? Nice clean-living church ladies? Teen girls with smart phones? It can be more than one audience, it can be a complex audience, but you need an identity before I know if your site is going to work for me.

    When I see a posting of writer's guidelines or a call for manuscripts, and it's all about what you will do for writers, and nothing about what you're doing for readers, I run the other way no matter how much money you offer or how good the deal is.

    Because writers are not your customers. Readers are.

    And as a writer, what matters most to me is how devoted your readers are to you. What's your subscriber base? How big? How long have you had them around? What do they like? What's your most popular genre? What are your most enthusiastic readers looking for? Are your readers the same as my readers?

    Maybe you are too new to have that info yet, in which case, I want to know, what audience are you going after? Who are you targeting? _How_ are you targeting them?

    That said, I really like the sound of what your site could be.

    It sounds a lot like a magazine or pulp publisher of yore, which I think is an option that serial fiction really needs out there. Something with an old-style editor and a personality and a flavor that readers can count on, but also with a variety of content to browse through, regular new things to keep them coming back.

    Maybe that's not what you have in mind, but the principle of who your audience is still applies: Who are they? What are they looking for? Are they the same as MY readers?

    As for enticing writers: if you pay and you offer a prime audience for their work, they will come. You don't have to look just among the online writing community. However, if you don't have the audience yet, you may need to come up with some cash to attract the calibre of writers to jumpstart the site.

    Camille

  9. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Not much to contribute here, but I will confirm that I told Amanda she could post. That said, it's a little closer to an ad than I had expected. But, as you guys have turned it into something of a conversation, I'll let it pass.

    Chris

  10. Amanda Meuwissen (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Thanks, Chris, and I apologize if my beginning came off too much like an ad. It’s difficult to know how best to begin, but I’m pleased the conversation has gone the route I intended.

    SgL, thank you for the other site mentions. It’s good for us to keep informed about sites similar to ours. I happened to stumble upon that other serial group at GoodReads and thought it was a good place to throw out our name, which is what eventually brought me here, so we could get an idea of how the serial community would respond to us, but it’s not solely where we’re looking for submissions. The authors we have so far vary from those who follow the serial method, to those who have completed stories they share with us that we then split up into chapters/episodes.

    We originally considered keeping our site FREE and planned to use ads for revenue, but after extensive research, that model was not as feasible. It was our Audible mentor who urged us toward the subscription model, since our ultimate goal is more like a Netflix, Hulu, Audible type site. We also feel that $3 is very low compared to most other paid sites.

    DaringNovelist, you can rest assured that anyone who submits material to us is provided our seasonal contract before anything is made final, so that they can carefully read it over and discuss any concerns with us, and any of our authors are welcome to request to look at our compilation publishing proposal even long before they’re at that stage. We’ve worked very hard to create packages we feel are more for their benefit than our own.

    Our submission page and the series we have so far show quite nicely what we’re looking for. We are not genre specific or a niche publisher in that way, and in fact we work well for authors who aren’t normally the serial type as well as those who are. We accept all genre and ratings because we’re thinking more like a television network. Sure, there are niche networks, like SyFy, but then there are NBC, CBS, ABC which have a wide variety from comedy to drama to news (non-fiction) to Once Upon a Time and Supernatural which even get at Fantasy and Horror. So when I say we’re looking for anything for any audience, that’s the truth. However, I can tell you that when I am looking at submissions I am more concerned with the ability to tell a good, compelling narrative, with interesting characters that pull me in from the first chapter than I care about zero typos and perfect grammar. I’ve had plenty of technically perfect submissions that I turned away. We do have a strong following for our fantasy material, which seems to be what we have the most of, though I’d say our modern fantasy/supernatural stories are our most popular, and our Romance at both 15 and 18 ratings.

    What we offer to readers is plain on the first page, and will be supplemented even more once our video is revamped. We had a great video for our Indiegogo campaign last year which helped us get our dedicated server and move the site. We’re going to tweak the content of that to work as a more general about us video, since it had such great content, including author testimonials, and focuses on the reader/listener experience first and foremost.

    What I was interested in discovering from these types of online communities is your response, since I think we do have more traditional authors right now whose main goal is eventual publication rather than just the serial presence each week. The things you have all brought up are great to consider as we grow and shape the site.

    What we think sets us apart from other publishers is that we do take a personal approach to the editing, working toward the best possible story without trying to alter the author’s overall style. Even when we turn submissions away, I personally edit their submission content and email them explaining why we turned them away and how they can improve, etc. And we encourage repeat submissions as writers work on their stories, which most publishers wouldn’t accept. We also think we can be an outlet for self-publishers who maybe aren’t having as easy a time with the process on their own. We certainly have the talent and content; our main goal now is making sure people know we exist.

  11. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I thought Daringnovelist's comments here were particularly on target:

    When I see a posting of writer's guidelines or a call for manuscripts, and it's all about what you will do for writers, and nothing about what you're doing for readers, I run the other way no matter how much money you offer or how good the deal is.

    Because writers are not your customers. Readers are.

    It's a huge problem that you're asking people to pay money for what they could get elsewhere for free. That's your biggest hurdle, and it's a hurdle you surmount by offering a critical service.

    In part, this is why I find it troubling/bothersome that the first thing the page does is show you that splash page. You're handicapping yourself right off the bat.

    My story's good. It's well reviewed, it's popular, it's drawing in a small income. Yet I still know that most people who visit (as many as three quarters) will look at the first page and then make a call on whether to read or to walk away. First impressions are everything, and you need to -grab- people right off.

    So I think your splash page (this page: http://bigworldnetwork.com/site/) being the first thing someone sees (it's the page google finds & the home page) is problematic on several levels. It puts the site first and the product second, it spends a lot of valuable first impression time telling readers about stuff that can be implied and it doesn't give any mention of any service or product that sets you apart. There's also a few little flaws in design.

    Site first, product second:
    The first thing someone does when they see your splash page is shift mental gears. It's the equivalent of a salesman coming to your door and telling you, "I have a subscription to sell you, and it's going to cost you $3 a month, will you hear me out?" It gets the door slammed in his face. Even if a customer is willing after that point, they're already thinking in terms of "Is this worth $36 a year?" - The salesman is that much more successful if he shows the product, hooks the customer's interest and then goes on to discuss the subscription.

    Telling about stuff that should be implied:
    The first page doesn't tell anything essential. Compare to this page as a potential splash page:
    https://bigworldnetwork.com/site/series/
    Where the product is put out there for the reader to see. The fact that it's episodic and like a TV series (which is stated twice on your homepage) is clear (though the layout could be clearer to show what's when - it's easier to gloss over). The fact that you have a variety of stuff to offer is also clear. The fact that you have both audio and text can be made easily apparent (buttons that say 'read' and 'listen'). Subscription? It's on the series page.
    You're basically wasting your customer's time when timing is critical.

    No mention of anything special:
    There's other sites that do what you're doing for free. A share of your audience already knows how the format works, so you've got to offer something to get them to look beyond that $36 a year price tag.

    Little flaws:
    Hit the End button/scroll to the bottom of the page. What do you see? A little table of contents with buttons that direct you to stuff that's already at the top of the page. It extends the page to make it look longer, and highlights an empty space, with 'no top rated series' front and center.

    1/5th of the page is taken up with a promise that doesn't really mean anything to a potential reader (more a turn off than a selling point, if the reader is anything like me). 1/3rd is taken up with empty, gray space.

    There's also the (amusing) fact that, under 'what you get', you have a series of covers, and the two most readable covers read as: 'Bull' and 'Average'.

  12. Amanda Meuwissen (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    We did originally have our series page as our homepage. We believe this is better. I think adding our video will help get at a compromise that will appeal to both sides - what the readers get out of the site and the content which highlights the stories and authors. No other site does exactly what we do, or offers what we do, so we know we are providing something unique when there are so many other sites that are similar to each other, but we also understand that we aren't for everyone.

    I appreciate the comments on the general layout and the bottom of the pages. I agree that we can continue to work on that to make it better.

  13. DaringNovelist (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    Broadcasters and production houses have personalities just as publishers and magazines do.

    These days cable channels steal all the thunder, but when the main broadcast networks were big, they always had strong reputations for distinct flavors. CBS was "The Tiffany Network" -- they had class. NBC was like Warner Brothers, a little more gritty, working class. ABC was kind of the cheap house, you might call them the tchachki network.

    But here is the thing: While they put on a broad spectrum, they did NOT put on just anything that met their standards. All networks, all publishers, all the studios consider very carefully whether something fits the house style. They know exactly who their audience is, broken down by age, gender and other demographics. They know which segments of their audience will most like which shows. They CAREFULLY take aim with everything they broadcast.

    And for those venues with a paying audience, that's what people pay for.

    I'm not saying you should put that front and center on your splash page -- heaven's no -- but you can be sure that the networks communicate this strongly to their content providers. As a writer, I want a clear idea of your editorial direction. I want to know: are you William S. Paley (CBS)? Are you Fred Silverman (ABC)?

    To take up on Wildbow's point: look at your home page and then go look at http://www.cbs.com
    Your series page is a lot closer to what they have as a landing page -- but even there, look at the size of their logo, and how much emphasis is on the shows.

    I'm not trying to be hard on you -- seriously, from the look of your series page, this is a nice start.

    Camille

  14. Amanda Meuwissen (Member)

    Posted 6 years ago

    I completely understand, and this is great feedback. We really did struggle back and forth with what was best for our homepage, and may still decide to change that in the future. I think it comes down to do we want to look more like a TV network site or a Netflix site, because there is a part of us that falls in with both.

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