Web Serial Hosts

Every once in a while someone starts a thread about their new idea/website/business for web serial writers. Occasionally these things work (Starter Serials is a great example, though I'm not sure I ever saw a thread for that here). Often, they don't (I'm just going to mention the word "nunkstop" and leave it at that).


I wanted to start a thread where we could talk about what we as authors might want from a site that wanted to host our web serials -- which advantages we'd be looking for, which disadvantages would turn us off the idea completely. That way, if someone posts their ten-page business plan, but it talks about how the biggest advantage is covering hosting fees, we can point to this thread. Basically I'm thinking we could take the pulse on what the web fiction community wants.



EDIT: Just to clarify, I'm not talking about anything like WFG, which is a beautiful community with an awesome forum and directory. I'm talking about websites where you actually post your serials. I think that's what the word "host" means? But actually I'm a lil fuzzy on the subject. And I know there are some computer people on here, so please feel free to clarify my terms, or even just tell me I'm wrong.


Here are two advantages people have claimed for their websites, which strike me as lacking.




Here are some advantages I more fully appreciate.






Interesting! Here are some things that are important to me:


Discoverability. If I'm not self-hosting, I'm looking for a host that can offer good ways for readers to find my work. That's part of what you lose in a standalone site, and a major draw for me to put my work up on someone else's site. Helping people to find our stories is still one of the hardest things out there (WFG and TopWebFiction have consistently been the biggest sources of click-throughs to my serials, so thank you WFG!).


Control. I'm a bit of a control-freak and I like to know that I'm in charge of my writing. It's part of the reason why I have self-hosted my serials so far. I'm not a huge fan of a host that's going to take a lot of that away from me. I want the flexibility to change my mind, move things, publish in different ways, etc.


Rights and legal stuff. Probably linked with the previous point, but I always check out a host's legal terms first, particularly the copyright/publishing rights sections. Some hosts are unreasonably grabby with what they take when you post on their site/server. Amazon Serials was pretty dirty in this regard, from what I recall, and I've seen T&Cs which essentially say you can never remove your work once it is up there. It's a bit of a minefield and worth some caution. Personally, I look at what they're asking and decide if I'm okay with it. Generally, if they try to get any kind of permanent ownership, I'm not down with that.


Interaction. I screwed up on the Apocalypse Blog when I turned off all the comments. It was an immersion thing and I still regret it. Being able to interact with my readers is the best thing ever, and sometimes the best part about putting a new post/chapter up on my serial is waiting to see what people say about it. Interaction with other writers is also a plus.


I'm really glad you started this thread Billy (and thanks for the nod to Starter Serials. Also you are correct I didn't post about here, though had I known more about the community I would have). It's interesting to read what other writers want, and it gives me some ideas for what to add to Starters, although only time will tell if I actually have the technological wherewithal to implement them.


To tack on something I look for:


Stability: Nothing panics me more than my site going down, except having that happen and being helpless to fix it. If I were every going to step away from self-hosting, stability would be a massive factor for me. It's part of why I dole out the cash for Squarespace, despite the shortcomings it has the thing is reliable as a sunrise.


I will say hosting, a nice, easy hosting, where you can plug and play, and where the URL's are designed to be easy to find. wordpress has this great, I went a similar route with DF by making folders dreamfantastic.com/yourserialname/ , the way some others do it, like JP, seems a bit... obtuse.


Community. I want a group of existing readers and writers to share with and communicate with. obviously this can start small, but should have room for growth, which leads to


COMMUNICATION! I want a single chat thread for a story as a whole, say on the title page, a chat thread (and NOT a fucking sidebar. FULL WIDTH, under the story. Sidebar comments makes the baby Jeebus cry. ) for each chapter, and a group message board where each story has a folder for longer ongoing communications/ wild mass guess/ other types of communication threads that go beyond single chapter comments, as well as sections for talking about OTHER things, to create that sense of community, and some private boards for the writers to discuss the craft and make their own sub community. The boards over at GiantITP.com (order of teh stick) are WONDERFUL. Not everyone is going to use all those methods, but different people prefer certain ones. GIVE THEM THAT CHOICE!


And... NOTIFICATIONS! I want the option for indivudual or daily emails with updated conversation information and friends/reviews. I want to log in to the central hub that all the stories are under, and get a nice number telling me how many people have replied to my own comments, with links to take me straight to their replies. I want PMs GOSHDARNIT! I want RSS feeds for each individual story I read, and a nice easy button to get it.


Reviews. I want a review system that makes sense, lets me get an idea of the general feel for a story (dont give me an average, show me the percentage of awesome and shit, like the google play store does) and is self policicing with highly regarded reviews showing first. I want an obvious place to see reviews of a story without haveing to READ the story first.


On the comments others made, Billy, i tried to run Dreamfantastic as an editor. I made story suggestions, fixed formating and typo issues, made suggestions on readability of the sites. It didnt go over well. Some people might LIKE that, but i really think unless you have someoen with known editor chops running the site as basically a publishing label, which gets into rights issues, its not going to be as popular as you think. (im always willing to prove myself wrong!)


Security. The recent reveal about a security issue with a Wordpress update got me thinking - a possibly malicious person somehow acquiring admin rights to the story would be downright terrifying.


Reader traffic. Not being found by readers - or only 5 of them per month - would crush my heart. I don't write for myself, I write for an audience.


Community. Super duper important to me. I might actually start using Wattpad for this reason - my current readers rarely comment. :(


Customizable layout, font, image, editing etc options. I'd want for my site to be pretty and for chapters to be easily accessed in the right order.


Rights. Losing copyrights, even if only temporarily, would be very offputting.


Drew, I'm pretty impressed by Starter Serials. Wish something had been around like that when I started. It's like a business incubator, but for serials.


Alex, in a weird way I actually 100% agree with you. For an editing-heavy serial host to work, it would need to be run as a publishing imprint, with the submissions-process and accountability that that implies. My model for that sort of thinking is Sparkler Monthly (http://sparklermonthly.com/), which I know I mention here a lot. It just got a lot right imo.


You know, I completely forgot about rights, but that is an important one. Stability was also an element I didn't think about, but which needs to be there.


OMG! Sparkler is EXACTLY what a friend of mine and I tried to start years ago, late 90's early 2000, with the idea of having a cd we mailed out as well (because bandwidth then sucked and a lot of magazines did online, print, and a cd. 550 mb was a LOT of stuff back then. Hush. ) Called it Various Things, was going to be a cross between Shonen Jump and Omni/Asimov. Sigh. Still, looks cool!


Editing is something I would kill for from a host. It would have saved me a fortune. I can also see that it wouldn't work unless there was a major division of potential profits, which would mean rights.


Its a headache no matter which way things go.


Don't be so hard on Blogger, Billy :)


How about a site which takes your serial and creates an ebook or dead tree book for you with Tempest's editor idea thrown in together with marketing?


So, speaking of editors... what do people look for IN an editor, when starting out? I've found that while I LIKE writing, I've done a lot better helping others with theirs (hell, I got to beta read a book last year, and my feedback was so appreciated that I got listed in the acknowledgements next to his ACTUAL editor, and was told that he told the editor a few of my suggestions, and was told, yeah, actually, do THAT, heh). It's just... it seems that people won't trust you to be an editor for them unless you already have works you can point to, which is a nasty Catch 22.


In order of priority.

Price.

References.

Skills.

Responsiveness.


I looked for an editor who was both excellent (decades of experience and credentials) and believed in my story. The first one I contacted was up for it and quoted me a price, but never checked out my story beyond the one sample chapter I provided. The second editor went to my website and read the whole first arc without being asked to. She's very enthusiastic and goes above and beyond expectations. Our back and forth communication works very well, too. :D


I'm not sure I'm 'starting out', though. I'm aiming for the best possible end product, right away. Which, to me, means no compromises - I'm going all in with my life savings of 20 years.


I have a couple friends who edit for me which works since they know my tendencies and I can tell them all the troubles I'm having with the chapter without them thinking I'm crazy and/or obsessive. Though sometimes I think it would be nice to have someone who doesn't know me at all be mean to my work. But I take what I can get, and I'm lucky to have friends who are willing to give me their time.


I've also done quite a bit of editing in the past. I don't know how helpful I've been, but I have enjoyed the process. It's actually something I'd like to do more.


I'm wondering if a web fic host could create something that would match up potential editors with writers. It would also be nice to have a rating system for editors. Maybe this could solve both the experience and references issue?


Levels of editing too. Substantive, line, copy and proofing. Ideally you want someone that can do it all, but its the sort of thing that can be partitioned.


If you are seeking to get further into the world of editing, it might be worth your while asking around. I know I would have loved someone a 6 months ago. And be very very flexible on price. If you have no references to back you up, people are going to be wary handing over money.

Even with references I was wary.


I think most editors can do all the various levels of depth. I'd shy away from someone who only does copy editing, for instance. If you have potentially substantial changes from 2 totally different people, it's going to affect the overall tone of the book. Might be better to just let one editor learn your author's voice and stay true to it. And then maybe someone else for just a final typo proofread, without substantial changes.


My editor spent three weeks just getting used to my characters and my author's voice before she even got started.


Spot on Chrys. Structural stuff is best handled by a single person.

Story needs the right touch. Mechanics are less sensitive.


E_foster, tried that. couldn't find any editors willing to work with the idea of getting paid on royalty. Seriously, I would love to see that, self pub editors that work on individual name recognition, get Edited By in the cover , make amazon add an edited by field, and have it treated the way script writer is treated on movies. (which should totally be swapped with director, imo, but enh.)


That's really interesting, Alexander. I was always totally willing to work for nothing because I just like editing. My whole goal was just to help make the work better. I liked (and still like) being part of that process. But I've also been in the position where I didn't really need the extra money that editing would bring in.


But I really like the idea of doing an Edited By either on the cover or on the inside of an e-book (or even in the acknowledgements - which someone mentioned earlier) and helping an editor build a reputation.


Many authors credit their editors alongside their own name on the book's Kindle store page. Rebecca Hamilton, for instance, credited 4 editors and a photographer for 'The Forever Girl.'


http://www.amazon.com/THE-FOREVER-GIRL-Forever-Series-ebook/dp/B00729GQ0A


I can relate to editors not wanting to work with a promise of royalties. Unless someone has already published multiple successful books, that's a very uncertain source of income.