• Member Since 30th Jan, 2013
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Viking ZX

Author of Science-Fiction and Fantasy novels! Oh, and some fanfiction from time to time.

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Why You Won’t Be Seeing My Work on Serial Story Sites · 7:23pm June 10th

Hey readers! Really quick, before I get started on this post, don’t forget that if you’re a Patreon Supporter, there’s a poll going right now to determine the name of a new arms manufacturer in Starforge! Go vote!

Okay, now that you’ve done that … So yesterday someone upon encountering my work for the first time asked a question that I’ve heard before, which goes a bit like this: “Hey, is any of your work on any of those episodic release writing websites where I can just read a chapter a day/week for free?” For those of you who’ve never looked at or for such a thing, yes, these places exist.

And no. None of my work is on any of them (and if it is, it’s been stolen). Nor do I plan on having my work on any of them.

Now, some of you might be asking “Why?” and that’s a fair question. I had one individual (not a writer, imagine that) suggest that all the “real” writers were on Royalroad because that was “where the money was” and if I was ‘serious” about this writing thing, I should look at going there.

Well, they were correct about one thing. That’s where the money is. Just … not for the creator.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with services like RoyalRoad or the newly-arriving Vella (Amazon’s service which they’ve several times begged me to join) they’re basically a serialized story service. Think of the basic setup a bit like a fanfiction site (though with a lot more money at stake) in terms of delivering readers categorized content, easy to search and find.

But now take it one step further. Rather than one-off stories or completed work, the goal here is to hook readers on serialized content that’s produced as rapidly as possible. So a reader comes to the site and finds, for example, a romance story that updates with a new chapter every day or every week. The goal of the site is to get that reader coming back every day or every week and reading the new chapter, which triggers their ad revenue. Or better yet, said reader can become a premium reader and pay a little bit each day to read ahead, as the story itself is usually a couple chapters ahead. As long as the reader is willing to pay a fee (a buck or two, usually) for that story each week, they can read the next chapter “before” the rest of the world.

And when you look at it like that, it doesn’t seem that bad. Not from the reader’s perspective. They can log in, read their new chapter each day on their phone, confirm that they’re paying for it, and come back again the next day.

But here’s the thing … If I wanted to do that system … I could do it right here on my website. In fact, I did, except that it was free entirely, with no fees or ads, with Fireteam Freelance. Of course, it wasn’t identical. People had to load my webpage rather than an app to check the latest chapters, and there was no way to become a “premium” reader and pay money to look ahead.

Outside of me being able to set up the same process on my website, however, there’s another reason you’ll never see me on sites like RoyalRoad or Vella.

They’re made to bleed money to the siteholders. Not to authors/creators.

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Comments ( 3 )

great article!
reading about these business practices had very similar vibes to reading about some pyram-- multi-level-marketing schemes; people working like mad to be one of the few to actually turn a meaningful profit, meanwhile the ones in charge rake in the cash from everyone else. abhorrent

That's ... actually a really good comparison I'd not thought of yet. Well observed.

And when you look at it like that, it doesn’t seem that bad.

Nope, this already raises all sorts of red flags. Seems fishy in the same way a cutesy whale-hunting mobile game would be.

Reading onward… Oh, it sounds slightly worse than I had even expected. Though I've seen the tiered creator/worker side of this with those freelance internet jobs for things like transcription and translation when I looked into them a while back. Yet even those generally pay something at the bottom tiers (often through PayPal, sometimes with no tax documents because "PayPal handles that" (which they don't unless you work for PayPal and they are paying you)).

... it doesn’t seem that bad. Not from the reader’s perspective.

Coming back around now… As someone who already shakes my head at the oceans of mediocre or straight-up poor content that I have to dig through in my areas of interest, the last thing that I want to see is massive pressure on content creators to make low(er)-quality high-quantity content. As a writer myself (if I can really call myself that at ~100k published words of fanfiction), this is why I've chosen to keep it as a hobby; no matter how proficient or prolific I get, I don't plan to be reliant upon it for a living so that I never see this kind of pressure myself. (Yeah, the flip side is a mountain of potential motivation issues, but that's the battle that I have chosen.)

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