Welcome, folks, to a redesigned Novelr. I call this version two point oh, draft eight, and I hope you like it as much as I do. (Note: bugs are still being ironed out, so please bear with me for awhile).

Before I talk about the upcoming changes in Novelr, I’d like to explain the idea behind the visual lift Novelr now sports. I have been intending to redesign Novelr for quite a bit now. Part of it was due to the Picture Book post I did last year, where I discussed how a website design affected the way readers saw your content (and in the case of blooks, how they saw a story). It was one of my favourite posts of 2008, but I felt a little off about it at the time because Novelr itself was a very colourful, hippy, non-serious blog; quite at odds with its content, as you can imagine. A redesigned Novelr would mean a Novelr that wasn’t so dissonant – a redesign would mean a stronger message.

Throughout the 4 week redesign process I didn’t write on Novelr as I did before my study lift. I know that my last few posts have been lacklustre at best, and I also realize that this is completely my fault – I have a bad habit of not writing for a site that I’m designing, and this applies even when said redesign takes an extraordinarily long time to complete. For that, and for the lousy, linkish posts I have churned out over the last two weeks, I ask for your forgiveness. Novelr will return to its core immediately in the posts that follow this one, that I promise you.

Wait, What Core?

Novelr is now two years old. When I first started writing it I set out to create a one-stop resource for all the writers on the Internet: the ones who weren’t yet published; the ones who wanted to use the Internet to get their work read. That core remains. Over the next few weeks I’ll be editing and rewriting major portions of the Ultimate Blook Guide, much of which had been rendered obsolete in the months since I first published it. By the end of Step 7 of that guide a novice writer should be well versed in the ins and outs of publishing on the Internet – how to write, where to write, and where to find other fellow writers. 

There are other things to do, of course. In the past year Novelr has become a point of community for the many who already write web fiction. The joint efforts of that community resulted in Web Fiction Guide, a fantastic filter for new readers to the medium, powered by a wonderful team of editors, writers, programmers and readers. But that is only the beginning. There’s a recession going on, and the mass publishing-industry-shift to the Internet has changed the landscape quite a bit. This is ironic, this is: many of the things Gavin Williams predicted in a 2008 Novelr guest post are now coming true, and more besides: the middlemen are bleeding red ink; the publishers themselves in need more than ever of a new business model, or at least a new bestseller. These are bleak times, yes, but great ones for those working only on the Internet. And it’s Novelr’s job to make sense of that chaos. Web Fiction Guide may be a good start, yes, but how do we channel new readers to that site? How do we get more people to read? How do we make webfiction mainstream? These are problems that Novelr and its community have been struggling for a full two years, and our jobs have suddenly turned easier with the stumble of the traditional literary establishment. If you’ve got some insight to the situation we’re facing, or if you’ve got something to say to the online fiction community, feel free to contact me to write a guest post about it.

Advertising, Funding and Some Honesty

You’ve probably noticed the ad box near the top of Novelr’s sidebar. As of now, all image ads are $5 a month, on random rotation, with a maximum of 5 ads every month. I’ve reduced the price mainly because I now realize that the Text Link Ads evaluation of $15 per link is an overinflated one, and also because it’s only reasonable for a writer to fork out so much for publicity of his work. Novelr’s stats (about 400 a day), RSS feed subcribers and other relevant information can be found on the Advertising page. Spots for January are going at $4, seeing as it’s already a few days into the year, and take note that there’s a limited amount of slots per month. Email me if you want in, or if you want to book a slot in an upcoming month.

I am grateful for the money that Novelr’s community had pooled together mid last year, when it seemed that the site would go under. I’d like to say here that I haven’t forgotten, and I want to take the opportunity to once again thank all of you who chipped in, and particularly Sharon Bakar, (who, if you’re wondering is the Malaysian litblogger), who made it sure that Novelr would be able to continue for at least another two years. I was and still am humbled by that episode, though I hope that I’ll never have to do that again.

The last reason for this advertising push is the upcoming launch of the Shelves Project. I assure you that it hasn’t been shelved (pun intended – couldn’t help it, sorry), and that I’m fully commited to bringing it to life. I’ll be talking more about the project in the future, as well as the other ideas that I’ve planned for launch under Novelr’s umbrella. All of them are community-centric, and all of them should bring value of some sort to our work.

Some other things I have to close. I’ve pulled NovLounge – Novelr’s forums – for instance, because I believe that one forum is more than enough for the community. That forum is WFG’s, and I do hope you’re already a member. You’ll find a bunch of caring, down-to-earth writers over there, most of which won’t mind lending you a helping hand with your site or with your writing. It’s a good place to hang out, and I do suggest that you sign up, if you haven’t already.

There is one last thing I’d like to share, and it is personal. Most of you know me as Eli James, and indeed I’ve been writing under that name for a very long time. But here’s the truth: Eli James is a pen name. A nom de plume, as they say. I made a choice a long time ago to write as such, and the reason is simply because I live in Malaysia. Now I’m not saying that the Malaysian government is out to arrest bloggers (though it most certainly has, of late, particularly political ones) but I do admit that in my country, bloggers and their blogs are pretty big things. A few have wondered why this is so: I suppose it’s mostly because we’re shut out and kept quiet by the mainstream media, so people just feel liberated when they go online and find themselves with no constraints. The bottom line is that Malaysians read and share with each other their favourite bloggers, and our press is equally happy to shine the spotlight on these personalities. Their fame is beguiling. I decided that if I were to blog, I wouldn’t allow myself the opportunity to boast about my work, or about the number of visitors I received. For what is blogging to the Malaysian but attention-seeking? I’ve had one or two friends who wrote respectably popular Malaysian blogs, and I saw first hand what that did to their ego. And I didn’t want to be like that.

I am sharing this with you now because I’ve a feeling that our writing futures will be shared together. If we are to succeed with web fiction, with the publishing opportunities given to us in this most perillous of times, then we’ll have to do it together. And doing things together means community, and community in turn means trust. And I hope we can trust each other.

Happy new year.

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