Memorandum

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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  • http://noveloflife.wordpress.com/welcome chris

    Eli,

    I am excited about the new changes to Novelr; it seems as if you have streamlined the blog, defined its goals and its purpose, and thus can focus on the lively, informative, and interesting articles that draw this community together. Congratulations on the fund raising. I had no idea that so many people were visiting and donating to Novelr.

    What happens here will influence and possibly shape the future of online fiction. By anticipating technologies and trends, by responding to social media and web development, and by participating in the dialogue between writers and publishers, Novelr may very well see itself at the center of a digital publishing revolution.

    Chris A.

  • Janoda

    Hi there!
    I was browsing the site while you were changing the design, and I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s more clean, more professional, and all together very pretty.

    Since this seems a fresh start, I’d like to propose a suggestion. Since Novelr is all about building community, it seems strange that the community can’t share amazing websites they wander upon because of the html restriction in the contact form. I do understand why it is there, and don’t desire a change there, but I’d still like a little website suggestion box. I have no idea if this is possible design wise, but if it is, and can be maid spam safe (maybe with ReCaptcha?), that would be great.

    Today I discovered Oneword.com, which is a beautiful initiative, and has some pretty beautiful prose on it. My first thought was that it should be on Novelr, so other writers and blookers could enjoy it too.

    Besides all this I’m looking forward to all the new and/or rewritten content that is upon us.

    Kind Regards,

    Jan.

  • http://obtrusive.blogspot.com Sebatinsky

    Eli, I think the redesign is excellent. The new look is bold and fitting.

    I’m looking forward to a more regular update schedule, though I can promise no such thing from my blog :(

  • http://www.gavinwilliams.digitalnovelists.com Gavin

    Hey Eli,

    I think it’s very cool that you’re from Malaysia, that’s the last thing I would have guessed — primarily because you and I seem to have similar thought processes and I’m Canadian.

    Do you guys even have hockey? ;)

    Hey, what are the chances my predictions would have been right? How weird is that?

    Love the new look.

  • http://roydss.blogspot..com Miladysa

    The new look is amazing – in fact I arrived here via a link to another article and had no idea that I was visiting the novelr site!

    I appreciate the problems bloggers can face in Malayasia, I have quite a few blogging friends there and now I am wondering if you could be one of them in disguise LOL

    Good luck with the future plans :D

  • http://acetachyon.blogspot.com Ace

    The new design looks great, Eli.

    Please keep up the great work. I’m new to the world of web fiction and find myself learning a lot from your posts. Looking forward to more insightful articles.

  • http://morganofriel.digitalnovelists.com Morgan O’Friel

    Awesome redesign, Eli. I’m looking forward to the new content and projects. ^^

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    Sorry for the late reply guys. I was caught offline for the whole of yesterday.

    @Chris: Thank you for your kind words. I’m not particularly sure if Novelr will be in the centre of it all, like you said (we are, after all, only a tiny part of a larger movement) but I guess only time will tell.

    @Janoda: I’m glad you like the new look. I’ll be looking into your point about the Contact form as soon as possible (though probably after I smooth out the more glaring bugs in the new design – for instance, cross browser functionality is a little off on some of the pages) – but you’re right. I should make it easier for you to share.

    @Sebatinsky: =) I hope you’ll restart your reading again – it’s always good to have a reader talk about the medium, as opposed to us usual bunch of writers.

    @Gavin: Yeah we’ve got hockey too! (Though I doubt it’s as big an obsession as in Canada – our hockey is really badminton). I think all of us agreed with the predictions you made in your post, though none of us could’ve anticipated the speed and degree by which those things came true.

    @Miladysa: Good to hear! (And it’s Malaysia, btw, hehe). It seems that Malaysians really do blog a lot. Talk about repressed personal expression coming loose on the Internet, and we’ll probably come to mind.

    @Ace, Morgan: thank you so much.