Wordtrip Changes AKA State of the Website

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charlesp
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Wordtrip Changes AKA State of the Website

Postby charlesp » Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:22 am

For over three years now Wordtrip has been a community for Writers by Writers. We've run a book club, had contests, played games, and written stories. We've also been voted one of the top 101 Websites for Writers by Writer's Digest for three consecutive years. What he haven't done, is turn a profit. In all this time our contests and the few advertisements we have on the site have combined to "not-quite-pay-the-bills". That is one of the main things that need to change around here. We've looked at our options for making Wordtrip into a profitable business, one that makes enough money so we can continue to put the time and effort into it that makes it such a great place for writers, and now we're giving you all, our members, a heads up that some changes are coming. We're also asking for your input in how this might work.

In discussions with our moderator community several options to have Wordtrip sustain itself financially have been presented and debated. We want to present these possibilities to you so you’re not surprised when changes happen (though these are only options and the changes may not be those outlined below), and so you can contribute to the discussion on the path Wordtrip takes. Some of the options include:

Paid annual membership (with some content/features remaining free for all and some being exclusive).
Corporate Sponsorship (with advertising campaigns and/or large branding and such)
Donation Drives (think PBS, something to show for your donation, but largely to sponsor the service)
Fiction/Poetry Magazine/e-Zine
Writing Newsletter (for subscription money or for advertisement money)

One of the other failings we’ve had is not helping more of our Wordtrip family make their way further into the realm of being published. We have a very supportive and knowledgeable community and we want to maximize the use of those resources to help all of us be better writers, and hopefully better selling writers as well. To that end we will begin some changes in the look of Wordtrip to ad some more functionality to it. Some of the possibilities are: more centralized links to other contests, exclusive articles on writing, and more managed writing groups with outside critiques.

Any feedback on these options, or any other suggestions, would be greatly appreciated.

Happy Wordtripping!
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Postby timberline » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:07 am

Hey, guys, you've really done your homework on strategic planning. Here are some quick thoughts that came to me:

> I believe participants will treat feedback, critiques and advice more seriously if they've put their dollar down on the table. There's truth in the aphorism, "Free advice is worth exactly what you've paid for it."

> It's entirely within the realm of Wordtrip to publish an e-zine and charge nominally for access to fiction, poetry and non-fiction. (If fact, non-fiction is woefully under-represented here.) Print isn't too far out of the realm of possibility either.

> I can't comment on selling writing services the way Anthologies Online and others do. I don't need/want lessons as much as I have to have a community to comment on my writing efforts. However, I believe advertising really is a fundamental part of the online community.

Basic structural changes to make Wordtrip self-supporting should be understood by our tight little group of scriveners. But, as I wrote to an editor yesterday about the rewards of being a writer, "The payoff comes when you find readers who say, 'I didn’t want the story to end.' I’m disturbed by the marketers who say a writer isn’t serious if he/she isn’t in it for the money. Money has never been a very good psychic reward, and when you reach Heaven no one’s going to ask how much you made."
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Postby Delaney » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:16 am

> I believe participants will treat feedback, critiques and advice more seriously if they've put their dollar down on the table. There's truth in the aphorism, "Free advice is worth exactly what you've paid for it."


I agree. I think too that if writing groups were something people paid for, they would stick with it more often. We all seem to fall prey to forgetting or getting distracted, whereas dues or something would not only keep the groups going, but probably be initiative for us to keep writing in order to particapate.

So that could be beneficial to our writing progess as well as the site.
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Postby Mlou » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:17 am

No, but when you leave it behind, there's always somebody to fight over it! :-D So maybe WT should be mentioned in our wills??

It's true that many sites do have a lot of advertising to help pay the freight. Whatever keeps WT online must be seriously considered.
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Postby xcheck24 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:56 am

timberline wrote:(If fact, non-fiction is woefully under-represented here.)


I've been saying that for a long time, timber.
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Postby wyndham » Wed Oct 18, 2006 11:45 am

I've been working for and visiting Internet writing forums and publications for about five years and of the options you noted, I think the only one that really works is annual subscription fees to the site and/or a newsletter. None other than Writer Magazine tried restricted access to certain forums for magazine subscribers only. Not only did restricted forums wither, the free ones did too. Members were put off by the elitist mentality.

Paid subscription does require more than just the ability to post in forums, however, because folks will just leave this forum for the umpteen other free ones out there. Critiques, courses, market listings, and valuable craft articles are what folks will pay for
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Postby Bess » Wed Oct 18, 2006 3:21 pm

Charge 'em I say! Er...I mean us, of course. You might loose some, but I think the majority of us will stick around. Just don't get carried away and charge to much.

Wordtrip is the bomb! :bow:

Long live WT... :rock:
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Postby taborwrites » Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:07 pm

I'm in favor of annual dues. Perhaps it could include the newsletter but non-members would pay for it?

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Postby xcheck24 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:23 pm

i think perhaps the best thing would be to charge for a newsletter, training, etc. as an extra while the forum itself is open.
and then we have donations where people donate to the Web site in addition to that.

therefore if someone LOVES WT but doesnt want the newsletter, they could still donate something.
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Postby cherbo86 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 5:54 pm

I am in favor of making the changes necessary to keep wt going and compensate the people who work their badonkadonks off something for their hard work as well.

I agree that the non fiction side is one that I would love to see explored on the site as I am getting into that field with article writing etc. I know we have a few links but havent noticed much going on.
Also maybe consider a mentoring program for a little one on one help if people would like that, I dont know, but I am a little interested.

I think it is a great site and am will to make some sacrifices to make it work. Yes you will lose some but they are the ones who arent sticking around and serious to begin with.
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Postby pengwenn » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:17 pm

Would you (and anyone else) be interesting in a non-fiction writing challenge?
Is this my reality or yours?
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Postby CycoMerlin14 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:22 pm

I agree with Wyndham. I was a member of the late and sadly not-so-great Writer Buddy forum. It had its goods for awhile until they changed it into proffessionalism, which no one was interested in. I think the desire to get published is nice, but shouldn't be the prime reason why a forum exists. I think of this place as a family of experiences and opinions and knowledge and help.

Charles, could you tell us what the costs are?
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Postby CycoMerlin14 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:23 pm

pengwenn wrote:Would you (and anyone else) be interesting in a non-fiction writing challenge?


Yes, yes, and yes.
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Postby Anblick » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:35 pm

CycoMerlin14 wrote:Charles, could you tell us what the costs are?


Perhaps a better question is what range would you deem acceptable?
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Postby bfsooner » Wed Oct 18, 2006 6:55 pm

CycoMerlin14 wrote:
pengwenn wrote:Would you (and anyone else) be interesting in a non-fiction writing challenge?


Yes, yes, and yes.


I second that emotion.

I have been wanting to delve into personal essay, but not sure where to begin. Also, I would like more experience with creative non-fiction. I think this is an area where WT can really grow.
Rebecca

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Postby bfsooner » Wed Oct 18, 2006 7:03 pm

CP, I think that the suggestions given are great. I would not object to paying an annual subscription. I think it would motivate me to post more of my writing that I do now. Might I suggest a guest "lecturer" series (i.e. OSC and Richard Lowry interviews). And, I wouldn't object to paying for the Podcasts (not sure how much $$$ that would generate, though). Thanks CP and Mods.
Rebecca



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Postby mae » Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:30 pm

I would opt for an annual subscription for the whole site, rather than being nickel-and-dimed-to-death (a charge for this and another charge for that). I also don't like the sites where a minimal level of access is free and for everything else (or"Premium" access) there is a charge.

As far as improving the site, there is a new site on the web called Authors by Design that offers many classes that I think are valuable. Unfortunately, they seem to have a hard time maintaining their site (the last poetry challenge was back in July or August), but I think their idea was good. There are skill challenges, articles on grammar, overcoming writer's block, different parts of a story, etc., as well as information on the publishing industry. I would love to see something like that on WT where it would be properly done. I think this is the site that was formed after Writer's Buddy folded.

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Postby TinaS1570 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:47 pm

On another board I belong to, we have a subscriptions. With each level, comes certain *perks* (this is not a writing board BTW). It ranges from a "tip jar" (put in whatever amount) to yearly fee. He also has paid ads and links to amazon (like here). Being a poor undergrad, single mom, I dont' mind contributing something to the cause here, just I would definitely like to see a range of amounts. What one person can afford, another can't necessarily come up with.

i'm tired, i hope that made some sense.
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Postby Mlou » Wed Oct 18, 2006 8:53 pm

Yes, MAE, that site grew out of Writer Buddy and branched off on its own when WB proved unsatisfactory. You were FORCED to join WB, if you wanted to enter a novel into the ArcheBooks contest for a first novel. I did so and was one of the 3 finalists. Sadly :cry: I didn't make #1. (I was told afterward that i was probably lucky, that ArcheBooks wasn't exactly the best.)
Carrie Chesney who started AbD with one other fellow, wrote a blurb for the inside of my book, which was lovely of her. She invited me to be a mod there but my heart belongs to WT. :D But you're right...I've just about stopped going there because the poetry is almost non-existent and the challenges weren't very...uh...challenging.
Not that any of that concerns the topic of this thread! :roll: But that's what happens with us mouthy types. We just ramble on.
Last edited by Mlou on Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby cherbo86 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:06 pm

Would you (and anyone else) be interesting in a non-fiction writing challenge?


Oh yeah! Now that's what IM talking about!
Seriously, I think it is a great idea!

I also would rather pay as a whole and not be nickle and dimed as well. I also didnt know if there was a suggestion box forum where people could suggest things they would like to see on word trip. Not that people dont know they can make suggestions on a regular basis- but this would allow for "kaisan" continuos improvement. Just a thought. :-D
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Postby Anblick » Wed Oct 18, 2006 9:18 pm

So, what do people think is a fair price for an annual subscription? Low/High?
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Postby xcheck24 » Wed Oct 18, 2006 11:41 pm

i am the resident non-fiction person among the mods. . .glad to see so many people interested in that!
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Postby mae » Thu Oct 19, 2006 2:03 am

Low, less than $5 per month (I'm actually thinking about $3 or $36 per year.) That seems to be a pretty standard figure for various boards. Much more than that and it gets prohibitive- in fact, $5/month or $60/yr. is prohibitive as far as I'm concerned. mae
My heart beats in poetry. I think in rhythm and dream in rhyme.



Give me a crit! I can take it!



CELTIC QUEEN, an Epic Poem, Cynthia M. Bateman, amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, http://www.tatepublishing.com/bookstore ... +Epic+Poem at Tate Publishing
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Postby taborwrites » Thu Oct 19, 2006 5:15 am

I'd rather pay by the year but for those who prefer a monthly payment, it should be $x and then a slight break for annual. There's a lot more record keeping to handling monthly fees. Actually, for those who have to keep records a quarterly fee might be better. It shouldn't break the bank. As an accountant I also recommend calendar quarters and years.

Consider some tax implications here too as WT could be entering the world of small business.

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Postby charlesp » Thu Oct 19, 2006 8:25 am

Wow guys, I really appreciate all the feedback so far. I'd like to address some questions and elaborate on some of the options (as the work day allows me to spend the time to do so... so this may come in pieces).

A) Any membership cost would be minimal... probably in that "magazine subscription" range of $20-40 a year depending on what is offered.

B) Actual "money out of pocket" costs to run Wordtrip are low enough that we've been able to do it out of pocket for the last 3 years. However, there is quite a lot of time spent on maintaining the site, upgrading the site, etc by myself and Mudge in addition to the countless hours the moderators and super-moderators devote to creating challenges, running book club discussions, etc.

Nobody is expecting WT to let us quit our day jobs, but we'd like to be able to provide some compensation for those people doing the heavy lifting.


MORE LATER (got to get some work done around here).

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