W.O.L.F. Sector
Saturday, Jun 06, 2020
Worlds Of Lesbian Fiction
What's Going On With Kodi...

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Post #113

Written by Kodi Wolf at 12:00 AM

Well, after talking it over with Corene and the rest of my family this past weekend (and doing a lot of research), I've decided to definitely go ahead and make this a subscription site. The price will be $10/year's worth of access to the site's contents, including all original stories, member forums, polls, ratings, and chat.

The URL www.kodiwolf.com/KWLF/ will continue as my main directory for my original fiction, while my fanfic will be moved to a separate website (same domain, just a different directory; maybe /FanfFic/). Unless the programs I intend to use to set up the subscription stuff need special directories, in which case I'll let you all know what the new URL will be (I don't think that's the case, but you never know). Also, my site may go down for a short time while I set up the new site. I'll either post the estimated time period here or on the home page if that happens.

Now, of the seven responses I've gotten so far, five were fairly to enthusiastically supportive. One I couldn't tell. They just said, "will do," so I don't know whether they meant they would look at my What's New? page as I requested or intend to subscribe to the website. And one I interpreted as negative, though I can't be sure. They just said "that sucks," so I don't know whether they were referring to what happened to me or what I planned to do about it, and honestly, I'm not interested in getting flamed if it was the latter, so I'm not asking the person for clarification.

Of the positive responses I've received, I noticed several things that have made me think I didn't explain myself as well as I'd thought in my last update, hence the epic you're about to read (if you keep reading, that is).

One person wrote, "...making the site a pay site may work, if you have enough people to make it happen. Do you? Maybe you should see how many people respond with pledges of a sign up to see if you can float it."

Another person has asked me (twice) to set up a PayPal donation button so they can give me money for the site upgrade to help speed the process along (and presumably get me back to writing).

Both of these statements tell me I have inadvertently led you all to believe that I'm doing this for the money. After looking back over my last update, I can see how I probably gave that impression by talking about the potential startup costs of making the site a pay site and the psychological effect the possibility of getting paid for my work has had on me. However, I was just trying to explain the situation, and I myself wasn't entirely clear on what was going to be involved at that point (I was afraid it could spiral into thousands of dollars worth of work) or whether it was even something I really wanted to do (I don't want to alienate my readers by hitting them up for money). But since I've made the decision to go ahead with the subscription site idea, I don't expect anyone else to foot that bill. It's my decision and I will accept the consequences of that decision, including the monetary ones.

Though I will probably end up putting any money I receive from website subscriptions towards the costs of my webhost and upgrading my site to a subscription format, that's not what your subscription will be paying for. The subscription fee is payment for a service I'm providing (however I decide to provide that service, which could just as easily be a snail-mail/e-mail magazine/newsletter; it's my choice to do it through a website and subsequently take on the costs of that method), though I'll also consider your subscription as tangible evidence of your support and a way of gaining a kind of insurance against just anybody coming along and comandeering my work.

I would like to thank the person profusely for their offer, but it's not a lack of money that is slowing the process of changing my site to a subscription one or taking me away from my writing. Even if other people were paying for it, it wouldn't make it happen any faster. Though I have spent most of the past few days reading over tutorials for how to work with Mambo, aMember, PayPal, and phpBB, rather than solely working on my stories, I'm fairly confident now that I can get everything up and running shortly. I just need to contact my webhost and get them to install the right components, then place my order for the subscription software and get that installed, then transfer all my original story content to the new system, set up the forums, and finally get PayPal set up with my website, and it'll be ready to go (window dressing can wait; though I do want the site to look more individual at some point, for the time being, I'll stick with the templates that come with the programs; I can play with the features or hire someone else to make the site look cool later).

Above all, it was never my intention to make anyone think I required their monetary support in order to do this, and I apologize if that's what I've done.

The fact of the matter is, none of this is about money (or rather making/needing money). With my budgeting skills of Corene's and my finances, we can afford to do this (up to about $500) and still be able to get all our prior debts paid off by the end of this year without incurring any interest charges. And whether I recoup the money through website subscriptions or not isn't even a factor for me.

As I wrote in my last update, the reason I'm doing this at all is to protect my work. I believe people are less likely to steal from me if they have to pay a little upfront for access to my work (or at least it might make them think about it a little first). I could be wrong about that, but what I do know is that setting a price for my work will allow me to sue for damages if this happens to me again in the future (if someone posted one of my stories, I could request a hit count from the webhost of the number of people who viewed the page(s), and use that to calculate how much money I lost from all those people not paying for a subscription).

Of course, you're probably thinking, "Well, if this really isn't about the money, then why charge $10? Why not make it $1?" Well, the answer is that $1 isn't much of a deterrent to someone taking my stuff. Even $5 might well be worth it to someone who happens on my site, reads my stuff, and decides it might look good on their site. However, $10 upfront, non-refundable*, with a huge warning that they'll be responsible for monetary damages of $10/person they make my work accessible to if they repost it or make their username and password available to anyone other than the account holder (themselves) should hopefully weed out those kinds of people, leaving me with those who are genuinely interested in reading my stories. At the same time, $10 for a year's worth of access to my stories isn't an outrageous amount to ask for, in my opinion, and shouldn't be a financial drain on anyone.

(*By the way, if I don't update, you will get a refund. I'm just not interested in having people sign up, read an update, then ask for a refund each month. I had people doing that on my BetaWolf list; joining every couple weeks to look for a beta version update, then unsubscribing a few minutes later, which is why I made it approval only, so there wasn't instant access anymore. The site, however, will be instant access, meaning the moment you have access to my site, you've pretty much received your ten dollar's worth, (minus the year's worth of updates, but still). Plus, anyone who subscribes to the site will have had plenty of examples of my work to read beforehand to help them decide whether it'll be worth it, since I'll be offering the first few chapters of each of my stories as a free preview, and it will be clearly listed whether the story is complete or not and when it was last updated, just like it is now.)

As it is, because I'm not charging anything for my stories, I can't claim to have suffered any damages beyond copyright infringement, which only provides for the removal of the infringing work; there's no deterrent (jail/fine) beyond that, which means people can steal from me right and left and not worry about being punished for it right now. It cost me time and money to write and send the Notices of Infringement to get my work removed from the sites it had been posted to and there's no way for me to reclaim either of those losses from the person who took my work without my permission. In many ways, I was the one who was punished for not protecting my work better.

So, it's on me to keep my work safe, and I believe my work will be much better protected if people have to go through a subscription process that costs them some money if they want to read more than just the first few chapters of my stories, especially since they will also have to electronically sign a legal contract stating they've read and agree to abide by my Terms of Use, which will clearly state that if they make any of my work available to the public (meaning anyone other than themselves), they'll be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Plus, the subscription software includes the ability to track a user's IP address. That means if someone posted their username and password on a website, so that they weren't actually guilty of posting my work elsewhere, but were still making it available to people who hadn't paid for it, they'd get caught. When the server sees the same username and password logging in from a bunch of different IPs, it locks the account because it's considered account sharing. That doesn't mean a person can't log in from more than one computer, but if a dozen different computers try to log in within a few seconds of each other, then it's probably not the same person, and that would definitely be a violation of the subscription contract.

Also, the subscription process itself will give me a base list of everyone who has access to my work, so I could hopefully track down anyone who does this to me again, which would allow me to take legal action if necessary. The person who posted my work without my permission actually had their address listed online (under a pseudonym), so I was able to do a reverse lookup and found out their real identity and phone number. I didn't have to use it, but it did make me feel better knowing I could if it came to that (thankfully, it didn't). Had they not had that information posted online, however, they would have remained completely anonymous to me and it would have been very difficult for me to take any kind of legal action against them if I'd needed to.

However, just to clarify, I don't intend to be a Nazi about this. I'm not going to sue you because you print out a story and share it with a few friends or you e-mail your username and password to your bestest friend in the whole wide world so he/she can read what you've been telling them about. That's expected and understood and is something I would even do myself (anything I have access to, Corene has access to and vice versa, though if we both intended to be active in the forums, we would get separate accounts just to have different usernames).

It's if you give your username and password to your whole softball team (and then they in turn can hand it out to their friends, and so on). It's if you post my stuff on a Usenet group or a mailing list or a website or some other publically available place without my permission (and then the people who find it can then decide to post it somewhere else, and so on, since they won't know about my Terms of Use). It's if you print out a dozen copies of a story and give them to your quilting club or sell them as part of your private newletter/fanzine (and then those people think they have the right to do the same because it's "theirs" now).

Simply put, it's when your actions start undermining the effort I've put into my work that it's going to become a problem.

But honestly, I'm not sue-happy or anything, even if it sounds like I am from what I've written above. I don't like confrontation in any form whatsoever (hello, grew up in an abusive household), and I would have to be pushed pretty deep into a corner to actually take the step of contacting my lawyer to start the process of a lawsuit (hell, I'd be freaking out just about making the phone call because it's one of my social phobias; once I'm on the phone, I'm okay, but getting there...). The point of everything I've said is to stop anything like that from happening in the first place. As my favorite character in the Buffyverse once said, "A vague disclaimer is nobody's friend."

I just don't want to be in the position of finding out I've had my work used without my permission again. I'm not sure I can describe what it felt like to have that happen to me. The only reason I even found out about it was because I was doing research for one of my stories, looked up the character's name online to see what would happen because that's what the character was doing in the story, and found my story: no title, no author name, no copyright, just the text of my story (it was also the number one link on the list, rather than my own site's story pages, so I wasn't even getting credit in the search engines). Honestly, I liken it to coming home and finding your house has been robbed. You're just going along with your normal day, everything's okay, and then WHAM!, you've been violated. It was a really horrible feeling, and I don't want to go through that again if I can help it.

I do realize I'm probably going to lose a lot of readers, though I'd been hoping I wouldn't (not that everyone would sign up, but that people would hang around at least until their favorite story was completed, and then maybe sign up). I've already had 3 members unsubscribe from my announcement list, which has kind of hurt.

I calculated $10/year equals about $.03/day. That means at least three of the people who have been reading my stories don't think they're worth 3 pennies a day. You know, I can find that amount of money in the parking lot of my local Wal-Mart.

Hell, when I first started looking around for subscription information, most of the sites I found were charging $10 per month for their content (actually, a lot of them seemed to be around $24.99/mo.). Granted, most of those places had a stable of writers and they were doing a monthly newsletter and weekly articles kind of thing, but most of the information that was being offered was the kind you could get for free from the library if you just took a few minutes to talk to the librarian (or do a computer catalog search like I do, since I'm not so good with talking to people if I can find another way; automated systems are my friend :)). Then I realized the truth. Those people aren't really paying for the content; they're paying for someone else's time to research it for them and then deliver it to their doorstep (or e-mail inbox).

On the other hand, my work isn't information-based, like how to tune your car's engine or get the best workout from your balance ball, which anyone with the right facts could supply. My work is entertainment. It's completely individual. The content of my website, my stories, can only be gotten from me. It's my creativity and imagination. It's hours upon hours of research and editing, so that my stories can be realistically accurate and not presented as if they'd been written on a bus on the way to school by someone who doesn't recognize the difference between 'intents and purposes' and 'intensive purposes' (not to imply that people who make that mistake are stupid; it just shows a supreme lack of effort on their part, which is fine if their writing doesn't mean that much to them or if they don't care that much about their readers, but it's the complete opposite of what I put into my stories and I hope it sets me apart from the average writer).

So, to me, what you're getting with a subscription to my website is:

  • the right to read my particular brand of stories anytime you want

  • the ability to interact with me and other readers (through the forums, polls, rating system, etc. I intend to set up)

  • the potential to be a part of my process of creating my stories (a stray comment on a forum could cause me to change a scene, which could in turn change an entire story)

  • a warm, fuzzy feeling from knowing you're directly supporting one of your favorite artists (if I'm not a favorite, don't support me)

  • getting all of the above in the most economical fashion I can make it available, without undercutting one of the main points of requiring a subscription in the first place, which is to deter theft

What I'm hoping to receive from your subscription to my website is:

  • deterrence of anyone stealing from me in the first place

  • insurance of my rights to seek damages in the case of infringement or theft of my copyrighted work

  • the ability to potentially track down anyone who steals from me

  • support for me to continue to work on my art

  • one of the highest compliments an artist can receive (other than direct, critical feedback) (think in terms of a movie's box office success; it isn't the end-all/be-all, but it is definitely a measure of the general public's opinion, while critical acclaim and awards are next in line and are more specific to the individuals doing the judging than what's necessarily being judged)

The alternative is that I remove my stories from the Internet completely in order to protect myself from copyright infringement/theft while I'm working on them, and then end up being forced to charge anywhere from $14-$20 and up per book for you to read them individually. On iUniverse, which offers the highest royalties (20%) that I've seen so far, Assassin, at just under 100,000 words, is in the $16-$20 range (the 100,000 word range is $18-$22). That means I would get $4 if you paid $20 for the book; the other 80% of your money would be going to them, rather than supporting my efforts to write more stories for you.

Now, I do intend to publish my stories in hardcopy format someday for those who want my book on their shelf (I happen to be one of those people; I think that's why they call it "vanity press" :)), but mostly, I'd like to offer my stories to my readers directly through my website and in PDF e-books (or any other format my readers want that I can offer for a reasonable price). For one thing, it lets me reap the most benefit for my work because there's no middleman. It also gives me all the control. I'm the one who sets the price for my work, and if I want to charge $20 for a book (it would probably be $5; I'm not out to scalp anybody), I can be sure all of that money will go to me (well, after I've paid my webhost, credit card transaction fees, etc.) rather than a percentage.

The money still isn't the point, though. The likelihood of me ever actually making any kind of decent living off my stories is almost nil...

(Quick math break: The cheapest publishing program on iUniverse is currently $300. At $20/book with a 20% royalty, 75 people would have to buy the book just to cover my costs of publishing, nevermind making me a profit, whereas the actual money those 75 people would have collectively spent is $1500. Personally, I'd much rather those 75 people save $15, send me $5, and I'll have made a profit of $375. On the other hand, they could also just spend $10 and read all my stories during the year and then be done with them if they didn't want to read them again or read anything new from me.)

...However, the fact of someone liking my stories enough that they want to fork over their hard-earned money for them means a lot to me, even if it's just a couple pennies a day. It lets me know I'm contributing to the world. It lets me know I'm doing something.

And if a reader is going to part with their money for my stories, then I think the bulk of that money should be for the content rather than the packaging (I've been happy to see a lot of PC games are finally being offered in just a CD case for about half the price they were being offered for in these huge boxes just to display some pretty pictures; it also saves a few trees). If people want to pay for that packaging, then that's fine, but I don't think it should be the only option available for people to get that content (i.e., read the stories). I'm not a rich person and I'm always looking for the best bargains I can find (without sacrificing quality), so I feel I need to offer the kinds of things I personally would be interested in (that's also how I write; I try to write the stories I would want to read if they'd been written by someone else).

So, to get back to the original reason for this long-ass explanation, which is my answer to the request for a donation button...

As much as I appreciate the offer of a donation, sending me money now isn't going to speed up the process, and I wouldn't feel right about accepting any money with you thinking that it would. Ultimately, it wouldn't have much effect at all, except to let me know how supportive you are, which just the offer has accomplished, so thank you.

Really though, I'd just prefer you wait and sign up for a subscription when it becomes available. Or better yet, tell anyone you think might be interested in reading my stories to visit the site. The more people I have letting me know they support my efforts to protect my work and enjoy my stories enough to subscribe to the site, the more confidence I'll have that I can continue to offer my stories online and still keep them safe.

On that note, I've created a new mailing list. It's not binding (meaning I won't hold you to it), but if you intend to subscribe to my website, please join the list below as a way to show me your support.

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KWLF_subscription_pledge/

Once the site is set up for subscriptions, I will probably delete the list (the subscription software has the ability to send mass e-mails to all members, so I will most likely use that for update announcements so that no one has to worry about whether they've signed up to the right mailing list). The current announcement list (kodiwolf) will remain for all those who wish to be notified when my fanfic stories are updated, as well as when my original stories are finished, so you can wait to subscribe to the website until then (or just buy the individual PDF/book, depending on how I offer it).

I won't be keeping track of who's on the list (though I might look), just the number of members. Your pledge of support (or lack thereof) will let me know the level of interest there is for my stories, but it's not going to influence my decision to make my site subscription based. I've already made that decision. I'd just like to know how many people I'm going to get to keep vs. how many I'm going to lose when I do this. If I keep a lot, it will ease my mind and make this transition a little less painful for me (change is difficult no matter what the circumstances). If I lose a lot, then at least I'll be prepared.

Either way, I'd like to thank everyone for sticking with me as long as you have. I've appreciated it, more than you probably know.

Thank you,

Kodi Wolf