It has now been about three weeks since I first put up some Google ads on FiftyWordStories.com. I know ads can be a bit of a touchy subject, so I want to explain my reasoning behind trying them out and share how things are going so far.
First, some context. I've been running 50WS since February 2009, and the site has grown quite a bit over that time. In July 2010, 50WS got 1,822 pageviews from 590 different visitors. In July 2013, site traffic was several times higher, with 11,934 pageviews from 5,066 different visitors!
What about annual traffic? Well, in all of 2011, 24,874 different people visited the site. In 2013 so far, with one full month left to go, the number of unique visitors has grown to more than 54,250, and could top 60,000 by the end of the year.
Outside of site traffic numbers, in the past four and a half years I've also released two 50-word story collections (with the third in production for release in January) and held several contests with a variety of prizes.
So 50WS is growing, and that's great. Of all the writing projects I've taken on over the past several years, 50WS has been by far the most unique and the most successful.
My goal from here is to keep that success rolling. The question I've been asking myself is: what might the continued growth of 50WS look like? Here are some ideas:
- Monthly themed contests (with prizes)
- Two stories a day year-round
- Published anthologies of submitted stories
- More opportunities for writers and readers to interact and share feedback
To make any or all of these ideas a reality, I need four things: 1) readers, 2) writers, 3) time, and 4) money.
Readership is growing. Submissions are pouring in. I can make time for 50WS when I have to (though not always as much as I'd like.)
The fourth one, though, is often the most complicated. Contest prizes aren't free. Neither is producing and publishing a book. The site also has some overhead in the form of hosting and store software.
Now, I don't really need to make a profit on 50WS, but if I want the site to move forward I do need it to be self-sustaining.
That's where the ads come in. I decided that if I was going to try site ads, they had to earn enough to pay for the cost of hosting the website. For the past 4+ years, I've been paying the hosting costs out of pocket. That's fine; as a hobby, 50WS is a lot cheaper than most other things I could be doing. But expenses are expenses...
My plan has been to set up advertising, let it run for a month or two, and see what happens. If the ads earn their keep, they'll stay, and I'll reinvest the money into other areas that will help the site grow. If they don't make enough to at least cover hosting expenses, I'll get rid of them and make other plans.
So how are the ads doing? As of today, the ads have been up on 50WS for 18 days, or just over half a month. During that time, they have earned enough for about a month and a half of hosting expenses. Projected over 30 days—which is a bit risky with this little data—they'll earn about three times as much as I need to pay for hosting each month.
Verdict: the ads will stay until something happens to make them go away.
Of course, I'm very interested in hearing feedback from anyone who has found that the ads have affected their 50WS experience, because that's an important factor here. So far I haven't had any negative feedback about the ads, and I haven't seen any annoying popups or audio ads. Let me know if you've seen anything obnoxious!
Having a (small) revenue stream for the site could mean some very exciting things moving forward. Continued site growth means continued revenue growth, which means even more exciting ways to make 50WS grow, which is a pretty exciting concept.
I hope you'll join me in seeing what comes next!
In August I wrote a news post for Special People announcing that I was soon going to get back into writing the serial and moving the story forward.
You may have noticed that didn't happen. I did some outlining, I wrote and posted a prologue... Then it fizzled. And I'm okay with that.
I do find it disappointing that I wasn't able to get the next story off the ground, but I think it's been for the best. I have a three-week-old baby right now, and that would have meant probably a month or so off of writing. I also find that my storytelling isn't as good when I'm tired, and since the only time I would have to write is after my toddler is in bed, that means I'd always be writing tired!
I'm holding off on getting back into Special People until I feel like I can give it the attention and energy it deserves.
In the meantime, I've ramped up my work on 50WS. Rather than needing at least an hour at a time to work on Special People, I find it so much easier to spend five or fifteen minutes taking care of the site, reviewing submissions, and writing my own occasional stories, so it's been a good outlet for keeping my creative juices flowing. The site is really growing, too, and I have lots of ideas to build on that trend!
So I hope you'll stick with me, read (and write!) some 50-word stories, and keep hoping for the day Special People comes back for real. I know I find that prospect very exciting.
I have two bookshelves in my office now. Pretty excited about it. No room for my nonfiction, but I'll find somewhere to put everything.
As the editor of FiftyWordStories.com, I receive a lot of different submissions from a lot of different people. I publish some of them and turn down others, for a wide variety of reasons. Every time I turn down a story, I try to share my reasons for the rejection in a helpful and encouraging way.
Writing these "rejection letters" sometimes turns into an opportunity to share something that I think more writers should be aware of, or think about. Today I had one of those opportunities, and I wanted to share my response here.
I hope this response will be useful and encouraging to you, whether you're a writer/author or not.
I wrote this email in response to a story submission that was fairly dark and hopeless...
Thanks for sending this in. I hope it isn't too closely reflective of your personal experiences...
With "dark" stories, I always go back to something one of my high school teachers told me. I showed him a dark story I'd written, based on a nightmare I'd had. He asked me where the story's "redemption" was.
It didn't have one.
I think this story is in a similar place. Life can be dark sometimes, and writing, as a reflection of life, can certainly go to those dark places, too. But as authors and artists, I think it's important that we find a way to make those dark spots count for something. There should be meaning, hope, growth, or redemption of some sort in the dark things that we write, some kind of encouragement or a call to action, or even a cry for help.
This story is simply a descent into hopelessness, without any of those redemptive elements I just described. I'd like to encourage you to move beyond the darkness of a story like this and find a way to bring out a positive of some kind. Maybe that means finding something to hope in or hope for. Maybe it means calling people to come and do something to make a change or challenge the darkness. Or maybe the only thing you can do is turn it into a cry for help. (For an example of this, see Psalm 88.)
So thanks again for submitting. I won't be using this story on the site, but I hope sending this in has allowed you to express what you needed to express, and I hope you're able to find some redemption through your writing in the future.