Busy August

Whew. August is turning out to be a busy month.

We just got back home on Sunday after a one-week cruise to Alaska with my family. Now I’m in my final week of my current job, looking forward to starting my new job with the Government of Alberta on Monday.

Not only that, but Larissa and I are doing some upgrades to our basement suite while we search for a new tenant.

So there’s a lot going on, and it’s all pretty exciting. But I’m looking forward to September, which should be a bit more relaxing!

Snow Mining

After two weeks away, I was dreading what we might come back to find in our driveway. Thankfully a neighbour apparently cleared the foot of our driveway after the plow came by, so that saved me from the worst of it.

But the front sidewalk still had to be dealt with. And deal with it I did. What I had to do shouldn’t really be described as “shovelling”; it was more like snow mining.

There were three or four inches of hard-packed snow-coal stretching my section of the sidewalk. I would spend 20 or 30 seconds jamming at it with my special mining shovel, then 10 or 20 seconds bending down to collect the raw ore (with some chunks being a couple square feet in size) and toss the chunks onto the lawn, presumably so they could be collected and processed into some valuable mineral.

I’ll never complain about having to shovel fresh, soft snow again.

Okay, who am I kidding: of course I’ll still complain.

Some Goals

I’ve never been one for formal “resolutions” heading into a new year, but there are definitely some things I would like to accomplish in 2014. It’s always a little easier to be motivated to do something if you’ve told other people you want to do it, so here goes.

In 2014, I want to:

  • Watch less TV.
  • Spend less time on my phone at home.
  • Catalogue my book collection.
  • Read more books (at least one novel per month?).
  • Release the third volume of 50-word stories.
  • Release at least one Special People novel in print.

I even have some ideas for practical ways to make a couple of these happen.

I’m going to stop carrying my phone around in my pocket when I’m at home; it can sit somewhere in the middle of the house with the ringer on in case I get a call. That should reduce the temptation to pull it out and check Twitter or whatever every five minutes.

I think I’m also going to make a “reading plan” of novels I’m going to read, in conjunction with cataloguing my book collection. That will help me have defined reading goals for the year.

We’ll see how it all turns out!

Ads on 50WS: What Does the Future of FiftyWordStories.com Look Like?

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.

Background

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.

The Future

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.

Advertising

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!

Next Steps

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!

An Update: Why Special People is Still Dormant

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.