Karma System Live! + Free Launch Karma!

Karma

Hi everyone, the new karma system for completed novels has just gone live!  It entails everything we have discussed in this previous post.  As noted, you will notice no changes for ongoing novels.  For completed novels, after the first 100 chapters (or 10%, whichever is smaller), you will need to either use golden karma (paid) or regular karma (earned) to permanently unlock those chapters.  If you use paid karma, the cost per chapter is around 2-3 cents.  Alternately, you can buy the entire ebook of the entire series outright (should cost $20-$40 depending on length), subscribe to a VIP account to select 1, 3, or all of the completed novels outright, OR wait for it to be on a tri-monthly free rotation.  The very first completed novel which is going on free rotation is Desolate Era.  There are two reasons we have chosen Desolate Era to be our first.  One, it's one of our most popular completed novels.  Second, I was the one who translated it, so it being on free rotation means that all the other translators will start immediately getting a share of karma revenue; I don't really care if I do or do not 😂.  For more details and the backstory (for those who haven't been reading the news), check out (these) (previous) (posts).

The system is very intuitive.  As I've already discussed in the previous post, we have a launch event where you can earn 10,000 golden karma through our partnership with Perfect World! (note - the redemption page will be up within 24 hours).  Now, as a launch surprise, we are also doing a one-time free giveaway of golden karma to ALL accounts, based on account age.  If you registered anytime within the past year, including just yesterday, you will get 1000 golden karma.  If you registered between 1-2 years ago, you will get 2000 golden karma.  If you registered 2-3 years ago, you will get 3000 golden karma... and any accounts registered before 3 years ago will start off with 5000 golden karma!  This is our way of doing a small gesture to our older (and oldest) readers, as well as giving everyone something to play with as we all first get used to the system!  You should see the amount being added to your accounts throughout the day.  Please feel free to give us your feedback on any kinks in the system.


Economics

Now, with that being said, I want to talk briefly about the economics of translation, and running a legitimate, licensed translation site like Wuxiaworld.  I've noticed that in recent posts, there have been a lot of people who really just don't 'get it', but that's partially on me for not explaining things bluntly.  For those who live under a rock (hi caterpillar!), Wuxiaworld's novels are licensed, and that poses very unique challenges compared to a fan blog, an MTL site, or even the original sites.  I've already discussed some, like the challenge of publishers getting reluctant to license without either upfront money or a proven long-term revenue stream, and I won't get into that again (read the previous posts). The biggest challenge of all is, there are too many people who have to get a slice of the cake.

Slicing Cake: What do I mean by this?  Let me explain.  For a pure fan blog (like the ones that started off), the fan translator gets 100% of the pie.  If that novel earns 4k from ads/donations/advance chapters, the translator gets 4k.  Not bad.  What about the raw sites?  Let's say for the original Chinese, they split it 50/50; if a novel makes 4k, the author gets $2000 and the hosting site gets $2000.  But for a licensed translation site?  The pie has to be split FOUR ways - the translator, the English site, the raw site, and the author.  That means (if it was an even split), we would be talking $1000 for each party.


Real Numbers: For a wildly successful novel, let's say we do $20,000 a novel from all income streams.  On unlicensed blog, that's awesome money!  But for a licensed translation site, that's 'decent' money at best.  A quarter of $20k is $5000; not bad!  But remember a few things - first, our translators are almost all from first world countries, which have high costs of living; in order to translate novels well, you generally need to translate from your second language to your native language (English), which means we predominately have Americans, Canadians, Australians, and some Singaporeans.  Second, they are contractors, not employees (because we are spread around the world), which means they need to pay self-employment tax, federal income tax, local income tax, cover their own health insurance, and all that.  Some even pay for their own first-round editing.  First world costs are expensive, and the translator would be lucky to take home $3000/month after all that.  Again - this is decent money, sure.  But is it 'awesome' money?  No, it really isn't, esp. considering how talented our translators are.  Of the 300+ who applied during our last round of open invitations, ten novel translators made the cut off.  TEN.  That shows how selective we are and how much we prize quality, but people with skills always have a lot of other opportunities to make money.  One of our full-time translators worked in finance.  I worked as a career diplomat.  At least two others worked as a lawyer.  The list goes on and on. And remember - this is for a WILDLY SUCCESSFUL novel.  Not all novels are born equal.  We have translators would be making less than $200 a month on revshare, despite doing 30-60 chapters.  That'd be about $3-6 for anywhere from 1-3 hours of work.

But Ren (1): But Ren, what about ad money!  The site is huge!  You make tons of money off ads, right?  Well, not really.  As I've noted repeatedly, despite all the previous jokes about Wuxiaworld's ads, we actually do only work with legit, major advertising exchanges.  The simple fact is, ads don't make anywhere as much money as some people seem to think they do, ESPECIALLY on a site like this.  Advertisers like to have lots of new people see their ads one or two times, whereas here we have people who see their ads many times a day.  The rates, quite simply, are abysmal.  For two of the past three months, due to a confluence of reasons, Wuxiaworld actually paid out more in adrev share to translators than we made.  In other words, if we had no ads (and thus didn't share ad revenue with translators), we would've done better financially!  But of course, the translators (and thus the site) would have suffered.

But Ren (2): But Ren, if that's the case, why doesn't Wuxiaworld just lower its share to subsidize the translators!  You don't need to make that much money!  Well... I agree.  And we do!  Wuxiaworld is the smallest partner in the money game; we have a smaller share of that cake than translators, and also less than raw sites/authors.  That, despite having a sizable staff of paid technomancers, assistants, editors, and more.  Not only do we take the smallest share of the cake, we also use a substantial amount of that cake to subsidize many of the translators who otherwise wouldn't be able to afford to spend their time translating.  I fuckin' love Godsfall Chronicles, which I started (and also edit).  However, it isn't the most popular novel around but still has around 10k readers a day.  We pay the current translator double what the novel actually brings in, and that's part of what we do with our (small) share of the revenue.

But Ren (3): But Ren, if all that's so, you should explain to the original publishers that they need to loosen up!  They need to be realistic and lower their share!  Plus, these novels aren't that great anyhow.  Well... almost every single novel on Wuxiaworld is, without exception, a multimillion dollar blockbuster in China.  I'm serious - these novels have made millions, some of them tens of millions for the authors and platforms in sales, merch, games, licensing, etc.  The rights holders ARE being realistic.  They aren't expecting huge money coming in from this niche market.  But if there's almost no money (by their standards) coming in, they'd rather spend their time focusing on the Chinese market than even bothering with licensing to us.  Licensing to us means they have to have someone to monitor us, have to deal with China's forex controls, having to get special international lawyers to do contracts with us, and a whole bunch more.  Why bother at all?

Bigger Cakes, aka But Ren (4): But Ren, this is going to make the site shrink!  You should be doing everything you can to get more people reading, that way the cake will be bigger!  This is actually a major consideration.  Here's the thing.  Even though almost everything on this site is free, growth has stopped.  It's plateaued for over a year, and that's true for most of the major webnovel sites.  We need to spend money on advertising, and I've budgeted a large six-digit sum to spend on advertising.  The problem is, we need more paying readers.  Free readers just do not make back the money we would have to spend on advertising, and we are a small company that simply cannot afford to spend money to lose money.  For some actual numbers - right now, for North American readers, I've asked around and user acquisition cost is around $2 per user.  Factor in the fact that not everyone who comes is going to stay, and the 'real' acquisition cost for a long-term U.S. reader is around $4 or more.  That means, to acquire 10,000 new readers, it would cost us around $40,000.  Now, as I've mentioned before, under the old system, around 2% of readers end up contributing.  This means... 200 readers would have to contribute around $200 each in order for us to just break even on advertising costs alone.  Does that sound fair, or likely?  It really doesn't to me.

We need to spread the burden more equally, with more people paying smaller amounts, and that's part of the reason why we are doing this (alongside publisher demands); because if we cannot spread the burden equally, we simply cannot afford to spend money to bring in more readers.  And that means the site will shrink, not grow.



Vent

The following is just a vent.  Feel free to ignore it entirely.  I'll hide it all in spoilers so people don't get triggered.  For the brave, read on.  This is going to be one of my long, patented rants!  It may get deep, dark, and emotionally twisted (dun dun dun).  You have been warned!  (cue mock dramatic music)

For those who genuinely support us and love us the way we love you, know that when I say 'you', I am not referring to you!  Nor am I referring to you if you provided constructive advice or even criticism, or even voiced mild disappointment.  Who am I talking to?  'You' know who you are!

I recognize that some people were just venting in the previous posts and emails, and I also take some of the responsibility for it; I assumed everyone who cared read the posts in July/August when we solicited input, and clearly that was wrong of me to assume.  A lot of people who missed were under a lot of misinformation.  That being said, I'm only human, and I cannot help but feel a bit pissed.

We have done our absolute best to bend over backwards to provide as much value as possible.  You can read an entire series with hundreds of chapters for free.  You can read 10 chapters a day for free.  If you DO end up choosing to pay, you can either pay literally THREE CENTS per chapter to own a chapter permanently, or (if you read in bulk) buy monthly subscriptions that literally cost you a FRACTION of a cent per chapter.  A 1600 chapter novel, for 5 freaking dollars, means less than a third of a cent per chapter.  What the hell are 'you' complaining about?  That you cannot read whatever you want, whenever you want, and in as much quantities as you want, without needing to contribute?  (As already noted, ad revenue is next to nothing.)

I get it, that no one likes to pay for something that they didn't have to in the past.  But some of these comments are absolutely infuriating.  Just moments ago, as I was typing up this post, we got an email that said, and I quote, "You expect payment for doing nothing?  Payment for a story you can read all over the damn internet for free?  Ah well, another worthless website down the drain.  It wasn't much to begin with and now its nothing."

Like, screw you, buddy.  Right up the arse.  With a wire instrument.

It's like we ran a free soup kitchen for years and handed out all-you-can-eat free soup to literally millions of people, with just a few generous donors supporting us.  With the model about to fail in the future, we're still offering free soup, but in limited amounts; all we're asking is that if you are a heavy soup drinker, to please support us with one penny per extra cup of soup.  And instead, we're insulted and told we have 'changed', that we are now 'greedy', that we are 'worthless', and that they'll just get bootleg soup from a copycat next door... and have the moral high ground.  Seriously? Like, seriously? That bugs the fuck out of me, even if it's just a (tiny) vocal minority. 

There's an old, half-joking term that translators (years ago) used to refer to some readers: 'leeches'.  I've never used that term, but I can see why people use it.  Look - I'm perfectly fine if you feel you don't owe us anything for having enjoyed this site for free for years.  But don't you dare act like WE owe YOU.  We don't owe a damn thing (save to paid readers).  As a translator who quit said to me in private, in explaining the decision to quit, "I just don't want to have to slave away for assholes who think they can keep demanding stuff just because I get a few hundred bucks a month."

On top of that, it's not like licenses just fall out of the sky.  I'm in the air at least fifty days a year, and I literally just had a five hour meeting with a Korean publisher (news on that front soon!), three of which were spent explaining why we have so many free chapters.  That's not uncommon on the Chinese side either.  I have a new wife who I rather like to spend time with, but I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to get new licenses while pushing back as much as I can to keep as much of this stuff available as I can, and I get shitted on and called greedy?  Seriously?

I have personally passed on multi-million dollar offers for Wuxiaworld because I did not agree with investor business plans.  Millions of dollars.  One of the earliest potential investors (you can guess who) involved paywalling everything, and no subscriptions.  Another had the brilliant idea of using newfangled machine translation to translate thousands of novels for almost no cost, and then just doing some light editing; a better version of some machine aggregator sites, so to speak.  I turned them down, because I believe in what I'm doing, and because I genuinely want to make it possible for as many people to read as I can.

But you know what?  For a moment, I'm starting to not believe.  I'm starting to think, fuck it, maybe I should just take a few million dollars and ride off into the sunset, enjoying a great life with my new family and not deal with this shit.  Maybe we should just set up a flat $5/month paywall for all readers, or we should just do a flat pay-per-chapter that's in line with what other sites do, instead of spending months working on a system that allows for multiple options that's ridiculed as 'too complicated'.  I know for a fact that a simple $5/month paywall will make more money.  So what if the readership drops by 90%, or even 95%?  That 5% will still be generating more than the 2% that was financially supporting us previously, and it's a hell of a lot easier for us to do.

No, I'm not going to do any of that.  Probably.  But I am in a foul mood, and I needed to vent.  So I did.  At 5 AM in the morning, which is a usual workday for me on this site.

If you can empathize even slightly with any of the above, I love you and I'm 100% sure none of this was directed at you.  If you didn't, and your response is 'wah wah wah, stop whining Ren', then fuck you, ya damn leech.  If you can't provide even moral support, much less financial, then bugger off.  To reword that translator's comment, "I don't want to have to slave away for people who think they can be assholes just because they give us a few clicks a day."

Whew.  Alright.  I feel better now.  Off to bed.  Tomorrow is another day :)  Cheers all!