First, I want to thank everyone for their opinions and thoughts on how we should overhaul completed novels. We've reviewed nearly 2000 comments across multiple platforms and forum, and while we haven't responded to everything I can promise I HAVE read it all. First, I'm going to briefly go into some of the things which were discussed which may or may not work, because I don't want people to think I ignored anything. I'm putting those in 'spoiler' tags so people who don't care can skip it. Then, we'll talk about what we're going to do! It'll be a mixture of modules 2 and 3, with many of your ideas put in as well.
Paypal/Other Payment Options - We realize this is something people have been requesting for some time now. I know it still hasn't been done, but it's not because we don't want your support and money! Since we initially integrated Stripe, we've mostly been relying on Stripe's analytics and back-end suite for managing subscriptions, but that means for technical reasons it's very hard for us to integrate other forms of payment, as subscriptions generated via payment outside of Stripe obviously won't be included within Stripe's subscription database. We've been considering this for quite some time and may have some solutions, esp. since eventually people will be able to pay via Google Pay or Apple Pay via our apps, so just keep your fingers crossed as we get things together!
Audiobooks - Maybe - This is something we've seriously considered. The main issue is this - to do audiobooks properly, we need qualified voice actors. The problem with this is twofold. One, we can only really do this with fully edited novels (which again, have a long lead-in time), and two, voice recording can be extremely expensive, especially when factoring in how freaking long these novels are. Thus, audiobooks are up for consideration but likely won't be coming for some time, albeit we may do a test run next year.
Load Balances - Never - People have suggested that we let readers 'load' actual money into a virtual account on Wuxiaworld that could be spent. The amount of paperwork, regulatory hassle, and international laws that this would require is beyond insane. This is an absolute no go.
Physical Books - Maybe (Some) - We'd love to do these! But the problem is, for the most part, we do not have licenses for printing books, only publishing them online in digital form. While a few specific books we do have print publishing rights for, the vast majority we do not and it's going to be difficult to acquire them. In the short term, expanding into physical books will be very limited.
Here is my mindset:
1) I want people from low-income households or countries to be able to continue to read our novels,
2) I need a sustainable stream of revenue for completed novels so that license holders will continue to license new ones to us AND re-license the old ones when those contracts are up,
3) I want readers who are willing and able to financially support WW to be given tangible benefits commensurate to what they've put in,
4) I want to keep as many novels on Wuxiaworld as possible, and I don't want to be completely beholden to Amazon,
5) I want the app to be released soon as possible, without needing to wait another few months as we go through all the changes.
6) I want to reward existing advance chapter sponsors and VIP's for their faithful support, without double-dipping and double-charging them.
7) I want to resolve any issues with ads once and for all.
With that in mind, here is the model that we have more or less settled on. These changes will be rolled out in the course of the next two months, with the easier ones coming first and the biggest ones coming at the end. In short, the overall reading 'permissions' will be divided into 'free reading for everyone', 'permanent ownership', and 'subscription'.
FREE FOR EVERYONE
For completed novels, there will be at least one free completed novel that is rotated 4 times a year, with others requiring either 'ownership' or 'subscription' needed to access them. As our numbers of completed novels increase, the number of novels that are free at any given time will increase as well. For the free completed novel, any REGISTERED user can read it without needing to do anything. There WILL be popup ads every 2-3 chapters or so (more details on that later, with explanations and thoughts).
Non-registered 'guest' visitors will be able to read up to 50 chapters before being prompted to register and/or login.
For completed novels outside the 'free rotational', every registered accounts will be able to read the lesser of either 10% or 100 chapters of any novel. To read beyond that, they will need to either have a 'subscription' or 'ownership', with the latter available via both per-chapter purchases via our upcoming 'karma' currency, direct full-series purchases for those who already know what they want, and free full-series 'gifts' for those who enroll in our new VIP tiers for extended periods of time.
(I hate microtransactions like the plague, but there are specific legal and technical reasons why we need to have our own virtual currency, explained below.)
You can 'own' a series in three ways: You can either buy chapters individually via our 'karma' currency (which can be also be earned), by buying the entire series via cash/credit directly, or by receiving them as regular gifts for our VIP subscribers.
ACQUIRE FULL SERIES VIA DIRECT PURCHASE:
The pricing will be based on the value we assign the combined value of the ebooks in a series if we sold it via Amazon Kindle. By way of example, the full 8-book edited Coiling Dragon series, which was 800+ chapters long, would cost $35 if you purchased it from us on Amazon. If you buy the entire series, you immediately gain permanent access to in-app offline reading for that series, AND permanent access to .epub/.mobi/.pdf versions, with covers as applicable. If there are future 'improved' versions, you will gain access to those as well when they come out with no additional fee.
Direct Purchase Discounts:
Paid Karma: Any 'paid karma' you may have previously spent on purchasing individual chapters for a novel WILL also be applied against the total cost of 'direct purchase'.
Sponsors: The value of any previous advance chapter sponsorships you may have used to support this novel will be deducted from the cost, and if your previous advance sponsorships exceed the total cost of the novel, you will automatically get it added permanently to your library for free, with all above perks as well.
ACQUIRED VIA VIP:
More details below, but every X number of months you are a VIP subscriber at certain levels, you will be rewarded a non-expiring voucher which allows you to choose to permanently own, for free, a series of your choosing that will always be with you. Even if you later choose to let your subscription lapse, that novel will still be a permanent member of your collection, and you will get the same perks as described above.
ACQUIRED VIA KARMA:
You can use both paid and 'earned' karma to purchase individual chapters for each series. As noted above, the value of 'paid karma' will be offset against the total cost of direct purchase, should you decide to purchase it later.
We will have a way for people to earn free karma via video rewards or something like that in order to let those who truly cannot afford to pay a way to read as well, with specific details coming. We are tentatively going to be using 'golden karma' (for paid) and 'normal karma' (for earned), with a golden yin/yang symbol and a normal black/white yin/yang symbol representing each. Also - we may have lessened amounts of 'normal karma' for regular ads as well (see below).
Why Karma? - I think I've made no bones of my dislike for microtransactions. Unfortunately, it's going to be necessary for two reasons; the first financial, the second legal/technical.
The financial reason is this - we are going to price individual chapters so cheaply that we cannot do individual transactions for them. This is because most online payment processors charge a fee of something like $0.30 + 3% for each transaction. So, the only way this would work is if readers purchased like 200 chapters at a time; otherwise, everything would be eaten up by fees! But to me, this sucks; what if you suddenly get tired of a novel or want to read something else? You are already 'locked in' and your money hasn't been spent! To me, that's not fair to the readers. It has to be by chapter, but for the above-mentioned reasons (aka fees), that doesn't work. The only way to do is for us to allow people to purchase karma and then use it as they see fit.
The legal/technical reason is this - We are now delving into the app world. The problem is, per Apple/Google policy, all app-based transactions must go through their own IAP purchase. Not only do they get a 30% cut (which sucks, but that's another subject), more importantly my understanding is that when you make a payment via their IAP system, you are legally their customer, not ours. It makes it incredibly difficult for us to do refunds, alter pricing, give discounts, and all the other things I feel would be necessary to do good customer service. By contrast, with our own 'karma' currency, although you are still legally buying the karma from Apple/Google, we have full cross-platform control over the karma and can do things like give refunds as we see fit.
Our VIP subscriptions will be expanded to VIP silver, VIP gold, and VIP diamond, with the pricing tiers tentatively set at $5, $10, and $20. Current VIP subscriptions will be rolled over to silver and have an option to upgrade if you so choose!
VIP SILVER: This will be the current ad-free model, with the addition of in-app offline reading for all ongoing novels (while the subscription is active), and an additional 'free' user-selected completed novel they can change every 30 days. While the subscription is active, they will get in-app offline reading for both the 'regular' free novel, and the 'VIP' free novel they have selected. You will also continue to get advance chapter credit.
VIP GOLD: Same as VIP silver, except subscribers get free access to three user-selected completed novels (plus the 'regular' free one for four). More importantly, as noted in the 'ownership' section, gold subscribers will gain a voucher every 6 months which allows them to own a completed series of their choosing.
VIP DIAMOND: Same as VIP gold, except they get free access to ALL completed novels and be able to choose a book to 'own' every 3 months. Same rules apply for if they do VIP diamond for 3, 6, and 12 months at a time; they'd get 1, 2, and 4 ebooks at once respectively.
This is going to be a detailed, kind of techie treatise, so bear with me. In short, we've gotten a huge amount of flack for bad ads over the years (primarily on mobile), and I'm really irritated by it because it's seriously not our fault. So, we're going to upend the ad model, because long story short, we're the victim of arbitrage. The tldr is - We're switching primarily to a quasi-adwall (every 2 or 3 chapters).
Contrary to what many say, at Wuxiaworld we exclusively use 'good' ad providers. We only use major, trusted providers like AdSense, AdExchange, Amazon A9, AOL (yes they do ads), AppNexus, etc. We are extremely stringent on the ads that these good providers give us, and set a lot of limitations on what they can send us - no popups, no redirects, highly limited videos, etc. - the vast majority of our ads should be pure, low-impact 'banner' ads. We also set a limited number of ads per page and put them in places which don't impact the reading experience; our awesome ad team partners at MonetizeMore has been nudging us literally for years to put ads in the middle of chapters, and I've said no even as ad revenue has slowly fallen. As a result, we actually don't make a lot of money off ads, because 'good ads' are cheap.
Before I continue, I already know what some of you are thinking: 'Bullshit, you guys have cancer ads!' Let me explain. In short, our problem here is twofold - first, the pure number of pageviews you crazy people do, and second, the arbitrage that comes as a result.
By now, some are going to be asking, "Why are lots of pageviews a bad things? The more views you get, the more money you make, right?" That's how it should be, but in reality it is a bit more complicated than that. Here's the thing - advertisers aren't stupid. They know that the more times you see an ad, the less of an 'impact' it is going to have on you. There is a law of diminishing returns present here. So - the more ads from a specific company that you view in a day (or a week), the less that company is willing to pay, to the point where they aren't going to pay anything at all. In other words, the first chapter (and first five ads you see in a day) is going to be worth exponentially more than the 20th chapter (which would represent the 100th ad of the day). Our readers are so fanatical that we have people reading fifty or a HUNDRED chapters in one day, esp. as they binge, something which has actually caused advertising partners to blacklist us and accusing us of being bot-infested. We have to repeatedly explain to them that you guys aren't bots, just binge readers, but they don't always listen (and that's a topic for another day)... and that makes us the perfect 'victim' for bad actors.
Here's the thing. All of the 'bidding' for an ad spot on Wuxiaworld is done automatically, through what is known as 'exchanges' where tens of thousands of advertisers and their agents and middlemen buy advertising space. As the pool of 'good' ads shrinks, we have fewer and fewer 'good' bidders (on our already-cheap inventory), so the price starts to drop dramatically. That's when the 'bad actors' come in. If the value of an ad is at a very low CPM of let's say $0.05, bad middlemen will use software that 'tell' the exchanges that they are offering a bid of CPM $0.06 on that Wuxiaworld slot for a normal, clean banner ad. They win the 'bid' and their ad goes on Wuxiaworld... except hidden within their ad code is a popup, a redirect, or a video that would normally be worth a CPM of $0.50. In other words, they 'sold' us an ad which they got paid $0.50 for, while we maybe made $0.06 for it. They made all the money, while we get stuck with all the user complaints and accusations of greed! Eventually we find out and kill it, but by then they've moved on to the next site and/or advertiser. NOTE - it isn't the advertisers fault, they don't know what's going on either, as far as they are concerned they just sold a popup or a video for the 'normal price'. It's the damn middlemen.
The reason why this problem is so prevalent on mobile and not on desktop is because mobile ads are a 'newer' industry compared to desktop ads, which have been around for ages and thus have very good screening mechanisms for finding any 'hidden' advertising code. Mobile ads, unfortunately, do not... and because of the limited 'real estate' on phones, we have even fewer 'high visibility spots' for 'good bidders', which makes the bad actors even more prominent. We have tried to solve this traditionally for years, and it's a constant struggle. I'm tired of it.
So - our problems are a combination of super-high views, 'cheap' good ads, and unethical arbitrage. Here's how I've decided to nuke it. Instead of having 4-5 banner chapters on each page, we're going to have just one or two regular ads (or even none, we'll have to look at the numbers). However, every two or three chapters, there will be essentially a brief 'pop-up' ad that you can close after a few seconds and keep reading. These are 'high-paying ads' that Wuxiaworld will make decent money from, and as a result there is no room for dishonest middlemen to do any arbitrage. Combined with the now-lower 'total number of ads seen', and the pool of 'good ads' will dry up much more slowly as well. As a result, we should have completely nuked any chance for dishonest middlemen to make money by screwing us - because if WW is now charging a CPM of $0.45 for that pop-up, and they themselves are only able to 'sell' that popup for $0.50, then that means they are only making a few pennies. Not worth their time, they'll go after some other poor bastard.
This 'adwall' will be on both the app and the regular version. I recognize that it is an inconvenience, but we'll try to lessen it by lowering its frequency, AND (if the numbers work), giving small amounts of 'normal karma', so that everyone is benefiting. If there's no better way out of it, then at least we can try to make it a win/win for readers instead of a win/win for those farkin' pirates.
Thanks for everyone and anyone who commented or provided suggestions, it was deeply appreciated. Double thanks to anyone who read this entire massive post that took me two days to type up and refine! Will still be reading comments here and will take suggestions, but the overall model has been settled down on. As always, thanks to everyone for your continued support!