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Review of the Fiction Serialization Site, The Micro Times

Just recently I discovered another site that is looking for stories. It describes itself as a modern version of the Victorian serialization, and it promises to put readers in touch with great up and coming authors while connecting authors to voracious readers. The site: The Micro Times.

Here are my notes on what I’ve seen on the site. You can scroll straight down to the bottom to get my general thoughts or read the individual sections for a more in depth overview.

Readers Versus Writers

Anyone can create a series on the site, and anyone can read. You just have to have the rights to the story you are uploading as well as a cover. It doesn’t look like this would be a good location for fanfiction as that runs into various copyright issues and the fact that one is profiting off another’s intellectual property.

Format and Setup

Right now, one of the larger weaknesses is that the format is rather clunky for searching, and it is difficult to see what books are available. You can’t just browse all the available books. But you can search for genres in the search bar. Also you don’t scroll down. You scroll to the side. Rather counterintuitive, but this may be my American showing.

Currently it seems to be just web based. The contract is clear that readers cannot download multiple copies. Actually it doesn’t look as if there’s anyway to download anything, though the contract discusses downloads. It does not look as if there is an app right now, but the structure of the site and its features as well as the contract language suggest that there might be one soon.

There are some nice features such as the ability to change font size or invert color. And, as a side note, I like the cheery but subtle palette they’re using. The artistic feel is quite nice, and it appears fairly professional. It would be a pleasant site to read on. Plus it makes all the books look like actual books on a table.

Getting Around on The Micro Times

There is a guide on how to succeed at The MicroTimes, but it is sadly small and exceptionally general in its content. (This blog post will be significantly longer.) Much of the site suggests that it is still a work in progress. If things go well for it, I expect it to be a sleek platform.

Fortunately, the site itself is mostly intuitive. You can figure out just about everything you need.

Library and Book Availability

The vast majority (right now probably 90%) of the available work is from various classics that are in the public domain. Good news is that you don’t have to worry about paying for these. They’re free in their entirety.

The few non public domain works typically have the first chapter free (though most of these books aren’t completed and don’t have more than a few chapters) with each subsequent chapter costing a credit or two. I am not sure where you check to see if the book is uploaded in its entirety.

There is no browse feature as mentioned before. And it is not clear how you remove a book from your library once you’re done with it. You cannot organize books at this time, though there are two automatic lists to allow you to sift through books you have started and books you haven’t read.

Payment

Authors retain 90% of what they earn on the site. (The contract does include a fairly standard, “we reserve the right to change this” which is what most other paying platforms seem to use.)

Payment is made through Paypal. You have to earn 10 GBP or your currency’s equivalent to receive a payout. They offer payment in multiple currencies ranging from the US dollar to the British pound to the euro as well as a few others. Assuming you charge an average of 2 credits per chapter with only one free chapter, you would have to have someone either read almost 500 chapters or have your 26 chapter book read  20 times to reach the payout. (Bearing in mind of course that the 1 British pound is roughly equivalent to $1.50 right now).

However, with that said, 1000 credits costs only a little more than $16 US currency. So you’re essentially selling each chapter for a few cents. At first, I thought you started off with a few free credits to try some stuff out, but that’s not the case. And that also answers how they are going to stay in business. You do have to pay upfront if you want the non public domain stories. The packs range in credit size from 500 to 10000. There isn’t a discount for buying larger quantities of reading credits.

Security

The Micro Times is a closed community. You have to have a password and account to enter and read. Paid chapters cannot be accessed even as previews. I really like this security feature. You can’t google up various books on the site.

However, unlike Wattpad which has programs in place to prevent copying and pasting, users can copy and paste free chapters and presumably paid chapters that they have access to. This isn’t necessarily a deal breaker though as the same can be done to Kindle and Nook ebooks.

Community

Users can review books and rate them as well as “like” individual chapters. However, there doesn’t appear to be a community component in either forums or comments on the individual chapters. You can connect through your Facebook, G+, or Twitter account, but you cannot do much more than say that you are reading something or invite others to join.

Writers

It looks pretty basic to get a story setup. Unlike on Amazon or Wattpad, there is no cover creator. Covers are supposed to be 620 x 420. But there is a general cover that appears on all initial works that includes the title and subtitle as well as the author’s name.

Other than that, you upload it the same as you would on most other sites. You set which chapters are free and which chapters require credits. You input keywords as well as a short summary, and off it goes. The story appears with a table of contents. Users can then rate the overall work and “like” individual chapters. It doesn’t appear as if there are places for comments (which would actually be nice.)

The dashboard gives you an overview of what people are reading and where they are stopping. You can see your overall payout and your high marks. The tool that looks most valuable to me is the one where you see where readers stop. I don’t have any paid chapters up yet, so I don’t know how this works in depth. Just what was shown in the brief overview.

This doesn’t look like the kind of site where you can advertise. Essentially, as a writer, it looks like all you do is write the best story you can and then let it go out and make its way.

Likely Culture and Potentially Successful Works Here

The philosophy behind the site is intriguing. They claim to love authors and the Victorian serials. Their goal is to provide an author centered platform with a focus on these serials. If this is all true, I really like that. And I’m all for keeping a variety of businesses about and not relying only on a single massive corporation. (Not saying corporations are evil, but competition gives them a better incentive not to treat authors poorly.)

Given the current setup, I predict that fast paced romances and suspense stories will be the primary focus. Chapters that are between 1000 and 2000 words would be an easy reading length (though I recommend pricing that reflects the length) for the current format.  There are no page breaks in the chapters. Just a single page filled with text. Cliffhangers as well as stories with many promises of future secrets to be revealed are likely to be popular.

That isn’t to say that slower paced stories that focus on the details and a deeper experience can’t succeed. But I suspect that they will be more niched.

General thought here, but I wouldn’t recommend uploading chapters in parts. I could see readers getting testy, even if the chapters are long. Instead, just refer to each one as a whole chapter.

Also readers are probably going to expect better quality here. At least I would. If I can go to a site like Wattpad or Writing.com and read all the work I want for free, then when I go and pay, I’m going to expect better quality. Not literary prose, of course. Just no rampant grammatical errors or stuff that looks like it belongs in a random person’s journal. In other words, make sure you post more polished work rather than the initial rough draft.

Terms

First, please note that none of this is legal advice. I’m just giving my general thoughts as I’m browsing through this. It is up to you and you alone what you do, and if you have questions, you need to consult with your own attorney. And while I did read the contract in its entirety, this is just a general impression of what is currently up. Last but not least, the contract can and possibly will change as the site continues to grow, and it expressly states that it has that right to update its Terms and Conditions.

The contract in the terms and conditions (aside from being a pain to read because all of the first letters are capitalized, no matter what) appear fairly typical. The Micro Times wants non exclusive rights, which is typical and the best deal for writers.

One thing I’m a little uneasy about is a clause that says if someone plagiarizes your work, you only have two years to bring a complaint. It uses the nebulous term “when the cause arises,” but I am not at this point clear whether that is at the point of discovery (which would be reasonable and is probably the case) or when the plagiarism starts (which would, in my opinion, be unreasonable).

They do prohibit copying the content and uploading it elsewhere if it is not your own. So people aren’t allowed to go on and scrape together content as they sometimes do on other sites.

They have a fairly strict no plagiarism rule. If it’s alleged against you, you have to take your work down. Then you can defend.

Pornography is not permitted, but it’s not clear whether erotica is excluded. The typical “no promoting illegality” is also present. There’s also a “Moral Right” cause, but I don’t know what that means. It may be a UK legal precedent as it’s in the section that typically discusses not uploading instruction manuals on committing crimes and so forth.

All in all, it looks fairly standard.

General Thoughts

Initially, I thought that The Micro Times was going to be another attempt to rip off Wattpad’s model. There are some similarities, of course, but its goal is different. Plus it is trying to compensate writers from the start, which is a rather novel idea.

Now, truth be told, compensation for authors is not going to be very much. Assuming I charge 2 credits per chapter for a serial novel of 120,000 words that winds up having 60 chapters, I wind up with 120 credits, which would probably equal $1.72 after they took out their cut. Paypal is going to take another sliver of that plus taxes, so let’s just round down and say that each book will make $1.50. If I were to sell that same book on Amazon, I would probably sell it for $4.99, and, after fees and taxes, probably earn $3.00. (Please note that these numbers are approximate and not exact.)

But…I don’t think that means The Micro Times should be discounted. Subscription services are likely to become even more popular as seen through Oyster, Scribd, Kindle Unlimited, and so on. Particularly among romance readers (Scribd actually just recently started culling some of its romance entries if I recall because there were too many and romance readers are voracious).

The Micro Times does not charge a flat fee, which means that writers aren’t fighting over a potentially limited pool of funding (one of the criticisms of KU). If a reader likes what she’s reading and wants to purchase the credits, she can do so and spend it on the author with the author benefiting. It also means it’s less likely that you’ll get hate readers who are just reading it because it’s free and they want to trash it. At best though, The Micro Times  is probably going to be a source of passive income for most authors, though I do like the fact that you don’t have to worry about marketing here. You just upload and move on. I wouldn’t expect to see any great movement on any stories right away, but that may mean I’m just cynical.

While there’s still room for improvement on the site, I have to say that this one catches my eye more than any of the other Wattpad similar platforms, and that’s primarily because it’s doing its own thing. I’m curious to see what happens with The Micro Times, and I appreciate their pluckiness and their stated goals.

So yes, I’ll probably dust off some stories, polish them up, and upload them. There is a risk that I won’t ever reach the payout. But I’m intrigued with this program, and one thing is for certain. It isn’t going to succeed without some great content, and I think I’m willing to take a gamble and see how it goes.

Published inWritingWriting Life

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