Apr 10th

Anyone spot any changes?

By Harry

Hi folks

You'll see that the banner at the top of the Cloud has changed, as have the menu options immediately below. So just to say a few things:

1) Do pop over to the new Jericho Writers site and take a look

I think you'll like it! Lots of you won't want or need the things offered under the membership umbrella, but I'd still be interested to know what you think.

2) Making the new Jericho Townhouse free (or very low cost)

That's still a very real possibility. We just can't commit to that until we've actually got some data on site revenues, use and all the rest of it. Don't worry of there's a bit of silence from us on that front for a while - a thriving, affordable community remains a priority for us

3) Do share!

We're about to start tooting about the new look us. If you can help by sharing news of our transformation (on FB / Twitters / websites) we'd really appreciate it.

4) And yes, we know . . .

As we actually complete the migration the WW website will gradually vanish, and the JW basically replace it. While that's happening (and being tested) you may get some weird results for a while. Don't worry. We're on it. I also know that the "Need more help?" column (bottom left) on the Word Cloud is out of date, but the collapsing software won't let me change that, so it is what it is.

***

When we make a final decision on how to maintain a peer-to-peer community on the new platform, y'all will be the very first to know.

Big love and squashy kisses to all

H

Mar 30th

Of Jericho, clouds, and community

By Harry

Hi folks

I just wanted to talk to y'all directly about the Cloud and the (Good Friday themed) death of the Writers' Workshop and its rebirth as Jericho Writers.

So:

The Word Cloud is staying.

Just as it is. No changes. No cost. No nothing.

We WILL close it to new members, simply because the software isn't up to scratch as it is. The system was never really designed to handle as much traffic as it already has, and outages are already too common.

We've looked to upgrade the software with the same supplier, but they can't do that without erasing all the data and starting from scratch. We've looked at shifting to a different supplier, but it's the same story.

And, truth is, that the supplier we picked way back when is basically comatose. They exist only to pick up ongoing subscriptions from people like us, but any active development/support work has long ceased.

Closing the site to new members is probably the one thing we can do to save it for existing members for the indefinite future.

I hope that is reassuring - or at least as reassuring as we can be, when the words "comatose" and "software supplier" live in such disturbing proximity.

But what about Jericho Writers?

What's with that?

OK, so here's the thing.

Nothing that we used to do as the Writers Workshop is changing.

The Festival will still be the Festival. Editorial crits will still be available to one and all. We're not changing any prices anywhere. (Except people in the US, for example, will see prices in USD, and those prices may not be exactly the same as the GBP equivalent at any particular moment.)

So anyone who wants the same-old same-old can have it, with not a whisker of difference.

Except . . .

We realised that an awful of what we do - or could do - could be delivered online. So yes, there'd be a set up cost to creating something (a video course, say, or a filmed masterclass), but the actual distribution of that thing would be effectively free.

So if we could just find a way to collect a BIT of money from a LOT of people, we could create a genuinely amazing service for gazillions of people.

Better still, if that service was meaningfully profitable, then we could take a chunk of the money that came in every month and just build new stuff.

Another video course. More filmed interviews. Huge extensions to our Agent Hunter database. And more.

So that's what Jericho Writers is all about.

Yes, there will be a community element (more about that in a mo), but that's not quite the centre of the whole idea.

Membership of Jericho Writers will cost £30 a month - but without lockins, so if you want to just buy a month's membership, gorge yourself silly, then cancel, that really is completely fine by us.

And what do you get?

You get this:

  • Our How To Write course that we were selling for as much as £650.
  • Our Getting Published course, that we were selling for as much as £295
  • An excellent Self-Publishing course which will compete directly with, for example, Mark Dawson's $499 Self-pub course.
  • Tons of filmed one-hour masterclasses, which are basically filmed versions of live events. So if you couldn't get to London for our Getting Published day recently, you can get the whole thing on video.
  • A new-look version of Agent Hunter, except that the literary agents database is about to expand from UK only, to worldwide. Once we've got a proper handle on the agents, we'll start adding other things in too - cover designers, proof-readers, and so on and so on.
  • A free advice line, which we'll staff. There'll be no salespeople on the end of that line, just people (like Nikki Holt, for example) whose only brief will be "Help that writer."
  • You get the Townhouse community, which, Deo volens, will have some scrap of the loveliness of the Cloud
  • Discounts on every service (editorial, events, courses, Festival) that we offer.
  • First dibs on York places
  • And so on

The idea is just to offer so much crazy value that the whole thing is a no-brainer. I mean, you might not want to sign up forever, I get that. But if there was stuff you really wanted to learn and get to grips with, you could spend as little as £30, £60 or whatever and just fill your boots.

For me, the win will be if writers come away thinking, "Wow, that's just incredibly helpful. Thanks." It won't mostly be measured by whether we make money or not.

And if the idea basically works, then our mission is just: "Make this good thing even better."

Like: maybe we could offer a live, online slushpile submissions process every month with real, live, engaged, hungry, communicative agents?

Or twice a month, once with London agents, once with New Yorkers?

And what about a "Here's everything you need to know about the world of books" news-type email? So that you're permanently in the know, not peering into the world of books, a puzzled outsider.

And what about regular, regular webinars involving top experts in different areas with the ability to ask questions of them all?

And what about a two hour film that enters the doors of a major publisher and just picks apart in detail how they publish books?

And what about . . .?

Well, everything really. We have plans for many of the items on the above list, and our ambitions are basically limitless.

Again, the core idea is twofold:

Build something so cheap that it's accessible to almost anybody (remember, you can take out membership for just a month or two if you want to)

Build something so amazing, it'll blow people's brains.

Then make it better.

It's sort of easier to show you this than tell you this, and we're not quite ready for the Big Reveal.

But that still leaves a couple of questions.

What about people who are really short of even that £30?

Well, honestly, I think nearly anyone can scrape together that kind of dosh. I think the real issue is more with people thinking, "I don't belong in that community. Those kind of things just aren't for people like me."

So again, I don't have specific news on this yet - we've been rather busy all round, to put it mildly - but we want to work with outreach organisations (folks like Creative Futures) to actually find the excluded voices. People from minority backgrounds. People from working class or ill-educated or underprivileged backgrounds. People in jail, or care, or whatever else. And to those folks, we'll just give our stuff away if we have to. The brilliant thing about digital is that (as long as you have a model that brings in a regular income from regular people) you can just give it away too.

So we will.

And because we are now thinking more globally than we used to, I hope that outreach will start to operate more gloablly too. It'll take us a long time to roll out every last detail, of course, but the intent is certainly there.

OK, and what about the Townhouse Community?

Well, OK, this is and remains a little bit uncertain for us.

There are two alternative options for us.

Option 1:
Make the community free and hope that people feed from the community to proper membership of Jericho Writers itself. That, obviously, was how we conceived the Word Cloud.

Option 2:
Wrap the community into the whole JW offer, so the "you get all this for £30" pitch becomes that little bit more compelling.

I don't actually know which one of those is the way to go, but I DO know that the choice isn't symmetrical. If we make Townhouse a paid service from the start, then we can always go free if we want to. We're not letting down our existing community users, because they still have access as thhey always did.

Conversely if we start with Option 1 - making the Townhouse free from the start - we can never change track, because we can't tell all those free users, oh, by the way, pay us £30 or we're going to delete all your data.

So while I'm genuinely uncertain about the right long term course of action here, I do know that we need to start off with Option 2. Then, I think, we'll need to bed things in, see how they go, and take stock in a few months time.

So? What do you think?

That's it from me.

We've spent well over £100,000 building Jericho Writers, and the basic WW team has gone from 2 permanent employees this time last year, to 7 today, and more joining soon. To say that this is a big move for us is to understate things. It's giant. We've bet the shop, and then some.

I honestly think this has the potential to be the biggest and best thing we've ever done for writers.

I also rather hope that it'll prove itself financially. (For two reasons. One, I haven't had any income for a year. Two, if the things goes well, we can just go nuts making it better.)

But y'all know us.

What do you think? What are your thoughts?

I'm a bit less crazy busy today - although our tech team is still hard at work through the bank holiday - so I'll be around for questions, comments, rotten tomatoes . . .

Let me know!

Apr 10th

What authors really think of the folks who publish us

By Harry

Folks

There's a post that you really need to take a look at. It's a survey conducted by Agent Hunter (our sister site) and Jane Friedman in the US. We asked 800+ traditionally published authors what they thought about the firms that publish them, and we got some extraordinarily illuminating answers.

Get a full tour of the conclusions here: http://agenthunter.co.uk/blog/363/

Get a peek at the entire dataset here: http://agenthunter.co.uk/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Data_All_Final.pdf

Leave a comment either over on Agent Hunter or right here among friends.

 

Apr 9th

A damn fine excuse

By Harry

I know, I know. I missed the Festival in 2013, and that was probably forgivable as long as I promised never ever ever to miss it again.

Trouble is, though, I've been and gone and done it again. Another set of twins (yes, really) arriving in July/August this year (yes, really) and some ever-so-gentle hints from the missus that she doesn't really want to be stranded at home alone with 4 kids under two.

This is terrible news in one way of course (no Festival for me!), but it's wonderful news in another. We're expecting a boy & a girl. All involved are faring just fine. The existing two (Tom & Tabby) have no idea what's about to hit them and will probably never forgive us.

It's thrilling to acquire a whole - and not under-sized - family after around 20 years of marriage. Exhausting in one way, rejuvenating in another. This looks like being a superfab Festival and I really wish I could be there. Have a fabulous time and I'll see you next year.

Meantime, here's a pic of the two horrors we already have (from a few months back).

Mar 2nd

Do You Love Your Publisher?

By Harry

Following my long series of blogs about my own publishing history, it occurred to me (and Jane Friedman, a blogger in the US) that it would be very interesting to know what traditionally published authors as a group thought of the firms who published them.

So we decided to find out.

We have put together a survey - available here: http://agenthunter.co.uk/blog/do-you-love-your-publisher-a-survey/ - which asks all the questions that we thought most interesting and most important.

If you are a traditionally published author (that is, not self-published; I don't care if your publisher is digital-only) then please fill out the survey. Your thoughts and opinons matter.

If you can blog or tweet about the survey, then please do. Our hashtag is #authorsay. A twitter-friendly version of the survey link is http://tiny.cc/2kmpux

We will keep the survey open for four weeks and gather as many responses as we can in that time. We will publish all the results and make them widely available to key opinion formers in this industry of ours. Thank you very much indeed for helping.

Feb 24th

Some authors are rich and some are stupid

By Harry

FInal reflections on my life and times with Big Publishing. Nip over here, take a look, report back.

Feb 22nd

Winding up

By Harry

The penultimate episode of my Magnum Blogus can be found over here - thoughts and reflections on all that's gone before. Comments welcomed below.

Feb 18th

Sorry - busy, busy

By Harry

Busy today - but the next episode of my life story is over here for thems as is interested. I'll look in the comments when I can.

Feb 15th

The Twist

By Harry

Anyone who's been following my recent blogs has had a long old journey. Three days ago you had the long-advertised Happy Ending. Now comes, that commercial fiction essential, The Twist. It's over here if you want to know what happens next.

Read about it there. Chat about it here. See you in a bit.

Feb 12th

Harry's Magnificent Publishing Career

By Harry

What's this? A book that actually worked? And written by our Harry? That can't be right, can it?

Pop over here and take a look at the next episode in H's history. It looks like a happy ending . . . but is it?

(Clue: there are a few more episodes left to go.)

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