Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Alexandre Dumas all published novels in serialized form. (The Count of Monte Cristo took 139 installments to complete!) Channillo.com is bringing back the tradition, but instead of printing out the stories in the paper, they are all accessible online for a small monthly subscription fee.
When I was first approached by the founder, Kara Klotz, to apply to write for the site, the first thing I did was get on and read some of the samples of the current work to see if I would want to buy the subscription myself. I didn’t want to be a part of the site and advocate for people to buy the subscription needed to read my work unless I thought it was worth the money myself. I found series that I though I might enjoy pretty quickly, so I signed up for a the Bronze Membership and applied to release my very first novel, Arcamira, (originally written when I was fourteen) on the site. I was accepted, and now I give each chapter a thorough scrubbing and serious rewrite before posting on a biweekly basis. It’s been a great way for me to reexamine my first book and actually make it publishing worthy.
So, without further ado, here is a list of my personal pros and cons of the site from both a writer’s and reader’s perspective:
- Build a Platform: A writer platform is that elusive thing everyone tells you that you absolutely must have to give you a better chance of being published. It basically just means you have a reputation as a writer with a following of people who actually like what you do. Your platform is sort of like your brand. Even traditional publishers want the authors they work with to have a platform from which to market their books. That’s right, even traditional publishers with their marketing teams and distributors want you to do some of the marketing work too. And you can’t really do that well without a platform. Channillo can help you build one not only for yourself, but for your book. Though I cannot exactly speculate on how many readers there are who don’t also write for the site (simply because I don’t have access to that info), there are plenty of writers on there already, and the numbers are growing daily. Nearly every time I get on the site, there is a new series being boosted on the front page. In addition, people without a writer profile have subscribed to Arcamira, so there is an even larger audience to be had.You retain all rights to your book (as you should). Channillo’s only stipulation is that you don’t post it for free anywhere else. That means you could self-publish it on Amazon and keep it on Channillo and earn income from both avenues. You can also take down your series anytime you want. A traditional publisher might still hesitate to take it on since it has been published elsewhere in the past, BUT, if you have managed to garner a killer following for the book on Channillo, you may just be able to prove to the publisher that the book will be a profitable investment. Or, by gaining a following for one work on Channillo, you can submit another work to a publisher and point to your Channillo following to prove that people like your stuff.
- Get Paid for your Fiction: When I saw those earnings that first month, it felt REALLY good. True, it was only a little over $5. True, I make way more than that off my professional writing projects. But so what! I made money off my first novel! I got more subscribers the next month and got a slightly bigger earnings statement the next go-round. $7 more bucks, woohoo! Each time I get those statements, it motivates me to bring in more subscribers, because if I can actually get a nice big following, I could make some real money each month.
Channillo gives the authors 80% (after payment processing fees) of the subscription revenue. That’s a very nice percentage. Now, the reason the earnings are still small is because the subscriptions themselves are very cheap. But, hey, if people had to pay $30 bucks a month, you’d be very hard-pressed to build a big following.
It is also important to note that you don’t actually receive the earnings until you reach $50. This is a bit of a downer, but I see why they do it. I’m pretty sure the site itself is run by a very small, independent staff, and they probably don’t want to be sending out a boat-load of $5 checks to people every month.
Not in it for the money whatsoever? You can have your earnings donated to a charity of your choice.
- Get Feedback: Channillo has a discussion section where people can comment on your series. Since Channillo is a hub for both readers and writers you can get feedback from both ends of the spectrum. The feedback from writers can be especially useful if your series is a first draft, and feedback from readers who love your genre is always a huge help.However, I have noticed that not many people utilize the discussion section. I really don’t know why. Even the most popular series don’t have all that much feedback. I think Channillo should do something to promote discussion more. Many writers, including myself, encourage feedback in their bios, but it doesn’t seem to have an impact. Perhaps it is because of the rudimentary nature of the site again. We have been spoiled by Facebook and it’s emoticons, stickers, and gifs, and Channillo’s discussion board just looks well…boring. My plan is to start asking for feedback on my social media sites when I post the announcements of new chapters. We’ll see how that goes.
- Good Value: So long as you are an avid reader, a monthly subscription is well worth the price. I have the Bronze Membership, and really, that’s what I would suggest to everyone. It’s $4.99 a month to be able to subscribe to up to ten stories. The Gold Membership is $9.99 for up to twenty-five subscriptions, and the Platinum is $19.99 for unlimited subscriptions. Honestly, though, I could never read more than ten a month with my schedule. I think most people will feel the same way. I love the series I am subscribed to, and I usually start my day with them, reading while I eat breakfast, but I don’t read from all of my subscriptions every day. If I had more than ten, I would just never read them all.
- Discover Up and Comers: Now, not every series on Channillo is a diamond in the rough, but there are some really talented writers posting installments of great stories weekly, biweekly, or monthly. One of the series that has really captivated me is Chrysalis and Clan by Jae Mazer. It’s a horror story, and, boy, does that girl know how to write horror. It’s the kind of horror that creeps up under your skin with a mounting sense of dread in every paragraph. It mounts and mounts until it explodes right in your face and leaves you shivering afterward. I’m serious; she is very good. I really wish she posted weekly instead of monthly, but hey, greatness takes time.
- Lots of Variety: Channillo doesn’t just house fiction books. You can find investigative journalist, media critique, and personal experience-style columns as well as poetry and short story collections. The nonfiction spans as many genres as the fiction.
- Overly-simplistic Site Production: The structure of the site is very basic, and it has a lot of kinks. For instance, I do not write my installments directly into the site’s program because I already have the book fully written. I do my rewrites directly into my original Word document in order to save myself the time of retyping the stuff that doesn’t need any editing. This shouldn’t be a problem, because the program allows you to paste into it. It even has a special button that is supposed to make it easier to transfer in Word documents. However, every time I copy and paste, no matter what method I use, it messes up my indents. Half the paragraphs and dialogue lines are indented, and the others are not. I have to go through manually every time and fix this. Not a huge deal in the slightest, but I can’t help but say, “Whyyyy?” like a lamenting hero on his knees in the rain every time. Also, on my Firefox browser, when I was trying to sign up for the site, it was giving me a warning message about the site not being properly registered with them and that I should be wary. I didn’t have this problem when using Google Chrome, but some of the people I know personally who tried to sign up with Firefox got the same message. It’s inconvenient because you have to go in and create a bypass in your browser settings if you want to keep using Firefox. For all I know, though, they could have fixed this already because I alerted them to it.That’s something that really makes up for the kinks. Channillo’s support staff is very helpful. Really, I need to contact them about the indent thing because they can probably fix it. I was recently having trouble (using Google Chrome this time) unsubscribing to a series that I didn’t end up liking (the button would blink, but nothing changed), and after I contacted them, they responded and had me unsubscribed all in the space of about forty minutes with no hassle to me.
- Double the Promoting Effort: When you are trying to attract readers to your series, you not only have to interest them in your story, but in the site itself. It definitely makes things tougher. I know a lot of people who would be happy to pay to read my book, but some of them are not avid enough readers to want to pay to keep up with a bunch of different stories at once. Though the price is very good if you are actually reading multiple series, it’s not so hot when you are only reading one that is posted biweekly. In that case, you read two chapters a month for $5. Not good. So, you have to identify the right audience for both your book and the site itself and get the message out to them.
Cons for Readers:
- Not All is Golden: Though there is an application process, it’s definitely not intensive. You basically just have to show that you have a solid idea, and you can get accepted. Now, if you don’t adhere to your stated timeline of when you will publish installments, or break Channillo’s guidelines, your series will be listed as inactive or postponed. Still, there are plenty of very amateurish writers who post on a regular basis. While this very open acceptance policy is great for writers who want to test the waters and get feedback, it can be a drawback to writers. You may really like a story, but the writing is just blah. Or you may find someone who really knows how to string a sentence together, but they can’t carry a plot. It’s not a hub of bestsellers. Just know that going in. But also know that you can find some real gems and support some wonderful up-and-coming writers in the process.
- Small Samples: Before you subscribe to a series, you get to read a sample. However, it is based on a word count, and a pretty small one at that. Some people write short, punchy chapters, and you can read the whole first one upfront. However, for others, you only get a fraction of a chapter. This is good for writers because if they can hook you with their opening and make you want more, they get a subscription. However, as a reader, I have been intrigued by some of these tiny samples and subscribed only to find that the opening is the only shining moment. Probably because many new writers take extra loving care of those first chapters and then get lost and unsure or even bored in the middle. Still, if you don’t have the unsubscribing kink I had, this isn’t really a big deal. Just unsubscribe and find something better (trust me, you can). It’s just that it can be disappointing to want to know where a plot goes and not be able to make yourself get there because you can’t get through the writing.
I have really enjoyed my time on Channillo thus far. It’s still a pretty new site, and based on what I’ve seen and experienced so far, I think things can only go up from here in terms of audience growth, in-house participation, and site design. Weigh the pros and cons, give the site a look, and see if it might be the right tool to put one of your current or past works out into the world.