We are coming up on the end of our first year of operation here at Roggen Wulf. 2014 has been an incredible ride, and we could not be more pleased with progress we are making. It has been a roller coaster to be sure, and we expect another fast paced year to come.
We came a long way very quickly this year. We have made a lot of friends, developed a lot opportunities, and explored many potential roads to success. With just two days left in 2014, I would like to wrap up this year with a recap of where we’ve been and to give you all some sneak previews of what we have in store for 2015.
Recap: 2014 in Review
2014 was a year of rapid growth and learning for us. When I started this site in late February, I was working alone. The site was visited nine times in the entire month of March. Nine months have passed since then, and we now receive more views than that on a slow day!
Our editor has been instrumental in the site improvements that have allowed us to grow this year. He came to work with me officially in May, and he has been completely fantastic. He has brought a consistently positive and proactive attitude to our work, and has helped us foster the creation of the Roggen Wulf community.
We published “The Spoon,” our first short story by a featured author, in June 2014. The story was very successful, and we were very excited to work with the author, Colt Bayless. Collaborating with Colt was a pleasure, and we look forward to doing so again with him and other authors in the future.
I started promoting my work on Twitter in April, and our community there has grown to over 1000 followers since then. This far surpassed our goal for the end of the year and has been a big victory for our site, as well as a significant driver of engagement for us.
We have faced our share of setbacks, however, and I have made a few mistakes over the past year that turned out to be valuable learning experiences.
I devoted considerable attention to producing a new writing prompt every week. While I enjoy the prompts and love the responses that we get back from them, the time they required to produce could have been better spent developing other features of our library. As a result, we have scaled back the writing prompts to a once-a-month schedule.
This is a recurring mistake on my part. I have a bad habit of over-committing myself to goals, workloads, and deadlines that are too big and too soon to be reasonable. As a result, I have been learning to set smarter, more manageable targets. The learning curve on this, unfortunately, has not been as steep as I would like. Perhaps that statement itself is a perfect case in point–I am disappointed that I have not learned to slow down and take things easy fast enough.
A number of months ago, I became determined to write and publish two books by the end of this year. My goals for the completion of those manuscripts were unrealistic. What’s more, they drew my efforts away from the time and care our site and our community needed from me. It took me several weeks to recognize and correct my mistake. I do not regret this misstep, and I want to make that clear. It was a valuable learning moment and it helped me realize more fully what I wanted to concentrate on.
Our model has changed considerably over the past year. With the help of my editor, we have officially launched our Featured Author & Artist program, and we are thrilled by the interested responses we have received already. In late November, we debuted a brand new layout with a focus on new types of content than I had originally imagined. With that in mind, December has seen the release of two new webseries. I am very stoked about this particular development!
Over the past several weeks, we have debuted episodes of two brand new webseries. The end of November saw the first episode of The Rise of Hal King, a campy western with influences from Louis L’Amour, John Wayne, and Sergio Leone, which follows the exploits of sixteen-year-old Hal King in the midst of his father’s range war. The Rise of Hal King is published in short installments, usually around 4000 words, on the first and third Tuesday of each month.
Our second webseries, Bakabakashi Inbo BanBan, is an irreverent parody of popular anime and manga. The first episode came out early this month and has been receiving a lot of positive attention since then. The series is quirky, meta, and totally unashamed of itself. Fans of anime, comedy, and pop culture will get a kick out it. Episodes of BanBan are longer, averaging around 10,000 to 12,000 words, with new episodes available on the second Friday of each month.
The two series follow different narrative models and operate on very different principles from one another. Hal King is based on a serial model, with each new episode continuing the ongoing story. The settings and characters in Hal King have their anachronisms and dramatized elements to be certain, but they are relatively realistic and down to earth. Episodes of BanBan, on the other hand, focus on the resolution of a new, self-contained plot with each new episode, while the plot arc tying the episodes together gets weaved through the storyline in playfully improbable ways. With characters balancing on the blades of swords, fighting zombie hoards, and pitching killer robots against armies of sentient rats, being realistic is not our priority for Bakabakashi Inbo BanBan.
Placing more of our resources on these two webseries will replace much of our previous model, which relied on publishing short stories. This will give our work more structure and help us provide our readers and community with more consistent content.
We hope that BanBan and Hal King will help pave the way for more webseries on our site in the near future, including a third webseries, which is still in the early planning stages. I won’t say much about it now, but we expect that a debut episode could be published as early as March of 2015. We are still looking at storyboards and considering potential partners for the production of this webseries, so there remains a long way to go before we are ready to make any more definitive announcements about it.
A Sneak Preview of 2015
With all of the progress we made this year, I can’t wait to get started on what’s to come! The growth of our community and the opportunities we have had to improve what we do in 2014 give us an excellent foundation going into the new year. We have big things in store for 2015!
Featured Authors & Artists
One of the things that I am most excited about for 2015 is our expanding ability to support our community of indie authors and artists. If you’re not familiar with our Featured Author & Artist program, you can learn more about it here.
While I will continue to use this site to host my own work, we will be devoting more of our resources to showcasing and promoting the work of other writers and artists in our community. That program is a big priority for us going forward into next year.
The continuing development of our two webseries, and the possible addition of a third soon to come, is also a top priority around here. I see our new webseries not only as way to entertain, but also as an opportunity to learn and grow.
If there is one thing last year taught me, it is that mistakes and setbacks are never few or far between. To me, shifting our focus toward webseries offers a very exciting way to improve our resilience and to engage with our readers on a regular basis.
Over the course of next year, we will be exploring a number of changes to the format and functionality of our site, including a new and improved Bookshelf function. There are still many aspects of the site that leave something to be desired. We will be working to tackle these problems and identify others so that our library is streamlined and navigable.
I am not prepared to say much about what these changes and improvements will look like just yet. We are still studying our options, and there will be a lot of trial and error involved before we reach any definite conclusions.
Saturday Story Wars
One of my favorite things this year has been writing for StoryWars.net. Their writing community offers a lot opportunities for experimentation and feedback, and their writers are excellent people. I have written submissions for them most Saturdays over the past several months.
I took a short break from posting submissions this month so that we could begin preparing for next year. There are still a lot of ongoing stories at StoryWars, so there has been no shortage of creative outlets for my colleagues there during my absence.
I’m looking forward to resuming my work on StoryWars in mid-January! In the meantime, you can check out some of my past submissions here.
In addition to our Featured Author & Artist program, we are looking to make the work we do here more of a team effort. While I don’t expect much development on this front until late next year at the soonest, we will be on the lookout for passionate, motivated individuals to bring into the Roggen Wulf family.
Growth and Engagement
2014 saw a lot of growth in the size of our community. In the coming year, we will continue to push for growth, but we will also be shifting our focus toward increasing engagement. We want to foster an active and engaged community of readers, writers, and artists.
In 2015, we will be concentrating more heavily on learning how to improve engagement. We are currently exploring possible ways of going about this, and we aim to see results within the first two to four months of the year so that we can begin adjusting our strategy.
While I am happy with our branding in general, my editor and I see room for improvement. 2015 will see a number of experiments with rebranding aspects of our image in various places where our community is expanding. We have been more successful on Twitter than Facebook, for instance, and we will be studying potential ways to adjust our presentation in some places in order to improve growth and engagement going forward.
W are a very low budget indie operation, so reporting earnings is not an issue yet. We may not have stocks or revenues to report, but we do have community growth and engagement. We won’t treat these as things that are for sale, but for our featured authors and artists, they do represent an investment.
With this in mind, we are considering preparing quarterly or semi-annual engagement reports. We want to give our featured artists and writers a clearer picture of how the work that we (and they) do translates into better visibility, networking opportunities, and community building for them.
We also hope that talking more publicly about changes in our rates of engagement will give members of our community a chance to see what we are doing, and encourage them offer their interpretations and feedback on the numbers so that we can continue to make improvements.
We are still considering this option, so a more definite announcement about it may be soon to come.
Expanding Our Presence on the Web
Our efforts to expand our community on Twitter have been wildly successful this year and we are working to build similar bases on Facebook and Protagonize. During 2015, we will working to bring new social networks into our community.
We are still studying our options and considering the possibilities, but it is beginning to look very much like our first expansion of 2015 will be into the world of Reddit. We would like to begin building a base there as early as mid-January of next year.
We certainly have our work cut out for us in the months ahead, but with a little luck, ingenuity, and a lot of elbow grease, we are looking forward to making 2015 another landmark year! We hope to see you in the new year. Let’s make it a great one!
(Featured Image: “2015” by Justine Speedie)
(Roggen Wulf, 2014)