You wont grow if you dont invest into website and app
I am just going to say this as it is, your app and website SUCK. I visited j-novel several times in the last 12 month but always left quickly. The only reason I become a member is that google pointed me to this website when I was searching for a fan translation of a novel I found interesting.
Your website, its shit. No seriously, look at the coming soon list on the right side, you cant click on most of the novels in it!
Then on the front page, "MIXED BATHING AND NEECHUU AVAILABLE FOR CATCHUP FOR AUGUST!", how do you read it? There is no hyperlink to go to the series!
Not to mention the reader is dreadful, it makes poor use of wide monitors with high resolution and text is relatively hard to read. There is also no zoom button that would allow the actual book page to become bigger, you can only use CTRL + to zoom in.
Not to mention lack of something as basic as night mode.
Take a look at mangadex, it has a very simple and relatively easy website. Easy to navigate and explore. Learn from it, adapt to it, improve on it. Not to mention people like building reading lists, in similar fashion how novelupdates.com allows you to add novels to your reading list and keep easy track of progress. Myanimelist has been doing it for years on their own end for anime.
The app is also very simplistic, which is nice, but lack of night mode is bad. If you are going to change anything, then add night mode to it. My personal preference for reading books is eReader Prestigio, simple to use and have nice functionality. MangaZone is another example of how to do apps for this type of media well. Learn from it, adapt it, improve it.
If you are going to grown as a company, you must provide provide 2 things:
- A product to consume
- Easy and convenient way to consume it
If you lack funds to improve the website, consider doing a kickstarter campaign to gather funds specifically to GRADUALLY improve website and app.
In it current state, I really cant stand the website and app.
They know about all the issues, but they don't have much manpower available to work on improvements, and hiring additional people is a process that itself takes a big chunk of time from people who are already fully booked. J-Novel Club isn't a large company with an HR department... and heck, look at how terrible Yen Press's website is despite the fact that they're co-owned by two giant multi-billion dollar mega-corporations.
Big upgrades to the app are in the works (the first set of upgrades are in public beta right now), and a website redesign is planned. They also probably need to prioritize manga support, since that's not too far off from launching.
It's also worth remembering that the app and website only represent a small percentage of J-Novel Club's revenue. The vast majority of their revenue comes from external retailers like Amazon/Kobo/iBooks/Google/etc.
Technically, building a solid Member and Premium member base would generate a much more stable income compared to relying on kickback from amazon and the others. This is why amazon e-book service is also subscription based, it generates a stable income.
There is a bunch of "low hanging fruits" that can be improved upon relatively quickly. For example, think of the user flow. Where do would the user visiting this website click first?
All book covers in "Coming Soon" list must be hyperlinks. Not just the ones that have "Available Now" text. First few times I visited this website, I attempted to click on stuff in coming soon section, failed and thought this was some kind of malware scam website and promptly left.
Make book cover more prominent in the coming soon list, heck, make the icons twice as big? Pictures are good, pictures catch peoples attention.
Pictures are good and I will repeat it again, pictures are good! If you look at feks: amazon book preview for grimgar, you will notice they have a bunch of illustrations in the first few pages before assaulting people with text. Adding novel illustrations to books landing page will grab peoples attention much easier then having them read the synopsis.
This isnt a low hanging fruit, but it will improve the feel of the novel landing page. And you do that by getting rid of the parts list. Incorporate it into volume list and transform it into some sort of drop down/expanding list. Just look at baka-tsuki or novelupdates for how they handling novel content. Something like:
---> Chapter 1
---> Chapter 2 (In progress)
---------> Part 1.
---------> Part 2.
---------> Part 3.
Once the whole chapter is translated, parts are merged into a one entity, chapter 2 and so on.
Lastly, shuffle around a bit on the novel landing page. Make the box containing synopsis and novel image about 20-40% bigger. Allow people to click on novel image and view novel illustrations. Add a big button saying "READ NOW" under the novel image. Once a person has read first chapter and they are not a premium member, they can be referred to amazon to buy or offered premium membership to read the rest.
Move "Buy Now" somewhere else where it can remain in sight, discretely. Having it right next to the novel cover just screams try hard. The most important part is to catch peoples interested, once they are interested, they will find the buy button themselves.
Disclaimer: I'm speculating about reasoning and could be completely wrong.
Yes, subscription revenue is stable and higher margin... it just represents a pretty small portion of J-Novel Club's revenue. The vast majority comes from Amazon, after all. Most people just want to buy the books, not read pre-pubs, and they don't want to pay for a subscription to buy the premiums.
Some things that might seem like low hanging fruit aren't necessarily so. The entire site (and the app, which is also using the same API) is essentially generated on the client-side based on data from the J-Novel Club API, so if some particular thing is lacking the information required to do such an enhancement, it doesn't just require changes to the front-end (which IIRC is React, with the app being React Native), but to the API schema itself. The API is semi-public, FYI: a bunch of us have written software, often for personal use, that leverages the API for various things. Basically, anything that can be done via the website, including getting prepub content, can be done via the API. It's not obfuscated in the least, as hitting F12 in Chrome is the only thing you need to do to reverse-engineer it, and they've been perfectly willing to answer questions about how particular things work.
A lot of it is really just... Even if making some simple changes only takes a few hours, those are hours that need to be taken away from some other task. At this point, the person who would need to spend those hours is the owner of the company, who as one of only two full-time employees, has a rather lot on his plate. It also becomes a possible wasted effort, because if you plan to eventually redo the site completely, then spending time trying to improve the existing one (which represents little revenue) is possibly wasted effort.
@zing I agree about the coming soon column, linking the covers and/or titles to the series page itself would be easy and quick to do. And the same is true for the catch up series, a quick link to them doesn't hurt, rather it makes people more likely to check them out if a link is readily available for them.
@zing Thanks for all the the comments! I actually really agree with almost all your points, and I'm working when I can on starting a full site UI redesign to address all the issues and features that we are still lacking.
You could be less rude though, if you want to make friends on the internet.
make friends on the internet.
Sorry. I had to.
You could be less rude though, if you want to make friends on the internet.
Heh, when you've been reading The Magic in this Other World is Too Far Behind! for the last couple of days with only 3 hours of sleep in between work and reading... Well, maybe I was a bit too blunt in the way I worded myself. But not out of spite, just want to see you guys succeed and grow. As it would mean you can take on more novels, maybe even some of those obscure ones that don't make in the top 30 sales chart, ever.
Just curious, JNC focus is bring better, high quality and of course with fast translation of Japanese LN to English but why people keep ranting about the website and the app?
Well, its not like I don't want a better web and app from JNC, just think I'm just odd person who want to give my 2 cent which I'm already content with how JNC now with providing premium epub without DRM and yeah highest quality and speed of translation.
My 2 cents as well,
I didn't become a premium member to JNC for their web-site, I signed up because 1. I've been leeching off the LN author's by reading fan translations and wanted to support my favorite author's by supporting someone who took the time to get a license. and 2. Support JNC's efforts in bringing good quality translations for a pretty reasonable price.
When I signed up almost a year ago, I had issues with how to read novel's on the website and how to use their mobile app. All it took was one or two questions and the great community here helped me out by answering my questions.
I'm not disagreeing with your critique, I'm just saying I've worked around those issues and have gotten accustomed to how things are.
Additionally, I don't necessarily agree that these points you mentioned with make JNC grow any faster. I would much rather see JNC bring on more titles than improve the website or update their app.
A good first impression always helps thought, and being able to access the content faster is good too.
@swhp and @Silvermane JNCs site is just not that good. It is not user-friendly and it is a pain to navigate even for me who has been a member for almost as long as JNC has been around. Have you seen all the countless threads started by new users about how to read a part, how to navigate etc. If the site was not as poorly designed there would not be so many. JNC certainly has a fast and high-quality translation and that will attract fans, yet a website that is at the very least competent and does not confuse the user will keep the fans. I think This page should be easier to access; Not everyone will scroll to the bottom of the page to look for it and this can be very important info for new users to the site, This should be easy to see regardless if you made an account or not. I also think that the benefits of the Try, Read, and Buy should get some re-workings. The first thing under the Buy is
You can buy our fully published eBooks on Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks!
Would it not make more sense to focus on the credits you get each month, that they are cheaper than the normal member credits and that you get bonus content that you will not get at other places like the ones that are mentioned first.
I accept the criticism, I really do. One of the big difficulties I have with a business like this is forcing myself to spend time/money on website issues because I always ask myself: "couldn't I be spending this time/money to get MORE CONTENT" all the time?
In the beginning I kind of made a conscious choice to make systems that were basically minimally functional and then focus mainly on content, as a strategy which I think has succeeded. But now that we're established it's definitely imperative that I focus more time and energy into improving the systems and functionality to something more professional, and I really am working on that. Heck I'm starting weekly sprint meetings this week with some UI developers.
The core of your business model is the translations & selling them through resellers. As in, the content is the core business & the majority distribution of the content isn't via memberships; it's via Amazon, iBooks etc & memberships & direct sales is gravy on top.
Is there a rough percentage you'd be willing to share for the site/app (memberships + premium epubs I suppose) revenue vs the sales through 3rd parties revenue? It might help people understand your priorities, as I'd imagine some people might be under the impression that the memberships generate way more revenue than the do. (thinking Crunchyroll/Netflix business model, when you aren't that at all)
I'm guessing it is probably at best something like 95% external reseller revenue (so Amazon et al) and 5% membership revenue (so website & app related, including premium epub sales). Hell it is probably worse on the membership side, like 0.5-1% or something.
@smashman42 Actually it's more like 20/80 subscriptions/3rd party sales right now.
And although ebook sales have grown faster than subs, our subs have been growing consistently and steadily since we started with no outside advertisement.
Improving the website actually isn't about getting new customers, it's about serving the ones we have better and improving retention rates.
This thread actually brings up an interesting point, I've sometimes felt frustrated by this website bare bones functionality but I've put up with it because Sam and his staff have treated me well and provided me lots of content much faster than rival publishers. if I had to choose between improving the website and getting more content I'd probably consistently pick the latter, though if Sam chooses the former I understand why he would do that now.
@sam-pinansky Wow, subs are doing way better than I'd thought then.
Partly because of the aforementioned UI issues, I created a small bash script that will download everything from your JNC library. It will keep track of what it downloaded so next time you run it, it will only get whatever became available in the meantime (for instance pre-orders).
I'm currently using it for a while and see if it properly deals with pre-orders or cases where the book is technically published, but not yet available. If I don't encounter issues within a week or two, I'm gonna publish it on github.
Although I only tested it on Linux, no idea if it'll work properly on macOS or in this weird Linux subsystem in Windows 10.
I agree with the OP. The website seriously needs a lot of improvement. And from a business owner point of view: they need to do it asap.
The website is like your store front. It's sort of give people the feel and look before they actually go in and buy your stuff.
You can't wait for Amazon to show your novels and hope they would sell. I bet dollars to donuts your customers go through your webpage before they go to Amazon to check out your stuff.
I was so turned off by the website I thought (still think) you guys are low quality and not worth the price compare to say Qidan, same market, which has a much more user-friendly website. Don't even mention the subscription. The website makes it look so hard to know what I am actually buying for my $5/month.
I don't use the app btw. Why would I want an app for each website I visit?
I bet dollars to donuts your customers go through your webpage before they go to Amazon to check out your stuff.
Based on the percentage of their sales that come from Amazon, I'd take that bet :x