NovelMaker Social Networking for the Literary Set

NovelMaker is a social network for the literary set. It was brought to my attention in response to an article I wrote about Lazy Library. In the same comment section, the owner of NovelMaker promised a site design revamp soon, although that doesn’t seem to have happened yet. That means I am writing this review based on their original design, not the promised revamp.

NovelMaker is competing in an already crowded field. There are a number of sites already using Web 2.0 concepts to bring social networking, critique and publishing to the literary masses. The most well known of these competitors is EditRed. I’ve been a member of EditRed and other social writing sites like it for a long time, so I was excited to hear there was another option available. It’s hard to get your writing out there for the world to see, and hard to get honest criticism. For that reason I take a “the more the merrier” approach to new options.

Unfortunately, NovelMaker lost a few points right away for the current site design. It does not have a stand out design, and is not easy to navigate. Those are two essentials to a successful Web 2.0 venture: simple, elegant design and ease of use. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t that NovelMaker is hard to use, it is just that it isn’t as intuitive and well organized as some of the sites I’ve been using. Since they mentioned a redesign in the works, I’ll hope that fixing these two things are high on the list.

My other issue with the site is speed. It takes a long time for the pages to load. In this day of instant gratification, that is a huge blow to a site’s success. If I click on “Read Top Authors”, I want to go right to that page, not stare at a spinning beach ball or hourglass for a few minutes. To make sure the problem didn’t lie with me, I tried NovelMaker on FireFox, Camino and Safari on my high speed cable Internet connection and had the same problem with load times on all three.

NovelMaker offers a variety of options for posting your own work. You can set it to private or public, similar to other author networks out there. If you set it to public, you will be able to receive critiques, ratings and comments from other users of the site. Users of the site include people from both the publishing and editing side and the writing side of things.

Unfortunately, figuring out how to upload your work is not as easy to do on NovelMaker as it is on my favorite writing Web 2.0 site, EditRed. They seem to have one all purpose form for uploading everything from poems to novels – “Upload Book”. Clicking that takes you to a screen where you have blocks to enter information under the “Upload Manuscript” heading. The difference in titles may confuse some people, who might think they were taken to the wrong page.

Another drawback is that although they have text boxes for the synopsis, title and other aspects of the upload, they only offer a file upload option for the manuscript, book, poem, etc itself. They accept PDF and Word files, which is fine if you have either program or know how to save a text file as a doc file, but what if you don’t? Adding a text box for the actual manuscript submission would be a huge plus.

I was also not fond of the way results are displayed. When I search for authors to read, I only want to see the ones that chose “public” as an option. Instead NovelMaker displays them all, whether you can “see” their work or not. This may be another thing that gets remedied in the site redesign, but for now it is an issue. They also offer to help you self publish your work, a feature that has become standard in online writing communities.

In the end, I think NovelMaker has potential, but it needs to work out its kinks to really compete. There is plenty of room in the Web 2.0 world for another literary social network. NovelMaker just needs to hone its site interface and design and make it competitive with the sites that have been out there longer. It must be sleeker, more intuitive, easier to use and faster to be a true success. I hope the site owners stop by and let us know when they have finished the redesign so I can go back and take a look.

My original version found at Profy site

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