Gem choices have always gained a lot of criticism, and I know why! I was one of the people who hated the idea when they put them in featured stories, and you can bet that I was angry when they were added to community stories. It was a real worry to me that people would overuse them or use them badly. I thought they’d be treated as a way to get into the Writer’s Payments section as soon as possible and screw over the reader. I didn’t think that community writers could handle it.
Well, I can be wrong. I was definitely wrong about this one! In fact, it turns out that the Episode team sucks at using gem choices, while loads of the community authors use them well. Typical Episode. They teach one thing and preach another! So I’ve changed my mind about gem choices after seeing them used well in stories like The Infected. Lots of authors are using them well, and I really can’t complain.
There is still the chance that you could abuse gem choices, though. If you’re using them as a means to an end (to get into the Writer’s Payments), the chances are that you’re using them wrong. If you think about them and use them with care, there’s no reason why they can’t be a great bonus to your story! So sit back and I’ll give you some ways to use them well!
What is a Good Gem Choice
A good gem choice is a choice that actually impacts the story. People pay money for those things! Or they have to watch a shed-load of ads and bad featured stories! The least you can do is remember that when you’re writing. It’s so frustrating when you spend your gems on a choice you think will be great, only to find out that it does absolutely nothing! If you’ve ever read the Georgia series, you might be familiar with this. There were quite a few gem choices in that, and many of them just didn’t do anything. I was fuming!
So when you’re offering a gem choice, you need to make sure that the choice feels worthwhile. You need to add enough content to the choice to make people happy. Otherwise, you’re expecting your readers to pay for nothing, which kinda deceptive. Of course, you’re more than welcome to add gem choices at the end of a chapter that simply allows people who like you to contribute. That’s what Wattpad does! Just make sure you’re telling people the truth and not pretending you’re going to give them extra content. But the money doesn’t go to you. It goes to Episode. You don’t get paid per gem choice. You qualify for gem choices based on how many gem chapters people read in 60 days (100,000) and how many people click one of the choices (300).
That means you need to find a way to give people content that matters. The better the choices look, the more likely it is that people are going to click on them! It’s up to you to make the choices worth 300 people’s money. But there is something else you need to think about: it’s what I like to call the Episode Class Divide.
What is the Episode Class Divide?
This is probably something you’ve never thought of before, but it is a big issue. It’s always been there a little bit because we only get a few passes at a time and need to pay if we want to keep reading, but now that we have gems too? Well, the issue is a lot bigger than it used to be.
Not everyone can afford gem choices. Some people only get gem choices from the stories that give you one at the end of each chapter. That means they have to read a whole chapter of a story tempting you with choices that cost twenty gems… just to get one single gem! That’s crazy! But it’s Episode’s way of making sure that most of the people who use gems pay for them. It’s clever but it’s really mean. Not everyone is going to be able to pay for gems, so you need to ask yourself who you’re appealing to.
Who can Afford Gem Choices?
Each time you use a gem choice in your story, you’re basically saying that the people who pick it need to be one of the following:
- Someone who has enough time on their hands that they can spend clicking through featured stories to get gems.
- Someone with enough money to just buy gems whenever they want to use them.
- That person who’s managed to hoard the gems we get for free at the start.
- Someone whose parents have the money to buy them gem choices.
Basically, people who are rich enough to buy gems. This is really true of adults who read stories! Some young people might have time on their hands to click through featured stories, but most of us adults don’t. We have jobs! When we read Episode, we probably don’t have much time to click through stories we don’t like to get gems. When we’re reading stories we do like, we want to get the full experience. This is our downtime, and we don’t get a lot of it. We either have to have the money to support ourselves and the time to click through gem stories… or we need to pay. Time is money!
Why is That a Bad Thing?
If you care about the majority of your readers like I do, you’ll want them to love your story even if they don’t have the money to buy gem choices. There is a huge risk that you’ll end up giving the rich people a better read than the ones who don’t have the money. We don’t need to make money a huge issue on Episode! We’re all here because we love to read stories! Plus, it’s not like you get the money from the choices. Episode is making money off you!
It’s a bad thing if you give readers with money loads more stuff than people without the money for gems. Then you’re basically saying “this story isn’t for you” to anyone who can’t afford to enjoy it. That’s what Episode is doing at the moment: they’re showing that they only care about their rich readers and not their loyal ones. How? Well, everything that matters in their stories now needs gems. You can “choose your story”, but only if you have the money to do that.
And until Episode gives us more ways to earn gems, that’s how it’s going to stay.
So How do I Fix This?
It’s about striking the right balance. You need to make gem choices worth using, but also make sure that the story is great whether you use gems or not. That’s where gem choices can become a lot more demanding. They might require lots of complex branching to make sure that the story still has loads of nice choices for the non-gem people. It might be a matter of creating bonus content that’s fun but not necessary to enjoy the story. It’s about rewarding people who pay for parts of your story without punishing the people who don’t. That can be hard.
I like to think of it
Treat all of your readers like they deserve to enjoy your story. Reading your story shouldn’t be a privilege for those with money. If you have that attitude, good luck getting reads! You need to be including nice little extras that enhance the story without taking the best parts away from the rest of your readers. So how do you do that? There are a few different ways that work quite well.
Good Gem Choices
There are many ways that you can strike that balance between a great story for all readers and kick-ass extras for all the keen gem users out there. All of the choices involve thought and care, but they’re all worth it in the end. It will help you unlock Writer’s Payments if that’s what you’re trying to do. The people who use gems will be happy since you’ve given them good content and a good reason to click the gem choices. It will also keep your loyal readers happy since they’ll still get a great story.
There are loads of ways to do this, but I’ll give you a few. Hopefully, my ideas will help you make gem choices better for all of your readers. If you don’t use my ideas, I hope you get inspired and find ways to make gems great for yourself.
The Customisation Gem Choice
This one is the hardest to get right. It is damn controversial, since loads of people read Episode for the CC options. If you want to make CC a gem choice, you need to be prepared for some angry readers. However, it is a great way to make sure that the story stays goos for people if they use gems or not.
This only works if you already have a clear idea of how everyone looks. Why? Well, if you have a vision of your characters, you usually wouldn’t give people CC. You might even have art scenes that look like your vision. Fair enough! If your story would usually not have CC because you care about the way the characters look, adding it in for gems can be a great way to compromise. It’s one of those great middle grounds I spoke about a little in my CC post. You know that anyone who didn’t choose the gem choice will get your idea of the story and you get a little reward for the people who chose CC.
If you’re extra intuitive, you could make it a win-lose deal. Art scenes for the normal readers and no art for the CC gem readers. That way, you’ve given both the gem and non-gem readers something special. It doesn’t feel like you only care about the gem readers. You’re just making the story different, not better.
You’ll see the CC gem choice in action in Sencha Stories’s new story, The Bad Games, which should be coming out soon.
The Points-Based Gem Choice
It’s time to crack out the points! This is a perfect way to add gem choices into your story without making lots of people angry. You give readers ways to earn points in a chapter by reading carefully and making the right choices. The story becomes like a game and it’s really fun for them to play along. The choices matter. People feel like the choices aren’t wasting their time! They’ll read your story carefully and make sure to think about the choices. Who doesn’t want their readers actually caring about the outcomes of their work? I do!
Then, it is the points that triggers bonus scenes. Add little scenes here and there for people who have chosen all the right things in the story. If readers want to get the true experience, all they need to do is make sure they actually pay attention. The non-gem choices they make matter because they add up. If the reader wasn’t paying attention, they can win all the points back with gems. Then it’s up to them whether they use gems or not! It’s not making the story better… if they make sure that they read and understand!
Points help you to make sure that the choices do count if you don’t want to be stuck with lots and lots of branching. As long as they get pay-off at the end, it’s a reason for people to keep reading, care about the Short for Main Character. This term is used a lot... More and use gems if they need to!
If you’re really generous like Caitoriri is in The Infected, you might even give people loads of chances to redo the chapter if they want to. Then, it’s on them if they read the same thing again to get the points they want or if they pay for it instead.
The Cop-out Gem Choice
This is a lot like the points-based gem choice and means that the readers will have to actually think about what they’re picking, too. It can involve points again, but this time you use them in a different way. This is about giving readers a good non-gem choice, a bad non-gem choice and a gem cop-out.
For example, I’m writing a romance story. The Short for Main Character. This term is used a lot... More and the LI are going on a date and I want the Short for Main Character. This term is used a lot... More to wear the LI’s favourite colour. So, the LI says what colour he likes some time at the start of the chapter. It’s then up to the reader to remember what colour the Short for Main Character. This term is used a lot... More should wear. I give them choices with the right colour and choices with the wrong one. Then I have the “phone a friend” choice where she can ask someone who knows the LI. That one will be a gem choice that people didn’t need to choose to get the nice date scene they wanted. It’s just a cop-out for the people who forgot or who didn’t care when I gave them the info.
It’s an awesome way to add gems into a story because then you can make the non-gem choices about knowing and learning about the other characters, just like it would be in real life. Their choices really do matter and the gems are a way to cheat. That means that the people who don’t use the gem choices will actually have the better, more real version of the story.
The Fix Everything Gem Choice
This one is similar to both the cop-out gem choice and the points-based gem choice, but is more about the gem choices making sense in the story. This is where you treat the gems like actual money in the story, and use them to clean up a mess that bad choices have caused. Again, you’ve given people ways to get the nice outcome through choosing the right things. Then, it’s down to them if they mess up. Oops! Too bad! Well, how do you solve that in real life? A lot of people throw money at the problem to fix it! You can do the same to gems in the story.
Another example for you: your Short for Main Character. This term is used a lot... More speaks to her little brother before going on the date. The reader has the choice of what they say to him. If they are nice to him, they can go on their date as normal and have a great time. If they’re mean to him, he’ll squirt paint all over their dress and ruin it. On no! Then, either the reader will have to choose to cancel the date, go in a bad outfit or use a gem choice to buy a new dress. Done! Easy fix!
Again, it’s kind of like a “get out of jail free” card for people who didn’t make good choices. It’s a way to still enjoy the story even if you’ve messed up along the way. This is perfect for keeping the non-gem users happy! Just make sure you warn people that their choices count!
The Bonus Scenes Gem Choice
I can’t stress this enough: this one is really hard to get right. It involves spending time thinking of content that will make people happy but won’t hurt anyone who can’t afford to pay for it. So, you need to make sure that the bonus scene doesn’t add anything too huge to the story, but still adds something good.
It’s tough to get the right balance. If you don’t do it right, you’re adding to the class divide I was talking about. If you do it right, you’ll make the non-gem readers feel like they’re not missing out on too much, whilst also keeping the gem readers happy. So, here are some types of scenes you can add that will work:
- Letting people see the same scene from another character’s point of view.
- Backstory scenes that are there to help explain why some people in the story do certain things.
- Extra endings for the most loved characters.
- Art scenes.
- Letting readers see what happened in to the other people in a room after the Short for Main Character. This term is used a lot... More left.
These work so well because they don’t take anything away from the non-gem readers. It doesn’t matter if you see an art scene or know why the LI was rude. That doesn’t take all the good stuff away from the main story.
In fact, again you could add this to the CC gem choice story at the end. So, they missed all the fun art scenes. Well, give them a gem choice to see all of them in the final chapter of the story. That way, they get a lot of content from the one choice and it again doesn’t favour gem users too much.
Things to Consider
There is something you need lots of if you want to make a good gem choice: honesty. You need to be honest about what the gem choice is going to do so that people don’t waste money if the choice doesn’t give them what they want. You need to be honest if you want to make choices matter. It’s a bad idea to just spring that on them when they mess up the choice. People are spending money on your story, here! The least you can do is tell them what they’re using their gems for!
Then there’s quantity. Even if people are happy using gems in your story, they are going to get angry if the gems are everywhere. That’s one of the main problems that Episode doesn’t seem to understand right now: it’s okay to add a gem choice or two into a chapter, but when it feels like gems are in every single choice that matters? People roll their eyes, close your story and never open it again. Then say goodbye to your readers! You need to build trust with your readers, and making them pay for everything ruins that trust!
Finally, you need to think about quality. If your story isn’t very good or the gem choices don’t feel so great, why would anyone want to spend money? Don’t just add gems in every single story you have. Make sure that you have a good grasp of the basics of coding and story writing before you try to add gems into your story. No one wants to pay for a bad story, so make your stories good before using gems. Good stories = more reason to pay.
So while I might have been wrong about gem choices as a whole, I was right that it is very easy to abuse gems. I personally think there should be more checks on gem stories, but Episode aren’t going to do that, it seems. So, it’s up to you to prove that your story is one of the good gem stories out there. If you can do that, people aren’t going to be angry with you.
I know the pull to add gems so you get paid sooner. It makes sense! Just don’t exploit all of the people who are supporting you here. Make your story for them and use gems well.