I first started hosting websties on what would later be called “ModFarm” in Summer 2018, when a few of the author members of ThirdScribe asked if they could keep a website with me. Things were pretty stripped down – and fairly chaotic – then and I didn’t give much thought to constructing another network or starting a formal website company.
Fast forward to 2023 and not only are there nearly 100 websites, but we are also powering an email newsletter service that pushes nearly 1 million emails a month.
Lot has changed, for sure.
The original plan for ModFarm was to make it a large multisite network, which made sense from a logistical and financial standpoint because the sites we build are all for the book community and all use the same plugins. However, as time has gone by a lot of changes have happened and many of the services we have come to rely on don’t support multisite as well as they used to. In August 2021, ModFarm started spinning new sites onto their own individual hosting. Stability, speed, and security have all improved and it’s been a win-win all around.
But, one thing we’ve noticed, especially as newsletter and ecommerce use has grown, is that resource usage has grown far beyond just serving page views, and that not all sites are the same, despite their common components.
When the ModFarm Newsletter service was first integrated into the system, we had very small usage. A few authors were around 2,000 subscribers, others well under 1,000 (or even 500). When newsletters went out they were infrequent and the distribution was small. The servers barely felt them. Now we send about 100,000 newsletters every day and we can clearly see the impact of that on our server resource structure.
Likewise, our book pages also started out as fairly stripped down pages – cover art, description, and a couple of buttons. As improvements and additions have been made, those pages have gotten more complex with a higher need for resources – video teaser trailers, audio samples, newsletter signups, recommended books, translations, extras – the more capability we have, the more the need expands to fill it. As book page views increase (always a good thing!), the corresponding server load increases. And, despite what many of our clients initially believed, book pages are the defining driver of an author website, accounting for 70% of views or more. Their design and performance are essential.
Author sites are also not as similar as I had first theorized when laying out the initial digital bricks of ModFarm. Not only are authors needs and preferences a little less “standard” than anticipated, but the needs and tastes of readers has evolved as well. When we launched, Kindle Unlimited and audiobooks were fairly low need – now they are both a significant sales driver. Ecommerce was an afterthought, and now it’s a staple for the more commercially successful authors – expanding even into direct ebook and audiobook sales, as well as unique “direct only” works and pre-sales.
Even the sizes of our websites varies wildly, with sites ranging from 3 books to over 700! ModFarm has become a “go-to” platform for larger authors, but we still have a number of smaller authors and those just starting out, and I feel it is very important to foster that and have a place for new authors to build from. And, for those authors who have grown their audience and continue to expand, a path to ensure their needs are being met. Our “flat” build pricing came out of this concept, and I see no reason to change.
Similarly, we need to adopt a variation of “flat” pricing for hosting and support, something that is standard and predictable, but still flexible enough to meet an author or publisher’s needs.
ModFarm is now offering multiple hosting levels to better align with our clients’ specific needs, which you can see HERE. These levels address actual resource needs and ensure that every site we provide will always deliver and never slow.
So, How’s This Gonna Work?
I wish we could continue to “grandfather” all sites and keep our existing hosting prices eternal, but we are not able to do that. However, I am very adamant about keeping this as close to original charges and affordable to all users at all levels.
To do this, we need to look at how each individual site fits into the resource matrix and see how they fall out. I will then send an email out to each person and let them know where their sites fall and what the corresponding charge is.
Starting September 2023, the new prices will take effect. For most users, this will be pretty seamless. For a few who are doing something unusual: combining multiple sites, significant change in tier, etc, I will confirm plans and then their current subscription will be cancelled and a new one issued.