Given my recent track record, you could probably predict what I will write about next just by following Linus Edwards on Twitter and reading his site. Yesterday, Linus posed a thought-provoking question asking for thoughts regarding paid memberships for independent writers, saying that he did not believe in them given their ineffectiveness. An interesting conversation ensued in which many weighed in both for and against. I did not, however, choosing to instead save my opinions for this article.
As a relatively new writer, I have spent a great deal of time thinking about how I can monetize this hobby. I chronicled the culmination of that effort in Doing Monetization Well, where I laid out a specific timeline over which I would gradually begin expanding my work here and, as I did so, start generating some revenue. Although I have since welched on that plan — albeit not for lack of effort, but instead out of solid reasoning born of a desire to concentrate my time and energy where I will receive the most benefit as a result — my strategy stands: in the near future, I will begin accepting memberships for this site.
As best I can recall, I first remember encountering this notion of directly supporting a writer through site memberships when Shawn Blanc quit his job and began writing full time in 2011. Back then, it seemed like a novel idea. Shortly thereafter, however, others took note and begin implementing a similar strategy, beginning with — in my jumbled chronology — Jim Dalrymple. Unlike Shawn, who offered a daily podcast, an email newsletter, and a special coffee-inspired portion of his site, Jim took a different route and chose to rely on the goodwill of others who would subscribe just to provide for him and his work. Although two very different approaches, they had two aspects in common: they were both very successful strategies, and they sought to lessen the gap between reader and writer. Ultimately, this is why I believe in memberships: whether you offer a litany of benefits or none save the wholesome feeling of helping a one whose work you enjoy, this helps foster a close connection between creator and consumer.
Many replied to Linus Edwards saying something along the lines of, “It depends on what I get in return.” But everyone that responded like that misses the point of memberships. To paraphrase an incredibly famous man of old, “Ask not what your favorite writer can do for you, but instead what you can do for your favorite writer.” They have to make a living too, after all; why not extend a helping hand?