To sign up or not to sign up?

I've decided to create a separate website dedicated to my writing and I was looking at doing something slightly, slightly, slightly similar to Claudia Christian Hall's "Stories by Claudia" website. I like the idea of all my writing being on one website. What I found interesting about her site is that she now requires a membership. Some of her stuff is still avail to read for free, but any new content for all her stories has to now be accessed through a free--and future (Jan 2016) paid--membership. Now, I realize she's more experienced than me, has written several series, and has quite the following to where she can do this. I'm just starting out--and have yet to start, to be honest--but I actually like the idea of having a membership. Maybe making the first 6 chapters in each book free and then having people sign up to read the remaining content.

Or make the first book in every series free, then have people sign up to read the remaining books in the series.

I write adult romance with sexual content and feel like "If you're really interested and want to read more, then you'll sign up." Now I'm having second thoughts. I'm new at this, after all. Maybe I should wait until I have a lot of readers like Claudia to introduce something like that. My questions to you:

1) Do you offer a membership? Why or why not? What do you think the pros and cons would be?

2) Do you offer a newsletter on your writing page? Why or why not? Is it something I should consider eventually or when I get the new site designed?

3) If you have a site dedicated to your writing, did you create a Facebook account for it? If you have separate sites for your writing, did you create Facebook accounts for each individual story? Is it something I should consider for my own writing site?

I appreciate the input I've received so far with my past posts and look forward to any and all feedback.

1) I don't offer a membership because I want my story to be readily accessible as a whole. I want the maximum possible amount of people to be able to read it, because it is my first major public work and I don't "have a name" yet. I want people to read it and follow it and to know who I am and paywalls are counterproductive to that goal. Seeing it from my perspective as a consumer, if a website has a paywall I find an alternative with a different monetization model. I'd do that to my own website if I wasn't me; so I don't use that model.

I have a Patreon, the core story is free to read on the site, and I offer some incentives on the Patreon page. It's kind of a glorified donation button but it's worked for me. It gives me a shot at earning some money while fitting my goals for the site.

2) Nope. I don't know what I would put in a newsletter. I can hardly come up with things to say in my Patreon updates. I guess I would ramble about the Italian blunders in Operation Compass or some other historical factoid that inspired me this week.

3) I don't have Facebook accounts for it because I'm not sure I'd attract a following on facebook (which skews older compared to twitter and tumblr). I have accounts on twitter and tumblr for the story where I post updates and sometimes talk about the story. In my experience my story has connected better with people around my age (18-25) than with Facebook's demographics (35-40).

HOWEVER all of this is probably a result of vastly different perspectives and demographics. Traditional authors with traditional audiences tend to have success with things like membership models, email campaigns, and so on. From my perspective these models feel kind of archaic based on the trends I see in the circles I follow, but I know this stuff is huge in traditional publishing and especially in the romance genre, which skews to an older audience. I'm a weirdo young'un who makes anime and meme references in my serious ultraviolent military web novel. Me and the author you cite in your intro are writing and thinking about and for way different crowds here, so keep that in mind.

I'm not sure if this is a good idea or not, to be honest. Just haven't seen it tried enough to get a real sense of what the market is willing to tolerate. Based purely on the limited amount I've seen from my own readers and the sites I frequent, I'm not sure membership would go over well. I used to see it on webcomics when I was browsing (a different format I know but a near enough analogy) and often when I encountered that obstacle I just never started them. To me, it was a paywall saying that I could start a story and not finish it, so I chose not to get invested. Granted, this was at a time when I could barely make rent, so things might have been different in another financial situation. But I still remember my reluctance to try sites with paid memberships for content, and I don't think I'm the only one.

There are other ways to monetize that seem to put people off less, Patreon, Bonus Chapters when donation goals are met, premium e-book versions of the finished product. Then again, people might not balk at all at memberships and I'm just way off base. Like I said, just haven't seen it done enough to really weigh in.

And after that long unrequested bit of advice, answering the questions you actually asked!

1) I do not offer a membership, mostly for the reasons outlined above. I'll add that one concrete thing I can say about a paywall is that it restricts readership, and with web-serials, especially when you're starting out, most folks want to bring in as much readership as possible. Anything restrictive is going to slow your growth.

2) I do have a newsletter, though I only use it for new book announcements. More often than not, that's for e-books, since serials run long and book changes are rare. If you want it for large notifications then I think it will be fine. The main question to ask is what are you going to use it to tell people about? Be upfront about that before sign-up, or you'll lose people as they get e-mails regarding things they might not have cared about.

3) I have a general Facebook author profile I use for reader interaction. If you mean an account just for the serial, then I don't have that. Instead of separate sites or accounts for each story, I'd recommend making one branded under your writing name/company/whatever and hosting everything there. It makes it a lot easier to get your readers eyes on all your different projects, and keeps thing simpler from a branding perspective.

Dennis and Drew - I wasn't planning on doing a paid membership. I was thinking it would be free. For instance, the first 6 chapters in a story would be free and then the reader could sign up for a free membership to read the remaining chapters. Nevertheless, I appreciate the feedback.

What would you gain from them making an account versus subscribing to a newsletter?

For me you'd have to keep my relative newness to this all in mind. I just started the site and serial and don't have much experience.

However I'd agree with Dennis and Drew: Paywalls are not a good thing before you got much of an audience and that audience needs a chance to get something anyway.

To your questions. And again: I'm new and don't have much of an audience.

1. No, I don't offer that. I think it's best to create an audience before you regulate it. The fact that I'm writing in german, where there isn't much of an online serial scene, might have something to do with that however.

If you had a big audience that is hard to manage, say you got different parts of fandoms that can be quite annoying...(which they are. Good lord some fans are worse than your critics) it would make sense to narrow down your immediate contact with it down to just a few valuable hardcore fans.

Otherwise it just keeps potential readers away I think.

2. No. I'm not really fluent in regards to newsletters and rss feeds and stuff. I wouldn't know what to put there anyway and what I'd like to share...there's no need to push it onto potential readers. I personally will put stuff like that on a separate blog on my page.

3. Social Media is not really my schtick. Plus I hate the few guys in my list who just want to push their stuff on me. I might do something like an facebook page...but as of yet I'd like to keep learning twitter where I can blend myself as a person and myself as an author together. Facebook would only be an option if and when I take off. Which isn't likely so it is no immediate concern.

Uh, I forgot:

With sexual content (or really violent/disturbing one) there might be reasons for memberships. To avoid legal problems with youth protection. I don't know about the US or Canada, but at least in Germany even the internet is quite heavily regulated. A writing community I once was part of had to keep it strictly pg-13 because mature content would need an incredible amount of safeguards and checks so no kid would stroll into the porn store - so to speak.

Tartra - Exactly!! LOL That's what I'm trying to find out, which is why I posted the questions.

Tintenteufel - I appreciate your feedback. I'm new to the whole serial thing, too. I, too, was thinking about the "regulating the sexual content" factor as well, which made me think of ways I could do that. For the record, there's a difference between erotica vs erotic. Erotica is porn and that's not what I write. I write erotic fiction.

Not sure I have anything entirely new to say, but for what it's worth...

1. I don't use a membership. At this time, I'm focused primarily on my story--keeping it rolling and sticking to my self-imposed goals and deadlines for it. (I only started on it in June.) My only readership-related goal is to make it as easy as possible for any potential readers who stumble across my stuff to become actual readers, so I want the process between clicking on my link and starting to read to be as quick and painless as possible. Speaking for myself, if I have to take the time to fill out a registration form in order to get from point a to point b, then I have to be highly motivated to get to point b, even if the registration is completely free. I don't want to risk losing any highly impatient persons like myself before they even get started by annoying them with a registration process. ;) I'm not sure I'd even add a registration requirement after a set number of free chapters, because it still creates a barrier that might give someone a reason to stop reading.

As far as "regulating the sexual content" goes, I have no solid facts about what may or may not be required in any legal sense. I'm also not sure how effective just requiring a registration is to accomplishing any sort of control. It's not like a person can't lie about age on the internet.

2. I don't currently have a newsletter. I have a really basic author web site where I post updates (few and far between) and I've toyed with the possibility of (re)instating a blog at some point. I haven't done so yet because I'm not sure I have the time and mental energy to commit to that in addition to keeping Graves regularly updated.

3. No writing-related Facebook, either. I'm not a big social media person, and I suck at all things PR and marketing. Tackling those issues are another thing on my "someday" list, but I'm not there yet.


Lori - thanks for your feedback. I think I may just go with letting it all hang out there--so to speak. LOL

Okay, I understand better now. Paywall is much different than a membership wall. That said, you should always assume that every extra step you add between the reader and the content will cost some of those readers. More opportunities for things to go wrong, or other priorities to kick in, or for them to just not want to bother. Granted, the percentage will be relatively small, but as others have said, especially in the beginning you'll want to do all you can to attract and keep as many readers as possible.

Another option to consider is using memberships as entries to community tools. Depending on what your system will allow, you can permit registered members to post comments without going through Spam review, build a forum for people to talk and discuss chapters, and some even do point tracking for community contribution. Maybe the top users every month can get a sneak peak at what's coming in the next update or something along those lines. In that way you incentivize the membership rather than require it, plus there are no extra steps between people and content.

Overall though, I can see the benefit of membership from a CYA perspective like Tintenteufel pointed out, so it's certainly worth considering.

1) I don't; I'm with Drew on this one - there's SO much competition out there, and given the choice of signing up for something or simply checking out a different site/story, I'm liable to go with the latter. Unless I've (1) really become invested in the author or the story, and I don't think 6 Chapters would be enough to do that, or (2) it's got a tangible benefit (even if it's free). And I tend to assume others are like me. ^_^ There's also people who don't like putting their name/email out there at all, because they're worried about what you might do with it. Plus on my end I feel like it would be more to keep track of, like login name conflicts, lost passwords... or perhaps a daily reminder of how there is NOTHING to keep track of, because no one's reading, eh heheh. (There might be something to the idea of an age restriction though, as others have remarked on.)

2) I run three weekly blogs on top of my day job. Creating a newsletter on top of that would kill me; even reading one by someone else is questionable. I am subscribed to a newsletter, about math, but I don't always get the chance to read it when it comes out.

3) I created a Facebook Page for my personified math. (Note that you can create things like Author Pages, linked to your account, but separate and not themselves an account.) I think it took over 2 YEARS for me to garner 20 likes (which let me customize the link). Granted, I'm not the type of person to fire off "Like My Page!" to people directly, I only flogged the thing indirectly. I then created a separate Facebook Page for my "Time & Tied" serial, because it's different enough, plus I was transitioning the math serial to webcomic form. I'd say it's not a bad idea to generate a Facebook Page, but it is one more place on social media to update... and it's recommended that you not only post on it about chapters, but also author tidbits, a philosophy I haven't subscribed to because (1) few people follow my FB anyway and (2) I have Twitter.

I'm not sure I have much new to add, but I figured I might as well weigh in. :)

1. Nope, I don't require any kind of sign-ups. I prefer to give my work away for free with as few barriers as possible. The more you're asking your readers to do in order to read your work, the more barriers there are. As others have noted, it's generally better to make it as easy as possible.

2. I don't do a newsletter. I honestly don't know what I'd put in it if I did. I run a writing blog, where I post about my writing habits, tips, life, influences, and whatever other random stuff crosses my brain. Those who are interested can watch that. Plus there's always the RSS feed if they want to 'sign up' and receive stuff regularly. However, my posting frequency there is a bit random because it's not my priority (my web serial is my priority for regularity, when I'm not on hiatus).

3. I have a Facebook author page, which covers all my writing stuff (my writing blog and FB page are my 'central hubs'). I use it to give updates about where things are, links to posts, and mostly links to other writing-related stuff, including interesting pictures or links that I think people might like. My self-promo on there is in the minority of the things I post about, and I tend to get more likes/chatter on the non-promo stuff. It's all about creating a presence and a brand, really. The rest follows.

I have set the page up to auto-post to my Twitter, so it's a two-fer for me. I'm pretty time-poor, which means these efficiencies make me happy. Other than that, I generally suck at Twitter, and post really random stuff that doesn't fit on the FB page.