Memberships: money in – value out?

Last week I signed up as a paying member to a site I regularly read.

Startling news? Hardly. It is simply something I have not done before, and all in all, the decision to do so was not as straightforward as I’d imagined.

In the end, I’m very pleased I signed up, and will now receive the member’s only newsletter (amongst other things) from Matt Gemmell, my favourite online writer/author going around.

In the context of what this post is about, the actual site in question is not important, however credit where credit is due – if you have not read any of Matt’s work, I suggest you do so, as there is wealth of frequently updated, quality content at the link above.

The following are simply my thoughts on membership in general and a few other things that were a consideration along the way.

You can read Matt’s introduction to his particular membership here.

The Cost

My online purchases, whether memberships, eBay, backing Kickstarter, or buying coffee or pens, all come from the same bucket – our household income. Irrespective of whether money is put aside for such indulgences, it is still money that could be put to very good use elsewhere.

At first glance, a membership such as this seems a fairly insignificant monthly cost (as my Tweet below demonstrates), and certainly a competitive one as far as other memberships I’ve seen. However it is a cost nonetheless – and a recurring one at that.

Oh very clever Peter!

Oh very clever Peter!

A couple of points here. Living in Australia, or wherever currency exchange is involved, the actual purchase price is never the actual purchase price. For example, standard membership is $US4.00. The cost at checkout to me was $AU5.32. Not a deal breaker, however one consideration1, and again, a factor in all site memberships – not solely the one in question.

Clearly not relevant on this particular occasion, however shipping costs are a significant consideration in just about every other purchase I make online. Shipping costs at times can be a little unkind, however I am not about to shout too loudly, for after all, there are UK customs charges, and from what I hear are the embodiment of the devil incarnate.

With Kickstarter in particular, I have backed more than one project just under the first reward tier to provide my support for what I consider are worthy projects. This of course means I miss out on the actual product, however also avoid the postage – which sometimes adds almost 50% to the total cost.

Please note that none of the above is written in the context or tone of poor me – every purchase, which I’m sure is also the case with you – involves decisions. Some of these decisions simply relate to logistical factors, some of which I have described here.

The benefit

The clincher really isn’t it.

How do we determine what value we receive from laying down our hard-earned cash? I’d say this determination is relatively easy when considering a physical product which arrives on your doorstep.

Perhaps not so easy when considering “content” we consume on a daily basis – much of which is on the internet for free. Although I doubt it, perhaps there is free content out there I could access, similar in quality and topic to what I have just signed up for.

Even if that were true, I would say it is entirely missing the point.

In part, I have signed up for high quality, member’s only content through a regular newsletter.

I’d also like to think I’ve signed up and although not necessarily paid for, at least acknowledged, the high quality content I have already read – and which is freely available – on Matt’s site.

Finally, and probably most importantly, I have signed up on a promise. As a show of faith in what is to come. As a way to express (over and above any links, mentions or the like – which from myself are such a small, small drop in a very big ocean) the sentiment: “I love what you do, I believe you are great at it, keep doing it, and I’m looking forward to more”.

On balance, after reading the first newsletter and accessing the additional content which came with it – I’d say the real winner in all of this is definitely yours truly. I get to feel part of something, yet do none of the hard work. I see another side of quality workmanship, and at the same time, see a little more than what everyone else does.

But most importantly, I have more access to many things I am confident will assist my own writing to improve, and what price would I really place on that.

To finish

In summary, paid membership is of course so much more than: “What will I get for my few bucks”. To be honest, there are so many more thoughts I could throw in here, however I did not set out to write a 900 word post on why I subscribed to a particular site, and I think this is probably enough. In any event, not all would be relevant to your particular case.

Suffice to say, if you do find something which aligns with your interests, has proven longevity and quality2, paid membership is something well worth considering – provided of course it fits your particular criteria for committing your dollars.

I hope my contribution – which I feel very satisfied in making – goes a small way in assisting a great writer produce more great writing, though of course that will occur anyway.

So in that case, I’m happy to contribute to the next bottle of The Balvenie DoubleWood.

Cheers Matt – and thanks in advance.


  1. In fairness to Matt, there are options above and the below the standard $4.00 membership – down to as low as $1.00. I considered a $3.00 option, bringing my $AU price to $3.99. Somehow it just didn’t feel right – so the standard $4.00 / $5.32 it was.
  2. Again imposing my own standards here. I have been reading Matt’s work for a couple of years now, however I believe he is up to 12 continuous years updating his blog!


Recommended Reading: Raw Materials – Matt Gemmell

My favourite writer on the internet is Matt Gemmell, by far. How does a former software engineer who now writes full-time write so well? Significant talent and untold amounts of effort and hard work most likely play a large part.

61e6rBgR4sL._SL1000_Gemmell has recently published an eBook titled Raw Materials, comprising selected essays from his personal blog, updated with authors notes and includes an additional piece written specifically for this collection. After picking up (well…downloading) the book on the day of release, a rainy Saturday seemed perfect to proceed from cover to digital cover.

Many of these intensely personal essays recount memories of a childhood perhaps not unlike many others. Where the real power lies in this collection is not from the content alone, rather, the feelings which inevitably surface as you read. Some may make you squirm a little; perhaps say “ah…yes!”; some may change your entire mood – and to me, that is great writing.

Although the specific events, family situation and upbringing described in these stories could not have been further from my own, similar feelings, emotions and fears were (are) all there, somewhere, though manifest differently in adulthood.

Gemmell sure knows they are still there, as he writes in Paths:

And if you glance over your shoulder, well… you won’t see anything. But your own memories are there nonetheless.

Believe me, many times during Raw Materials, you will find yourself glancing over your shoulder. Not intentionally, but inadvertently, sometimes surprisingly so. With these glances come fear (Staying Afraid); sensory engagement through smells of “dryness and age” (Stories); and innocent optimism where your wish might just come true – just this once (Wishes). Then there is the physical or emotional pain we all feel and recall all too readily (Relative).

It’s. All. There. And this man knows exactly how to write about it. In an utterly compelling way. Every time.

It matters not that our childhoods were markedly different, a decade or so apart, on opposite sides of the world. We are not so different Matt and I, nor are we different to countless others who grow up with memories so indelibly burned into our consciousness (or subconsciousness as the case may be).

Those memories are always there, whether we allow ourselves to engage them or not.

I highly recommend this short but powerful collection of essays. They are written with such clarity and precision, you cannot help but join Gemmell on his “travels” back to those moments where these very memories were made. It is also inevitable your thoughts will turn to the end product of such memories. You. Today.

Years whip by when your back is turned, leaving you standing on familiar streets that are nevertheless unsettlingly different. We all have troubling experiences hidden inside, and they shape us more than we realise. The news brings us fresh fears every day. The future is uncertain, and it’s coming whether you like it or not.

Authors notes – Whispers

Raw Materials is available now from Amazon, though I’d suggest first visiting, adding it to your bookmarks or RSS feed, then clicking through to Amazon for your copy of the collection (AUD$3.72).

Matt Gemmell’s debut novel Changer will be published later this year, and if there were already a queue, I would be in it.