How much should I charge for Writers’ Community Membership?

I’m FINALLY almost ready to open the Boot Camps

Students of my smaller courses have been asking me for a long time if there was any way they could join my writers’ community.

It’s taken me something like two years to figure out a way to do it, and Margaret and I have tested and shot down a multitude of different softwares and processes to get here.

But I’m about ready to open the doors of my private writers community to students other than my Big Course Students.

Here are my questions:

Lifetime membership, or a monthly (or other subscription time) fee?
If lifetime membership, then one payment, or multiple payments, or the option of both?
What price?

So I’m going to show you what I’m offering, and then I’m going to ask you to tell me what a lifetime membership to this level of the community would be worth.

Remember that this is a private writers’ community with a focus on writing for publication. We have (and tolerate) no spam, no trolls, no flames.

It’s moderated, my moderators are spectacular (they’ve all taken or are taking all of my courses, they’re all writers.) The community members are amazing. I attend personally, and once I get my life overhaul finished, will attend regularly as I’m writing my way through my novels.

You can take a peek at the public areas of the community here:

You can take a look at the boards I’m opening up for the new level of membership here:

(Most of them are new, because I’m starting to offer workshops for courses that have never had them before.)

So, please take a moment, reply to this post, and tell me how much I should charge for access.

Thanks for your help.

I really appreciate it.

P.S. Here’s what current students say about the community.

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61 responses to “How much should I charge for Writers’ Community Membership?”

  1. Lynn Boyett Avatar
    Lynn Boyett

    I’ve been aware of this website for about a week after a former student suggested it to me. I need the information presented here to revise my first work and I’ve downloaded the clinics from Amazon and I see their benefits.

    I haven’t seen enough to know if joining a group would be good for me or not. The intensity of the classes was explained and I’ve only had a few days to ponder on the need to shell out the money to be stressed for months.

    Now, everything has changed. I understand that housekeeping is needed and I’ve arrived at the wrong time, so I’ll be tiptoeing around in the background until a decision is made.

    I’d like to keep a free section for newbies like myself. A paying section should be optional for those that want to invest more into it.

    Whatever you decide, I’ll be here watching. I’ll decide when the dust settles.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      The dust has already settled and folks are joining.

      You can find out more here:

  2. KLynn Avatar

    I’m already in the HTRYN class, and part of what I love about the forums is the fact that I know people, and I know they’re committed. I love the fact that I can look at the commenters, and recognize the people I’ve met in the forums. Hi, guys!
    So, my thoughts, as they’re organized, right now.

    1.) My first, screaming at the top of my lungs thought, is that I don’t want to lose the level of trust that comes from knowing everyone is permanent, and (quite frankly) committed enough to pay for the forums. So, I’d like lifetime membership to stay fairly high, and I’d like there to be a separate, private, never, ever opened to people who can only scrape together $9.00 for their writing careers board.

    2.) You’re right that finances don’t necessarily indicate commitment, so I think there should be available participation-based discounts for people who are actively involved in the monthly/yearly/bi-annual boards. Something along the lines of “Congratulations, our life-time members have voted you an upgrade.”

    3.) I don’t think a lifetime membership should be offered at any cost until the person in question has racked up a reasonable amount of activity at the monthly level.

    4.) My sorta-general formula for a lifetime membership would be in the neighborhood of:
    (Cost of Course, as is)-(Cost of course as books)+(monthly membership * however long it takes to make n useful posts)=cost of lifetime membership.

    But a huge chunk of this is how you spin it and how you divide it up. If you offered a free membership, with advertising(really, selling underarm deodorant can be fun and profitable), and called it “The Pub” or something, and a short-term, paid membership for “networking and socialization”(people who want to “talk” about writing, but are willing to pay for the privilege) and then had lifetime memberships called “the incredibly difficult and also uncomfortable trappist monastery of doom”…

    1. Holly Avatar


      I explain in detail on the join links about the “we are not here to talk about writing, we are here to write” principle of the Boot Camps.

      But do you mind if I borrow this quote for the Join the Live Boot Camps page: “the incredibly difficult and also uncomfortable trappist monastery of doom…”? The visual is just too good. And I think folks who read that description and THEN join will be the writers we want.

      1. KLynn Avatar

        Sure, Holly. Borrow anything you want.

  3. kenbar Avatar

    Holly, you say, “The community is not as source of income for me, and Iโ€™m not looking to make it one. I want it to cover its costs. I want it to pay for my programmer to do the necessary upgrades and bug fixes. I want it to pay for software enhancements I want to add in the future. I want it to pay for me to pay people to work there.”

    If I were faced with this problem (and thank God it’s you and not me!) I would probably figure out what those costs are over a year, divide by 12, and make that the cost of joining.

  4. John Guthrie Avatar
    John Guthrie

    Being very poor (by present day western standards), I could not afford, or justify, much on my own pleasure. However, when almost everyone is charging for almost everything, and having benefited greatly from Holly’s free advice, I think that a small charge is reasonable

  5. Janine Avatar

    I have been receiving the Friday “how-to’s” and have read some of what Holly has to offer for free. I find everything overwhelming…lots of information. I might be willing to pay $5 or $10/month but right now I’m still navigating through the free stuff.

  6. A.H. Browne Avatar

    That is a hard answer to give. As someone who is low on funds all the time, I can easily say that having to pay monthly fees, or high ones especially would be tough. Which is why I don’t buy your courses [right now] but I do subscribe to your newsletter. Because I gain very valuable information in them, and it keeps me focused on my own writing.

    I personally think that the options here are great, and MadisonP made some really good points on it. Reading her post made me think, why not charge a monthly fee for the first year (or two), THEN offer the option for either a yearly, or lifetime, membership? It’d help to weed out the ones who don’t really want to be serious anyway, and it would help others to see what it’s like, and whether they really want to commit. And having them have to be around for a year also says that they will stick around, and be active, so not just anyone is buying that lifetime membership, and that person who HAS stuck around, deserves that option. By then, they qualify for one. Just a thought.

    Pricing? Per month, I believe around the $10 mark, most can handle, depending. I had to give up certain things otherwise I couldn’t afford food, which were that cost. So it just depends, but I agree that it’s a good price point. Buying your own web site can be priced anywhere from $2/month up over $10/month and people pay that, willingly. Hope that helps. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Kevin O McLaughlin Avatar

    I’m not sure that the site, as it exists, is worth a fee. I think it *could become so*, but at present, I doubt I would pay a fee for this site, and would likely feel cheated if I did and then saw how it was.

    I liked the HTRYN course. I stop by the forums every so often, because I get the free membership. I even paid the fee for the listing on the resource board (although I have not gained even a single lead from that payment yet).

    There are vibrant writers’ groups out there with hundreds of posts per day. Interesting discussions. Hot debates. Good moderation. A nice mix of pros and newcomers. And they’re free.

    And yes, you are competing against those sites. And you’re doing it with a forum that has had a fresh post in the last week on less than a third of the boards I can see. As writing communities go, the “Writers’ Boot Camps” forum is VERY inactive.

    So the forums are simply not a hook which is going to get anyone to pay anything. They’re a nice bonus for people using a course, while they use the course, to get feedback on their work through the course. I feel very strongly that you should include the pertinent forum for a given course with purchase of that course. It’s an important extra bit to help encourage buyers.

    So how do you get people to pay for a writing community? You give them content or value in exchange for the payment. Online Writer’s Workshop manages to charge about $50 a year (IIRC) for membership. In return, you get to have one of your works beta-read for every three works of others you read and comment on. And quite a lot of writers apparently feel that the facilitating of connections which allow that process is worth $50 a year. They have a Yahoo group too (which is more active than your forums), monthly newsletters, “Editor’s Choice” picks by pro writers and editors (who give great commentary), and other bits and features.

    You need something like that. Not JUST like that; just something your site does, in return for asking for money, that people can’t get on the free sites. Something that makes those payments worth their while.

    You’re a great writer with a great reputation. I think you could do some awesome things along those lines. But if you’re just looking for more cash for the HTRYN and HTTS courses, break them up into a bunch of lessons and sell each lesson separately on Kindle for $9.99 to get the money.

    I’d strongly recommend against charging for the community as it exists today. Either find another way to break up the courses and charge more for them – or find a way to enhance the site enough that it provides a strong set of benefits for users.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      This has been a very useful post for me.

      You’re one of the 90% of existing members who don’t use the community very much (or in many cases, at all)–and because this is a constant across years, I have to assume that about 90% of the people who take my courses in the future WON’T use the community either.

      I’m already publishing HTTS and HTRYN as individual lessons on the big platforms (the HTTS lessons will go out to Hitch for compiling in about another week, once I have all the links updated in the lessons to reflect the new workgroups and the worksheet landing pages. This is old news. But I don’t intend to charge Kindle’s top 70% royalty price (9.99) for each lesson. I’m coming in significantly under that. (That MAY be new news. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before.)

      But my personal statistic (90% of people who get the community for free don’t use it) is WHY I don’t want to charge the maximum amount possible for the lessons, and to use that money to offset the price of community membership: I don’t want people to pay for something they don’t use. In other words, I don’t want ten people to buy the course on Kindle, and have nine of them subsidize the one member who joins the community and gets as much out of it as my active current students do.

      So the question becomes…what does my community offer to students that makes it worth paying for, and why will some writers want to join?

      And the answer to that is:

      The community supports the courses. Period. It isn’t a “social” community. (It has social elements–there are open discussion boards and the writers who use them have a LOT of fun discussing various topics.) This is a hard concept for most people to get, because almost all forums are essentially social gatherings, where people talk about work, but don’t work.

      The Writers’ Boot Camps are built around work.

      I’ve written something like a dozen courses now (HTTS, HTRYN, HTWAS, Plot, Plot Outline, Character, Language, Culture, Scenes, Dialogue and Subtext, Beat Writer’s Block, Motivate Yourself, Writing Discipline, 21 Ways to Get Yourself Writing, the upcoming Mugging the Muse Second Edition Course…, and the upcoming Create A World Clinic) okay, so FOURTEEN now available with two more on the way—MTM: 2nd Edition is due for release next week and Create A World Clinic is due for release when I wrap up this overhaul and get WARPAINT finished…

      …And the community is the place where the people who bought the “textbooks” have a live class where they can work through their lessons with other folks who are taking the same courses.

      The workgroups are now open, not assigned, and set up lesson by lesson. I’m currently building out the Short Courses boards with the individual lesson posts. (These have been empty until now, because until I had the software with which I could invite Short Courses students to join, there was no point in doing the work of building out the boards.) If you log in and go to the new Mugging the Muse: 2nd Ed Workgroup, you’ll see how the Short Course Workgroups will work.

      The community is my duplication of the process I used to get published.

      This is why I’ve gone to such trouble and expense to build the community and to build a way for new people to join it by choice.

      I learned much of how to make my work publishable by belonging to a writers’ group when I was just getting started. I didn’t learn much from what the other members told me about what I was doing wrong. Or right. I learned from figuring out what THEY were doing wrong. And right.

      So I’ve set up the community based around workgroups, where writers can present snippets of work that are giving them problems, and receive comments from other students on these. Where, lesson by lesson, they can work through my processes and techniques, and get and GIVE feedback from other students doing the same lessons. And where they can read through solutions discovered by students ahead of them.

      This is why the boards are private, why moderators monitor them, why I don’t make the thing public and invite everyone to join. It’s a place for my students who want to accelerate what they’re learning in the lessons by taking what they’ve learned and applying the concepts and principles to work other than their own.

      My objectives with the community are:

      • High signal to noise ratio—conversation stays focused on writing
      • High content to filler ratio—the majority of the posts should give students something valuable for the time they’ve invested in reading them
      • High work to play ratio-–the boards are primarily dedicated to classwork, publishing, marketing, and self-promotion, not to general conversation

      I’ve managed to maintain that so far…and while eventually I’d like to have enough active students in there to have regular posts on all boards all the time, I want to continue to do that by focusing on quality, not quantity.

      And because my purpose with the community is to create a resource that will help writers publish their work, if they spend all their time hanging out on the boards rather than writing, I’M DOING SOMETHING WRONG.

      I hope that answers your questions.

      1. Kevin O McLaughlin Avatar

        It does *indeed* answer the questions. And I’m glad my thoughts were useful for you – that was certainly my intention! =)

        Yes, and yes. People hear “writing community” and “forums”, and they think about Absolute Write or KindleBoards. Both of which are interesting communities; but they’re free, so any for-charge writing group online *must* offer more.

        Focusing your community on helping people through the courses is a good way to go. I don’t think everyone will want to bother. I think some folks will just want to do the course from the book and then move on. But some will get a lot of extra benefit from being on the forums *for the courses*.

        Couple of extra suggestions, with that as a given:
        – Maybe consider a “try me” option? Give a week trial for the forums with the purchase of the first lesson for the major classes? Maybe two weeks – however long you expect working through that first lesson to take. Then the person can decide if they like the community (for free), and pay to use the community. Heck, even a “try me” of a couple of days might be enough to give someone an idea of they want to pay for it or not.

        – When you market the Writer’s Boot Camp, market it as the virtual classroom for the courses, NOT as a community. Yes, there’s community too – but people will generally not pay for online communities. Market it as the virtual classroom, however, where they can ask questions, get help, interact with other students, interact with the instructor? THAT has value above and beyond what a free community offers. THAT, people will pay for. IMHO, of course. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        Best of luck. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Since I’m already a HTRYN member, I’ll do what I can on my end as things kick off – swing by more regularly to post and reply to posts.

      2. Robert Avatar

        I know it answered mine. I’m also one of your long-time students with HTTS, HTRYN and HTWAS. I am one of those people who focuses so much on what I’m doing that I think I get tunnel vision. I don’t see people or things in the room but my screen and keyboard and I hear nothing outside the voices in my head that want to be “heard” through the tapping of the keys… so being a social person on the community boards, or classroom groups, hasn’t been a big thing for me to this point, but it’s not because I don’t want that. I do. I want that group feedback and I need it in order to get better… so I just need to wade in and check things out and listen to see how these things move. BUT, just because I haven’t utilized them in the past much does not in any manner mean I don’t appreciate that they are there and available. I most certainly do.

        What I have come to realize is that I need that type of forum to keep me focused on the fact that my writing is important simply because it’s important to me. Knowing that you’re making this Writer’s Boot Camp workshop/classroom has put the light back in my eyes and a sense of anticipation has come over me. I guess because I waited so long after buying the courses the more time that went by the more I felt like I shouldn’t interrupt what the others have had going since the beginning, so this gives me a stepping-on point, I guess is what I’m trying to say.

        Personally, I can’t wait to get started.

        1. Robert Avatar

          Wow I just stumbled all over myself there, didn’t I. It’s a good thing that I’m a better writer than I am a talker. lol

  8. Stephanie Avatar

    I am already a student of your big courses, but I wanted to offer a quick opinion. I have not utilized the forums much recently, but I love that I have a lifetime membership. A lot of folks would probably like to have a monthly or yearly option, especially if they are new to the community and to your courses, but I would definitely recommend keeping the lifetime membership an option.

    For monthly price, if I were not already a member, I would gladly pay something in the $10 range.

  9. Elizabeth Poole Avatar

    Just so I am all clear:

    *Existing students are grandfathered into the lifetime membership of your forums. I have taken HTTS and HTRYN, ergo I still have access to those forums.

    *When someone buys a short course like Create a Plot Clinic, they will have the chance to pay for access to the short course boards. You can’t include the price of the forums in the cost of the book because of the price limits that Amazon sets.

    *When someone buys a long course like HTTS, they will have the chance to pay for access to the long course boards. Ditto about the Amazon price guide.

    You’re asking what I would pay for access to those boards?

    Personally, since I’ve been a long time student, have most of the short courses, and have taken HTTS and HTRYN, I’d say board access is priceless. I know a lot of the non students reading these comments think we’ve all drank the same Kool Aid, but it’s true. Sure there’s lot of free forums out there, and they serve a purpose. But if like me you’ve gotten frustrated with the spam, flame wars, and downright mean people that show up at these free forums, you’d be jumping for joy over a place where you can regularly receive good, honest, helpful feedback too.

    You know all those so-called free sites? I’ve stopped going to them because I’ve gotten tired of asking a question and receiving a mixed bag response. Holly’s managed to grow (and I mean grow, it sure didn’t happen overnight) a wonderful community of writers.

    Those of you thinking it doesn’t make enough of a difference to pay for the “privilege” haven’t had the pleasure of a nice place to chat and ask questions. Honestly, I think it’s sad that we’ve come to accept some of the antics that occurs on Internet forums as the cost of doing business.

    To the point, I also realize that cost can be prohibitive. I think if you were to charge something less than 20 dollars for a monthly fee, most people could afford that. I don’t think you have to worry about charging enough to weed out the dilettantes, because as you can see, the fact that you’re charging at all is going to turn people away. That’s okay. As you’ve noted, they aren’t your demographic anyway.

    As for annual memberships, I agree with one of the other posters. Go ahead and tally up the cost of the monthly fee, and then maybe discount it a wee bit to encourage people considering it to take the plunge. It also provides a nice “upgrade” mode. People can pay for a month or two as a trial. If it’s not for them, they can simply not renew. If they love what they find, like I did, then they can upgrade to a longer membership.

    Payment plans are a great idea. Your big courses would have been too much for me to pay at once, but since I had the option of breaking it down into smaller payments I was able to join.

    A decision that literally changed my writing life.

    Sorry about the needed clarity, I am a bit sleep deprived. ๐Ÿ˜€

    1. Holly Avatar

      Thank you for the comment. And yes, you have it right.

      Current HTTS, HTRYN, and HTWAS students already have lifetime memberships, and those who join between now and when I close the courses to new students will also be grandfathered in.

      Students who buy my short courses will be invited to join the Short Course forums.

      Students who buy the Kindle version of HTTS and HTRYN will be invited to join the HTTS or HTRYN boards.

      And payment plans are going to happen.

      1. Robert Avatar

        Wow… since I’m a student of HTTS,HTRYN, and HTWAS… and have purchased all of the short course clinics – which are fantastic, by the way, I’m in already? That’s awesome! I’ve really enjoyed all the lessons and tutorials but I have to admit I haven’t been very active in the social groups. I’ll be changing that in the near future. I have the habit of getting so focused that I slam the door on everything around me… including kicking back with fellow forum-goers. I’ll do better in the future.

        Thanks for grandfathering in all your veteran students. That’s awesome.

  10. Emerald Avatar

    Charging someone to access a forum really goes against the spirit of the Internet and the whole concept of the free exchange of information. Most people are used to having advertisements down the side, but even if you were seriously opposed to that I’m willing to bet you could get by on donations. Forcing people to pay for the privilege of communicating with each other just seems like you’re trying to wring money out of people.

    Keep in mind there are thousands of free writing forums out there and the only real difference here is your presence. Which means you’re essentially charging people to hang out with you.

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’m willing to go against the spirit of the Internet in this instance. If I just wanted to do what everyone else is doing…well, I already did that, and I did it first with Forward Motion.

      I’m not looking for everyone to join. I’m looking specifically and exclusively for writers who are focused on writing fiction commercially (to make money at it).

      I’m also not looking for members who want to “hang out.” I DON’T WANT people who want to talk about writing. If that’s what you’re looking for, there ARE countless free communities, and I encourage you to find them and enjoy them.

      I want people who want to write, who want the time they spend on the Internet not writing to pay them by helping them shorten the time it takes them to reach publication, and who want to go into an environment where everyone else ALSO wants what they want. I only want members who join the community to work.

      People who just want to hang out with me can do that here. That’s why I have a blog.

      As for donations, no thanks.

      People who see the value in what I’m offering will pay for the value they receive. People who don’t? Again, LOTS of free communities on the Internet.

      1. Emerald Avatar

        So the service you’re providing here is to basically weed out the freeloaders?

        The only difference between an advertisement-funded public forum for writers and a private paid subscription forum for “serious” writers, is the misguided belief that people who are willing to pay have more valid and helpful opinions than people who aren’t. That if you make a payment, you must be more committed to the cause. Which I’m sure you realise is a bit silly. Just because someone is more willing to part with their money doesn’t mean they’ll be a more valuable member of the community.

        1. Holly Avatar

          Having run a free community for seven years, and having now run a paid one for six (maybe five…?), I can tell you the belief is not misguided.

          On what experience, though, are you basing your opinion. Have you run a community?

        2. Holly Avatar

          I also need to note that my members are students in a specific course of study, and as such are not members of the general writing community. My members include professional editors, professional writers, and other folks in the writing community who were already making money doing what they were doing before they took my courses to find out how to do it better, and with less struggle.

          So the advice in the forums is not offered by people with opinions but no credibility.

          1. Emerald Avatar

            I still don’t understand why any of that warrants paying you. I could email “your” members and ask for advice, and offer my advice in return, for free. I could even create a free forum myself, run on advertisements or donations, that was invitation only. Achieving the same effect without forcing anyone to pay.

            Additionally, if I was going to pay to be part of a writing community, I’d want the maximum possible amount of advice and opinions. Making it subscribers only just limits the pool of potential feedback. I’ve personally never been in a situation where I’ve received so much feedback I thought “wow, I really wish someone could prevent all the freeloaders from reading my work and commenting. It would be much better if they had to pay for the privilege of giving me advice.”

            1. Holly Avatar

              So do that. If you want to email my members and they want to email you, by all means do so. They’re awesome folks.

              Or start your own community. I highly recommend phpBB3 as community software. It’s stable, frequently updated, and free. You’re social; you’d probably enjoy the experience and be good at it.

              If you don’t want to do that, I also recommend Forward Motion for Writers, which has been in existence for something like fifteen or sixteen years now. It’s the community I built, now owned by my friend Lazette Gifford, and it’s still free.

              I’m laughing my ass off at your comment about “forcing” people to pay, though. The people who pay will join because they want to—because I offer a particular kind of place for a particular kind of writer. I’m doing everything in my power to wave off the ones who won’t fit in by being completely upfront about who’s there and WHY we’re there.

              Serious writers. Want to get paid for their writing. If this isn’t you, DON’T JOIN.

              1. Geraldine Ketchum Avatar
                Geraldine Ketchum

                If you’ll only be part of something because it’s free it means you don’t care enough. It means you don’t really value expert advice, and don’t want to actually work for something.
                There are tons of internet sites that are not free – such as fashion advice, gardening information, academic / specialty research, etc. People pay for the EXPERT advice. It’s worth paying for, because it’s not just some Joe with nothing else to do with his time, it’s real, valuable information.
                Charge 50 bucks, that’s the lowest amount I’d say reflects the value of the site. A hundred is probably closer to the real value, but 50 bucks a year is affordable. Don’t take any crap about this, Holly, you give excellent value.

            2. Madison Avatar

              The value of Holly’s forums is that they are adjuncts to the lessons. At least for me. They are completely different than other writers’ forums that can be more social. Even ones where you can get critiques are different than her forums because her forums are primarily course-based. It’s where her students meet to advance, clarify and help each other through the LESSON processes.

              So, really, IMO, if you aren’t taking a course, it’s probably not worth it to you to join. But she IS offering something different than the thousands of other free forums for writers out there. Just so you know.

  11. Evelyn Avatar

    This is a most difficult question as those of us who have been with you a long time are spoiled but grateful for the storage of all out course lessons and the ability to access them when ever we want. The boards are great, I wish I had time to visit them more, however, as a general rule, I just write and write and write, looking back on my course work to solve problems.
    I love the videos, the hotseats and seeing how you rewrite, construct, and toss out what needs to be tossed. You are a great source of comfort to me as I write, just knowing how hard you work. I am not at all sure how to put a price on something priceless. Lifetime is the difficult one and the one that appeals to me. From a business standpoint, I would be inclined to go with the monthly fee, as it would generate continuing funding. However, if you want to build up a self funding by interest income paying for it the idea of annual payments would be better. This is probably not very helpful, but I did not want you to think that I did not care enough to respond to your request.

    1. Holly Avatar

      My students who are already in HTTS, HTRYN, and HTWAS (or who join before I close the On-Site versions of the course) already have lifetime membership to the community.

      That’s why I didn’t send the e-mails to existing students. Well, I didn’t send them to existing students who are only on their class lists. My mailing lists have a lot of overlap.

      And I do appreciate your response. I want to make sure the folks who already have lifetime memberships have a community that maintains its standards. Which is why there will be no freebie memberships.

  12. Sarah Avatar

    I think you should offer both monthly and lifetime membership options. I’d price the lifetime at the same as about 1-2 years of monthly fees so it looks an attractive option.

    People will want to sign up for a month or two so they can try out the forum and see whether it is really worth it for them, and if it is, take the lifetime membership.

  13. estuary Avatar

    There are two perspectives from which to approach this. The first is from “outside” looking in (ie., a new student who is debating paying for forum membership). In that situation and about to spend money on speculation, I fear that anything above even a minimal amount would scare me off and I’d choose to skimp and just stick with the courses.

    But, knowing what I know from the perspective of “inside” looking out, I recognize that I committed early on by paying more for my courses than you’ll be charging for the ebook versions and I’m very, very pleased to have lifetime membership in the forums. It’s been worth it. Truly I speculated and took a plunge when there was no skimping option and I’m perfectly happy with the way things turned out but I did think long and hard about spending the money for your courses. Of course they proved to be completely worth it, but I just had to cross my fingers before I knew that.

    What if you were to subtract the ebook cost from the highest cost the courses were ever marked at and set that as the forums’ lifetime membership cost? Then there wouldn’t be great disparity between costs for old and new students and there’s still a “gatekeeper” in place to prevent the forums from turning into public hangouts (with their concomitant problems) – so they maintain their focus and require some degree of commitment from those who join.

    I recently came across this:

    and my eyes about bugged out when I saw that she’s charging $77-99 every four weeks for membership. Good grief. But I’ll bet part of what keeps everyone focused and committed is the conflation of value (monetary) and value (personal).

    I absolutely agree that the forums should carry their own weight financially. We live in an era of financial conflicts: money is tight, but we spend on superfluous things; we want things for free and often find them but (in theory) we hope that we too can make a living with our writing/projects though we don’t necessarily want to pay others for their efforts. I think it’s fair for you to charge something. Detractors (of membership costs) don’t want to feel like they paid more than newcomers will or else they think they deserve things for free just because similar things are free.

    Honestly, these forums are specialized and focused and worthy of being kept that way.

    As to the suggestion that forums be for students only, is there a way to assign a unique forum registration code to each ebook? I don’t know that Joe Blow off the street would benefit from or should be encouraged to join the forums without a grounding in the courses. Also, we’d have to self-police about not giving away proprietary info on the boards which would be a major bummer.

    geez, sorry, this was long…


    1. Holly Avatar

      Long but useful.

      While there’s no way to tag ebooks with a proprietary unique code, there are levels of membership. I’m opening the Small Courses Level first because most of the textbooks for that are already on the platforms where I’ll eventually be delivering everything (Kindle, Nook, iBookstore, and coming soon, print).

      The Small Courses Level has JUST the boards noted on table I linked to. Notice that none of the HTTS, HTRYN, or HTWAS boards are there. Nor will they be.

      When I bring HTTS onto the platforms above, I’ll make available a more expensive membership that includes those boards for students taking that course. The same with HTRYN. At this point I don’t have a way to deliver HTWAS via those platforms, so it’s going to remain my only On-Site course until I figure out what to do with it. But no alternative path to community membership will be offered for HTWAS until I figure out the dilemma of how to produce it.

      The Boot Camps community has only ever had paid members, and the culture of focus and work that has developed in there is not one I’m willing to toy with. I LIKE being there. I like the people there. They’re people who love what I love, and for the same reasons.

      So the invitations will only be to students. (Granted, two of the courses I’ll be offering are only going to cost 99¢). But writers who are not students are not going to find the boards useful to them, and will be politely discouraged from joining.

      I don’t want the cost of entry to be too prohibitive, because I’m way too damn familiar with writing finances to think all good writers or all serious writers have money. But people express what they value by what they’re willing to pay for. So FREE is not and never will be an option for membership.

    2. Holly Avatar

      I should add that I’m not interested in convincing people who don’t see the value in the community to join.

      So I’m not going to be doing any wacky, high-pressure, “low-entry-cost for a limited time” pitches designed to cram as many people onto the boards as can be crammed in.

      The community is not as source of income for me, and I’m not looking to make it one. I want it to cover its costs. I want it to pay for my programmer to do the necessary upgrades and bug fixes. I want it to pay for software enhancements I want to add in the future. I want it to pay for me to pay people to work there.

      And I want the fact that people have to pay to join to act as a filter, to remove people who just want to talk about writing but don’t want to work, and to let through the folks who understand the value of networking with other writers as determined as they are to publish their work and make money at it.

  14. Kris Avatar

    Right now, I would pay $5 per month. Maybe $10 per month, but I would have to have a better idea of how these boards operate–how often people post, what the overall tone is. While I believe that being a part of a community of writers who are serious about improvement is worth more than that, I’m in a tight enough financial situation that I had to leave my flesh-and-blood writers’ group for more hours at work.

    I own Create a Plot Clinic, and it has been helpful to me. Your articles and how-to’s have likewise been valuable. I’ve been interested in taking your big courses, but the cost has been prohibitive. If the fee for board access is close to what the big courses cost, then it, too, is cost prohibitive. If I’m not the only person who feels this way, I think a lower cost is the way to go, with the option of paying for only one month at a time.

  15. Robert Avatar

    I personally would be willing to pay up to $125 a year with the option to make monthly payments. Your courses and commentary are valuable to me and to many so it’s difficult to put a price tag on that, but looking at it from an economic point of view that’s what I could do without much worry. Although I do like the idea that if we already bought one or two or many of your courses we get in for “free” lolol

    You’ve always been great in working with us a partner/teacher so I put my money on you that you will come up with a fair and affordable solution.

  16. Tracey Avatar

    I have not taken any of your classes for financial reasons. That doesn’t mean I don’t want to or would not find value in them. That said, an annual membership might be ideal. I wouldn’t do a monthly membership. Lifetime is great if the price is right. I would think most people are in a different place after a year of your courses so the forum may not have as much value to them at that point. I also think payment plans are a must.

    Now to go see which course I can fit in with my recently saved dosh…

  17. Sylvia Avatar

    Holly, your courses and all you put into them are, indeed, priceless. But in the real world most of us, especially retirees(!), are kind of limited. And of course, most college students, if you have many of them. But $5-15 per month would surely be doable. One would pay way more than that for a couple of movies. Pay no attention to D behind the curtain! Your community forums are a different breed and well-worth it.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Sylvia, you’re already a student, aren’t you? In which case, you’re grandfathered in with lifetime membership.

      1. Sylvia Avatar

        Yes, Holly, I am. And soooo happy to be, too. I was putting my 2 cents worth in as to what I’d be willing to pay if I weren’t. Of course, I have the advantage of having been with you for years so know for sure how valuable it would be.
        Whew, just checked another writers web community that I once briefly considered joining. Up to $400 per year. The focus of that community is different, so not for me anyway.

  18. Prue Avatar

    Sorry. My post isn’t worded clearly. I meant that the use of the forum should be included in the cost of the course.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Currently the cost of the forum IS included in the cost of the course. For students who become members through the On-Site classrooms and graduate, they have lifetime community membership. (Part of the fun Margaret and I have had with software was setting THAT up.).

      Once the courses are on Kindle (with its $9.99 book cap for 70% royalties) I’m already under the minimum amount I’ve charged for lessons. I plan to sell individual lesson for less than that, actually.

      But the cost savings for students buying on the Kindle, Nook, or iBookstore has to balance out elsewhere, so student discounts for other courses, the student half-price bookstore, the free bonus courses, and free community membership are all going away.

  19. Prue Avatar

    Don’t charge extra. Make the cost of the forum part of the course for students.

    For some people it would be much easier to save for and pay a fixed price up front. Charging per month for forum use is a whole different consideration and may exclude some students, which I think would be a great loss – for them and for your student community.

    Personally I’d prefer students only on the forum.

    Depends how much you need/want to make on this of course.

    1. Holly Avatar

      That’s what I’ve always done, but I can’t do that anymore. I’m putting the courses up on an a la carte basis on Nook, Kindle, iTunes, and in print, and the community is going to have to start supporting itself (bandwidth, tech upgrades and maintenance, and so on.)

      I don’t want advertising. I don’t want a sponsor. That means memberships.

  20. Deena Avatar

    Monthly would be good. I would think the fee should be $10. That’s reasonable.

    There are a lot of good writing sites out there that are free. Of course I am not comparing you with them. I am only mentioning this because they would be your competitors.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Free sites aren’t my competitors, actually. Free sites are each other’s competitors. I’m not looking for their members.

      There were wonderful people in Forward Motion during the seven years I owned and ran it. There were also a lot of problem children, claiming entitlement and misbehaving and doing everything but write.

      When people pay to belong to something they value, they don’t turn into problem children. And the people who do turn into problem children don’t pay to join communities where their misbehavior is against the terms of service and will cause them to be kicked out.

  21. Pj Avatar

    Lifetime membership only if students have taken 70% or better of the courses. Holly, you’re an instructor, but you’re also a brand name and a brand name maker. I have purchased the majority of your courses and will purchase every single one of them regardless of the format <— that's called commitment. IMO you need to establish boundaries and stakes that create an awareness from the onset "This is Holly's word, a very special one . . ." and worth EVERY penny. Only the people who've experienced your teaching style would appreciate how much time you've got vested in setting up your teaching tools. For someone to have access to the backdoor stuff the paying students have earned the right to access is only fair to both you and the community you're creating and mentoring.

    My .02

    1. Pj Avatar

      I got wrapped around my own axle – on my initial post.

      Re: “For someone to have access to the backdoor stuff the paying students have earned the right to access is only fair to both you and the community you’re creating and mentoring.”

      . . . would read more clearly if I said simply, “Pay for a course and earn the right to enter into that course’s community. It’s only fair to those of us, and the staff moderating team to work with people who have studied and worked with the material.”

      I believe I’m done clunking that axled thought around.


      1. Holly Avatar

        I get what you meant. Worry not.

        The boards SHORT COURSE members will have access to are NOT the HTTS, HTRYN, or HTWAS boards.

        They’ll have access to the boards for the short courses, to the self-pub and marketing stuff, and to the open writing discussion.

        When the HTTS and HTRYN courses go to Kindle, Nook, etc, the students who take those courses through those platforms will have the opportunity to join the boards for their courses.

        But a lot of my students of the smaller courses have been requesting a private, professional place to work with other writers serious about writing—and I happen to have such a place.

  22. Justa Avatar

    I vote for monthly. I also like the option of a 6 month fee. I wouldn’t pay for a lifetime membership though.

    Cost? That’s hard to determine since I am not sure what would be included but no more than $15. Times are tough out here ๐Ÿ™‚

    Of course you would give a price break on a 6 month membership if you decided to include one.

  23. Kim Avatar

    To ask what are these courses worth, they’re priceless. To ask what can I afford I will say not much. How much will I squeeze out to finish my writers journey? Personally, my limit tilts around $20 – $30 per month, $125 per year, $360 or so for an extended period like 3 years or more, especially if I can make payments. This would include lifetime.
    Much more than that and I have my nose pressed against the proverbial window.

    1. Holly Avatar

      Damn. You’re going to be pretty happy with the number I’ve actually been considering.

      1. Kim Avatar

        Actually I am – Thanks

  24. PMac Avatar

    Annual fee. People can pay it all at once or you can offer an automatic monthly Paypal or credit card debit. I don’t think lifetime is a good idea, as few people write throughout their lifetime and you have to offer a tremendous reduction in price comparatively speaking.

    Be very clear on what people receive for membership. I just read your email and went through your websites and I’m uncertain what I would receive for my money that I can’t get on your howtothinksideways site for free. To pay an annual fee and simply have access to your courses, for which I would pay more, doesn’t seem worth it.

  25. Vanessa Wells Avatar
    Vanessa Wells

    I agree. If they want the lifetime membership they should take the course.

    I think that you could get 14.99 per month, but it is worth so much more than that…esp. with the self-publishing area.

    It would make sense to offer a discount for people who pay for 6 months or a year at a time…

    Thank you again for all the wonderful advice and the courses over the years Holly…some of us owe you quite a bit…much more than we paid for the courses.

  26. MadisonP Avatar

    Monthly membership, similar to writer’s market. Lifetimes should be for students only, IMO.

    Reasonable, $5-10/month. Although its worth much more, IMO. I mean this is only $60-120/year.

    I do think the forums are more meaningful if you’re a student but I think it could be valuable to non students (and maybe even convince them to take the Big Course(s).

    I think your forums are the most productive and serious I’ve seen. With real writerly people. Not a love fest, not a bash fest. That’s unusual. And it has value. There’s a million places online that are unserious, where folks can go to get back pats. The forums here are for those committed to working. I like that. No lifetimes for non-students.


    1. Holly Avatar

      Your experience is what I want EVERYONE’s experience in the community to be. I’m delighted with what you’re finding there.

  27. Dave Avatar

    I say $9 for lifetime access as lets face it there is more expert info in a $9 book on amazon than this

    1. Holly Avatar

      I’d say you’ll probably appreciate other folks’ communities a lot more than this one.

    2. Vanessa Wells Avatar
      Vanessa Wells

      I’d love to know what you are basing that on…you obviously have not considered the value of networking with other writers…and quite a few PUBLISHED writers at that…how do you put a price on the up-to-the-minute information from people in the trenches, selling stories as we speak…? 9.00 for a lifetime? Really? 15.00 per month is CHEAP. 24.99 is more like what she should get…

      1. Caitlyn Avatar

        I completely agree. Personally, I’d be okay with a $9 a MONTH.

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