Friday, July 6, 2018

Two Years Before the Mast

AKA Six Months on Patreon.

Happy Six Month Birthday to me and my Patrons!

Yes, I too was surprised to realize that I've now been on Patreon for six months.  (Which means, holy moly, we're halfway through the year!)

It seems like only a month or so ago that I came up with the idea. But no. Six months! So it seems like perhaps it's time for a progress report.

So far, so good. 

When I first posted about starting a Patreon, I got a lot of helpful feedback--and some of the things mentioned have proved true, and some have not. Or if they have, I've hopefully found a fix.

Providing exclusive and original content in addition to my books and stories is definitely time-consuming. Some of the content is readily provided: excerpts from works-in-progress, story notes, character notes, etc. Some of it requires more effort: character interviews, "missing" scenes, an exclusive-to-Patreon novel, exclusive audio, etc.

But what I've found is taking the time to do character interviews, for example, is really helpful as well as entertaining, so it's a good trade-off--versus simply writing a couple extra short stories a year (which I can still always do if I have to). Also it's hard not to be energized by a group that is so unfailingly supportive and enthusiastic. That's kind of priceless.

Unsurprisingly, it's been tougher during months when I'm already stressed. Like the last two months. But given the nature of Patreon--the purpose of such a community--I'm getting comfortable with letting patrons know this might be a skimpy month, but I'll make it up to them the next month.

As I was warned, there have been a couple of instances of people who pledge, enjoy the rewards at their tier, and then quit before their pledge is processed--only to rejoin the following month. That's been really rare, and as of this month I've changed my account so that people are charged when they join. That should take care of that--and it was, luckily, not a serious issue to begin with (although, it is a serious issue for a lot of creators, as I've learned hanging around the creator forum).

The question I'm always asked is are you actually earning anything? And it's a good question because apparently a lot of creators do not earn much at all. There are loads of really interesting articles on whether it's possible to earn a living on Patreon. Like here and here and here.  Basically that comes down to where you live and how many people you're supporting and in what style.

For the record, I can't earn a living on Patreon, but the monthly payouts act as a much needed safety cushion. If I  have to postpone a book--and (*&+!&^^%%$$$###@!) I have needed to do that with every single deadline this year--I can go ahead and know we're not going under because I need another month to make my book better. So right now my earnings go right back into my business, but I do earn enough to pay the mortgage if it came down to that.

That's huge. That is worth the price of admission right there.

On the maybe-not-so-great side, I spend less time interacting elsewhere on line. This was something people were concerned with, and it has unfortunately proven true. I'm less active on Goodreads, Facebook and this blog. (I was always terrible with my newsletter, so we can't blame that on Patreon.)

Now partly I think my lack of energy for social media is because this year has been a tricky year. A lot has gone on in my personal life and, maybe more to the point, I'm still struggling to catch up on all that over-committing I did last year. In Other Words... Murder is the final book with any deadline attached. After this, THANK GOD, I have no other deadlines.

(Well, that's not true. ARGH. I still have the deadline for Mr. and Mrs. Murder, but that isn't until mid-next year, so I think I'm fine. )

Also, though, I think every social venue has a life cycle and I've been on some of these places for nearly a decade, and it's reasonable that interaction might begin to wind down in certain places as it revs up in others. As much as I loved LiveJournal in its heyday, by the time I bowed out, it was no longer the same experience. Things change. We change. And that's actually great.

Other things: Amazon has not done anything in the past six months that affects me directly, but they've done plenty to affect Kindle Unlimited authors. And they're as autocratic and ruthless about is as ever.

Some of the problems Amazon is now trying to fix are of their own creation. Things like fake reviews...Amazon brought that on by making reviews part of their arcane algorithm and by making it so difficult for ordinary people to review: you can't "know" the author, for example, which includes having friended them on social media. Say what?!

It's like enriched white bread. Had you not taken everything nutritious out of the food to begin with, you wouldn't have to artificially inject it back in. 

Anyway. My dire predictions have not yet come to pass, but that doesn't change my feeling that I'm still too dependent on Amazon. Kindle Unlimited is making it harder and harder for the rest of us to have any visibility. Visibility is everything in this game.

(Okay, not everything. Writing still counts. Readership still counts. But it's a lot.)

Regardless of what happens with Amazon, my Patreon account is a big step away from feeling so entirely vulnerable to their every whim. Over these past six months I feel like I've begun to lay a foundation for a publishing future that doesn't involve me lying awake worrying about what Amazon might do next.


  1. I really like the Patreon. I'm glad it's working out for you. I like the perks, but mostly I like feeling that maybe I'm contributing to your ability to take a breath and look up from your computer once in awhile. That to me, is worth the price of admission. Happy anniversary and hooray for the last half of the year being deadline free. Now, about Will and Taylor....just admit it! <3

  2. I certainly hope you have found my monthly tythe of 3/4 lbs of catnip and half a dead rat useful.
    I have certainly enjoyed the serial and the character notes/interviews I have gotten in return.