Friday, January 25, 2019

Happy Anniversary to My Patrons!

January 22nd marked my one year anniversary on Patreon.

I can't believe it's already been a year!

It's been a very interesting experiment so far. Well, I don't know if I can really call it an "experiment" at this point. Overall, I consider it a successful endeavor. Although growth is slower at this point, every month but one has seen a small uptick.

There has been a definite learning curve for me, and back in December I did an extensive overhaul of the tiers and rewards with an eye to making life easier for myself and for making sure patrons at every level got plenty of goodies. 

One of the things I struggle with is finding the right balance of quid quo pro. Patreon is not designed to be a marketplace. I'm not supposed to be running a store. The idea is patrons support the artistic endeavors of chosen creators with donations. It's, well, a form of charity. But of course for a lot of patrons it IS about the rewards at certain tiers, and that is simply the reality. And it's okay! It's a good reality. I want to provide rewards that my patrons enjoy. I want my patrons to feel like they are getting value from their donation. For some, that value is seeing my increased productivity and pleasure in the work. For others, it's access to exclusive content.

Either way, as the recipient of what is, largely, the kindness of strangers, I'm grateful.

There is no wrong way to be a patron (I mean, assuming you're following through on your pledges) and there is no wrong way to be a creator (again, assuming you're following through on your promises).

That said, Patreon is not for everyone. The pressure to provide extra content can be difficult--it's one reason why I changed my tiers so that most of my patrons receive all my regular releases as well as extras. There are some months when all my focus has to be on creating the products that I sell in the broad marketplace. And it's more than possible than some patrons will join expecting a different and more intense kind of personal interaction with me. There are months when I'm more chatty and active on Patreon--and there are months when I only have time to check-in and deliver whatever the rewards will be.

My patrons provide a safety net, but that safety net can't--and in my opinion shouldn't be intended--to take the place of regularly scheduled new releases to the wider marketplace.

I've seen complaints, criticisms of Patreon making the case that a paying model excludes certain readers from taking part. And this is true. In the same way that charging for books--or any art--excludes certain consumers. (My lowest reward tier begins at a dollar.) Critics of Patreon argue that the extras authors create for their patrons should be available to everyone for free.

I think this is missing the twin points of both patronage and what an extra actually is.  Besides which, I still provide extras for my readers who can't or don't want to take part in Patreon. I still blog, I'm still active on social media, I still do giveaways through my Facebook and Goodreads and Newsletter, and I still provide free content--for example the six codas that went into last year's Advent Calendar.

I don't particularly want to release my rough drafts or outlines or research notes into the wide world, but Patreon acts as a natural curator, and I'm comfortable sharing those extras there.

For me, the three greatest benefits of Patreon have been the financial cushion it provides on months I don't have a new release; the creative stimulus of having to come up with fun, new extras that actually serve to make my regular projects better (things like character interviews, for example); and, finally, the opportunity to occasionally brainstorm or just touch base with readers who have the greatest investment in me and my work. 

For patrons, the price of admission varies, but for creators, the end result is often priceless. 


  1. Teal aka Howie BingJanuary 26, 2019 at 9:23 AM

    "Critics of Patreon argue that the extras authors create for their patrons should be available to everyone for free."

    Anyone who argues that artists should be giving their work away for free is someone who can be ignored.

  2. I live Patreon. While I didn't join for the extras, I really enjoy them. My biggest reward is you being happy, healthy and creative. I'll admit, it makes me happy to do something that kind of pays you back for all the joy and support you've given me. It's a small price to pay.

  3. Greetings! I've been reading your web site for a while now and finally got the courage to go ahead and give you a
    shout out from Lubbock Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the good work!

  4. Why would anyone think they should have anything you create for free? Honestly, I feel that those who donate more should have access to more of your content than those who donate much less - like $1 or $5. If I ever see anything posted and I don't have access, because it's for those donating at a higher tier, I'm disappointed for sure but I understand. I also don't consider it a donation when I'm receiving something in return. Even if you posted one thing a month I'm still getting something in return for my money.

    1. Thank you, Miz Wendy Jane. Maybe we're a different generation? Because that attitude of entitlement does seem to be partially generational.

      And some of it seems to arise from a feeling that books and fiction and anything related to them is a disposable commodity. That piece of the puzzle is directly related to Amazon and KU's (partly inadvertent) devaluing of the written word.

    2. Yes! There's a definite sense of entitlement in that view. "No fair! I want all the extras without helping the author out with a little financial breathing room." Yeah, and the people in Hell want ice water. Earning a living with words is freaking hard creatively and financially. Shame on anyone who thinks an author "owes" them anything - especially for free.

    3. There is an interesting idea in some quarters that if you create art (especially if it goes onto the web) it should by default be available to everyone. Which I think would be fine if artists didn't actually have to earn a living. If society simply supported all artists for free, then sure, everything we do could be made available to all the world. But sadly here on Planet Earth, artists are struggling like everyone else to keep their head above water and we have to be paid for our work just like data entry clerks and shoemakers.

    4. Teal aka Howie BingFebruary 1, 2019 at 1:28 PM

      Personally, I wouldn't call that idea "interesting" -- I'd call it bizarre. I mean, some people have the idea that the Earth is flat, but that doesn't mean they're worthy of being taken seriously. That artists should work for free sounds like just another crank idea to me.

    5. LOL Well, when you put it like that...