Patreon Plans for 2023
I’ve had a Patreon for a couple of years now. I’ve never really done much with it — people suggested I set something up, and a small group has chipped in each month to help support me and my writing. (And I’m very grateful to those people!)
Much as I’d love to just write and never have to think about money, this past year has convinced me to try something new. One of the deciding factors was paying my older kid’s tuition bill this morning.
So I’ve been talking to folks and studying what other authors have been doing in terms of offering rewards to supporters. Here’s my tentative plan:
- Goblin Corps: For $1 a month (or more), you’ll get to read a short story each month. These will be mostly reprints, because I’m not fast or prolific enough to do a new story every month in addition to everything else. Stories will be posted on Patreon to read, and will include some sort of introduction or commentary.
- Space Janitors: For $3 a month, you’ll also get your very own ebook of that month’s short story in .epub and .pdf formats.
- Libriomancers: For $5 a month, you also get a monthly sneak peek and progress report about whatever I’m working on. These will mostly be snippets and commentary on books-in-progress.
- Team Princess: For $10 (or maybe $15, given the costs and time required) a month and up, you get all the other rewards, and once per quarter I’ll mail you a book. It probably won’t be one of mine — it’ll be something I’ve read and enjoyed and want to share. It might be new or it might be used. I’ll throw in a bit of swag, too: a signed bookmark, a Smudge sticker, a goblin temporary tattoo…who knows! (Unfortunately, the economics don’t work for me to do this for non-U.S. supporters. For those people, I’ll send you a recommended e-book instead of a print copy.)
I may add additional support levels as I go. Possible rewards could be anything from short story or novel chapter critiques to video chats to Tuckerizations (your name as a character in a future book or story) to live online readings.
But I want to make sure I can fulfill what I’m promising, which means not overcommitting myself up front.
So…what do folks think? Any warnings or suggestions from more experienced (or just plain smarter) people before I jump ahead with this?
January 6, 2023 @ 1:52 pm
Go for it.
January 6, 2023 @ 1:56 pm
I see a possible scalability issue for you in meeting quarterly mail outs of “stuff”. Postage and packaging and sorting and so forth, not to mention the very sweet, personalized but above-all time-consuming nature of a non-standardized may make the Team Princess tier of support a bit unmanageable at that low a rate. You may want to limit how many slots you allow at that level and, I say as a fan, looks like of reward for us and a lot of labor for you.
January 6, 2023 @ 1:57 pm
Dang it. “Non-standardized mail out”
Jim C. Hines
January 6, 2023 @ 2:07 pm
Arnon – that’s a good point, thank you. I’ve been a little worried about that myself. In theory, if I’m doing the mailings once/quarter, then each recipient will have paid at least $30. (Which means probably $25 to me, once Patreon takes its cut.)
Add in postage, time, and the cost of books … yeah, you might be right. Let me edit that to be $10 or maybe $15/month.
January 6, 2023 @ 2:20 pm
I have no personal experience (yet), but I do wonder if making the first tier $2 instead of $1 is more pragmatic.
I’ve seen a few people do this, mostly in the comics realm, completely eliminate a $1 tier, and when they don’t have many Patrons yet the difference in income can be significant.
(Comics example: Kill Six Billion Demons Patreon https://www.patreon.com/killsixbilliondemons and Unsounded Patreon https://www.patreon.com/unsounded )
Consider if you have 30 people pitching in at the $1 tier. That’s $30. Now consider if the lowest is $2. That’s $60. $30 is nice to have, but $60 is suddenly a phone bill (it’d pay my prepaid cell bill!) or one-person grocery run and generally a more usable and pragmatic amount of money for someone trying to cover basic life expenses than $30 is.
It’s very temping to make the first tier as low as possible, but pragmatically speaking the diff between $1 and $2 isn’t much for a reader but is an immediate doubling of income for the artist/author, esp. if the # of subscribers hasn’t built up yet.
For the record I’m very poor, and it’s more around the $5 mark where it gets expensive if I want to support multiple authors/projects. If I’m fussing about the diff between $1 and $2, chances are I’m canceling ALL my patreon pledges until I have more money coming in. And if I’ve allocated $20 for patreons I want to support, that’s still 10 authors/artists to track a month which (depending on who I’m supporting) can be a lot of content to follow.
I could never fault someone for doing a $2 lowest-tier just because that doubling of money is SO huge and significant on the artist’s end, but cost no more than a coffee or a 2 liter of pop on the patron’s end, even if the patron is working class and poor.
Anyway. I’d also think on what the other person said re: scaling for the bigger tiers. If the time and effort it takes to do extras is a certain amount, you can very quickly get into a bind carrying out those promises if patrons in that tier suddenly grow unexpectedly. I think putting a cap is a good idea.
January 6, 2023 @ 2:21 pm
Yes! And I love the tier names. Goblins rule!
January 6, 2023 @ 2:28 pm
I think this has been said already above, but might be worth mentioning if only to give you a good gauge of interest level.
First, if you have a Patreon, I will undoubtedly join it.
Second, people who will support you on Patreon will often support you with more money, and for less reward, than you think, because as much as I would like to get (say) a short story every month (and as much as I like getting that on another Patreon, albeit at the $10 level rather than the $1 level), my goal in supporting someone is that I like their professional output (and I don’t find them an issue as a person), and I want them to be able to do more of that output, and if I were choosing between a short story every month or you having time for an additional novel every 5 years because of having to do less other work, I would absolutely choose the second.
And third, I don’t have very much room for physical *stuff*, but I can store an almost infinite number of ebooks, so having levels, even higher levels, that *don’t* result in my getting a physical object is something that I appreciate.
So I hope that the above is at least somewhat helpful.
Jim C. Hines
January 6, 2023 @ 2:30 pm
Brian – thank you! And that’s a good point. Hm…for the Princess level, I could probably let people opt into the e-book option instead of a physical book. I don’t *think* that would be too hard to manage.
Michael W Lucas
January 6, 2023 @ 2:38 pm
I have a writer’s Patreon, and: yes. This seems reasonable. If you’re doing the writing to make the short stories, that is. 😉
The following is my opinion. YMMV, do what works from you, don’t let an dude you once shared a GoH table with at Penguicon goad you into doing anything you aren’t comfortable with. Even if he sounds really confident.
It took me a while to learn this, but: most of my Patronizers don’t care much about the benefits. They want an excuse to support my work. Given this, you might consider shifting those benefits up a price level and adding a $1 “peek behind the scenes” level. I publish a private blog post every month saying what I’ve been doing. While I could go on at length about the unspeakable horrors of the literary life, I allow myself an hour to write it. It’s rough text, nothing to copy into my biography, but it gives my backers their excuse.
Video hangouts (don’t say “chat,” I learned too late that “video chat” has an entirely different meaning to certain people, oops!) do draw people. I give one hour a month to mine, and we usually talk about anything except my books. I have quite a few subscribers at this level, and only a tiny fraction of them actually show up.
If you do go with physical mailings: invest in a thermal label printer. I should have done that five years ago. That, and learning how to upload address spreadsheets into GoShippo, turned shipping from a nightmare into nothing. Printing labels and taping them to envelopes is for people who don’t need to make words. 🙂
Also, buy a crate of plastic book mailers. Much cheaper when bought by the hundred!
And good luck. Seriously.
January 6, 2023 @ 2:45 pm
Check what amount you at least break even at after Patreon takes its cut. I’ve heard from a couple of people I support that it’s not worth getting pledges below $3/month.
Seconding others that you’re promising too much at each level. I suggest looking at some other writers’ Patreons to see what they offer. For $3/month, I usually just get access to posts and the very occasional story or the like, and that’s fine with me. A few examples of a range of writers I support are Sharon Lee/Steve Miller, John Wiswell, CL Polk, and Mary Robinette Kowal (I know she gets more people at higher levels because those provide monthly classes, but I tend to stay at lower levels for everyone so I can support more people).
Hope this is helpful.
January 6, 2023 @ 3:21 pm
What they all said.
Patreon works as a place where fans can throw discretionary income at artists that they support. This is good.
The real reward for the fan is feeling involved in the process and so forth. The tier rewards should reflect what you’ve easy access to for redistribution, be it time and focus or stuff to get mailed out and got rid of. 🙂
January 6, 2023 @ 6:37 pm
As others have mentioned, a $1 or $2 level with no rewards or something very easy (exclusive blog post or exclusive cat pics once a month), then bumping other rewards to higher amounts is probably good.
My husband and I support several Patreons for under $5/month each, several for little reward. But they are all creators we want to support. Sometimes it’s less about the reward and more about ensuring that the material we enjoy, whether books, videos, stitchery patterns, local news (yes, we support a local independent journalist), or whatever can be created.
January 6, 2023 @ 7:05 pm
If you’re going to mail things at some levels (especially books), you might want to consider a term for ‘after X months at this level of support’ for that reward.
And agree that a short story a month is a lot for a dollar a month.
January 6, 2023 @ 8:06 pm
The advice already given looks good at a glance. I’d consider bumping the prices up vs the effort it’ll take you. Could do three levels and add fourth one later, if there’s an advantage to that.
January 6, 2023 @ 10:57 pm
I’m usually a “low amount to multiple people for little/no reward” Patreon donor, and I don’t feel it’s unfair at all. I don’t know the site norms especially well, but I’m not sure I’ve even seen repeated physical object rewards as small as *postcards* for less than a $20-30/month tier or thereabouts. That could add up to a lot of work for you, and it’s a pretty personal connection! (Actual books that you’ve picked out after giving some amount of thought to it, even if they’re used, seems like an even bigger deal.) I agree with others that the rewards are honestly secondary for me: it seems very reasonable to use them as enticements for higher pledge levels, rather than as a baseline expectation.
January 23, 2023 @ 3:04 pm
I think you’re over-promising, by quite a lot.
I support about 7 writers on Patreon now, and none of them promise this level of rewards.
One well-established author only promised to write the books in the final arc of her long-running series that was discontinued by the publisher, and provide a monthly post to update her patrons on how things are going. She knew she’d be too stressed by all those reward-fulfilment promises, and her readers don’t want her stressed about doing other things, we just want to give her the financial room to write the books she wants to write (we know we’ll want to read them, don’t need any more detailed promises than that). Luckily there are enough readers with that mindset that it’s working out well.
Look at how many short stories you already have finished, and how you’d need to spread them out to last you a couple of years.
Ideally, you’ll want the Patreon to last for many years, and you want some buffering reserves in case you or a kid gets sick or something else happens that sucks away all your time and mental energy for several months or more. I’ve heard writers say that ‘Covid-brain’ meant it took them half a year to get back to writing useful story-words.
How much time and effort does it take you to write a short story each month? I’ve heard some writers say they really regretted promising that, and one even stopped her Patreon because the pressure became too much, as they want to deliver good stories, but it takes away writing time and focus from the books you are contracted to write for a publisher. Once every three months might be more realistic and sustainable for a long time, unless you’ve got a large backlog you can fall back on.
Or call it something like “a snippet, scene, outtake, drabble or short story”, so you give yourself some more leeway and people don’t start to expect too much.
Limiting the number of people who can sign up to get physical stuff mailed seems fairly essential to keeping things manageable. Maybe bump that up another level, and insert an e-book level inbetween, with a higher limit?
That also limits the hassle with providing extra choice-options for those levels.