This following guest post was written by Tami Veldura (a.k.a. @tamiveldura):
Patron: (noun) a person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, cause, or aactivity.
Middle English: from Old French, from Latin patronus ‘protector of clients, defender,’ from pater, patr- ‘father.’
Patreon was launched in 2013–recently as far as history is concerned, but almost middle-aged for an internet startup. It’s a content platform that allows creators to charge a monthly (or per-creation) fee directly to their fans. A subscription box for video, comics, art, stories, and more. With every distribution system out there disrupted and under siege from the juggernaut of free content that is the internet, creatives have lost the traditional methods of getting their art out to the world. A record company might go bankrupt when technology evolves to produce the mp3, and then where are artists left to flog their wares?
In the last few weeks Patreon has come under fire, but make no mistake, this isn’t a donation platform or startup incubator. The platform charges customers on a regular basis with the expectation that a creator will provide. For authors, especially those voices that are disabled, disadvantaged, or discriminated against, this is a powerful channel to have our stories heard and sent directly to the people who want to hear them.
Setting up is easy, and maybe you’ve browsed a few different Patreons and wondered how it could work for you. Here are five ways to push your platform to the fullest.
Transparency is key in business, politics, and charity, so make sure your goals, rewards, and introduction are clear and precise. This isn’t the place for flowery language and there isn’t much room, so stick to the point. What are you offering your subscribers and how often do they receive it? Where is their money going every month?
I’ve seen some creators post a monthly roundup that includes the pledges received and an accounting of that money. Patrons seem to love learning about specific projects they helped fund, but a new visitor may not browse to find that accounting post. I’ve decided to list an accounting in the left-hand Goals section of the site, where both visitors and patrons can see exactly where their money is being spent.
But transparency doesn’t stop at the cash. Stretch yourself in your posts to your fans as well. They’ve subscribed to know more about you, not just your art, so consider what details you’re willing to share with the wider world. Can you provide photos or screenshots of in-progress work? What about a post that details the administrative work you did today? These details of the everyday life of an artist are fascinating to your fans.
There is no such thing as talking too much, especially when you’ve engaged with someone in an exchange for their money. Think back to the last time you bought something on Amazon: they double checked your cart before you checked out, they sent you a confirmation after your card was charged, and they even give you an order number that you can look up any time you want to check on the status of your shipment.
How often are you checking in with your subscribers? They’ve paid for a month (or per thing) of access to you and it’s now up to you to make that payment worthwhile. Don’t let them twist in the dark while you bury your head in your latest project. Keep them informed if your progress, where you’re stuck or flowing fast, how you keep yourself motivated, and even when real life interrupts the creative process.
Give your subscribers something to talk about and they’ll engage with you every step of the way. Be often in their notifications so they always have you on their mind. Any individual subscriber can change the frequency of their updates and emails, so don’t hesitate to reach out often.
Talk About It
Patreon is probably not the only social network you’re on. In fact, you’d be pressed to have much success on Patreon without an audience somewhere else. But advertising can be rough for us introverted creators and marketing a subscription platform might feel a bit ick for the newly-initiated.
The good news is, you don’t need to tell people to sign up for your Patreon. While a direct call to action (subscribe today!) is effective, you’re not on social networks to advertise, you’re there to socialise. So use your network to update people on how your patreon is going. Tell them when you’ve updated the goals or rewards, let them know when you’ve posted something new/early, and always announce when you’re studying your platform and craft to learn new things.
People need to be exposed to something anywhere from 5 to 20 times before they’re ready to buy it, so be generous about mentioning your Patreon everywhere you go. Link to it sometimes, don’t link to it others. Making it part of your regular conversation will do the most for you.
Play a Long Game
Unless you have a massive social following somewhere else ready to throw their money at you, odds are good you have one, maybe two subscribers to your Patreon and not a whole lot else. That’s ok. If you approach Patreon as another branch of your creative work, rather than a short-term solution, you’ll have much more success. Building an audience takes time, all you can do is set up a place for them to find you.
This means providing valuable, consistent work, even if you have a following of two. Your patrons are your most powerful asset, so pamper them by over delivering. Not only are they directly subscribed to you and your work, but they will also spread the word for you if you make it worth their while.
Patreon recently introduced the ability to schedule posts. Take huge advantage of this! Get ahead of yourself in the production cycle so that your patrons receive a steady stream of new material. Use the brand new polls function to ask their opinion, change the direction of your stories, or even decide which works to put into production. Treat your subscribers like partners in your business and you’ll be rewarded with their loyalty.
It’s tempting to check out other successful Patreons and copy what you see is working, but be careful of straying too far away from the work you enjoy. If you’re a novel author, picking up comic drawing is a big pivot to make just because you saw some comics doing well. So take some time to really brainstorm about yourself. What creative works do you enjoy pursuing? What do you want to do more often or learn more about? Make those your priority.
And don’t be afraid to change it up over time! I’ve run my Patreon account for several years now, and it’s been through about 6 different iterations. I’ve changed the goals, the rewards, the posts I provide, even the header image time and time again. Experiment with different setups, try something new for a while, and then ask for feedback. What works for you might be the best thing your subscribers have ever seen.
In the end, any social platform works best when the creator feels safe to stretch their imagination. Make Patreon your playground.
Bio: Tami Veldura is a writer, reader, lover and artist. She currently resides in San Marcos, CA. She writes science fiction, fantasy, steampunk, and GLBTQ fiction. She is available for hire as a freelance editor of complete fiction stories of any length. Tami loves editing fantasy, science fiction, erotica, and paranormal stories for Adults or Young Adults.