This following guest post was written by #StoryDam chat regular, Julie Reeser (a.k.a. @abetterjulie):
What is Patreon?
Patreon is an online subscription content service. You offer unique and fun incentives in return for financial support from patrons. The site gives you a tidy space, and handles the money transactions.
Know your goals in advance
In the fantasy book I’m writing, one of the characters has to learn that it’s important to know why you want to do magic before you do it. I feel the same way about social media. Patreon isn’t a time-suck like Twitter, but it is an investment requiring attention and upkeep as part of your brand. You’ll have a direct line of communication to your patrons, making content and rewards tailored for them.
Setting up your Patreon page
You’ll need an avatar and a header for Patreon, like Facebook or Twitter. You’ll also want to plan your marketing pitch ahead of time. Think about tone and style, because after all, that’s what you’re selling as a writer.
Patreon offers a link for you to share a beta of your set-up, which is mighty convenient and relieves a lot (okay, some) anxiety. @keithrowley from #storydam chat was my intrepid guinea pig. He kindly agreed to volunteer to look at my page and offer suggestions before it went live to the world. He even sent me the email he received when he used the patron sign-up.
How does Patreon work?
You’ll need to decide what you want to offer. Stories are good. Signed things are better. So are interactive incentives like letting a patron choose a topic or naming characters after them or putting them in the acknowledgment section of your book. You offer the reward, and they pay you for it.
What should you offer on Patreon?
Patreon has different tiers, like a Kickstarter. Mine only has one level because I’m not trying to make money as much as I simply wanted to make connections with my readers and grow as a poet. You can always change and upgrade if you get a new idea. Once you’ve figured out what you want to offer, and how much you want to be paid for it, you simply fill in the templates offered on the website. It walks you through it step-by-step.
An important warning
Be forewarned, though. You do not get the full amount the patron pays you. A percentage is kept by the site (5%) and for third-party fees (11%). I didn’t know that when I started, and if I had, I probably would have made my price a bit higher.
Know your costs for paper or postage or whatever and figure them in. Your payout can go through direct deposit or PayPal. I haven’t done this yet, but I assume there will be another fee, ‘cause otherwise how would the Earth rotate on its axis? They charge your patrons on the first of the month, so think about when you want to start advertising in relation to that knowledge.
How does Patreon differ from social media?
Like any other social media, there are superstars and the rest of us. Unlike Instagram, Tumblr, or Twitter where you need to be active daily, you can decide how often to post. Many small presses have Patreon accounts, and they offer their magazine to their patrons before it goes live on their website or print. There are artists who post daily content, and others who do it more randomly. It’s free to sign up, so you aren’t losing anything if you try it and it flops.
How is Patreon different from my blog?
However you choose to make it different! I’m serious. If you already offer your readers content for free, you’ll need to expand your thinking to tangible and elite things that would cause them to offer money to you regularly. It’s that word, regularly, that’s the key to Patreon. While your patrons can stop paying at any time, once someone signs on, they are psychologically more likely to stay. A tip jar is easy to ignore.
Why I use Patreon
My biggest impression of Patreon is that it’s a vehicle to get you closer to your readers. Because there’s an investment beyond clicks and time on their part, it lends a depth to the exchange you might not get from other platforms.
Is Patreon worth it?
The key in that question is the word “it.” If you mean time, I would say yes. The time to set up your page is minimal, and since most creators offer monthly content, it isn’t too much of a strain. I would argue other social media platforms take more time and maintenance with less of a return. By opening yourself up to an interactive relationship with readers, you will likely remain motivated and surprise yourself with new ideas. Remember why you want this connection, and then build on that foundation.
Bio: Julie Reeser lives in a stone bowl in Montana surrounded by birds
and bad internet. She’s been published by Black Denim Lit, NonBinary
Review, Whirlwind, Zoetic Press, and others. You can find her on
Twitter at @abetterjulie or her blog www.persephoneknits.com. Her Patreon account is www.patreon.com/abetterjulie.