Thursday, February 16, 2017

An Old World Concept Made New: How Patreon Works for Writers

By Jana Oliver, @crazyauthorgirl

Part of the Indie Authors Series

Crowdfunding can offer authors another source of revenue.

Finding additional sources of revenue has always been an issue for authors, especially us indies. Occasionally you’ll see Kickstarter campaigns for specific projects, be that novels or anthologies. 

But for those who want a more steady source of income, Patreon has become their crowdfunding source. Now instead of having the Medicis or the Borgias support your art, you can use the power of social media to find dedicated patrons.

Founded in 2013 by a developer, and an artist who was looking for a way to generate income to support his YouTube videos, Patreon’s crowdfunding platform now boasts over 310K creators. Patrons agree to donate a certain amount ($1, $2, $5 and up) every time the individual/group posts new content, be that a video, a story, photograph,poem or song. Patrons can also choose to donate a monthly amount. The cost to the artist is 5% of their patrons’ contributions, plus PayPal processing fees.

The variety of talent on Patreon is astounding. Ranging from internationally-known musicians such as Pentatonix, to MedievalPoc, a resource for art, history and academics about POC in European Art history, to Kurzgesagt, who creates science animation videos. Each have built a strong community of patrons.

So how does this work for the creators? I asked author John Hartness, who writes dark fantasy “with a side of snark”, to weigh in. He was an early Patreon adopter. He decided that instead of the “produce a thing, get a donation” model, he wanted a regular monthly donation plan. Since John is very productive in terms of new projects, in addition to his publisher gig at Falstaff Books, his patrons would be getting the inside scoop on a lot of new work.

John’s philosophy is straightforward: “I’ve always ascribed to the concept of “True Fans” or the “80/20 Rule,” wherein the most loyal small percentage of your fans are your most dedicated and most evangelical. . . . it’s so important to find new ways to stay in contact with the fans that will go out and do your marketing for you, review your work, be your street team - all of that. Patreon gives me a way to connect with those True Fans, and it rewards them for letting me know who they are.”

He feels that the site’s ability to e-mail patrons whenever he updates content adds “a sense of exclusivity.” This makes patrons feel special because they’re receiving unique access to the creator. He also believes Patreon helpful if you already have an established fanbase, but feels their discoverability features need some work. “. . . it’s very clunky to search and discover artists to become a patron of (to patronize? That’s the right word, but it sounds so wrong nowadays). Their internal search and discoverability features could really use some of the Kickstarter kind of love.”

I was interested if John had experienced any pushback from his readers, since some still believe that authors are rolling in the dough. He says that’s not been the case, though he has heard instances where other authors feel asking for funds is “beneath them.” As he put it, “. . . if it was good enough for Michelangelo, it’s good enough for me.” Indeed.

John was particularly pleased by the fact that Patreon’s regular income allowed him to do more appearances, to meet his readers in person and have the chance to bring more fans into the fold.

“Having that couple hundred bucks a month from Patreon lets me stretch my travel boundaries, because I know that’s coming. My Patreon money is dedicated to con attendance, so this year it will pay for me to go to Penned Con in St. Louis and I’m considering adding a fall con in Florida. Those are things I couldn’t do without some kind of infrastructure. So Patreon allows me to go to cons and take a loss on my travel and expenses, because my patrons are paying me to get out there and meet them (and a whole lot of other folks!).

I haven’t used Patreon, but might consider it down the line for a new venture.

Have any of you used this crowdsourcing service, and if so, what has been your experience?

An international bestseller and the recipient of over a dozen major awards, Jana Oliver often laments that there are far too many stories inside her head at any given moment.

Best known for her young adult Demon Trappers series, she writes what intrigues her, and spends a good deal of time fretting about whether demons actually exist.

When not wandering around the internet researching exorcisms, or posting on social media (eerily similar, those two), Jana can be found in Atlanta with her very patient husband, and a rapidly dwindling collection of single malt Scotch.

Jana Oliver | Chandler Steele | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Indie Bound |

About Cat's Paw

After five years in a Louisiana prison, Alex Parkin desperately wants to start over. Even more, he craves revenge against Vladimir Buryshkin, the New Orleans drug lord who framed him for cocaine possession. The second he walks out of prison, Alex is a wanted man, both by the Russian mob, and by Veritas, a private security firm that claims to be "on his side." When his sister is brutally beaten, he has to choose: Join forces with Veritas, or let Buryshkin destroy his family.

Because of the Russian mobster, Morgan Blake lost both her husband, and her career at the FBI. Now working with Veritas, she's eager to take Buryshkin down. So eager, she's willing to do anything to make that happen, even sacrificing a certain ex-con, if needed.

As a load of tainted cocaine hits New Orleans' streets, the body count quickly rises. To prevent more deaths, and a potential drug war, Morgan and Alex must learn that revenge comes at too high a price, and that love always has its own agenda.


  1. Ironically, I was just wondering to myself if authors use Patreons. How awesome to just find a blog post in my email this morning about it! I wish I had a big enough audience to be able to use a Patreon effectively, but it's absolutely something to keep in mind! Thank you!

  2. The thing that has always kept me from it is that I cannot for the life of me write short stories, so I don't feel like I have anything to give people. I can write novels, but what would my freebie to patrons be?

  3. If you're writing series, perhaps you can do deleted scenes? Or other content that plays into those books?

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  5. Very interesting premise. I can't help thinking it would be one more site to appear on in a timely manner, when I'm already stretched to keep my website, twitter account and facebook current. Sigh :)