Before You Launch a Patreon for Your Writing, Read This

Before You Launch a Patreon for Your Writing, Read This

Do you have a big writing project you’d like to get off the ground? Crowdfunding site Patreon wants to support you.

Patreon, like Kickstarter, allows people to pledge money to support a large project. But unlike Kickstarter, Patreon support is ongoing; your patrons agree to make small, regular contributions (such as $1 per story, or $5 per month), and you receive a monthly check in exchange for creating regular work.

I’m using Patreon to fund the first draft of my novel, The Biographies of Ordinary People. I earn $355.35 per month through the generous support of 46 patrons, who get to read new chapters of my novel every Tuesday and Thursday.

But I wanted to learn how to use Patreon more effectively. So I talked to Sharon Lee about her successes and advice for new writers. Along with her husband and writing partner, Steve Miller, she earns $1,800.99 per month from Patreon supporters.

I also reached out to Heather Wilder, Creator Care Specialist and Jordan Cope, Creator Discovery at Patreon to ask them how writers can use the site to get funding, build a team of supportive readers and grow their writing careers.

Who can use Patreon?

Patreon recently released a new guide to starting writing projects, where they list a number of successful Patreon writers, including bloggers, short-story writers, podcasters and magazine publishers.

In short: If you release a written product on a regular schedule, you have what you need to start a Patreon.

Bloggers, that means you. Novelists? Do what I’m doing and release a chapter at a time. Anything from a poem a week to a quarterly magazine can find a home on Patreon.

What if you’re a brand-new writer? You might not have a lot of readers yet, but that doesn’t mean you can’t set up your Patreon page and get started.

“I would tell writers who want to try Patreon to go ahead and see what happens, because you won’t know until you do,” Lee told me.

Cope agreed. “Since there’s honestly no risk in setting up a page, it’s a great way to gather momentum for your projects and to give yourself a concrete structure. It also helps to generate an open dialogue with your fans!”

How to build your community

What if you don’t have many fans yet? That’s OK. Making a good product is only one part of success on Patreon. The other part is community-building.

Lee warns writers you might not receive a lot of support right away. “Though the Internet may have facilitated artists connecting with their supporters, it still takes time to grow an audience,” she said.

How much time? Lee said that many of her Patreon supporters had been fans of her and her husband’s work for more than 20 years. Many of us don’t want to wait 20 years before launching our Patreons, but you can start to build your community within the site.

“Asking for support can sometimes feel intimidating, so a great place to start is asking friends and family,” Wilder said.

You probably already know a few readers and fans of your work, so ask them for support. Once they’re on board, focus on creating solid, consistent work.

“The keyword I always highlight is consistency,” Cope said. “Consistency in update releases, consistency in quality, consistency in audience engagement; all of these give your page a ton of validity and success, and foster a dedicated community of patrons.”

Wilder agreed, noting that you should also build community by posting on a regular schedule.

Stick to a schedule of writing — whether it’s once a week, a month, whatever works best for you as a creator,” she said. “It’s important to be consistent so your fans, family and friends can fall into the routine of knowing exactly when you release new material.”

How does consistent, regular work build a community? Every time you share a good piece of writing with your patrons, they have the chance to retweet and share it with their friends.

You can also reblog your Patreon writing on your writer’s website or on a social blog site like Tumblr or Medium — with a link back to your Patreon, of course!

I recently published a chapter of The Biographies of Ordinary People on Boing Boing, and I’m going to continue to reach out to other blogs and writing sites to share and promote my work.

The other half of community-building is conversation.

Don’t just use your Patreon for writing; engage with your patrons by asking them questions or inviting them to contribute suggestions for future work.

Post writing selfies, record short videos, do livestream Q&As — anything that starts a conversation with your patrons is a great way to help your community grow.

How to reward your community

Patreon, like Kickstarter, gives creators the opportunity to offer rewards at various levels of pledge support.

Lee advises writers avoid offering so many rewards that they get in the way of the actual writing. She said that her fans “wrote and asked us not to provide ‘extras,’ but to concentrate on our work. That was the value they saw in the arrangement.”

Cope echoed that advice, suggesting writers focus on rewards that are focused on their work and easy to fulfill, like, “Google Hangouts to discuss their work and answer questions about development, writing tips, private blog posts that are for patrons only, and annotated PDFs of their writing.”

I offer my patrons both a monthly advice column and an annotated version of The Biographies of Ordinary People, which are both cost-effective ways to give readers a little bit extra. I also offer my highest-level patrons a hand-painted mug, which is the one reward that I pay out of pocket to fulfill — but the contributions from my patrons more than cover the cost.

Now that you have information about how to start a Patreon, how to build a community and how to reward community members, let’s start a conversation about Patreon in the comments.

I’m happy to answer any questions you have about setting funding levels, creating funding goals, writing your Patreon copy and any of the other details involved in a successful Patreon writing project.

Have you ever considered launching a Patreon? What type of Patreon project would you like to create?

Natalie Sisson

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71 comments

  • Thanks for sharing such an informative article,

    Have been wondering about how best to monetize Patreon, either writing regular answers (I’m a Quora Most Viewed writer in 25+ topics) or via the Eat Drink Stay Dubai blog.

    Inspired enough now to try to consider specific sections, ideas and avenues for connections with Patrons.

    Will delve further, and thanks for the inspiration

    Keep up the great work 🙂

  • aui says:

    Hi Nicole. I am considering of building a community and launching a Patreon for my second book. I am at the stage of doing my research on how to go about it. I have some followers on my site and constantly engaging with them but I don’t know yet where to start although I have identified for who my second book will be and that is for sexually abused women.
    I would be very happy to hear a thought from you.
    Aui

  • I’m the creator of a podcast called ‘Mythos’ and I’ve had quite a few listeners suggest I make each of the seasons into a book. This article has really given me some ideas on how to go about this. Thanks! Do you know of anyone who has done something similar? Used podcast scripts or content to create a book?

  • Ploni says:

    Is there a formula or rule-of-thumb for how much content to produce per reward?

    For instance, if a patron will pledge $5 a month, how much content would be appropriate to provide him or her?

    Thanks for all your efforts to help us.

  • My coder is trying to convince me to move to .net from PHP.

    I have always disliked the idea because of the costs.
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    number of websites for about a year and am worried about switching to another
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  • John Clark says:

    I currently Archive my work on the Internet Archive for free world wide download.

    It involves a new branch of basic geometry and language concepts. However, it also has a long history with the human race. I apparently was drafted.

    I am not sure what to do, or if told, that I would have the time or inclination to do it.

  • April says:

    I’m a writer and I have a Patreon page. I’ve had over 400 views and no patrons so I’m beginning to get discouraged. I don’t kbow what else to do. I was planning to eventually turn this into a full time business but I’m not off to a good start. I don’t think people want to pay for poetry. Even if it’s just a $1/month.

  • I’m an author. Let’s say I start a Patreon in January, publishing one chapter (3,000 words) a week. Let’s say some folks joined at the beginning. They’ve been there every week… then others join in February and more in March. Do the people who join late get access to ALL the material up to that point, or do they get it in weekly installments that start when they start?

  • Quain says:

    Hi there, some really useful comments on here. I just found out about this and wonder how best to use it to gain financial support. I am a published author of short stories and I write screenplays. I’m trying to figure out the best way to use Patreon? Would I share stories in progress or excerpts from a screenplay? It’s really the screenplays I’m working on that I’m trying to raise funding to get them made. Oh, and how to get around the plagiarism issue. Welcome advice. Thanks.

  • Dean Kutzler says:

    Great article, Nicole, thanks! My question concerns Amazon’s KDP exclusivity. Would this be considered going against their policy? I guess it would have to, right? I’m launching a Space Opera trilogy soon, was looking into doing Patreon to build a fan base. Love to hear your thoughts.

  • Dean Kutzler says:

    Great article, Nicole, thanks! My question concerns Amazon’s KDP exclusivity. Would this be considered going against their policy? I guess it would have to, right? I’m launching a Space Opera trilogy soon, was looking into doing Patreon to build a fan base. Love to hear your thoughts.

  • Now I am well and truly stoked! I have been operating a blog for 3 months now – memoir-like whimsical stories – and putting up a new one every week. I get about a hundred reads every week, 30-40 of them regulars. And my wife keeps telling me I need to provide some income. I sound like the perfect Patreon candidate. So up to now, it’s been click-through-and-read-for-free for my readers. So I’m a little at sea as to how to make the transition. How have other Creators handled this? Give Patrons first look and wait a couple of weeks before posting it for the hoi-poloi? Or keep on putting it up for free and offer extras to Patrons? Or turn the site into password-only and keep the freeloaders out?

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