We all have a monster or two lurking in the closet. For current or hopeful full-time writers, ours is called “financial instability.”
It’s hard to do what you love while making a business out of it. On the one hand, you want to pursue your passion down whatever path it leads. But on the other hand, you have a growling stomach and a utility bill due every month. You must earn a wage.
We’ve all heard the romanticized stories of starving artists who sacrifice their financial well-being for the sake of their craft. But it’s time to rethink the “starving artist” cliché. Here’s why:
It Stifles Your Writing Career - Always worrying about the next bill or where your next meal is coming from? That's using mental bandwidth that you could use to develop your next story.
It Sets a Poor Precedent - Let’s not mince words. By perpetuating the myth of the "starving artist," we're essentially saying it's okay for writers to struggle financially despite their immense contributions to culture, entertainment, and knowledge.
Limited Creativity - Operating under financial stress means making compromises that can limit creative freedom. As an author, you may vary genres and write in those that don't align with your interests or strengths simply because you need the income and must “write what sells.”
The Barrier to Entry - The belief that you must be willing to endure financial hardship to succeed as an author can be a strong deterrent for new writers. This misconception was a severe roadblock when I was weighing my career options. Perpetuating this stereotype can rob the world of diverse and fresh voices.
Short-lived Career - Let's get real. Living on the financial edge isn't a long-term strategy. You might find yourself ditching the pen for a more "stable" paycheck sooner than you'd like. What does that mean? You're robbing yourself—and the literary world—of your untapped potential and future masterpieces.
Siloed Creativity - Operating on a shoestring budget? You’ll find yourself cutting crucial corners, and the first casualty often is professional editing. Edits are critical for all authors, whether self-publishing or going the traditional route. You need an editor before you self-publish and ship your manuscript to publishing houses (if you want them to take you seriously). Without an editor, you have no quality control. A manuscript that seasoned eyes haven't vetted is more likely to be riddled with errors, plot holes, and inconsistencies. Ultimately, you will deliver a less polished product, potentially missing the mark. Doing this will rob your writing of the acclaim and reach it could otherwise achieve.
As you can see, adhering to this cliché does a disservice to you and the broader writing community.
What’s the solution?
It’s time to look at membership platforms like Patreon to create a financial safety net. These platforms allow you to focus on what you do best: Writing. Patreon, in particular, can be a game-changer because it offers a direct line to financial security and greater creative freedom.
In this guide, we’ll explain what makes Patreon so compelling and how you can meet all of your financial obligations through the power of crowdfunding. Are you intrigued yet? Let's debunk the "starving artist" myth by diving into how to use Patreon to your advantage.
What is Patreon?
Patreon is an online platform allowing creators to earn a monthly income by providing exclusive rewards and benefits to their supporters, known as "patrons." It's a subscription-based model aimed at helping artists, writers, and other creatives generate a sustainable income while deepening their relationships with their most dedicated fans.
Founded in 2013 by musician Jack Conte and developer Sam Yam, this platform has flipped the script on the traditional creative business model.
Instead of hoping and praying that your masterpiece will pay off someday, Patreon lets you pocket some earnings today. And I mean today, while you're in the trenches of plotting and world-building. In a nutshell, Patreon offers a modern answer to a problem as old as art itself: How to get paid for your creativity.
How Does Patreon Work?
Patreon operates on a subscription-based model that offers authors a stable, recurring income. Instead of relying solely on book sales, which can be sporadic and unpredictable, you, as an author, can invite your readers to become patrons. Your readers can actively support you with a monthly financial contribution. In return for their financial support, your patrons will receive exclusive benefits from you, such as early access to new chapters, behind-the-scenes looks at the writing process, or even personalized stories.
Here’s a further breakdown of how Patreon works:
One of the critical features of Patreon is the ability to set up different "tiers" of membership. Each tier corresponds to a specific monthly donation amount and has its own reward set. For example, a $5/month level might offer early access to all new content, while a $20/month tier might include that plus a monthly Q&A session with you, the author. The tier system allows authors to cater to fans with different interest levels and financial capacities.
Offering exclusive content is a common strategy on Patreon. These offers range from releasing chapters of a new book earlier to patrons, providing exclusive short stories, or even offering annotated versions of favored works. The aim is to give patrons something extraordinary they can't get anywhere else, thereby incentivizing the monthly subscription.
Patreon also offers a unique platform for deepening your relationship with your readers. Regular updates, live chats, and other interactive features allow you to engage with your community in a more intimate setting than social media typically allows. This setting fosters a sense of loyalty and connection that can be emotionally and financially rewarding.
Adapt and Evolve
What works today might not work tomorrow. The beauty of Patreon is that it's flexible. Authors can quickly adapt their offerings based on patron feedback and engagement metrics. You could introduce new tiers or benefits, discontinue less popular ones, or even run limited-time promotions to attract new patrons.
By understanding the ins and outs of Patreon, you can leverage the platform not just to survive but thrive and turn your passion for writing into a sustainable career.
How Can Authors Use Patreon as a Means of Financial Support?
There are many practical ways that authors can successfully use Patreon. Here are a few examples of how writers are currently using Patreon:
- Early Access to New Work - Authors provide patrons early access to entire books before they're publicly released.
- Exclusive Content - Beyond early access, some authors offer fully exclusive content only to patrons. This content could be a series of short stories, behind-the-scenes looks at the writing process, or a parallel storyline that complements the main narrative.
- Writing Workshops and Webinars - Some authors host quarterly writing workshops for patrons at higher subscription tiers. These virtual webinars delve into different aspects of writing, from character development to tips on self-publishing.
- Community Building Activities - Some authors invite their community to become co-collaborators. The community can vote on book titles or story directions to create a “choose your own adventure” experience that strengthens the bond between the author and the readers.
Now that you're familiar with the Patreon landscape and how authors use it, let's dig into the actionable steps you can take to turn this platform into a financial lifeline for your writing career.
Identify Your Audience
Before jumping into Patreon, knowing who your readers are is crucial. These folks will become your patrons, so understanding their needs is vital. Use surveys or social media polls to gather insights on what they value in your work. Are they here for your storytelling, expert insights, or unique voice? This information will be invaluable as you craft your Patreon offerings.
Craft a Value Proposition
In Patreon terms, a value proposition is the unique set of benefits patrons will get by subscribing to you. What makes your work so remarkable that people should pay for it monthly? Think about the type of content you can offer that would be worth the price of a monthly subscription. It could be anything from exclusive access to unpublished manuscripts to personalized critiques of a patron's writing.
Set Up Tiers and Rewards
The next step is to set up various tiers with corresponding rewards. As an author, you have a treasure trove of potential perks. Early access to new chapters, exclusive essays, or writing tips and tricks are just a few examples. Remember to price these tiers in a way that reflects the value of the rewards and yet remains accessible to your audience.
Market Your Patreon
Once you've set up your Patreon page, it's time to spread the word. Use your existing platforms like social media, blogs, or email newsletters to drive traffic to your Patreon page. The key is to be clear and transparent about what patrons will get. Potential patrons are more likely to subscribe if they know what they're signing up for.
Maintain Patron Engagement
Gaining patrons is just half the battle. Keeping them engaged is equally critical. Consistent posting is crucial, but be bold in special perks like interactive Q&As, shoutouts, or even exclusive webinars on the craft of writing. The goal is to keep your patrons feeling valued and engaged. This way, you will stay top of mind, and they will continue to support you.
Patreon offers a compelling solution to the age-old dilemma of financial instability that many writers face. It allows you to turn your passion into a financially sustainable career, all while building a community of supporters who believe in your work. There's no better time than now to take that step. Open a new tab, head to Patreon, and lay the foundation for a thriving writing career.