Business Musings: Patreon Changes And Me
To get a free A.I. audio version of this blog, click here.
I did not expect to spend the past two days working on Patreon.
I mean, I planned on updating my Patreon page sometime in the future. As I wrote in the Year in Review post about advertising, much of what I had been doing had grown stale. I knew that, with the changes in the social media environment, I was going to have to up my game.
I planned on revamping this website and my Patreon page, and on doing more with my newsletter.
Any day now.
Okay, that’s not fair. Because I am trying to figure out how best to configure the website. It’s becoming a priority, because I really hate this style, which dates from 2015.
I plan to do most of the site myself, because the last time I hired someone else, the things I liked about the website diminished and the things I hate about it increased. Not to mention that we used some program over and above Word Press which turned out to be unwieldy and to this day, we’re still finding bits of code from that redesign.
I’m not doing that again.
So I’ve been niggling at it. Maybe I’m a bit gunshy. I feel gunshy. And I’m time limited.
But I’m excited about the AI audio and I’m having fun with the program. On Thursday of last week, when the previous blog went live, I experimented with other features of the Murf.ai system. I planned to write a post about all I’ve learned, and some realizations that occurred when my first audio blog went live.
First, though, I figured I’d better add a tier on my Patreon page for audio. I was still undecided about what or if I would charge people for getting early access to the audio blog. Then I realized I have a tier for early access to the text blog, so I need something similar for the audio blog.
However, I figured, there will be less content with the audio blog, because I probably won’t do any of the Patreon exclusives or the short notes in audio. So I’d charge less. (It also gets me off the hook if I simply don’t have time to do an early access audio blog during one week.)
I dug into the back of my Patreon page for the first time since I set it up. And wow, did I learn things.
First, I hadn’t realized (or maybe hadn’t remembered) that Patreon had grandfathered in my price structure because I was a founding member of Patreon.
Yes, my account is that old. And I haven’t updated it since I set it up.
I have found that annoying for years now, but I had always had the revamp on the backburner. What I didn’t realize was just how old some of the materials were.
What annoyed me most was the lovely picture I had used as a header. It was of a cat who had died a year after that photo in horrible circumstances, so every time I saw her, I felt sad.
Then I had an introductory video that I had worked on at least eight years ago, with another cat in the center of it. Sir Galahad of Kitten left us in 2017, which tells you how long ago that was as well.
I put up a new header and deleted the video. To add a new video, I would have to leave the grandfathered-in pricing structure and since I don’t plan to do a lot of videos, I decided against a new video.
But I had to rewrite the section on why I’m doing Patreon. And that’s where the learning came in.
When I had set up my Patreon account, this kind of crowdfunding was new. Yes, indeedy do, I was an early adapter here, and I had felt hugely uncomfortable about it.
I was asking for money in a way I had never done so before. I do ask at the bottom of each post, but that felt like public-radio fundraising to me. (It still does.) I’m used to that. I worked for a listener-sponsored radio station for almost a decade, and then I did fundraising for the local NPR station in Eugene until I simply couldn’t handle their internal politics (and their rinky-dink approach [at the time anyway] to fundraising).
I can do on-air fundraising in my sleep. Writing up a little fundraising pitch at the end of a blog post was and is not hard.
Writing up why someone should support my blog on a subscription basis was hard for me when I first did it. I was a little too apologetic. I also had no idea what I was doing.
I set up some things that really fit with what I was writing at the time. Eight or so years ago, I was still blogging about both traditional and indie publishing. I did a lot of investigative work about royalty payments from traditional publishers. I did a lot of other behind-the-scenes traditional publishing investigation as well.
That was costly and time-consuming. I had a large readership of traditionally published writers whom I was scaring to death. But I was also giving them tools to get out of their traditional publishers with copyrights intact and tools that would help them fire their agents and tools that helped them hire accounting firms.
More than one traditionally published writer sent me a very big donation because I had saved them tens of thousands of dollars.
I figured that might continue, so I had upper level tiers on my Patreon page of $50, $100, and $500. Folks didn’t take the $100 or $500 level. Instead, they continued to give me big donations through PayPal.
I hadn’t learned how to do this kind of crowd-funding yet…and then, it changed.
Over the years, not only did my content shift, but so did the culture. People got used to donating small amounts to creators in return for some kind of steady reward.
I knew that, but I didn’t really think much about it. I had my backers, and I fulfilled my part. I had fun with Patreon, but mostly on the content level.
I hadn’t realized how much the tier level had dated.
Until I started upgrading.
Then I learned something about myself and about crowdfunding.
Back when I set all of this up, the tools for Patreon and for what I wanted to do were very different. Patreon required that we offer something for each tier. Most of my colleagues were offering a short story per month or a personal phone call or something I’m simply not set up to do.
I hate phone calls. I hate doing Zoom meetings or webcasting. I avoid those things in real life, even among friends and family, so I really didn’t want to offer that as a reward on my Patreon page.
I don’t want anyone in my fiction. I can’t release things early because of my writing method. I write fiction out of order. I’m currently working on a Fey novel that I had initially thought was the first in a subseries. What it turned out to be was part of a sketch for several books. The section I’m writing now is the third book.
So offering early access was hard. I still write short fiction for traditional publishers, and my contracts want the stories to be original, so I can’t offer early access to those either.
Those things haven’t changed in eight years.
My decision back then was to offer early access to the blog. I also set up an advisory board. I was envisioning it as a group of traditionally published writers who would help me by telling me their experiences in the increasingly complex world of traditional publishing.
I also, at the upper tiers, offered early access to the nonfiction books that I wrote because of the blog. My phrasing was revelatory—at least to me. Books published by WMG Publishing only. Any books published by a different publisher would not qualify.
Nowadays, I don’t submit books to any traditional publisher. Traditional publishers don’t offer anything I can’t do myself through WMG. And the traditional contracts are so awful that I would never consider signing one. (Yes, I would try to negotiate, but most of the terms these days—even for bestsellers—are non-negotiable.)
At the upper tiers, I had to be really vague. An extra digital surprise. Or some gifts. I ended up giving a lot of Storybundle codes to the upper-tier people, because that was all I had to give.
Everything has changed, from my attitudes to the things that are available.
Attitude first. As I mentioned above, crowdfunding has changed. Readers often give small amounts on a regular basis to the creators they love in exchange for some kind of benefit. It has become part of the culture.
I do it as well.
As a result, I am no longer uncomfortable with it. It’s part of who we creators are now. We have options and opportunities, and we need to take advantage of them.
Because I no longer help traditionally published writers with any of the things I used to do, I no longer get those one-time large donations to the blog. Instead, if I try to help a traditional writer these days, I get attacked on social media for being “old” or “out of touch” or “unwilling to understand the real world.”
Honestly, I figure if someone still wants a traditional book publishing credit, they either work in academia and need that credential for their real job which is teaching, or they are unwilling to learn business and will never understand why their desire for a traditionally published book will probably tank the writing career they’ve dreamed of.
These are not my people, not my readers, and not the writers I want to talk to.
I like business-minded writers who want to learn as much as they can about the ever-changing indie publishing business.
So, with that in mind, I deleted most of the language that had to do with traditional publishing. I deleted the advisory board. I deleted the upper level tiers.
I added benefits that I couldn’t have provided eight years ago. Those benefits include: one-time discounts on our direct-sales store, wmgbooks.com, for most tiers; a continuing discount on the store for the highest tier; and for two tiers, a discount on our online workshops through Teachable.com.
Neither the direct store nor Teachable existed when I started my Patreon page. We did do online workshops back then, but we had cobbled together our own website, and offering discounts was a heck of a burden.
It’s not now.
Also, A.I. audio did not exist, so offering audio wasn’t a choice either, unless I recorded it. I didn’t have time.
The only things that remain the same are the early access to the blog itself, and the books that come out of the blog. Oh, and the exclusive content, which I’m having a lot more fun with.
Patreon got easier to use as well. Setup is a click of a button here, a choice there. Eight years ago, Patreon was little more than a website with some design and some financial features. Now there’s a lot to learn, and a lot that made my life easier.
I redesigned the page in less time than it took to build it. That was a plus.
Patreon always asked for goals, and I had no real idea how I wanted to do them. I had some listed, but they felt forced.
Now I have a single goal—300 backers on Patreon—and when I hit that, I’ll offer another cool discount to all the backers. If I need another goal, then I’ll come up with another idea. Depending on how long it takes to hit this first goal (if I ever do), then I might have even more tools to build with on Patreon.
So…here I am, writing a blog about redesigning my Patreon page instead of writing another A.I. audio blog. That initial blog that sent me down this path is half done and will probably be the next one, unless something truly strange happens.
I did not expect the redesign to be a blog topic, but the differences in tech and attitude between the year I set up the page and the year I redesigned it are amazing. I feel like I’ve moved from a Model T to a 1960s Corvette. It’s still not the computerized tech we have in modern cars, but I have a hunch that’s coming.
I have to admit, I also feel really good that I moved something major off my list. That doesn’t happen very often.
I still have the website to rebuild, but that’s next week’s problem. Or the week after that.
Right now, I’m going to bask in the personal victory, and reflect a bit more on just how far we’ve all come.
Rather than do the usual push on a relevant online workshop as well as a nonfiction book, let me just urge you to take a look at the new Patreon page.
Then, if you feel like joining others who have supported the blog there, feel free.
Otherwise, if you liked this post, and want to show your one-time appreciation, the place to do that is PayPal. If you go that route, please include your email address in the notes section, so I can say thank you.
Which I am going to say right now. Thank you!
Click paypal.me/kristinekathrynruschr4e to go to PayPal.
“Business Musings: Patreon Changes And Me,” copyright © 2023 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.