Creators are often undervalued. The average book publishing deal for a first-time author is an advance between $5000 and $15000. Royalties don’t even make a dent in that number either and you often can’t control how the publishing company markets your book. Getting that publisher to notice you is another long and zero-paying effort. Musicians, artists, writers, podcasters, and more have similar problems.
Creators across the board want to remain in charge of their work and be paid fairly for it. I cringe every time I hear about a creator being asked to provide work for free ‘for the publicity’ or ‘because it’s easy’.
Creative work takes time and many can’t survive on their creative work alone. They pick up other jobs, pushing creative work to a part-time or side-hustle. To fund their instruments, creative tools, and more, creators pull from other sources or rely on very small stipends from their publishing deals, records, and ad algorithms written by companies that only focus on their own profits.
That’s why many creators, myself included, turn to Patreon to fund their work. It’s not a means to make an income but a supplemental source for their fans to help pay for the creative work that takes time and money to produce. Some creators use it to pay small bills like electricity and water while others are able to fund entire projects on the subscription service.
What is Patreon?
It’s important for fans to understand what Patreon is, especially those who believe it’s similar to Kickstarter.
While Kickstarter is a ‘pay upfront for a single project’ type of support, Patreon is a subscription based system to support the continuing projects of a creator. When you become a ‘patron’, you give a monthly amount to a creator to show your support of their work. There is also the option to pay per creation, which many creators do if they offer a single or low number of creations a month.
Creators then have the option to reward their patrons with benefits. These are established in the form of different-priced ‘tiers’ that offer different types of rewards depending on the level of support from patrons. Lower-priced tiers often offer basic rewards such as access to content or small gifts, middle-priced tiers offer a few more benefits, while high-priced tiers are for the dedicated supporters who often pay for more access, input, or interaction with the creator.
Why creators use Patreon
Like I mentioned above, Patreon is not a means to make an income (though some creators have that ability). Rather, it is a means to get support to continue making your creations. Writers will continue to write, but Patreon support helps pay for small ticket bills, writing software, conferences, design costs, editor costs, or anything else. Videographers and filmmakers will continue to film, but Patreon can help them afford memory cards, editing software, subscription fees, and more. Artists will continue to draw/paint/build, but Patreon can help fund supplies, material, studio space, and anything else they need help with.
It’s also an excellent way to connect with your most loyal fans. More on that later but as a creator, you want to thank your fans for their support by giving things you already do or things that don’t pull you away from your craft. It’s a great way to connect and work with your support group.
Why patrons support on Patreon
Fans become paying patrons when they either (1) want to generally support your work and contribute to art, or (2) want some sort of benefit you offer.
Patreon is a great way to stay connected with your favorite creator. For a monthly fee that is (typically) less than a single cup of coffee, you can help your creator continue to create! If you fall in the first category, and generally support work and the arts without need for reward, we thank you!
If you fall into the second category, we also thank you and don’t shame you! Everyone wants bonus goodies for their money. You might want to pay for access to a creator, get free goodies, pay for early access of some good content, or any other benefit your creator has deemed important. That doesn’t make you any less of a fan. All patrons who support creators by purchasing their work or paying for access are wonderful.
Patreon rewards are continual “thank you’s”
To be honest, most creators love their rewards as much as the patrons do. It’s a way to give thanks to our patrons but also continue doing the exact thing we love.
Rewards vary by creator and are generally offered in tiers. Like I mentioned above, higher paying patrons (typically) pay that much for more access or more interaction with the creator. Lower tiers are typically for those who want some access but aren’t interested in the other benefits or don’t have the capacity to pay a higher amount. Some creators even provide just a single tier where people can pay whatever they want!
The benefits can range from early access, behind the scenes access, WIP, and ad-free experiences to merchandise options, meeting the creator, interacting with them, signed books, or even individualized creations. It all depends on what the creator has deemed appropriate that they can produce for their patrons. Sometimes the creator will even poll their patrons to find new gifts to give them.
At its core, fans become patrons because they like your work. That means your rewards or benefits for patrons shouldn’t take away from that work, or the reason why they became a patron in the first place. If you’re a writer but you spend all your time fulfilling merchandise orders rather than writing, you should probably reconsider your benefits. It doesn’t mean you can’t provide certain things, just be aware of the overhead. You’re already (most likely) doing your creative work part time and need to manage your time.
Remember, if patrons found you and signed up because you’re a writer, give them writing! If they want artwork, continue to do artwork! Keep doing what you were made to do.
As a writer, I use Patreon to help fund some of the materials and time it takes to write my books and create podcasts. My current project on Patreon is releasing my first published novel for free. Patrons are rewarded with behind the scenes commentary on each chapter, free books, newsletters, WIP, AMA videos, and even some signed books and a chance to come on a commentary podcast with me!
I’d love it if you became a patron, even if just for a few months. Stick around and I’ll make it worth your time!
As a bonus, sign up to become a Patron and send me a message on the platform with the code “Winter Writer” and tell me a little about yourself and what you’re up to. I’ll return the favor with a personalized video greeting and even mention you on a future commentary episode!