What Writers Need To Know About Patreon

By Jason Boog 

unnamedAre you trying to raise ongoing funds for a long-term writing project?

A number of authors have used the platform Patreon to raise support for ongoing projects. Patreon helps creators of everything from web videos to novels to comics raise a “sustainable income” for their work, building a community of fans who provide monthly support.

Horror novelist Aaron Mahnke has 2,204 patrons on his Patreon page, earning a total of $11,167 per month to make his popular podcast about scary stories throughout history.

Mahnke rewards his backers with PDF transcripts of his show, a private podcast feed for subscribers, and an annual anthology of his podcast stories. He justified the campaign on his page:

“It takes time to research each episode properly, to write up each transcript, and to record and produce the audio at a level of quality that my listeners deserve. That time spent researching, writing, and recording has become my full-time job, so Patreon helps me pay the bills.”

On Patreon, the creator sets creative goals to achieve and fans pledge monthly contributions to help the creator reach those goals. Patreon takes a 5% fee from a creator’s pledges.

But building a Patreon campaign requires a few key elements: realistic goals that the creator can achieve, satisfying rewards for patrons, and a sustained plan for launching the project.

If you want more information, check out Patreon’s guides for creating and launching creator pages.

To find out more about building a successful Patreon campaign, we caught up with Taryn Arnold, Patreon’s associate marketing manager. She shared some tips for writers considering the platform…

Patreon creators who offer rewards tend to have more patrons. What are some rewards that the community has responded to? Any writing-focused rewards you could recommend?  

Taryn Arnold: You’re totally right — our data shows that high-earning creators tend to have more than 2 reward tiers. Most creators who make money on Patreon have between 3-5 rewards. When choosing which rewards to offer, consider perks that are easy to create, distribute digitally, and that don’t take a ton of your time to fulfill.

I find that the best rewards are ones that you can pull straight from your workflow, like sneak peeks of upcoming work, early access to new releases, and monthly live streams for patrons only. For writers specifically, we just wrote a blog post with unique and compelling rewards, geared directly to the writing community and their readers.
Patreon creators with videos make 70% more than creators without them. What are some of the elements that make a great Patreon video? Any advice for camera-shy writers?

Taryn Arnold: The recipe for a good intro video revolves around three things: authenticity, connection, and clarity. Be clear about what Patreon is, why you’re on it, and the value it’ll bring to your community. The next two could be hard for the camera-shy out there, but they’re wildly important. Speaking to your fans through video is amazingly effective, especially for writers, because it shows them that you’re real.

It shows who the person is behind the words — that you are willing to break free of being camera-shy in order make an honest, authentic connection with your readers in this moment. Writers are incredibly deep individuals, unafraid to bare all. Show your community your fearlessness by showing them who you are, face to face.

It’s one thing to set up a page, another thing to create a sustainable campaign that will last month after month. Do you have any advice for creators looking to create a page that will form long-lasting relationships with fans? What if the initial goal is set too high–can the campaign be saved? 

Taryn Arnold: That’s the beauty of Patreon — it’s recurring by nature and is meant to be an ongoing relationship with fans, with no end in sight. It’s really powerful to reiterate that to your fans, letting them know that your Patreon page will be an ongoing hub for your community as they come alongside your creative journey.

Also, it’s important to always make sure your rewards are not just one-time (you get a t-shirt) and are instead monthly (every month, I’ll do a Google Hangout with everyone that pays $10 or more).

On hitting goals – we are not like other sites where your goals are all or nothing. You don’t have to hit a certain amount in order to get the money – what you get, you keep, regardless of goals. Goals are meant to provide visibility into what the pledges will help you achieve, and get your patrons excited about helping.

Could you recommend any Patreon pages that writers should follow to get a sense of what a successful, sustainable campaign looks like? How about an inspiring example of writer sharing content for free on Patreon?

Taryn Arnold: There are a TON of impressive writers here who are crushing their Patreon pages. I always highly recommend Wait But Why as well.

What are the most common mistakes you see when creators set up a Patreon page for the first time? 

Taryn Arnold: The most common mistake is a soft launch, which means, telling no one and assuming that the patrons will just come flying in. We recommend launching with a plan (fear not: we give you a plan!) and having one major objective: make sure every one of your fans knows that you have a Patreon page.

Jason Boog is a journalist and the author of “Born Reading: Bringing Up Bookworms in a Digital Age.”