Nebula Awards Weekend Patreon Panel

I attended the Nebula Awards Conference in Pittsburgh this past weekend and had a great time. Since Patreon was unable to send someone this year, I volunteered to help them out by hosting the Patreon panel. I was very pleased that Cat Rambo and Merc Rustad were able to join me.

The panel was scheduled for thirty minutes on Friday and drew a good-sized crowd. We wanted to make sure we had time for audience questions, so my fellow panelists and I spent just a little over half the time talking about our experiences and sharing some things we’ve learned from creating and managing our Patreon pages. As expected, the audience had lots of questions and I suspect we could have easily filled an hour on the subject.

A week before the panel, I asked (via social media) authors and publishing professionals to share their Patreon pages and some of their own tips. I promised the crowd was that I would share this information here on my blog as post-panel resource guide. Hopefully you’ll find inspiration among the things that others have said and done.

As I said during the panel, I’m more than happy to answer questions. Feel free to comment here or to email me directly.

Panelists’ Patreon Pages

Neil Clarke – https://www.patreon.com/clarkesworld
Cat Rambo – https://www.patreon.com/catrambo
Merc Rustad – https://www.patreon.com/mercrustad

Other SF/F Writer Patreon Pages

Aliya Whiteley – patreon.com/aliyawhiteley
Alma Alexander – patreon.com/AlmaAlexander
Amy Roth – patreon.com/SurlyAmy/posts
Benjamin Cook – patreon.com/talefoundry
Carmen Maria Machado – patreon.com/carmenmariamachado
Carrie Cuinn – patreon.com/CarrieCuinn
Catherynne M. Valente – patreon.com/catvalente
Charlotte Ashley, Andrew Leon Hudson, Kurt Hunt – patreon.com/archipelago
Dawn Vogel – patreon.com/historythatneverwas
Don Sakers – patreon.com/ruleof5
E. Christopher Clark – patreon.com/echristopherclark
Gareth L Powell – patreon.com/GarethLPowell
Heather E Hutsell – patreon.com/HEHutsell
Hugh J. O’Donnell – patreon.com/hughjodonnell
I G Hulme – patreon.com/heavenfield
Inda Lauryn – patreon.com/user?u=2707160
Jeremy Zimmerman – patreon.com/bolthy
Jerry Seeger – patreon.com/jerryseeger
John Mierau – patreon.com/servingworlds
Judith Tarr as – patreon.com/dancinghorse
Kameron Hurley – patreon.com/kameronhurley
Lev Mirov & Aleksei Valentin – patreon.com/levandalekseicreate
Malcolm F. Cross – patreon.com/MalcolmFCross
Marlee Jane Ward – patreon.com/marleejaneward
Mary Robinette Kowal – patreon.com/maryrobinette
Mur Lafferty – patreon.com/mightymur
N.K. Jemisin – patreon.com/nkjemisin
Rivers Solomon – patreon.com/riverssolomon
S.A. Barton – patreon.com/sabarton
Sarah “Neila” Elkins – patreon.com/Neila
Seanan McGuire – patreon.com/seananmcguire
Tim Pratt – patreon.com/timpratt
Tobias Buckell – patreon.com/tobiasbuckell
Tonya Liburd – patreon.com/TonyaLiburd
Tristina Wright – patreon.com/TristinaWright
Woelf Dietrich – patreon.com/Wo3lf
Yoon Ha Lee – patreon.com/yhlee

Tips and Thoughts Collected from Everyone Above

  • Patreon isn’t a place you go to be discovered. Your target audience is people already familiar with you or your work. Promote your page via your blog, social media accounts, mailing lists, podcasts, or whatever other means you reach your readers. You don’t need a large audience, but if you are just starting, it’s best to hold off for a while.
  • Before you launch, look at the pages of people like you. A little research goes a long way in understanding how to present your case for supporting you and determining what kind of goals and rewards you should use.
  • Like anything else, marketing is key. This isn’t a particularly strong suit for most of us and we’ll often lean towards less marketing to avoid what we feel is too much. On social media, keep in mind that most of your followers will miss casual mentions. It’s best to stagger promotions across several days and times to reach a greater variety of your readers. It might seem like too much to you, but only 1-2 times to them. Just don’t make it the only thing you push out in any medium.
  • It’s not easy for everyone and probably more work than you think. Getting into a routine can be very helpful. It’s good to set expectations in the description of your campaign.
  • You can set your Patreon page up so people support you on a monthly basis or per-creation. Per-creation supporters can cap the amount of support they give in a month, so make sure your rewards make sense if they cap at a single payment. Monthly accounts provide you a more stable income, but require you to be reliable. If you promise a story each month, you have to stick to it or you will lose supporters. If you are per-creation and don’t do anything that month, no one is charged.
  • Use smaller goals at the beginning of your campaign. Never underestimate the value of stating just how close you are to a goal, particularly if you’ve chosen one that will appeal to a wide range of your audience.
  • When setting goals or rewards, remember to include your time in determining the dollar value. Goals don’t always have to result in more work for you. It can be about what you get. It’s good to remember that people are supporting you to see you succeed and not just to get stuff.
  • When setting rewards, don’t undersell yourself. Create one tier higher than you expect anyone to give. We’re our own worst judges when it comes to how much is too much.
  • Try to keep your reward system simple and straight-forward. You don’t want to confuse potential supporters or complicate the fulfillment process. Rewards don’t have to be physical. For example, a $1 reward of having your thanks is quite common.
  • Digital rewards can be distributed through Patreon, but keep in mind that a new supporter at that tier gets access to all previous tier-locked posts. This works fine for someone doing a serialization, but can be problematic for something more like a magazine where the back issues are being sold. In the latter case, you’ll want to distribute those rewards directly. Fortunately Patreon provides downloadable patron information that should make this easier.
  • Keep in mind the amount of time reward fulfillment can take. If something becomes particularly popular, you don’t want it eating up all your writing time.
  • Physical rewards can be problematic in any crowdfunding system, particularly when international supporters are involved. It’s always best to place information about additional shipping costs directly in the reward description to avoid confusion later. In addition to the shipping and product costs, remember shipping supplies aren’t without cost either. It is very easy to lose money (or time) by missing something when setting the price for physical rewards. Be careful.
  • Engage your community in the creation or revision of reward tiers and goals. Make them a part of your process. They often have great ideas.
  • Don’t be disappointed if your Patreon page grows slowly or even declines once in a while. Lots of people are having financial issues. It’s the number 1 reason people provide me when they stop supporting my page.
  • Patrons are charged at the start of the month. Expect a quick drop in your displayed dollars and number of supporters as it isn’t unusual for cards to be declined. Patreon will contact these people over the next few days and some will be fixed. I wait about five days and then email those people a polite email saying we don’t want to lose them (or have them not receive their rewards) and include a link to Patreon’s how to fix this page. Unless it’s a physical reward, I always provide that month’s reward even if the card declines. Have trust in your supporters. Oh and don’t send that email through Patreon. Email them directly. If the problem isn’t fixed by the end of the month, they will be dropped the next month, but oddly enough, still listed as declined in your overall Patron list. It just doesn’t try to charge them anymore.
  • Communicate regularly with your supporters. Patreon has great tools for this. Encourage reader feedback and respond. Be willing to experiment with some of those ideas and yes, sometimes they can fail. Stop doing those things and try something else. Just be up-front about it and everyone will be fine.
  • Try to offer updates and rewards that relate to things you do day-to-day, i.e. access to the actual work you are creating. It’s easy to offer special blog posts or content created exclusively for your Patrons, but in practice the extra work can feel like it’s pulling you away from making the content that your Patrons are supporting you for in the first place. Be authentic, do what you enjoy and experiment with your art and communication with supporters.
  • If you are sharing original stories, keep in mind that many publishers consider this using up your first rights, meaning you can’t sell it as original elsewhere. You can still sell it as a reprint. Also, make sure you are aware of the procedures for submitting to the various year’s best anthologies and most of them probably won’t see it otherwise.
  • It doesn’t have to be new stories. You can share behind-the-story information, pieces from works-in-progress (be careful about first rights issues), or share out-of-print stories or even novels, though the latter is better serialized over the course of months. Writing tips and process notes are great too.
  • Have fun. If you are not having fun, you are doing something wrong.

A short break

In keeping with tradition, my family and I just spent a long weekend at Ocean City, NJ. Yeah, it’s a bit early in the season to be at the beach, but the crowds are small and the off-season rates help keep the costs down. The annual clouds and rain gave way in time for Mother’s Day, so at least we had some sun on Sunday and a bit of Monday.

As usual, I didn’t want to come home.

Just curious, does this:

make it a tax-deductible business trip?

Like pictures? There’s more over on instagram.

April/May Catching Up

I’ve been meaning to post more here, but it’s been tough recently. Being sick in April completely undermined my schedule. New issues to prep, ebooks to design for other publishers, slush to catch up on, an anthology to wrap contracts and deliver to the publisher, a trip to Chicago to talk with the Myth-Ink writers group, a family get-away, and prepping for the SFWA Nebula Awards Weekend… so a quick catch-up post feels necessary.

I’m a Hugo Nominee Finalist for Best Editor Short Form for the fifth time. The award ceremony will be held at Worldcon in Finland. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend. My travel budget is significantly restricted now that I’m self-employed and that trip turns out to be considerably more expensive than I was told it would be. Will miss attending in person, but Ann VanderMeer has agreed to accept on my behalf should I win, so I will be well-represented. 🙂 A big thank you to everyone that saw fit to nominate me again this year.

Story selections for my next anthology, More Human Than Human, are now complete. I will be announcing the table of contents and revealing the cover (an original by Donato Giancola) sometime in the next week or two. This was the one project most disrupted by that illness as it collided with previously scheduled travel and events.

I went to Chicago last month to talk with the Myth-Ink student writer’s group at Columbia College in Chicago. I enjoyed having the opportunity to chat with students and hope I was able to share some useful knowledge with them. Have to find a way to do more of this sort of thing. It was one of the things I enjoyed most about my old career and a nice way to keep that part of my life. Weather was perfect, so I had some time to wander around Chicago with some of the students beforehand. (There’s a story there about our collective sense of direction.)

Obviously, the May issues of Clarkesworld and Forever came out. I’ve been trying to do some marketing work on this side of things. I’m currently trying to make a push for the Patreon page so I can cover my healthcare expenses. It’s a considerable cost and like many others, I’m seriously concerned about what happens to me if the various healthcare changes go through. I have more than a couple of pre-existing conditions and need to maintain the level of plan I have.

Most recently, the Locus Awards announced their finalists. Clarkesworld is once again a finalist for Best Magazine, “Afrofuturist 419” is up for Best Short Story, and for the first time, I’m on the list for Best Editor. Normally, I’d be thrilled by this, but they also increased the list of finalists from five to ten and if that’s why, it’s bittersweet. It’s silly, but it wouldn’t feel earned.

Amusingly, I’ll be a short distance away from the Locus Awards this year. I’ve agreed to be a workshop leader for the Cascade Writers June workshop in Tacoma.

Before that, however, I have the Nebula Awards Weekend (the mass signing there is always something else and I’ll be participating this time), wrapping up work on Clarkesworld: Year Nine, and the June issues of Clarkesworld and Forever. Before you know it, Readercon will be upon us and the fifth anniversary of my heart attack there. Time is flying by!

Two and a half months in

I’m now just a bit over two and a half months into my new life as a full-time editor. Aside from a couple of knock-down colds, things have been moving along rather nicely. One of the big worries I had in going full-time was healthcare. Nearly five years ago, I suffered a major heart attack and the fallout from that continues to require a bunch of prescriptions and regular visits. In short, I require a better-than-average healthcare plan.

I had been on the upgraded plan my former employer offered as an option, but when I resigned, COBRA, financially, was not an option. (Seriously, who can afford those insane rates?) I did a lot of research and ended up with a decent silver plan via the ACA, but the costs are still significant and all on me. (My wife’s employer does offer a plan, but it’s the worst one I’ve ever seen.)

To cover these new expenses, I’ve been taking on short-term projects–ebook design, consulting–but that’s not stable income and it makes me nervous. Having a reliable source of income for this has been on my to-do list, but now it’s moved to the top.

Over the last ten years, I’ve directed money from new Clarkesworld or Forever subscriptions or Patreon pledges towards different projects that have ranged from adding more stories to creating an equipment budget for the podcast. Now I’m targeting healthcare.

As a funding goal, healthcare is anything but sexy. It’s not something I expect to see people rally around or get excited about. Adding new content? Sure, that gives a pretty tangible and easy-to-sell consequence. Insurance, well, you know… Still, it has to be done if I want to continue down this path.

At present, I’m sending a target of reaching this goal of July 12, 2017–the fifth anniversary of my heart attack. It’s an ambitious deadline, but one worth going for.

If you aren’t already a subscriber or Patreon supporter, here are the links I hope you’ll be interested in:

If you’re already a subscriber or supporter, thank you! You’ve made it possible to get this far. If you want to help further, share the above links or leave a review on our Amazon subscription page–good reviews there help encourage new subscribers. You’d be surprised by how much of an impact it has.

Take care,

-Neil

Best Science Fiction of the Year Volume 2: Recommended Reading List

The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 2 was published earlier this month in trade paperback and ebook. Each year, there are more good stories than I can fit in the book, so I include a recommended reading list at the back of the book to give them the recognition they deserve. That list is duplicated here:

2016 Recommended Reading List

  • “The Art of Space Travel” by Nina Allen, Tor.com, July 2016
  • “Mika Model” by Paolo Bacigalupi, Slate, April 2016
  • “Fifty Shades of Grays” by Steven Barnes, Lightspeed, June 2016
  • “A Fair War” by Taiyo Fuji, Saiensu Fikushon 2016, edited by Nick Mamatas and Masumi Washington
  • “The Mutants Men Don”t See” by James Alan Gardner, Asimov’s, September 2016
  • “My Generations Will Praise” by Samantha Henderson, Interzone, November/December 2016
  • “Origins” by Carlos Hernandez, The Grim Future, edited by Erin Underwood
  • “Stories of the Trees, Stories of the Birds, Stories of the Bones” by Kat Howard, The Grim Future, edited by Erin Underwood
  • “One Sister, Two Sisters, Three” by James Patrick Kelly, Clarkesworld, October 2016
  • “Kit: Some Assembly Required” by Kathe Koja, Asimov’s, September 2016
  • “The One Who Isn”t” by Ted Kosmatka, Lightspeed, July 2016
  • “Sleep Factory” by Rich Larson, Analog, October/November 2016
  • “Innumerable Glimmering Lights” by Rich Larson, Clockwork Phoenix 5,
  • “Seven Birthdays” by Ken Liu, Bridging Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan
  • “Elves of Antarctica” by Paul McAuley, Drowned Worlds, edited by Jonathan Strahan
  • “Not Quite Taterona Kempi” by Ryan W. Norris, Analog, May 2016
  • “Travelling into Nothing” by An Owomoyela, Bridging Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan
  • “Unauthorized Access” by An Owomoyela, Lightspeed, September 2016
  • “A Song Transmuted” by Sarah Pinsker, Cyber World, edited by Jason Heller and Joshua Viola
  • “Red in Tooth and Cog” by Cat Rambo, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2016
  • “Passelande” by Robert Reed, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, November/December 2016
  • “Those Shadows Laugh” by Geoff Ryman, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, September/October 2016
  • “Firstborn, Lastborn” by Melissa Scott, To Shape the Dark, edited by Athena Andreadis
  • “The Whole Mess” by Jack Skillingstead, Asimov’s, September 2016
  • “Licorice” by Jack Skillingstead, Now We Are Ten, edited by Ian Whates
  • “Everybody from Themis Sends Letters Home” by Genevieve Valentine, Clarkesworld, October 2016
  • “La beauté sans vertu” by Genevieve Valentine, Tor.com, April 2016
  • “The Mind Is Its Own Place” by Carrie Vaughn, Asimov’s, September 2016
  • “That Game We Played During the War” by Carrie Vaughn, Tor.com, March 2016
  • “First Light at Mistaken Point” by Kali Wallace, Clarkesworld, August 2016
  • “Passion Summer” by Nick Wolven, Asimov’s, February 2016
  • “Painter of Stars” by Wang Yuan, Clarkesworld, December 2016