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.

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!

Boskone 2017 Schedule

This weekend, I’ll be attending Boskone at the Westin Waterfront Hotel in Boston. In addition to dropping several boxes of books on the freebie table, I’ll be participating in the following 13events and panels:

Nontraditional Magazines
Friday 20:00 – 21:00, Marina 2 (Westin)
Jeremy Flagg (M), Robert B. Finegold M.D., Julie C. Day, Ken Altabef, Neil Clarke
If print is dead, then printed magazines are. But, at least in our genres, they’re going strong as online magazine and perhaps we should include blogs and both audio and video podcasts. What is the future of the magazine online and in any mutation or combination? And what does this mean for the journalist/writer?

Digital Rights and Other Small Press Traps and Issues
Saturday 14:00 – 15:00, Marina 4 (Westin)
Darlene Marshall (M) , Walter Jon Williams, Neil Clarke
How has the revolution in (and evolution of) digital technology affected the SF publishing field? What has the popularity/promise of e-books and of e-publishing in general done to demand, and to the whole publishing process? What are the complications of these media, barely out of their infancy? What do writers, readers, and publishers need to know to avoid running into trouble in these exciting (but dangerous) digital waters?

The Copy Editor Is Your Friend
Saturday 16:00 – 17:00, Marina 2 (Westin)
Janice Gelb, Brendan DuBois (M), Teresa Nielsen Hayden , Richard Shealy, Neil Clarke
No book goes directly from the author’s keyboard to the printing press. Instead, the manuscript follows a convoluted path that involves many people, and finally lands on the desk of your friendly neighborhood copy editor. So, what does a copy editor do? Can (or should) you copyedit your own work? Our panel of red pencil warriors explains how and why copy editors make stories better and authors look good. Learn some tips, tricks, and tales of copyediting woe!

Autographing: Neil Clarke, Max Gladstone, Fran Wilde
Saturday 17:00 – 18:00, Galleria – Autographing (Westin)

Boskone Book Party
Saturday 18:30 – 19:30, Galleria – Stage (Westin)

Kaffeeklatsch: Neil Clarke
Sunday 10:00 – 11:00, Harbor I – Kaffeeklatsch 2 (Westin)

Marketing Matters
Sunday 14:00 – 15:00, Burroughs (Westin)
Moshe Feder, Melanie Meadors (M), Neil Clarke
Authors are bombarded with “wisdom” about marketing and social media. Let’s cut to the chase and get back to basics. When it comes to marketing, what works, what doesn’t work, and what are the still-open questions?

Philcon Schedule

From the 18th through the 20th, I’ll be at Philcon in Cherry Hill, NJ. Here’s my schedule:

Sat 12:00 PM in Autograph Table—Autographs: D.L. Carter and Neil Clarke 

Sat 5:00 PM in Plaza II (Two)—Can Interplanetary Governments Actually Work? 
Michael A. Ventrella (mod), Neil Clarke, James Beall, Ariel Cinii, Tom Purdom, John Skylar

Empires, Federations, Alliances… there are many examples of various types of interplanetary, or interstellar, governments found in science fiction. But would any form of government actually work if it were extended between worlds, star systems, or even galaxies? We will examine how governing bodies might work over such long distances… or even if they can!

Sat 6:00 PM in Plaza III (Three)—The Care & Feeding of Editors
Neil Clarke, Phil Giunta, Stephen Mazur, Hildy Silverman

The best editor-writer relationship is highly creative and energetic, with both sides open to new ideas, and the focus on synthesizing something they can be proud of, rather than being concerned about egos. Developing a great relationship requires a combination of common human decency and good business sense. But what can you do if your editor- or writer- doesn’t understand that?

Sun 12:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Three—Small Press Magazine Panel 
Michael D. Pederson (mod), Brian Koscienski, Hildy Silverman, Alyce Wilson, Neil Clarke, Diane Weinstein

The editors discuss what goes into creating their publications, from the economics of staying viable in the electronic age to getting appropriate submissions.

WSFA Small Press Award 2016

This weekend, the WSFA Small Press Award winner was announced at Capclave. We had three stories on the ballot (“Cat Pictures Please” by Naomi Kritzer, “The Empress in all Her Glory” by Robert Reed, and “Today I am Paul” by Martin L. Shoemaker) and a long history of other finalists since this award first launched. On several occasions, it has been joked that we are the Susan Lucci of this Award… many nominations, but never a win.

Sadly, Naomi, Robert, and Martin were not able to attend. I have a small stack of unread acceptance speeches from our prior finalists, but nothing in hand from this year’s crew. Naturally, this was realized just before dinner that evening–the award ceremony was to follow–, so I came up with a quick emergency plan.

When they announced that “Today I am Paul” won, I made my way to the stage, briefly stopping to thwack a friend (I believe he started the Susan Lucci reference). When I reached the stage, I said something along the lines of:

“So, I’ve been told that we’re the Susan Lucci of this award, so at dinner, I decide to see what she had to say when she finally won her Emmy and it works, so…”

I then read a slightly reworded version of the first paragraph of her acceptance speech and then went on to say that in all seriousness, thank you. I know that Martin would have liked to have been there, but the cost of travel being what it was, etc. Instead he was at a convention more local to him that weekend. I mentioned that I knew the story was very personal to Martin and that this award would mean a great deal to him. I forget what else I said, as is typical to these moments.

At one point, the crowd mentioned I should call him, but I didn’t have his number, so we took pictures instead. The audience cheered while I took their picture, then had me capture shots of the screen and, for some reason, the ceiling. I then retreated to the sidelines to try to reach Martin by email and Twitter. The actual award showed up later, so I took pictures of that and his certificate as well. After I noticed he surfaced on Facebook, I posted photos to his wall for all to see.

audience

I couldn’t be happier for Martin. Aside from publishing it in Clarkesworld, I made it the lead story in the first volume of Best Science Fiction of the Year. It’s an amazing tale and as I mentioned, a personal–and very moving–one to boot. If you ever have the chance to hear him read it, do so.

By the way, later Martin asked if I started the speech with “Today I am Martin.” That’s why he’s the writer and I am not. Wish I had thought of that one!

Here’s a photo of the actual award. They give one to the publisher and one to the author–which I think is a really nice gesture on their part–so I’ll have one on my shelf too. I’ll be sending Martin his when the post office reopens tomorrow.

smallpress

Thank you WSFA!

Capclave 2016

I’ll be attending Capclave in Gaithersburg, MD this weekend. Most of the time, I’ll be at my table in the dealer’s room, but I’m on a few panels too:

Friday 10:00 pm: Where’s My Flying Car? (Ends at: 10:55 pm) Bethesda

Panelists: Neil Clarke (M), Andrew Fox, Ian Randal Strock, Christopher Weuve
Which science fiction inventions haven’t arrived yet that you wish would hurry up and get here? Which SF future would you most like to see before you die? Which SF future are you most relieved has NOT come to pass?

Saturday 11:00 am: Alternate & Secret History (Ends at: 11:55 am) Salon A

Panelists: Neil Clarke, Walter H. Hunt, Edward M. Lerner, James Morrow (M), Tim Powers
Although alternate and secret history seem related, they are quite different. What are the differences? How do you tell them apart? What factors must you keep in mind when writing in either area?

Saturday 3:00 pm: Short Fiction Contracts (Ends at: 3:55 pm) Boardroom

Coordinator: Michael Capobianco (M), Neil Clarke
Workshop on understanding publishing contracts both for short fiction, what to look out for, what to negotiate. Limited to 10 people