12/18/14: An updated version of this post is available here.
We launched our Clarkesworld Magazine Patreon page nearly three months ago. In that time, I’ve heard from a lot of authors and editors who were interested in their service, but not sure if it was right for them. The requests have been picking up, so…
What is Patreon?
In their words:
Founded in May 2013 and based in San Francisco, California, Patreon was created to enable fans to support and engage with the artists and creators they love. Empowering a new generation of creators, Patreon is bringing patronage back to the 21st century.
Patreon is a cross between subscriptions and Kickstarter. Unlike Kickstarter, Patreon doesn’t focus on a one-time project. It’s aimed at fundraising for long-term projects that include recurring creations, like issues of a magazine or episodes of a podcast. In our case, your Patreon pledge is a per-issue contribution to the magazine.
Why Patreon instead of PayPal?
- Patreon’s Patron Manager provides a nice and reliable interface that allows me to manage, track, and communicate with our supporters. I could probably build something similar, but the amount of time I’d have to invest (programming and supporting) is too significant. My time is better spent on the magazine.
- Yes, PayPal can collect recurring payments on set intervals. If you miss a month, PayPal still charges them. Not so with Patreon. This isn’t much of an issue for us, but I know it does impact others I’ve spoken to.
- Not everyone likes PayPal. There are people out there that are violently opposed to using their services in any way. Patreon supports credit cards and PayPal.
- You can do both. We still take one-time donations via PayPal. Having choices is good.
What do you think so far?
Like any fundraising there are going to be pros and cons:
- Discoverability. My only major complaint. The odds of someone browsing Patreon’s site and discovering you are very slim. The search tools are very basic (and only work against the title of your project) and the featured creators and artists on their home page change rarely, if ever. They could learn a lot from Kickstarter’s approach when it comes to finding and featuring content.
Note: They are working on this. Recently creators were asked to select categories their projects fit into. The options are not as detailed as I would have liked, but it is definitely a step in the right direction.
- Payment processing. I know I’m being picky on this one, but since Patreon pledges are processed per-creation and charges applied run at the end of the month, you can run into serious timing issues. For example. If we post new “paid” content on the first of the month, anyone signing up on the second will not be billed until the end of the following month. That means it could take up to two months for their rewards to kick in. That confuses people. To get around it, I made the final podcast of the month our paid content instead of the new issue announcement. This change causes the majority of new Patrons to have their reward start the next month. I suppose they could add something that would allow a Patreon to pledge support starting as of the first of the month or with the most recent paid creation, but that’s probably too confusing too. It’s the whole do I start a subscription with the current issue or next issue debate. If you aren’t providing rewards, this probably isn’t as big a deal.
- New. I’ve had to explain Patreon to a lot of people. Instead of focusing on marketing our presence there, I’ve had to convince people they are a trustworthy organization. This will pass as more people hear about them. Certainly nothing I can fault them for.
- Support and service. They’ve been fantastic to work with and unlike many companies, they appear to be very open to customer feedback. Everyone I’ve spoken with there is on top of their game. There have been several software updates and each has been flawless. Heck, they even negotiated a better rate with their payment processor and passed along the savings.(My background is in technology. It takes a lot to impress me.)
- Growing community. I’ve noticed a lot of new projects launch on Patreon in the last three months. As things move forward, I believe discoverability will eventually find its way to the Pros list and when that happens, there will be a marketing benefit for all of us as our Patrons discover what else is out there.
- We’re getting paid. We currently have pledges of just over $200 per issue and we have been receiving payments. It may not sound like a lot (particular compared to some of the YouTube-based projects earning thousands per episode), but it does boost our bottom line and every bit helps. At this point, I remain optimistic about the service and it’s ability to become a significant source of revenue for the magazine.
- Opportunity. I’ve said most of it above, but I also believe there is some benefit for the field. Literary projects are still a small percentage of what’s on Patreon. I think we’re on the leading edge of something that will only grow in size as more from the science fiction community discover it.
It should be fairly obvious by now that I’m optimistic about Patreon and our future with them. While I do have some issues, I believe they can (or will be) worked resolved in timely manner. While I highly recommend their service, to see value from it, you will have to heavily market your presence there. It’s not all that different from tossing a book up on Amazon. This isn’t magic.
Visit patreon.com/clarkesworld and sign up to become one of Clarkesworld’s patrons today!