Award-Winning Editor of Clarkesworld Magazine, Forever Magazine, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and More

One Year on Patreon – Pros and Cons

In early 2014, I detailed the strengths and weaknesses I observed as a magazine and podcast publisher using Patreon. Since that post is still receiving a fair amount of traffic, I thought it only fair to write up a new pros and cons list that better reflects where Patreon is today.



What is Patreon?

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.

Clarkesworld’s Status on Patreon

Clarkesworld Magazine has had a Patreon page for a little over a year now. At this time, we have $662 in monthly pledges from a total of 177 patrons. We successfully unlocked our first goal of $500, which allowed us to add a story to every other issue. The next goal is at $750. We have never been one of their featured sites.

Clarkesworld has an online readership of over 35,000 and a monthly podcast listenership that is over 9,000. The percentage of readers/listeners actively supporting us through Patreon or other avenues (ebook subscriptions, PayPal donations, Joyride, etc.) is disappointingly small, but this is not a reflection on Patreon or any of the other services we use. Part of the problem is marketing, but the big challenge is convincing people to support what they can get for free. We’re not alone in this. Talk to PBS sometime. What this means is that we still have a large number of potential supporters.

Patreon Cons – Updated

1. Discoverability – While they’ve fixed searching and added tags, category tags are very broad and it when you view the category, it appears to only list featured creators. Personally, I’d love to see them implement strong categorization similar to what Kickstarter has done with their DISCOVER button and make it a breeze to find projects I’m interested in. (Go play there and see for yourself.) It might also be fun to have the ability to nominate people to be featured. Right now that’s a bit of a black box.

2. Payment Processing – My prior problem as a monthly content creator went away when I discovered the MONTHLY CAMPAIGN checkbox on the edit my campaign page. Now I don’t need to worry about whether or not pledges come in after I’ve posted new content. Patreon now matches our schedule.

I didn’t mention it last time, but there is one problem in this category. I’m not sure why, but it can take days to process a pledge. Maybe it’s a volume thing, but I’ve never had any other monthly service not be able to bulk process charges in a few hours. Just for clarity here, I’m not nitpicking about declined charges. Those happen and they’ve been good about trying to get those situations straightened out. They’ve also been very clear in stating the processing time. This won’t be a problem for many people, but in our case, we have a subscription reward tier and those have to go out on the first… which is the same day they process charges.

3. New – This was bound to fix itself if everything was going well. Patron is now processing over one million in pledges every month. There are still a lot of people who are unfamiliar with them, but they’ve also received fifteen million in funding from investors, so expect their visibility to continue to grow.

Patreon Pros – Updated

1. Support and Service – I’ve had to use it less often than in the past (which is a testament to their design), but their support staff are top-notch and easy to work with. I don’t know many who do it better. In fact, I should probably ask them about the above payment processing problem. (I can’t imagine that they don’t already know and are working on it. That’s what I’ve come to expect from them.)

2. Growing Community – I don’t know if our experience had anything to do with it, but I now see a number of my colleagues using Patreon and a few of our supporters supporting them (and vice versa). That’s great for all of us and I expect to see more and more people launching Patreon pages in the years ahead.

3. We’re Getting Paid – While it might take a few days to process the payments, everything runs smoothly and they’ve even added a direct deposit option. Patreon is now an important part of our business model.

4. Opportunity – A year later, I still feel like we’re in the early days of something big. Being in early has certainly had benefits for us and I’m sure those coming in now will have similar experiences assuming they don’t assume Patreon to be a magic money box.

Closing Thoughts

After a year, I am still very pleased with Patreon and continue to recommend it to people. While I continue to have some issues with the service, it has built a strong foundation and they appear to have the intelligence, staffing, and resources to grow into something even more impressive. Listen to them talk sometime. It can be quite motivating.

In the meantime, I have to learn to become better at marketing. I can’t expect them to shoulder the discoverability problems on their own. We have a large audience of people that aren’t currently supporting us. That’s on me. Patreon is one of the tools in my kit, but I still have to learn to use it more effectively.

That said:
Visit and sign up to become one of Clarkesworld’s patrons today!


December 2014 Issue of Clarkesworld


Year’s Best Science Fiction


  1. Danni Lynn McDonald

    Do creators on patreon need to pay in order to use the site? This is the one question I have left unanswered about Patreon. By the way, our article was very helpful so thank you for posting it!

    • Patreon only takes a cut of your pledges. If you make nothing, so do they. Best to let their FAQ answer go into the specifics:

      What are the fees associated with using Patreon?

      Patreon takes 5% and the creators cover the credit card transaction fees which are generally 4% across the site. Also remember that some pledges will fail due to declined credit cards. We’re happy if a creator sees around $0.90 of every dollar!
      There are also small fees for creators to receive a transfer of their funds depending on your payment receipt method!


      Patrons and Creators can sign up for free. However, there are some transaction fees associated with using Patreon. We try to keep these minimal to maximize the support that Creators receive.
      Patron pledge fees Our billing partners charge the following fees for pledges: Paypal $0.05 + 5%* per transaction Stripe $0.30 + 2.1%* per transaction Patreon also has a 5% fee to cover our operating costs*
      There are no fees when Creators (with a Patreon account balance) pledge to su
      All pledges are converted to USD. Any pledge made in an alternative currency will be converted to the equivalent value of the USD amount. All fees conversion fees will be charged to the Patron
      *Note: We aggregate each Patron’s pledges each month. If a Patron is supporting multiple creators, credit card fees will be split amongst all Creators being supported in an effort to minimize fees.
      Transferring funds from your Patreon account Our partners charge the following fees to transfer funds to your personal accounts: Direct Deposit (US only) $0.25 fee per transfer Payoneer (US & International) $3.00 fee per transfer PayPal USA 2% capped at $1.00 fee per transfer PayPal International 0.5% – 2% fee of amount transferred

      • Isobelle

        I am a new Australian creator Using the platform and I am wondering about the withholding tax thing – will the us hold money back – is there any way to avoid that when I’ll be reporting and paying tax here mostly from Other Australians?

        • Hi Isobelle,
          I don’t believe Patreon is withholding any taxes here, but I’m in the US. You might want to contact their support team just to make sure that it isn’t something they do differently by country.

  2. Thank you for this article. Like you, I feel as if this is the start of something big especially as google ads, etc. on written work in blogs and articles become increasingly invasive to the reader. To illustrate the trend, I heard that one very respected newspaper, can’t remember which, asked readers about the model they preferred. They chose a donation model like NPR providing distribution to all while the few supported the work. So I think this patron concept is going to become ubiquitous, especially when content is offered to everyone and paid for by those who value it.

    Here’s my dilemma. I spent all last week setting up my Patreon page at LeftHanded Writer and now am thinking about quitting altogether. I’m wondering if you agree that it won’t work for someone like me.

    It would make sense if I had a monthly publication or podcast like Clarkesworld, but I’m working on a novel. I have a children’s book and mp3s of narrated stories to offer, and other exclusive content but, not to wax “all negative,” no one has ever seemed interested in my work so far when offered without being a patron! I get a few pennies through work I publish with Hubpages, but other than that nothing.

    However, THE most important reason, I think I should just shut this thing down at Patreon is because I am terribly, terribly embarrassed to ask friends and family for a monthly subscription, even though it’s just $1. I have people asking if they could contribute just once. No one wants to be committed monthly and I totally understand that.

    Therefore, my question is this: Considering the limited discoverability capabilities that you mention on Patreon, do you think a writer like myself would EVER be able to get even ten patrons WITHOUT asking family and friends to “prime the pump”? It’s the asking family and friends part I hate, and I just think without a fan base, there’s no possibility for success on Patreon for someone like me. What’s your candid opinion?

    • Patreon won’t help you find an audience. You’ll have to build that via other avenues. It could be free fiction you’ve posted, selling stories to markets, self-publishing, blogging, social media, etc. It’s always good to have something they can follow you through, such as your blog, but social media can be more effective these days. Mailing lists are good too. It’s more about reaching people where they are since they won’t always remember to come to you.

      Having a Patreon page at an early stage probably isn’t that helpful (and the 0 supporters thing can haunt you) at the early stages, but it’s not terrible to have a per-creation page set up just in case someone wants to support your work. Per-creation allows you to pace the content that is sent out so you aren’t working for a monthly schedule for 1-2 people. You can always switch later if that appeals to you more. (You can’t switch back.)

      As for whether or not you should delete it, that depends. Patreon just recently changed the rate structures. You have slightly more favorable terms with accounts created before the switchover. Even if you don’t use it, I’d hold onto one of those. If you created one after, it doesn’t matter either way.

      Yes, there is still some cultural baggage when it comes to asking people to help support your work. I never specifically ask friends or family, but they are part of my social networks and if they choose to help out when I make a generic call for support, then I’m happy to have them. A number don’t and that’s fine too. Everyone has their own comfort level.

      Good luck!

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