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:
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!
I was doing my research about patreon and came across this article. I found it SUPER insightful. I already saw that the Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, Smarter Every Day, and Corridor Digital guys get a bunch of money for their stuff. I had been thinking about backing them, but I’d much rather back someone where my dollar means something to them.
So essentially, thank you for making my research easier, and good job on being discoverable. Can’t wait to read all your stuff.
If you have further questions about Patreon, I’d be happy to answer them.
Is there a gigabit upload limit on patron ?
Sorry, on Patreon?
Can I publish and upload my inspirational adventure documentarie movies series from my location in the Philippines?
I created over 200 and had/have them on watchmybit (which is dormant for now)
I do have close to 1 Terra bit of content .
Patreon has some upload limits that you can find in their FAQ:
You can always post links to YouTube or files hosted on other sites if you need to do something bigger. I’ve used YouTube in this manner and have seen several other creators do so as well.
I appreciated your article.
Your main concerns involved inevitable issues that are common for new businesses. It has been over three years since you wrote this review. Do you have an updated review about Patreon, that addresses whether or not the concerns are still valid?
Of the three cons (Discoverability, Payment Processing, and New) only discoverability remains an issue. Payment processing has been greatly improved over the years and they’ve done a great job on making their product known to more people.
Discoverability has had minor improvements through tags and improved search functions, but it’s unlikely that you’ll gain new supporters from someone who was casually browsing their site. The one place that might do that is the connection that happens when one creator supports another. Some of their supporters might discover you through that linking. In the end, however, marketing and growing your audience is entirely on you.
You might also be interested in reading this post:
Jenevieve S. Ponce
I’m thinking to be a member or part of patreon and I just started and learning digital art. How would i choose a patreon creator that related to my art work or something like that?
If ever i would be a member of patreon
Not quite sure I understand your question, but it sounds like you are asking how to find artists on Patreon. If you follow any on social media, after you set up an account you can use the social connect feature to see who you know there (https://www.patreon.com/social-connect) or try browsing the drawing and painting category on this page. https://www.patreon.com/explore The latter doesn’t require you to have an account.
My son has been a member of patron for a few years, however as he is a minor i felt i needed to ask a few questions. Regarding UK tax implications and how he receives the apparent monies when he does not have a bank account. I still to this day am unable to find out as I am not a patron member. So have no idea if my sons talent is being explotted or he is breaking any tax laws now he is 16. Can anyone help to put my mind at rest.
I’m not all that familiar with the tax system in the UK, but I know that Patreon automatically withholds the necessary VAT taxes and handles submission of payments to the countries that require it. Income taxes are your responsibility.
Patreon will send payments to a bank account or a PayPal account. You can set it up to transfer your income automatically (once a month), but last I checked the default was to manually make the transfers. There may be a minimum amount for transfer as well and there are some small/reasonable fees associated with each. If you don’t have a bank or PayPal account linked, the money should be accruing there until he does. Have him go to his account and click on the settings icon on the left. All these options are under Payout Preferences. It will also show his balance there.
I was researching about the platform. And found your article incredible helpful. Do you still thing this platform is good for literary work?
Yes, very much so. Earlier this year I was part of a panel about Patreon at the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America’s annual conference. Here are some notes and author pages you might find useful.
Thanks for the article. In the area of discoverability, any ideas of how to embed a patreon player in a WordPress website so people don’t have necessarily to navigate away from it in order to see it? I have been sharing most of my content through Facebook, but my live feeds on Facebook generaly create more engagement than the podcasts themselves. It would be ideal that we could have on Patreon our own website, with different option for layout etc…something like Behance does, for exemple.
Alex – http://www.patreon.com/brasilcentral
I’m not entirely certain I follow what you are trying to do. Patreon recently sent out a notification about a bunch of new app integration tools. I haven’t had the time to dig through the WordPress offerings yet, but maybe one of them is what you’re looking for.
I am impressed with how generous you are with your time and bandwidth…these are painstaking answers. I am definitely looking hard at Patreon, due to the character and loyalty of my supporters and fans. Since I’m a performing songwriter who also writes poetry and is working on a memoir, the existing categories are a bit constraining…a presentational/marketing challenge…
Several years in, I still highly recommend Patreon to people. Yes, the category system needs work, but you will be directing your fans direct to your page, so it won’t really matter to them. I don’t even allude to the categories in any of my promotion of our page. I’m not sure if anyone really relies on the categories as they are. I know they provide some sort of top creators listing, but that benefits only a select few.
I’m creating a site on Patreon, and love the idea. But their User Guide, Help Section, and Support is absolutely worthless!
I’ve found that it’s better to spend some time looking at what other people have done with their pages and incorporating the best of what resonates with you. If you’re a writer, I have a list of tips and sample pages here: http://neil-clarke.com/nebula-awards-weekend-patreon-panel/
Thank you for the article as I now have a much better idea of how patron works and other things you can support besides videos.
I just want to know how much of a $1 donation per month dose the creator get? I am thinking of becoming a patron as demonetizing is effecting A LOT of the creators I am a subscribed to. I love the players (creators) but slowly starting to hate the game (YouTube).
I enjoy creator content as you are getting a person instead of a network of prepackaged content streamlined and sanitized for your convince and safety. It is like this new way that people can make a living with out working for “The MAN” is now under attack as who really loves actual freedom RIGHT?
Again thank you for your time in both reading and hopefully answering my question.
Patreon has a 5% service fee they charge (which is very reasonable for what they provide) and then depending on how you pay we cover the fees coming from the payment processor (PayPal or Strype-credit cards). This is typically about 2.9% plus 30 cents. At a dollar, you $0.05 goes to Patreon, $0.329 goes to the payment process, leaving the person you are supporting with about $0.62. Naturally, giving at a higher value yields a better percentage return. That flat 30 cent portion of the card processing is a sizable chunk at lower dollar values.
HOWEVER, Patreon batches processing. This means if you are giving $1 to three different projects, you are charged $3 and that 30 cent fee gets spread among the three, causing it to drop to 10 cents each and yields a new income of $0.82 for each.
Patreon is the only service I am currently aware of that batches charges like that AND passes the savings along to the creators.
I just published my fourth book (third novel) and have found ebook distribution revenues to be questionable at best. I have returned to strictly print publication of my books. I am looking at Patreon as a method of building a base of readers who receive my books as soon as they are published, but maybe getting a chapter at a time on the site as I complete the writing process..
I also have a lot of videos and some of them are ones that I feel need to be monetized to support my work.
I guess I am seeking a little guidance on making the decision by asking how the process is working for other writers.
Hi Rick. The only problem I see here is that it sounds like you’ve been unable to sell the ebook edition, which would indicate a smallish base of readers or an unusually print-heavy crowd. Either way, you’d be facing a similar problem on Patreon. It isn’t someplace people go to discover new things to get excited about. It’s a place they go to support things they already are excited about. Both ebooks and Patreon (and print books for that matter) require marketing. If you marketing wasn’t working for ebooks, digital rewards of a chapter of the book, might not do much better (assuming your audience favors print). (Keep in mind, that the chapter at a time model is a completely valid business model assuming you have an existing base who are willing to contribute.) You also mention videos. Is there a crossover between your books and videos? Is the viewership for your videos bigger or smaller than the readership for you books (print and/or digital)?
On a separate note, I wouldn’t give up entirely on digital. The best models have your stories/books available in a variety of formats across a range of platforms. Unless your ebook production costs are high or you are saving the digital rights for some reason, why cut off potential readers? There’s a lot of people who only read ebooks.
Your article was very helpful. I formed a Canadian media corporation to release video motion pictures and to publish books. Will Patreaon allow corporations to solicit subscriptions or do they only allow individuals?
The forms for getting paid by them included some questions about whether or not you are a corporation, so I’d have to assume they allow it. I don’t work for them though, so you might want to ask them. If you are on Twitter, ping them at @PatreonSupport.
I found this site by following a side trail in my research into Patreon following its mention in a recent issue of “Writer’s Digest.” Like others, I find your support for inquisitive folk like myself and the time you’re willing to donate to our questions impressive and your forthrightness refreshing.
I am involved in a startup service, based in Japan, wherein we will provide translation services from original Japanese text to polished English for advertising for municipalities, companies, and other entities in Japan. We think this is especially timely with the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan when native English speakers will invade the country. The primary member is based in Japan, I am in the U.S., and the third member is based in Australia.
My question is: What type of monthly or other timed reward would be expected from patrons? Behind-the-scenes exposés? Tutorials on Japanese-to-English translating? (BTW, it’s not as simple or direct as it sounds – the differences among American English, British English, and Australian English can be quite tricky.)
I guess I’m asking if this might – or might not – be a worthwhile track on Patreon for such a venture. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Maybe I’m missing something here, but it sounds like you’re offering commercial translation services for companies and other organizations. Why would you use Patreon for variable-priced contract work? Is the campaign for something else? I guess I’m asking what you expect your audience to support and maybe a bit about who they are (in very general terms). The rewards should be a natural outgrowth of that. If you already have an audience (via social media, mailing lists, etc.), perhaps a short survey of what they’d like to see you offer is in order.
Just keep the rewards few in number and preferably digital. Too many options can be confusing for end users and its not convenient to rework the rewards at a later date. Adding is easy. Deleting is problematic since there isn’t a way to move people from one reward to another from the creator’s side. (I have too many and wish I could restructure.) Physical rewards eat up a lot of time and you have to deal with the ever-increasing postal expenses eating into your earnings.
Thanks, Neil. Understand. I’m probably thinking too far ahead (no surprise). The key was, “The rewards should be a NATURAL outgrowth …”
Actually, the ability to think far ahead can be really useful in this situation. It will help with the goals as well.
Great Evening Neil!
So nice to hear /see your ‘personal story with Patreon.
My name is Dave Heckendorn and I’ve spent the last 7 years traveling the lower 48 states. 200,000 miles, 9 laps around and across the US.
Getting a complete rebuild on my website @daveheckendorn.com as we ‘speak’.
Just purchased a bluewater sailboat (multiple of this same model has circumnavigated the world).
Looking to continue my Expedition Photography via the water. North to Alaska thru the Pugent sound…
Have spent 2 weeks out sailing and putting together a ‘new’ chapter of my story with some good open ocean video content. Since I am always solo and I don’t have ‘a-lot’ of ‘hands free’ camera gear (yet?) but good lighting, some interesting content…
My question is are there any good landscape photographers using Patreon. I have been taking a lot of video to help ‘tell’ the story that a still photo can’t convey properly in this venue for the most part (I’m guessing).
Social media as an ‘artist’ hasn’t been very impressive..
Do you think a ‘devoloping’ story like this has ‘potential’.?
I hate to waste time jumping thru hoops BuT if someone like you who has been there done that says it has potential…
Either way Thank you for the earlier content, very kind to take the time to share and help artists like me (you).
Dave Heckendorn –
That’s an area I’m not as familiar with, but a quick search for “expedition photography” on Patreon turned up this creator: https://www.patreon.com/Andrew_StPierre_White I’m not familiar with his work, but he seems to be doing reasonably well. The thing to remember with Patreon is that people probably aren’t going to find you there. It’s where you would direct people from your blog or social media to support you. It’s generally a good idea to query your community to see what readers/viewers are interested in. That will give you a sense of their interest in supporting you and what other things they’d like (behind-the-scenes video, first look, etc).
From your experience on patreon, do you think it’s a good idea to sign up as a photographer and are there many photographers on patreon?
I’ll admit that I’m not as up on the photography side of the Patreon community, but a quick search turned up several. I even found an article that might give you some good examples to check out: https://fstoplounge.com/2018/07/top-patreon-photography-creators-earners-2018/ You might even try reaching out to one or two that look closest to what you do to see if they have more specific advice.
I would also look at the other visual artist’s Patreon pages for ideas on how to best craft your own page, particularly the reward tiers. There’s quite a range of things you can offer like digital images, backgrounds, prints, and tutorials or pieces that describe your process (which I always find interesting). The trick is finding the things that will not eat up too much of your time and be enjoyable for you to do on a regular basis.
As with any Patreon page, having an existing fan base is a necessity. People will not find you organically there, so I would focus on building up a presence on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook (pick and choose which work best for you, but sometimes you have to chase audience to where they hang out), and other specialty sites (I’m not familiar with the ones more dedicated to professional photography, but I assume they exist). There’s no magic number of total followers to go by. I’d be more inclined to use interaction as my baseline assessment. Following is one thing. Liking and commenting are another. The level of engagement is proportional to their likelihood of supporting you.
Best of luck!
Thanks for the excellent discussion of Patreon. I’m an independent publisher with a small but solid following built up over ten years. Based upon your review and the comments, I’ll give Patreon a serious look for offsetting future projects.