Updated: 4/29/2021

Today, there is a myriad of ways to pay your self-publishing expenses, you can do what most authors do and that’s self-fund or you can crowdfund, where you ask others to support your project. Kickstarter and Indiegogo are the dominant sites for artists looking to raise money for their projects. However, several years ago, another site called Patreon rewrote the rules of crowdfunding by setting up a system where artists can collect payments on an ongoing basis. Patreon is a subscription-based membership platform where fans of a particular artist or creator can pay a monthly fee to support them. Launched in 2013, the site has raised over 2 billion dollars (U.S.) and has over 200,000 creators.

Authors such as; Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, and Lindsay Buroker have all used Patreon successfully to fund their ongoing creative projects. Some authors use it to help fund their self-publishing expenses, podcasts, or online courses. I’ve even noticed some creators who have no particular project and just ask for donations to fund their careers. As you can see, you can use Patreon for a variety of reasons.  

Needless to say, crowdfunding of any kind should be taken seriously, because if you don’t reach your goals and fulfill promises your reputation could be called into question. That means people could see you either as a con artist looking for victims or you can be seen as just plain lazy and seeking a handout. This isn’t what you want for your career. That’s why it’s important to educate yourself about crowdfunding before you choose this route. Fortunately, Patreon has an excellent list of resources for those looking into educating themselves about the site, I’ll link to them below:

The Pros & Cons of Patreon

Like with any business venture you’ll have to consider if it’s worth it for you. Below I’ll list some of the pros and cons of using Patreon if you’re seriously considering it.

The Pros

  • Patreon can be an alternate source of income
  • Fans of your work can directly support you
  • You can crowdfund a variety of creative projects
  • You can choose the tiers and benefits you wish to commit to

 The Cons

  • Your donations can fluctuate due to any reason.  
  • All money raised is taxable
  • There are fees involved from both Patreon and some banking institutions.
  • You’re expected to keep your promises which could mean more time and work in addition to your normal workload.

Best Practices

Crowdfunding can be an excellent way to fund a project if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. 

Study the successful people on the website and try to emulate what they do but give it your own twist. Here are more best practices if you want to succeed on Patreon:    

  • Create realistic goals
  • Make sure you have time for this
  • Have a marketing plan
  • Create exclusive content for your supporters

Ways To Use Patreon

If you didn’t know, your book is your intellectual property and that can be exploited in an unlimited number of ways such as:

  • Audiobooks (With multiple voice actors)
  • Special or limited editions of books
  • Merchandise; games, toys, clothing, etc.
  • Animation
  • Movies

The Reality Of Patreon: A Sobering Reminder For 2021   

Since the 2020 recession, several artists have mentioned that their donations on Patreon have dwindled. This probably has nothing to do with the quality of their work because Patreon itself just laid off 13% of its staff citing the current economic downturn. As if that weren’t enough, at the beginning of the pandemic Patreon revealed they were seeing more pledge deletions (cancellations) than in previous years but weren’t worried because membership remained strong. That’s great for them but not so great for the artists who are losing money.      

If you’re hoping that Patreon will supply 100% of your writing income, you might be in for a shock. Most artists who use the site use it to supplement their income and not as their only source of revenue. Another thing worth mentioning is that since the COVID-19 lockdowns, performance artists such as musicians and singers have turned to Patreon which is creating even more competition for those already on the site. In fact, Patreon itself said an additional 50,000 artists have joined the site since last year, which is a lot of people fishing in the same pond. Keep in mind they only have 200,000 creators and 25% of them are new. That’s a big jump in numbers.     

In Closing

Today, authors don’t have to break the bank to fund their creative projects and that alone frees them from the confines of the publishing industry. Authors can now exploit their intellectual property in ways that were inconceivable before. As I mentioned before, Patreon does work but you have to put in the hours and the work just like with anything else. Anyway, I hope this post showed you a balanced view of Patreon and crowdfunding in general.

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