What is Patreon?
A site and platform that allows creators to interact directly with their fans and allows their fan to contribute to them directly.
Started with a Ted talk: the art of asking by Amanda Palmer, a musician, produced an album, built a following but when it came time to release the next one the label declined, but she believed that audience was there, she had the fans. She went out and found them one by one, created the album and sold it to them.
This idea then spawned Patreon. The basic concept is that corporations don’t always get it right about what people want, and here they can choose specifically. Think of it like Kickstarter but monthly instead of just once.
How Patreon Works:
Essentially a creator or writer, as the case is most likely here, will produce content and people will pay a monthly subscription for access to that content.
This usually takes place in different reward tiers. People pay different amounts based on how much they want to support the creator and what they want in return.
So, most Patreon accounts have a $1 tier and it’s just a thank you.
From there you see tier of varying amounts. $5 for early access to content, to $50 for exclusive content.
That’s the summary we will go in depth on everything.
Have a Vlog: video blog that explains what you’re doing. How it works.
Fill out your profile, but fill it out like a writer. Think of great character arcs that intrigue people, how does your character arc connect you to being a writer, what in real life will make your stories amazing. Only the curious and the die hard will read this, make it worth their time. As I was told when I started submitting to agents and editors a long time ago, treat everything as a writing sample.
Follow a few other authors, writing in your genre, on Patreon and see what their activity feeds look like. What are they doing for engagement, how often? Check out N. K. Jemisin. A fiction writer who is doing very well on Patreon. See not only how she set up her tiers, but also what are her weekly updates. https://patreon.com/nkjemisin
What you need to plan to make it work:
The core things you need to address are:
What will your tiers be?
How will you grow your audience?
How will you manage retention?
Building Your Tiers
The first rule I think of everything is keep it as simple as possible.
Consider your Time Management, Patron Value, and Financial Returns.
Also, have more than 2 tiers: it’s just something in the data. That third choice tends to generate more Patreons. This relates to something in psychology we call the decoy effect. Essential put a high priced tier so the other seem more reasonable.
The first you need to think about in building your Patreon Platform is your time investment. With each tier you develop ask yourself how much extra time will it take each month to fulfill this tier?
Early access tiers are great because they don’t require a greater time investment to create and you just release the content earlier.
Simple, they get the book or articles or short story sooner than everyone else. Many authors want to leverage the power of Amazon’s pre-order option, but fear the penalties of late delivery, so they have everything ready when they set up the pre-order. A perfect time to fulfill a patreon tier.
Extra content has a stronger appeal to Patrons because they are getting something they wouldn’t if they just waited. Usually this is rated higher than simple early access tiers.
Tim Gruhl in his book your First 1,000 Copies talks about the concept of DVD extras. Essential in the creation of a book there is a lot content created that never makes it into the book, much like the DVD extras for a movie. There are die hard fans that love those DVD extras and will pay extra to get them included. The same is true of your die hard fans. They would love to read through the character journals and discarded chapters. They can’t get enough. Be aware that this isn’t investment free tier like early releases. Many of these chapters and journals will need some proof reading before they go live, but it’s not a lot of time, just some clean up.
This can also be beta and alpha releases of your book. I produce an audiobook read by me for my beta readers. It does several things, one I have to read the entire manuscript and it catches a lot of little things, two I hear back from beta readers much faster, and three my beta readers don’t get caught up on grammar and spelling. It’s not a professional audiobook, it’s not even the audiobook of the completed manuscript, but it’s part of my process.
Content Creation is a big time investment. You’re creating new content specially for your Patrons. I know of very few creators that do this, unless they main source of income is Patreon. The authors I know who do this create it for Patreon, but eventually release it as promotional materials to grow their audience.
Jenna Moreci does a 5,000 word critique each month for each member of her highest tier. It’s a big time investment, but she finds those who commit to this level and enjoy their critiques stay Patrons. They don’t always stay at this tier, but they become committed to her. It works both as tier for her, and help with her retention.
Promotion Content: This content you create but has the dual purpose of fulfilling tiers and promoting your products. Consider the company Harley Davidson or in fact countless companies that sell sticks with their logo on them. People buy them and put them on their cars, backpacks, water bottles. This is a form of paid advertising..
One author wrote articles that she released to her patrons, and gave the patrons the power to share them if they wanted.
Author Connection is a common tier. This is done sometimes as thank you notes, or the ability to attend live web conferences and ask they Author questions.
Imagine if you could pay a certain amount to be in a web conference with J K Rowling or George R. R. Martin? Again this tier is for the die hards, but it will strengthen their investment in you as an author.
I heard a story that when Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers were just starting to get big they would go on stage play with the opening band, invite them backstage and get to know them. As a result all these young musicians became missionaries for the Heartbreakers. They told everyone about them and their reputation spread like wildfire.
Early Mistakes. A lot of people new to Patreon tend to make too many tiers and don’t have a good understanding of how much time it will take to fulfil them each month. Consider what it will be like to be doing this task in 6 months, and your Patreon is only brining $100. How will you feel about the time investment then?
A Trial Run: to avoid the pitfalls falls of too many tiers, or tiers you don’t want to fulfill it’s good to a month or two trial run. See how you feel about these obligations. Are there too many? Do you dread the tasks. Cut those tiers.
The Power of the low Tiers: most people on Patreon make their money in the low Tiers, not the high ones. The first three tiers those that range between $1 and $10. The reason is that it’s such a small amount people don’t think about it.
Human psychology tells us that people like to chunk information, put it into groups, because of that any time you change the bill amount you change how people think about the value of the tier. A $1 tier and $3 register the same in people’s mind, because of how the currency is made, but $5 is a different category. Keep that in mind as you build your Tiers.
Converting Power of the High Tiers: This is where you are most like to put you author connection tiers since it will demand a lot of your time for very few fulfillments, but as mentioned before with the Tom Petty story it can be a way to make super fans. People who don’t just love your work, but want to tell the world about it.
Remember Why They Are Here: In building your tiers remember what brought people here in the first place. They liked your book, they want more of your writing, make sure that is your focus as build each tier.
How Will You Grow Your Audience?
We covered several techniques in building your tiers about this, early access can then allow you the option to release the material later and attribute it to your Patrons, thus informing everyone that you have a Patreon account and where to find it.
The end of your books. Only real hard core fans read all the stuff we put at the back of books, and they are also one who would follow you on Patreon, so mention it there. Tell them what they’ll get, character journals, world maps etc…
Free books. A lot of authors giveaway their books through their Patreon. Many people come to get the books cheaper than on Amazon and end up staying because they like the other content.
Mention it on all your social media platforms.
Everyone is doing it. It’s hard to be the first at anything, or even the second. People tend to want to follow the crowd, because that means it’s safe, it works. Invite you friends and family to follow you for a few months when you first launch just to get some numbers on the board. It will make it easier for others to sign up.
Giveaways: this is a standard technique in internet marketing today to grow any audience. For a lot more information on this see our episode on Instafreebie.
From everything I read on the topic retention is not actually something you focus on. It’s built into the tiers, if the rewards are what the audience wants they will stick around, if not then will eventually move on.
Watch the stats on your members early on. See what tiers keep people around and which don’t. Are they leaving completely or are the changing tiers? This is easier while your members are still few.
Updates: you might not release all your content on Patreon, or maybe it only comes out once a month, but you can post updates weekly to let people know you are working on the things they want.
You’ll be posting at least 3 time a month. It doesn’t have to be content. it can be vlogs or updates.
Start a Patreon, because you don’t know what will happen until you do. Set up your teirs to support your writing, not get in the way.
Start Writing is a podcast produced by Joseph Bendoski & J Washburn. It’s available on all podcast platforms.