Patreon for Writers: Ongoing Campaigns

Campaigns?!

Such a scary word, but never fear, gentle writer, for this is the fun part!

In the non-profit world, I have experience with two kinds of fundraising: the Annual Fund and the Campaign.

These two types are the bread and butter of fundraising for annual operations and specific projects, be that capital (ie buildings) or productions (music festivals, scholarships, etc). Similar techniques can be used for your writing projects depending on your goals. Let’s take a look at how a non-profit model can help you understand and build your campaign.

The Annual Fund

The Annual Fund is a catch-all bucket for general donations given at any time during an organization’s fiscal year. For our purposes, we will set our writing fiscal year to the calendar year, which is January through December.

Annual Fund gifts are primarily for administrative and operational costs and are typically ongoing in nature. If donors want to give but don’t necessarily want to support a specific project, then they will give to where the need is greatest. For our purpose, let’s say our operational costs will include a Scribophile annual fee, a Microsoft Office or Scrivner license fee, update costs for your computer, and an ergonomic vertical mouse. These costs can be ongoing and will always be in your budget. Use your recurring annual costs to determine your Annual Fund goal.

The monthly Patreon subscription is the closest equivalent to an Annual Fund for the Creator. Donors are charged monthly, and Creators may use the monthly gifts for costs associated with creating, such as an Adobe Creative Suite subscription, Wacom tablets, website fees, etc. However, many Creators will also use the monthly Patreon model in conjunction with a Campaign to fund specific projects.

The Campaign

Campaigns can be fickle things, but necessary for specific projects. In a campaign, a non-profit may choose from two models to cover current operationing costs (Annual Fund) in addition to a project like a building or production.

  1. The Campaign (ie Your Book) and the Annual Fund (your writing expenses) are Concurrent: this means your patrons donate with the expectation that their gift will cover everything and their gift counts for both. If they give once during the year they do not consider going above and beyond. The fundraising goals will be combined.
  2. The Campaign and the Annual Fund are not concurrent: campaign goals are separate from your annual goals. This means asking donors to not only fulfill their annual gift but to also give above and beyond for your upcoming projects.

Campaigns are not easy. In my experience, raising millions of dollars in 2-5 years can strain staff and exhaust your donor pool. During campaign time staff will plan events showcasing the good work they do, reach out to people, and invigorate their existing donors and solicit new ones. Campaigns should be spaced out to prevent donor fatigue.

An example of a writing campaign would be a Kickstarter project for your book. You have all of the details lined up–the book is written, the cover artist lined up, the copy-editor primed, and now need help underwriting the costs. Now you have to ask your current donors to give, plus your hairdresser and mother.

What Model is Best for You?

Fundraising isn’t great for introverts. Fundraising is exhausting, but if you plan to crowdfund your book it is a necessary evil.

I suggest the Per Project Patreon model for writers starting out because at the beginning of your writing career you may not have much content. It is harder to justify recurring gifts when there isn’t much content to binge. It will also put more pressure on you to keep creating content on a monthly basis. Maybe that’s the kick in the butt you need! Or, with a day job and family and friends, it may just cause you more stress.

Knowing how you write and your workflow will help you choose a fundraising model that fits for you. If you are a prolific writer who can spit out a short story every month then the Per Month model may be for you. If you are like me and take months between projects, then the Per Project model may work for you.

And, before I go, consider using a hybrid crowdfunding model to separate your annual operating costs as a writer and costs associated with a specific project (ie use Patreon for recurring and Kickstarter for a book launch).

Next up: You, Me, and Gift Management

  1. Building your fanbase
  2. Build your Database
  3. Building your Patreon Page
  4. Working with Artists
  5. Ongoing Campaigns
  6. You, Me and Gift Management
  7. Launch!
  8. Diversify

Patreon for Writers: Working with Artists

Probably the most fun part of doing any creative project is seeing your writing come to life via artwork. Those who seek to self-publish need a great cover, and who better than to turn to talented artists? However, working with artists can be more challenging than anticipated, and learning how to work with an artist can take some practice.

I’m no Picasso myself, however, I do create political cartoons for my local newspaper and create parody non-profit culture comics. I’ve had my fair share of dealing with newspaper publishers who don’t understand how much time some changes take and don’t charge properly for the time.

As of May 26th, 2018 I’ve been working with Artist and Illustrator Sam Dutter for my upcoming epic fantasy book The Hymns of Creation. While it’s not my first time collaborating with an artist

1. It’s a Business Relationship

While writers and artists share the same goals of making cool stuff, sometimes we’re tempted to think that the artists have the same goal.

Artists are not paid to read your book. Normally, a publishing house will have an art director in charge of commissioning cover art, but if you’re Indie then you’re the art director of your project. If you strike gold with an artist who loves your work AND wants to work with you on super customized artwork then that’s awesome! But don’t send them your entire manuscript and expect them to make something up.

2. Prepare Your Materials

If you’ve ever worked on a group project before you know that it’s a two-way street. If everyone doesn’t provide the materials needed one person ends up doing all of the work. All artists work in different ways, but they can’t read your mind.

Some materials to prepare:

  • A contract
  • References, including links to book covers and stock photos you envision
  • Book summary
  • Character descriptions

 

3. Always Let them know what you’re using the artwork for!

Don’t pull a Terry Goodkind and trash your artist on social media. That’s just bad manners!

Crowdfunding online is all about being social, which includes collaborating with your team members. Some artists may not want to be more involved, and that’s ok too. But if they do, then it’s a great way to mutually benefit each other via exposure after the initial payments go through.

Some tips:

  • Many Millennial artists spend years building up their social media presence. If you plan on using any part of the artwork for social media promotion be sure to let them know–they can help you resize artwork for social media.
  • Ask your artist to resize part of your cover for your Patreon page
  • Be sure to thank your artist on Patreon and, if they also have a Patreon page, be sure to link back to it.

4. Don’t Be Cheap

We’re all on a budget. I know. I am too. As Indie writers we have to be careful about how we plan our budget, and for many writers, it doesn’t seem worth it to sink a lot of money into a customized cover.

Some books may not need customized artwork, and that’s OK!

When we watch artists livestream their artwork it’s easy to think, “well, that sketch took them five minutes! They shouldn’t charge that much!” Remember that many artists may have spent five years studying to be able to do a concept sketch in five minutes.

Some tips:

  • Respect the prices they quote you. If you ask for more than your contract states don’t be surprised if they charge you for the service.
  • Their art equipment, especially for digital artwork, is expensive.
  • If money is an issue get quotes from several potential artists.

5. Have Fun!

Ultimately both the artist and the writer want to have fun–after all, seeing the cover makes your book seem real.

Up next: Running a Campaign

  1. Building your fanbase
  2. Build your Database
  3. Building your Patreon Page
  4. Working with Artists
  5. Ongoing campaigns: The Ask Event Model
  6. Collaboration and Launch!

 

 

Writers on Patreon: Build Your Database

Repeat after me: your writing is a business.

Your writing is a business.

Feel the need to wash your mouth to get that bitter taste out of your mouth? Good.

Whether or not you like it your writing is a business. Why else are you creating a Patreon page? Now that we have that unpleasant business out of the way I’d like to share some facts from my non-profit experience.

First and foremost you need to build an audience. And just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come. One thing you need to understand is that, although you may have hundreds of followers, only a small percentage of those followers will actually become donors.

Why?

Not everyone has the financial freedom to become a Patron to all of their favorite followers, but over time they may be able to. Think long-term.

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Patreon for New Writers: Building a Fanbase

In all of human history there is probably no better time to be a writer than now. The Internet has smashed through the floodgates, and stigma over self-publishing is letting up quite a bit as new and respected writers are making names for themselves.

For this blog post I’ll go over some examples of big writers I’ve seen utilize the Internet to build a following. Although there are certainly more (and equally talented) indie writers I’ve highlighted these three case studies to demonstrate different methods for building a fanbase.

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