Learn from my Motherfucking Mistakes (An Occasional Series) 

Got a question for me? Ask it here. I see only what you put in the textbox, so it can be totally anonymous.

I’m gonna start doing one question at a time because it’s easier to do that way, and also cos I am running out of questions. 😉 If you’re enjoying this, you should hit the link above and ask me something.

How did you manage to start building your Patreon empire, and convincing people to pay for your work?

Patreon empire, that’s hilarious. 🙂 To be honest, Patreon has never been wildly (financially) successful for me. I’ve run three Patreon projects. Latchkey was amazing, and worked really well, in that we covered our expenses, but honestly, even that we only succeeded at doing because I have an awesome network of writers and artists who were willing to come in on an experimental project getting paid less than they were worth, just to be part of the experiment. I’m still really proud of Latchkey, not least because I kept it more or less ticking along, at a pretty high quality, despite being in one of the worst personal depression slumps of my life, but it wasn’t, financially speaking, the greatest success.

I now have two Patreon projects. The Bookish Jelly Bean (which I’m working behind the scenes on getting up and running again) was never intended to be a money-spinner. It is much more a labour of love on the part of my nerdy kid-lit liberal heart. I hoped patrons might help me track down hard to find books, but that was about it. Again, while I’m proud of the Jelly Bean, and enjoy doing it, it’s not super financially viable.

The second is my short story Patreon, where I try to write a story a month (to a greater or lesser degree of success) and hope people will tip me to read them. Again, financially, it hasn’t really been a whopper, but I get occasional new patrons, and it keeps me writing, which was my original goal. If I can get it to the point where it earns my usual editorial hourly rate, I’d be pretty happy. 🙂

What I have found way more effective is distinct crowdfunding campaigns for specific books. There, people come out to support me, as a rule. And I think the secret to that is basically that I care about people all the time, so when I ask for support, they’re inclined to give it. I have an amazing network of supportive humans from around the globe, but, and here’s the key thing, asking them to buy my stuff isn’t the primary connection. I think there are people who buy my stuff because they like my work, and that is awesome, and ultimately the goal is to have enough of them to make a real living from this, but mostly I’m still at the stage where people buy my stuff because they want to support me.

I don’t know that there’s a bulletproof method to making these things work. I experiment a lot, I’ve learned to not be scared of failure – to try things and learn from whether they work or not. My first couple of crowdfunding projects were fucking awful, but I learned a LOT from those mistakes, and I don’t make them any more. Like, triple check your numbers before you price your rewards, and maybe trying to run a CF campaign in the midst of crippling depression is a good way to hamstring yourself. :/

Also, you know, have an awesome product. It helps if, in addition to having people who want to support you, you are also creating something that people want.

I think a lot of people view these kinds of crowdfunded models as an easy route, but they really aren’t. You have to be constantly reconnecting with your crowd, constantly keeping yourself in their attention, and also still creating amazing things that people want. It’s very hard work, and it’s work with no guarantees. I love what I do, and if I’m honest, the money is nice, but it is secondary to just wanting to create cool stuff. So, it’s not hard to keep at it. But if I’d been doing this for the money, I’d have given up years ago. It’s taken years to build it to the point where I can now be confident that a crowdfunding project I run will work. And even now, there’s always the chance I’ll screw it up in some way. But I keep learning, and hence, the screwups happen much less frequently than they used to.

I’m not sure if that’s helpful. tl;dr Have an amazing product, love what you do and don’t be afraid to express that, build a crowd of awesome humans, for the sake of the people more than the money, and maybe you’ll have a shot. 😉


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