Patreon 101 for Authors
When we learned that Write Publish Sell ambassador and Summit presenter Erin Casey was using Patreon to support her writing, we asked her to write a blog post about it!
In the world of publishing, authors are always trying to find unique ways to market their books. From paid Facebook ads to author takeover events and giveaways, there are many strategies you can test out to help you find the best fit for you. One platform that some creative minds are starting to utilize is Patreon.
What is Patreon, exactly?
This is a platform where creators provide services, and patrons agree to pay a monthly (or by project) membership fee to support the creator. It’s a way for you to interact more personally with your readers and keep them updated about the ins and outs of your work. There are many creators who successfully gain enough patrons to help them create new products regularly (Pentatonix, Peter Hollens, Seanan McGuire, etc). For as low as $1 a month, patrons can get access to your work and help support you! This applies to both traditionally- and self- published authors. Check out my Patreon account to see how an author can use it.
How it works:
- Set up an account on Patreon to outline your project and the purpose for your page.
- Create tiers that will entice patrons to donate different monetary amounts to your campaign.
- Create “paid posts” and free posts for your patrons and potential audience.
- Publicize your page through Patreon tools and social media.
Setup: A good setup will help bring in more patrons. You need to be upfront about what you plan to offer. Here are a few tips to help:
- Promotion: Choose eye-catching profile pictures and banners to grab people’s attention.
- Overview: Clearly explain who you are and what you’re offering. Don’t tell your patrons you’re planning to post one story each month then post three when they are only expecting to pay for one. Let them know who you are and why their patronage is so important to you.
- Tiers: Create reward tiers to entice patrons (to be discussed below).
- Plan: Pick a plan that works for you. For example, 5% of my pay goes back to Patreon while the rest goes to me. This plan allows tools to master membership. Other plans can give you additional features. The pricing page explains it in more detail.
- Set goals: Patreon has an option where you can indicate different goals you want to meet. Example: Goal 1: $25/month = payment for a website. Goal 2: $50/month = payment towards marketing materials. Be transparent about how their donations can help you. Start out with small goals so that you reach them faster. It will encourage people to add in that extra dollar to help you hit that next goal.
Tiers: Tiers are used to encourage patrons to donate certain monetary amounts to your cause. Again, this will come out whenever you indicate you’re posting a “paid post.” You can also do teaser posts or free posts. But what kind of tiers should you do?
- Most important: pick tiers that 1. you know you can deliver and 2. won’t cost more than what you’re receiving.
- Low tiers: Provide several low tier prices ($1, $2, $3, $5) as people are more likely to pick these over the higher tiers. These can include things such as access to all “paid posts,” shout outs on social media, hidden stories, behind-the-scene information, etc. These are all things you can easily send to a patron the moment they sign up.
- Middle tiers: These should obviously provide more rewards as your patrons will be paying quite a bit higher to support you ($10, $15, $20, $25). For example, you would give them everything from the initial tiers along with, say, their name on a dedication page, a printed copy of your book, swag, an e-book, etc. You want to make sure your patrons feel like they’re getting a lot in return for their generous donations.
- Upper tiers: Few people generally choose the upper tiers, but some creators do get lucky, so make sure you have good rewards. These are generally tiers that are $50 and above. These rewards could include more personalized items, such as a personal story written just for the patron, a skype call with you, writing advice, etc. Again, make it worth the cost.
- Don’t be afraid to offer a large tier ($100+) in case you get a fan who is really dedicated to your work. Just make sure you can deliver.
Delivery: Delivery, above everything else, is the most important aspect of Patreon. If you promise to post something each month, then do your best to stick to that schedule. Some patrons can donate to you monthly whether or not you post something. Some will set it so they only donate when you create a “paid post.”
- If you’re going to miss a deadline, let your patrons know so they’re not sitting there, wondering why a post didn’t appear. Missing deliveries is one of the biggest reasons people tend to lose patrons. Be honest.
- Don’t post more “paid posts” than what you promised. Patrons may only intend to pay you $5 per paid post, and if they’re only expecting one a month, they’re going to be very surprised if $10 suddenly comes out of their account. If you want to provide more material for your page, that’s fine, but don’t make it a “paid post.”
- When someone becomes a patron, be sure to deliver their rewards as soon as possible so you don’t risk losing them. They’re willing to support you; show them the courtesy of thanking them in return.
Promotion: Once your Patreon page is set up, you’ll want to promote it in as many ways possible. Sharing it across social media and by mouth is great, but there are a few other ways you can give it additional attention:
- Feature it visibly on your website. Let readers know there are ways they can support you if they want to do more than buy/read your book.
- Add it to a newsletter.
- Post free material frequently enough that you have reason to share it across social media. Only patrons can see paid posts, so you’ll want to leave some things free.
- Don’t forget to mention it when you’re promoting your work in person.
All of these elements should help you get started with your Patreon page. Check out other creators to get some ideas on what works for them, and how that, in turn, might fit your image. Most of all, be honest, kind, and thankful. Your patrons are doing you a great service by supporting you. Be sure to thank them by living up to your promises.
Erin graduated from Cornell College in 2009 with degrees in English and Secondary Education. She decided to expand upon her teaching knowledge by leading writing sessions at first for the Iowa Writers' House and now for The Writers' Rooms.
She attended the Denver Publishing Institute in 2009 and has been a recruiter ever since. She is the Communications and Student Relationships Manager at The Iowa Writers' House and one of two Directors of The Writers' Rooms. She writes children's poetry and stories for Whimsical Whiskers and volunteers at RARE, a raptor rescue center.
She's also a devoted bird mom.
When not volunteering and working, she's writing her LGBT YA fantasy story, posting urban and regular fantasy on Wattpad, and sharing her literary journey on Instagram.
She released her first book, The Purple Door District, in December 2018. Her next book, Wolf Pit, is set to come out December 2019.
Find Erin at http://erincasey.com
Become her Patron at patreon.com/erincasey