*waves* Hello! If you’re reading this, you already likely know all about Patreon, and publishing–if that’s the case, feel free to skip ahead a little bit or go directly to my Patreon for more about why I, personally, chose to launch a creator page.
If, however, you’re someone who has little experience with or knowledge of the creative industry I’m forging a career in, settle in.
Paying for Publishing
First, a bit on publishing and book production. Books are like any other product, in that it takes a lot of money upfront to produce them. A single title costs thousands of dollars, between editing, design, printing, distribution, and promotion. None of these steps can reasonably be skipped or half-assed, because publishing is a desperately competitive market right now, with literally hundreds of thousands of book being published every year.
In a traditional publishing model, the publisher (a company like HarperCollins) is the one who foots the upfront bill. These companies generally rely on their blockbusters and bestsellers to bring in money that they then spend on debuts or less profit-generating authors. In self-publishing (or author-publishing, or indie publishing), the author funds their own book and gets most of the money from sales. These days, regardless of their publishing path, authors usually end up spending their own money for promotion.
I am a hybrid author, one who is published traditionally and independently. The Trident Chronicles novels are signed with a small publisher who takes care of production costs. The Firmament books will be all self-published, meaning I am hiring specialists and paying for all the elements of their production and promotion.
The Weird World of Book Marketing
Again, as with any product, the idea is that books will earn back the investment and eventually turn a profit. But books are a, shall we say, weird product. They’re subjective pieces of art, which means that a potential reader needs to be, essentially, in the right mood to not only buy the book, but read it, and better yet, review it on retail and book community sites so that other readers can discover it.
Think about your own reading habits, and you’ll quickly figure out why this is so hard. How many times does it take you to hear about a book or an author before you actually buy it? How long, on average, do you wait between buying a book and actually starting it? When you finish it, do you go and review it right away? Believe me, I won’t judge any of your answers–I rarely review after finishing a book, I don’t always buy books right away, and there are books in my physical to-be-read stack that have been there for literally years.
Books that sell well have a very important thing in common: saturation. Whether it’s high-cost ad campaigns, or the author just emailed two hundred reviewers and got half of them to write reviews, it all comes down the simple fact that people can’t buy books they’ve never heard of. Add to that the fact that a given book won’t appeal to every reader who hears about it, and that people very much tend to be mood readers, and you see the difficulty.
All this means that it can take a very, very, very long time for a book to earn enough money to even break even on the (thousands of dollars) investment, let alone earn profit.
What is Patreon?
If you’ve ever taken an art history class, you’ve heard the concept of artistic patronage. Most commonly, we think of wealthy people or families who would kind of adopt an artist or musician, feed them, house them, buy their materials, etc. The artist was able to focus on their craft and their work because they had the support to do so, and didn’t have to worry so much about how they were going to survive (artists don’t actually like to be starving). In return, the patrons could commission portraits or paintings or sculptures.
Patreon is a modern version of that. Creators like me set up pages describing what they do, and patrons can pledge a certain amount of money, per month or per project depending on the type of creation. That money goes toward production costs, living costs, whatever the creator has stated. The support of patrons allows the creator to focus on developing their work.
In return, creators offer rewards as a thank you to patrons. Usually this means patron-only content, free or discounted products, creative participation–like IndieGoGo or Kickstarter rewards.
There are, of course, critics of this system, though I’ll be the first one to say I don’t understand the disdain for creators and creators’ needs when our society very much loves the content they produce. Art of all kinds has costs, financial, emotional, physical costs, and it’s important that we acknowledge that.
Patreon and Publishing
So! To bring these two ideas together: a publishing company has many titles in various stages–on sale, in production, etc–at any given time. While they’re paying the money it costs to produce Title C, they’re bringing in money from Title A that came out at the beginning of the year. This is the business model, and also why traditional publishing companies are often risk-averse in the titles they buy. If Title A earns less than expected, it screws the budget for Title C.
As an author-publisher, I currently have one published book that is earning money, From Under the Mountain. My royalties from that book are being used to fund the publishing of my two 2017 titles, The Traitor’s Tunnel and The Longing and the Lack.
However, the royalties from Mountain can’t cover my costs on their own. And once Tunnel and Longing are published, the money they earn in the first year, two years, three years or more, will be stacked against the money I spent to produce them.
Meanwhile, I’ll be moving on to producing book two of The Unliving, Since Death’s Erasure, which is scheduled to release in September of 2018. I will need to send that book to my hired editor this fall, when Longing will have only been out maybe a month or two.
What I’m saying here is that the timing makes this all a very precarious process. Don’t get me wrong–I knew this when I set out to do it, and I’m doing it regardless of what happens with my Patreon. But, and here’s the important thing: having patron support will make this more predictable, less stressful, and will allow me to do more than I could without it. Patron support will help me send more review copies, will help me submit to more conventions, advertise, all the things that one can do to contribute to a book’s success.
About *my* Patreon
Go on over to my creator page, then come back for a few more details about the rewards. All the levels are cumulative, so higher levels get all the stuff that comes before too.
Behind the Scenes $1/mo: Pretty self-explanatory. You’ll get to hear all the details about all my projects, a privilege at this point only afforded to my husband. Not only is this going to be the best way to keep updated on the stuff I’m working on, this is also a great way to learn about publishing. And it’s only $1 a month, so you probably won’t even notice it missing from your bank account–but a bunch of small drops can fill a bucket, right?
First Looks $5/mo: This level grants you access to all the stuff I’ll be talking about in Behind the Scenes. You’ll get to see covers when I get them, read first chapters of new books before they’re published, and even get to see parts of my drafts-in-progress, meaning you’ll get to see where things are going way before everyone else. For the price of one fancy coffee every month!
Merch Discounts $10/mo: So, to promote these books, I try to do cool and interesting things for swag (giveaway items for reviewers and fans) and merchandise. Because I paint, these will primarily take the form of art prints, but I’m not ruling out other things. For example! This year I’m introducing enamel pins as well! I’ve hired another queer Portland artist to design pins based on the Trident Chronicles taverns and some spookiness from The Longing and the Lack and I. AM SO. EXCITED. *coughs* so yeah patrons at this level will get either free merchandise or a discount code for merchandise (depending on how much it cost to produce). This will also include discounts on the books themselves when possible! (My ability to create discount codes varies based on the retailer.)
TL;DR $10 a month is more significant but you get more significant stuff in return.
Name in the Credits $20/mo: This is essentially a producer level, and as such you’ll be acknowledged in the acknowledgments (*snicker*) of my books. Your name in print! You’ll also get higher discounts on merchandise, and signed (but not personalized) copies of new print books when they come out!
ALL the Books and Things $40/mo: The big leagues. At this level, you’ll automatically get all the merch and a personalized, signed copy of every print book sent straight to you. Plus the acknowledgments, the first looks, the updates, and my undying love.
My Patreon Community
Because I believe in rising tides lifting all boats, I’ll also be using my Patreon page to read and highlight other marginalized authors–marginalized here meaning authors and stories that don’t get the kind of support from publishers or reviewers as more “mainstream” ones. Publishing is overwhelmingly staffed by white, cisgender, heterosexual/romantic people, which means that that common rejection phrase “I just couldn’t connect with your characters” gets disproportionately applied to authors whose identities don’t match up with those of the people working in the industry.
Publishing is getting better about this! But it can still be difficult to find books and authors to support, so I’m going to be doing what I can to share those books with my patrons. Kind of like a very casual book club, haha. I’ll share updates about all the books I’m reading, and when possible, I’ll bring other authors in for interviews or chats.
Thanks for reading! If you have more questions about anything, please let me know. If you’re interested in becoming a patron, click here. If you’d like to make a one-time or perhaps occasional donation, you can do that through my ko-fi profile here.