Making a living as a writer is not easy. In fact, for the vast majority of people, earning their keep with nothing but words is nigh impossible … a pipe dream … a long shot.
Even so, we writers are a hardy (read: “stubborn”) lot who tend to dig our heels in when it comes to our writing dreams. And, thanks to the hyper-connected world of the Internet, we are no longer condemned to live out our writers’ lives in cramped garret rooms or the basement meeting rooms of local libraries and churches. With today’s virtual information highway, we can send our work out into the world, collaborate and converse with others, and even – gasp! – make money. Through the magic of the worldwide web, we can reach larger, more diverse audiences in real time and without having to go through a middle-man gatekeeper.
I am super grateful that I’m able to support myself and my daughter working as a freelance content writer. Over the last decade, I have built up a sustainable business that has kept our single-parent household comfortably afloat.
But, I want more.
Today, I’m paid to write what other people want me to write, and at the moment that consists primarily of website copy, ghostwritten articles, and eBooks, etc. for a variety of businesses across a range of industries. Someday, I hope to get paid to write what I want me to write. I hope to get paid to write stories and essays that are based on the unique thoughts that I’ve grown in my own head.
This is why I am fascinated by all the different ways that creative, entrepreneurial authors are making money these days. It used to be that there was only one path for a writer to take: traditional publishing. Then we added the concept of self-publishing into the mix. Today, innovative writers are also taking advantage of crowd-funding, including Patreon.
I am still in the initial stages of exploring the Patreon model, so I don’t consider myself an expert; but I thought it was worth sharing a few of the interesting pages that I’ve found in case you find the concept as fascinating as I do.
I’ve known about Patreon for a while, but didn’t take a close look at the platform until I saw a blog post from author Monica Byrne talking about her Patreon. I had read Byrne’s debut novel, The Girl in The Road, and was intrigued to learn that she had set up a Patreon with the hopes of earning a “bare-bones MINIMUM WAGE” that would allow her to write full time. As of this writing, Byrne is earning $1,612 of her $2,000/month goal via monthly donations from 359 patrons who pledge anywhere from $1 to $250 each month to support Byrne’s writing. (Most patrons fall into the $1 – $5 range.)
The basic idea is that “patrons” (meaning anyone who wants to support an artist or writer) pledge to donate a recurring monthly amount via an automated payment. Typically, pledge amounts start at $1 and increase by small increments – $1, $3, $5, $10, etc. Each pledge amount comes with specific “rewards” – sort of “thank you gifts” from the artist/writer. These can range from access to patron-only content (stories, articles, behind-the-scenes posts, Q&A sessions, etc.) to early access to new work, to real-world items (Monica sends handwritten postcards!) to acknowledgment in a finished work or even the chance to collaborate on a project.
Intrigued by this business model, I cruised the Patreon site to see what other kinds of writers were using the platform to earn “real” money. Here are a few of the pages that I found most interesting:
- Mike Bennett, author of the vampire series, Underwood and Flinch: $2,005/month via 599 patrons
- Wait But Why (aka Tim Urban and Andrew Finn), creators and publishers of a unique, long-form, (not-a-blog) website that covers topics from happiness and human nature to science and philosophy to general observations: $13,204/month via 4,303 patrons
- Writing Excuses, a fabulous, four-person podcast on the craft of writing: $1,542/month with 290 patrons
- N.K. Jemisin, a prolific science fiction and fantasy author who has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards multiple times: $5,193/month via 964 patrons
As I said, I’m still just exploring this business model for writers, but you have to admit that it’s pretty intriguing. Patreon has a handy landing page just for writers if you’d like to get more of the facts. And if you have any first-hand experience with a platform like this, I’d love to hear your story.
Meanwhile, I’m pledging my monthly support to both Monica Byrne and the Writing Excuses team … and I have a feeling I may be adding to that list in the not-too-distant future.
Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
P.S. Fellow NHWN-blogger wrote a post about Kickstarter and the kerfuffle caused by one writer’s daring to ask her fans for money. Good For You, Not For Me is a great read by Lee Laughlin, and I very much enjoyed the reader commentary as well.