Patreon for Writers – A Fascinating and Evolving Space

patreon-byrneMaking 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.

patreon-logoI 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.

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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 FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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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.

Word of Mouth and Other Marketing Options

I see this statement on the back of business cards all the time now:

WordOfMouth

“The finest compliment I can receive is a referral from my friends and past clients.”

Personal referrals are definitely (the most?) powerful when it comes to  building a business. And when referrals become the driving force that brings you new business, well, it might be time to have a staff!

However, word of mouth marketing can’t start until you’re established, so having it be your only method of marketing probably won’t work well. I mean, people can’t refer you until they know you can deliver what they need when they need it, right?

So, what other marketing options do you have? You want to use the best method(s) for getting the word out about your writing service that enables people to get to know, like, and trust you — with the goal of them deciding to work with you.

A great place to start is to think about a recent purchase you made – especially for a service – how did the business owner attract you? What captured your attention enough to pursue picking up the phone (or e-mailing) for more information? What did you find most important and particularly appealing?

  • Website
  • Newsletter
  • Blog
  • LinkedIn / Facebook / Twitter / Other social media
  • Print ad you received through the postal service
  • You met and spoke with the business owner at an in-person event
  • Article you read written by the business owner
  • A webinar or other online event you participated in
  • A book you read
  • Business card

You can also look at a competitor to see what marketing methods they use for attracting business. Ask yourself these questions and how they relate to your target market:

  • What is it that I like about what they are doing?
  • What is it that I don’t find particularly appealing?

These are just some overall questions to ponder and ideas to consider to get you started in marketing your business.

It’s insightful to realize what pulled you in enough to ‘make a purchase’ — and a great way to start connecting with your market, since what you find attractive is probably what your target clients will find appealing.

What is one of your go-to marketing methods that works well for you? (mine is LinkedIn)

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

What Do Your (Writing) Clients Really Want?

Do you know what your (writing) clients want? What they really really want?

Does your client prefer a high five?

Does your client prefer a high five?

If you know the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”, sing along with me for a moment:

“Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want
I’ll tell you what I want, what I really, really want
So tell me what you want, what you really, really want”

Okay, smile break over; back to the business of running your business!

What is it that clients really want?

Or maybe she prefers the fist bump.

Or maybe she prefers the fist bump.

Think about what you want when you seek out a new service provider – auto repair, home repair, hair stylist, etc.

Like your client, you want competence. You want to know your money will be well spent on someone who can provide what you are looking for. In some cases you may even want to pay extra for someone you know will deliver above and beyond what you need, right? It’s no surprise that your client expects the same, then, right?

Also like your client, you want the business service to be convenient. Whether it’s a service done all online, or if you have to drive to a brick and mortar location, the business service needs to be convenient to your needs. Again, if this seems reasonable when you are seeking a service, it’s true for your client.

If you (or your client) finds the above two qualifications, the next most relevant one is confidence from the service provider. I mention this because finding someone convenient to work with and competent in what they can do are important, but when the time comes to deal with the person face to face (or on the phone or through a video chat of some sort), if you’re unable to feel comfortable speaking with them, it probably won’t be a successful partnership.

I’m not talking about someone being shy, it’s more about the person being uncertain that he can deliver what you are asking – if they are unable to answer questions they should know the answers to. If you say, “How about this?” and his reply is, “Hunh?” That isn’t a confidence booster. When seeking a service, you know the basics of what you want, but you aren’t the ‘pro’ – which is why you are seeking someone – you don’t know what you don’t know, right?

When a client comes to you, he may know he needs writing services, but isn’t quite sure exactly what he needs. This is where you confidently explain your writing process and the options available to him. When he asks “What about this?”, you say “Well, it’s X, Y, or Z.”

Be confident in your offerings and always be honest with the client. Think about how you want to be treated when you are shopping for a service provider, and know the person asking you questions is seeking the same.

What other aspects are important to you (or your clients) when you are seeking a business service provider?

(The images are meant to be cute examples to reflect how we all want something different.)

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

You Want to Make a Living as a Writer? Are You Crazy?

If you have a passion for writing and have non-creatives in your life, you have probably heard some form of this mantra for years:

No one can make a living writing; find something practical to pursue. 

What’s ‘practical’? What makes sense if your passion is for words? Fitting the square peg into a round hole never works, does it?

The comfort of working for yourself

The comfort of working for yourself

It helps to be a little crazy when pursuing something many people can’t relate to. But if you want to make a living as a writer, there are a few skills that can help you succeed.

  • Passion for words – I believe you need to have a yearning to learn about words, to want to play with words, to strive to get sentences just write, to want to share part of yourself through written expression. You want to make an impression on your audience in some manner.
  • Confidence – Believe in yourself and in your passion to write. Take pride in every piece of writing you create; in every story your muse delivers to you. Every new piece of writing is more experience that helps you grow, expand, and refine your skill.
  • Discipline – this is such a big deal! You absolutely have to be able to set a schedule and stick to it! Writing only when you’re in the mood will not help you make a living as a writer at all. Take writing seriously – get your butt in a chair and your hands over the keyboard – and write! Daily!
  • Training/Education – Take some writing classes (online or in person), practice writing and submitting to contests that offer feedback, join a critique group. Practice different types of writing to discover what you enjoy most – also learn about what pays well — you want to make a living as a writer! (this helps build your confidence and discipline too)
  • Marketing – as a solopreneur writer, you have to not only create, but you have to advertise – let people know you have the talent, time, and ability to deliver on their writing needs. Marketing takes time, isn’t easy, but is absolutely required in order to make a living as a writer. If people and businesses don’t know you exist, the money will not come.

To make a living as a writer, you must have business skills. There isn’t any way around it — other than hiring someone to manage the business side of the writing life — but even then, you want to have an understanding of all that is involved.

The writing life isn’t something to jump into – take the time to honestly assess your skills, passion, and interest in words.

If it’s truly what you want – go for it! Being a little scared and unsure is natural – it means you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, and there’s never anything wrong with that. Ever. (in my humble opinion)

Do you have what it takes to make a living as a writer?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Generating Income with Public Lectures

Recording at VPR's Upper Valley Studio.

Recording at VPR’s Upper Valley Studio.

Writers can generate income by activities other than putting words on the page; one of my favorites is giving public lectures. Never shy about sharing my knowledge or opinions, I’m happy to talk when asked. In fact, it’s a direct outgrowth of my work as an editorial commentator for Vermont Public Radio, the Rutland Herald and other newspapers, as well as my blog. They are part of my mission of “advancing issues through narrative and telling stories to create change.” Challenging my audiences to think about current problems in new ways is one of the reasons I’m a writer.

Speaking at Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, VT.

Speaking at Brooks Memorial Library in Brattleboro, VT.

I’m also a scholar and educator, and lecturing gives me an opportunity to talk about what I’ve learned, so I’m pleased to be on the Vermont Humanities Council’s Speakers Bureau and to lecture for Vermont’s Osher Life Long Learning Institute, among others.

The Speakers Bureau helps match libraries and lechistorical societies seeking programming with speakers who can provide it. For the Speakers Bureau, I’ve prepared and delivered a talk about the political and cultural changes that occurred in Vermont in 1964, a subject about which I learned a great deal while researching Into the Wilderness, my novel set in that time and place. Lecturing about that time allows me to use this knowledge again and to extend it to those who maybe haven’t read my book and who now might – or who maybe never will.

I’m currently preparing a Speakers Bureau talk about the history of transportation in Vermont, an outgrowth of research I did for Elegy for a Girl, a novel set in 1958, when Vermont’s interstates were being built. I have contracts to give the lecture twice so far, which allows me to reuse the research I did when writing the book. But for the lecture, I’m extending my research as far back as Indian trails, military roads, canals and trains, all of which I find highly interesting. And who knows: I may stumble across a story to tell in the process.

The Bernard Osher Foundation supports “lifelong learning institutes for seasoned adults.” Vermont has the second oldest population in the US, and one of the most literate. I’ve delivered lectures on Jane Austen at different Osher locations around the state, and I’m looking forward to preparing a series on Virginia Woolf next year. As a seasoned adult myself, I often enjoy attending these lively and informative lectures, too.

Occasionally, I’m asked to speak at a local event, such as the elementary school’s farm-to-table annual dinner. These are good-will talks for which I charge no fee; they’re a part of being an engaged citizen in my community.

On book tour with my first novel. Photo courtesy of Phillis Groner

On book tour with my first novel. Photo courtesy of Phillis Groner

I’m also still asked to address organizations about my novel, even though I gave more than forty public readings the year Into the Wilderness came out. Indeed, every speaking opportunity is an organic marketing opportunity and another reason it’s good for a writer to get dressed and get out.

As with any free-lance opportunity, there are some guidelines to follow:

  • Clarify expectations with whoever is hiring you.
  • Write them down! Some organizations have contracts, which I read carefully before I sign; with others, I send a letter of agreement.
  • Be clear about what they want and be sure that’s what you deliver.
  • Show up on time and prepared; stay on topic; speak for the contracted time period; answer questions; say thank you and stop.
  • Likewise, be clear about what you expect in return.
  • In addition to a speaker’s fee, this can include a projector and screen, a microphone, and clarity about who the audience is and how many they’ll be.
  • It’s also good to be clear about marketing expectations for the event to ensure that an audience shows up. Even when the host takes on this responsibility, I always offer my headshot and bio, and I ask if they want me to broadcast the event through my media and social media outlets.

Do you have other guidelines to add to this list? Have you ever given a public lecture? What was it like?

Deborah Lee Luskin, M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin,
M. Shafer, Photo

Deborah Lee Luskin is a novelist, essayist and educator, as well as a pen-for-hire. Sign up for her blog, published Wednesdays, at www.deborahleeluskin.com

Are You on LinkedIn Yet?

LinkedIn_logo

If you haven’t heard, LinkedIn is a powerful marketing and networking tool. It offers a lot of opportunities for writers of all calibers and in all industries.

You can be starting your own business or be self-employed for numerous years. You can be a multi-published author writing fiction or non-fiction; long or short. You can be any type of writer with any level of experience and benefit from the power of LinkedIn to find jobs, connections, and resources. Resources that can gain you new clients and help you improve your craft.

I posted about Getting Started with LinkedIn a few months ago. Check that post if you haven’t delved into LinkedIn yet.

Your profile is a powerful marketing tool. Make sure you have it as complete and relevant as possible — to the type of work you are seeking, skills you can offer, and connections you want to make.  (Avoid diluting it with too many interests that are unrelated to your career.)

Connections are important. Decide if you want to be an open networker (keep all your connections visible) or private (hide connections). There are benefits to each – for instance, if you currently have a job and are seeking another, you probably don’t want your employer to be able to see you connecting with recruiters. (I prefer being an open networker and generally accept all requests as long as there is a profile, photo, and introduction in the Request-to-connect email.)

Building your platform (name recognition). By joining groups related to the industries you want to write for, types of communities you think will help you grow your business, and writers’ groups, you can comment on discussions and start your own. And since you will have a complete profile (with photo), people will be able to follow up with you as they see your name/photo appear in their feeds.

A venue to show your talent. There are multiple ways to share your talents with the world:

  • Publish your own posts on your own feed.
  • Upload samples of your writing.
  • Use Slideshare to share information.
  • Link to your website, Twitter, and other social media accounts.
  • Start your own group.

Use the multitude of opportunities on LinkedIn to get your name (and face) known by offering useful feedback, tips, references, and commentary whenever you can and watch your business grow.

**It takes a while to build up your network, so there’s no time like the present to get started if you haven’t already! Don’t wait until you are self-employed or are seeking clients to start on LinkedIn.

If you have specific questions about LinkedIn, feel free to ask in the comments. If you connect with me on LinkedIn, personalize the e-mail and let me know you read this blog.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Sunday 6 February – Shareworthy Reading and Writing Links and Sundry

snowy treeNew England showed its true colors this week. After a Thursday that felt like spring (complete with near sixty-degree temperatures and March-like zephyrs), Friday dawned to a cold rain that transformed into heavy wet snow as the mercury fell. Parents who had scoffed at seemingly premature school closings were soon grateful that they didn’t have to venture out into what became a pretty messy afternoon commute.

Yesterday, after the storm had passed, my beau and I enjoyed a long walk in a nearby state park. Every bough in the forest was coated with a layer of snow, giving the place a clichéd faerieland look that was charming as hell. And when we reached the open spaces, the pristine surface of the snow sparkled like some crafty goddess has scattered a miniature universe of stars across the meadow. It was quite breathtaking.

And now it’s Sunday – hopefully a day for kicking back and letting your mind meander aimlessly. Here is this week’s batch of freshly curated links to my favorite blog posts, reads, and sundry other digital locations. Grab a mug of tea and a biscuit and enjoy. And if you have any links of your own to share, please feel free to drop them in the comments!


 Books I’m Reading:

book weatheringI have a very long list of books on my To Read list. Many of them live on Goodreads, but a few stragglers are in my wish list on Amazon, a Books folder in Evernote, and a photo album on my phone. (I have a habit of surreptitiously snapping photos of books I find in bookstores.) I know I’ll never get to all the books on my list, so sometimes it’s hard to pick which one to read next. Usually I browse my lists to see if any titles jump out at me. It’s more exciting, however, when one of my to-be-read books jumps out at me in Real Life. That’s just what happened with Lucy Wood’s novel, Weathering.

I first encountered Wood’s writing in her collection of short stories, Diving Belles. This anthology haunting stories weaves elements of Cornish folklore into everyday life, making the magical seem like a concrete part of our world – a force to be accepted. In Weathering, Wood tells a seemingly simple story of returning home:

(From the book jacket):

Pearl doesn’t know how she’s ended up in the river–the same messy, cacophonous river in the same rain-soaked valley she’d been stuck in for years. But here her spirit swirls and stays . . . Ada, Pearl’s daughter, doesn’t know how she’s ended up back in the house she left thirteen years ago–with no heating apart from a fire she can’t light, no way of getting around apart from an old car she’s scared to drive, and no company apart from her own young daughter, Pepper. She wants to clear out Pearl’s house so she can leave and not look back. Pepper has grown used to following her restless mother from place to place, but this house, with its faded photographs, its boxes of cameras and its stuffed jackdaw, is something new. Fascinated by the scattering of people she meets, by the river that unfurls through the valley, and by the strange old woman who sits on the bank with her feet in the cold, coppery water, Pepper doesn’t know why anyone would ever want to leave.

Wood’s work is like a series of old photographs pieced together into a subtle story that resonates in your head long after you’ve turned the last page. Her descriptions evoke a powerful sense of place and mood, almost visceral; but they are never just stage dressing. As I read, I sometimes thought to myself, “Is this going anywhere?” I only realized after I finished the book that the nagging sense of being stuck was part of the spell Wood wove. Her story captivated not only intellectually, but also emotionally – pulling at me like the current of a spring river that refuses to be ignored as it flexes its watery muscles and murmurs an endless incantation.

I will be looking more closely at the structure of this story and Wood’s masterful use of language. I look forward to sharing some of what I learn in a later post.

My Favorite Blog Reads for the Week:

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Sundry Links and Articles:

visualize narrative structure

Understanding the connections and relationships between your characters is an important element of your story, but never before have I seen such a fascinating “mapping” as the Visualization of Narrative Structure created by Natalia Bilenko and Asako Miyakawa who asked the question, “Can books be summarized through their emotional trajectory and character relationships? Can a graphic representation of a book provide an at-a-glance impression and an invitation to explore the details?”

The project analyzes three books – The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. The interactive graphs created for each book allow you to explore the emotional trajectory of each character in depth: “Hovering over the sentence bars reveals the text of the original sentences. The emotional path of each character through the book can be traced by clicking on the character names in the graph. This highlights the corresponding sentences in the sentiment plot where that character appears. Click on the links below to see each visualization.”

 ··• )o( •··

comma queen

We could all use a grammar refresher once in a while. (It can’t hurt, right?) Our own Lisa Jackson does a fabulous series called Grammar-ease, but if you’d like to supplement her posts with some video tutelage I recommend the Comma Queen Series by The New Yorker. If you’re, like me, a staunch supporter of the Oxford comma, you might like to start with the episode on The Importance of Serial Commas. Or, you can browse the whole collection of videos.

Finally, a quote for the week:

pin writers dont choose

Thanks, as always, for sharing part of your weekend with me and for giving me a space to share all my writerly geekiness. Have a GREAT week. Happy writing, happy reading, and happy exploring!
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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content marketer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian and aerial arts (not at the same time), and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. Introduce yourself on Facebooktwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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