In my last article, I shared the benefits of building multiple income streams, as well as some ideas for how to do it. Now I’m going to share one of the best ways to diversify your income: content subscriptions. Specifically, I’m going to take a look at Patreon for fiction authors, as well as some alternative ways to create content subscriptions.
This guide will explore:
- What Patreon is
- Potential rewards you can offer as an author
- How to set up your Patreon page
- Tips for marketing your Patreon
- Examples of author Patreons
By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be ready to start planning a content subscription of your own.
What is Patreon?
Patreon is a site that makes it easy to set up a paid content subscription. Over 200,000 creators use Patreon to deliver written, audio, and video content to their fans, and there are more than six million patrons on the platform.
You don’t need to pay anything to set up your Patreon account. Instead, the site makes its money by taking a certain percentage of your membership fees. This means you’ll pay Patreon every time you get paid, which is something to consider when you’re choosing between the “per month” and “per creation” funding options.
All in all, Patreon is one of the easiest ways to build a content subscription into your business.
Potential rewards to offer as a fiction author on Patreon
1. Chapters or snippets of your current work in progress
Sharing an exclusive look at your current work in progress (WIP) gives your biggest fans first access to your work and knowledge about your work. You can choose to share whole chapters, single scenes, or even short snippets. And, as a bonus, this is a great way to motivate yourself to keep working on that book. After all, you’ve got people waiting for that very next chapter!
2. Deleted scenes from already-published books
You don’t have to share exclusively new content, either. If you keep a “cut scenes” file for each of your books (and you should, because you never know when you can reuse an idea), you can share the best ones with your patrons. As a bonus, this means you’ll get to share those scenes you truly adored but couldn’t justify keeping in the story. And let’s face it, we’ve all got a few of those.
3. Worldbuilding and character development info
Most fiction writers, especially in science fiction and fantasy, write a lot more than the book itself. There are character profiles, outlines, and if you’re anything like me, a pretty much endless supply of worldbuilding notes. So why not share them with your audience?
4. Interesting research notes
If you spend a lot of time researching things like history or science to help you build your stories, you’ve probably run across a lot of fascinating information. Transform your notes about a specific topic into an article, and you’ve got Patreon content.
5. A spot in your ‘acknowledgments’ section
Thanking subscribers in the acknowledgments section of your book is a great way to show your appreciation and make them feel like they had a hand to play in creating something awesome. In some instances, you might also want to offer shout-outs on your website and/or social media profiles.
6. Opportunities to shape your work
You can also invite your subscribers to take a more active role in helping you create your stories. There are a few ways to do this without significantly changing your work:
- Ask them to vote on a name for a character or place when you’re struggling to choose between two options.
- Have them suggest their own names for a character or place in your book.
- When you get cover mockups for a new book, ask your audience to vote on them.
If you write shorter pieces, you can take this a step further by having patrons suggest topics for you to write about each month.
7. Live readings of your work
Note that live readings, and other live events connected to your Patreon, work best when run on a specific schedule. For example, you might live stream yourself reading a short story on the last Friday of the month. This lets people plan for the event in advance, fitting it around whatever else they have scheduled.
8. Q&A sessions
Another option you can offer for direct interaction with your readers is regular Q&A sessions. These are opportunities for your audience to discover what they want to know about you and your stories. Like live readings, they should be scheduled to occur on a regular basis so that people can plan for them. You may also want to create a system for gathering your questions in advance of the event.
9. Full copies of your books
You can also offer full copies of some or all of your books. For example, you might have a backlist book that is no longer published on mainstream channels and is only available on your Patreon. Or you might have a tier that includes a complimentary copy of each new book you publish. Some authors even offer signed paperbacks for high-level patrons.
10. Rewards for writers
So far I’ve talked about rewards you can create for readers, but you can also offer a variety of things to help writers. Here are just a few examples:
- Access to story building tools you’ve developed for your own process, such as customized character profiles.
- Detailed breakdowns of your marketing campaigns.
- Discounts to services you already offer for authors, such as editing services.
However, it’s important to remember that these rewards aren’t for your core audience. While there will be some writers who inevitably become readers of your work, the majority of people will only be interested in getting one type of content from you.
This means you’ll need to market rewards for writers separately from rewards for readers. Some authors who offer this type of subscription offer it separately from their fiction brand. I’ve done this myself with the creation of the Author Success Club:
How to set up your Patreon page
Once you’ve chosen the rewards you plan to offer, you’re ready to start organizing your content subscription. You can do this in seven steps:
1. Choose your subscription site. Patreon is the most popular option, but there are alternatives like Ko-fi and Buy Me A Coffee(affiliate link). Personally, I chose Ko-fi for the Author Success Club because it’s the platform I find most pleasant to use.
2. Add a profile picture. Generally, your profile picture should be your author headshot, but it can also be a cartoon avatar or author logo.
3. Create your tagline. This is the line that tells people what you create, displayed directly under your username. Keep this short and specific.
4. Flesh out the “About” area. You can fill this in with your medium-length author bio.
5. Organize your rewards into tiers based on how much work they require. As a general rule, rewards that take more effort to create should cost more. For example, if you write both short fiction and novels, you might offer short stories to your first-tier subscribers and share full chapters from your novel WIP with higher-tier subscribers. You can then restrict things like live readings and Q&As to even higher tiers.
6. Create a banner. Patreon banners should be 1600×400 and showcase your brand in some way. I particularly like the following banner on Steven Capobianco’s Patreon:
7. Send your page to fellow authors and/or beta readers for feedback. Ask for feedback on the rewards offered, the structure of the tiers, and the naming structure/descriptions. You can then adjust your rewards and descriptions based on feedback.
When you feel like you’ve got an effective tier structure and a schedule for producing Patreon content, you’re ready to start marketing it!
Tips for marketing your Patreon
Like any part of your business, your Patreon must be marketed to be successful. You can do this in many of the same ways you market your email newsletter:
- Schedule posts about it on your social media profiles.
- Add links to your Patreon to the top menu and sidebar of your website.
- Include a Patreon link in your email signature.
- Add a patreon link to the author bio you use for guest posts.
- Announce your Patreon on your website and in your email newsletter.
- Add a patreon link to the back matter of your books.
- Create an email in your welcome series that encourages subscribers to join your Patreon.
- Remember to mention it when you do interviews and other appearances.
- Encourage your patrons to tell their friends about the rewards you offer.
- Offer social media shout outs to patrons at a certain level. This serves as a way to both thank the patron in question AND encourage others to join your content subscription.
And of course, these are only the options I’ve considered. You may find something completely different that works for your author brand.
Examples of author Patreons
Still feeling a bit stuck on how to build your Patreon? Let’s take a look at how some writers are already doing it. I’ve chosen a mix of established and new writers, as well as authors from different genres, to give you a feel for how different people are making Patreon work for them.
Orna Ross is an established poet, novelist, and director of the Alliance of Independent authors. She offers separate Patreon tiers for poetry fans, fiction fans, and authors.
This is a great way to offer something for everyone without using multiple Patreons. This approach won’t work for every author, but it seems to be working for Orna.
Diana Pomeroy is a fantasy writer and visual artist. Her Patreon tiers are mostly focused on the writing side of things, with benefits like access to current works in progress and acknowledgment in her upcoming novel, Iara’s Crossing. At the highest Patreon tier, you can also get a custom art commission.
I like this approach because it keeps things focused on the writing, while also using Diana’s visual arts skills to add a higher-value subscriber tier.
Patty Jansen is an Australian writer of science fiction and fantasy and the creator of the Ebookaroo newsletter and The Happy Writer podcast. She offers three tiers on Patreon, each geared towards supporting one aspect of her career.
I especially like the idea of the Ebookaroo newsletter. This serves as both a great way to network with the authors you feature and a way to attract readers to your Patreon who then might decide to support your books, too.
A Toasty Baguette is a Patreon that offers a mix of fiction and nonfiction content, as well as options to vote on topics for future content.
My favourite thing about this Patreon is the clever naming scheme. The tiers, “Sourdough”, “Miniguette”, and “Baguette”, continue with the bread theme from the title of the Patreon itself.
Patricia Lynne writes “YA & NA fiction you can sink your teeth into”. In other words, she writes stories about vampires. If you subscribe to her Patreon, you’ll get exclusive access to flash fiction, drabbles (100 words stories), and at the higher tier, access to serialized novels.
I love this Patreon because it directly monetizes the work Patricia is already doing, rather than creating new work for her. The naming scheme, and the tagline “fiction you can sink your teeth into”, are also excellent pieces of author branding.
T. Thorn Coyle is an essayist, short story writer, and novelist who uses Patreon to fund their shorter works. Supporters at the second tier and above get access to this short content, as well as some audio content.
I particularly like the way that T Thorn Coyle emphasizes what subscribers will be supporting at each tier, with each tier supporting more content than the last. This puts the focus on the value of their creative work, rather than the value of what users get.
Lindsay Buroker is an incredibly prolific fantasy author who produces books at what I frankly consider to be an alarming rate. Because of her writing speed, she charges Patreons per creation instead of per month, and her core offering is early access to her novels.
I particularly love the naming scheme of Lindsay’s tiers, which focus on a primary element of all of her work: dragons. Plus, what’s cooler than thinking of yourself as a dragon?
Final advice on Patreon for fiction authors
Patreon and other subscription tools like Ko-fi are excellent tools for building a stable, recurring income, something that’s increasingly hard to come by in publishing. And there are numerous ways to turn work you’re already doing into member rewards, like sharing your deleted scenes and having readers vote between two names you like.
Once you’ve figured out your rewards, you can launch your Patreon in a few simple steps:
- Add a banner and profile picture
- Create a tag line that describes your Patreon as a whole
- Flesh out the “About” area
- Sort your rewards into tiers, with the lowest-effort rewards going into the lowest-cost tiers
- Get feedback on your work
- Adjust as necessary
Want more advice like this delivered straight to your inbox? Check out the FREE Author Marketing Club!