Those of you that follow me in other places may already be aware of this, but I decided to start a Patreon account and today I thought I would tell you a little bit about it. Patreon is a site based on the long-standing patronage of the arts model. Creators (such as authors, film-makers, musicians, podcasters etc.) sign up and create things. Their fans offer monetary support in exchange for various levels of reward.
So, You basically buy the item you want direct form the creator rather than going through middle-men like publishers, record companies or Hollywood executives.
There are several reasons that I support this idea.
- Diversity. We need more diversity, not just in books but in all of the media that we consume. By diversity, I'm not just talking about a token black or LGBTQ+ character. I'm talking about a range of voices telling a range of stories. Stories are one of the ways that we, as a species, learn empathy and compassion. Without diverse stories, we will likely lose those qualities. The problem is, currently the gatekeepers to most of the creative industries are interested only in the bottom line. What's going to make them the most money? This often leads to a narrowing of the media that is available. And a narrowing of our minds and hearts right along with it. Platforms like Patreon allow artists to create without the need to sell to those gatekeepers and allows consumers a voice in what they want to read/hear/watch.
- Financial. Under the current "traditional" model, the artists and creators are the least paid and least valued of the entire chain of people involved in creation. It is increasingly difficult for someone to make a living by creating art. Yes, we all know of the outliers who are making millions of pounds form their work but those really are the exceptions. The great majority of artists working today, cannot live off of that income. I have been shocked to discover that a number of high-profile, award-winning authors still have day jobs because they can't afford to live off of their royalties. With Patreon, people can pledge a certain amount each month to support their favourite creators, in exchange for a variety of rewards, allowing the artist to do what they do best; create art.
- Freedom. This one of linked with the last one. There a some forms of art that are entirely worthy but not financially viable. For me, that's flash fiction. I love the short-form, the challenge of telling a story in such a short space, the quick blast instead of the longer work that is a novel. The problem is that too much work and time goes into each piece in exchange for the very meagre return. For a start, you could spend a few hours writing and editing each piece, then many hours submitting it to various different journals in the hope that someone will accept it. In the UK, many journals are non-paying and the ones that do pay have very limited funds. The going rate for flash fiction is somewhere in the region of £10-20 a story. For potentially several hours of work. I (as so many others) have much less time to write than I would like. I can't afford to spend that time on a form of writing that's really unlikely to pay, despite the fact that lots of readers like the short form too.
So you can see in general terms why I like Patreon so much as a model. How am I going to use it?
Well, I'm offering flash fiction there. For the price of a chocolate bar each month, you can have a digital copy of the flash fiction that I post here along with notes about my inspiration and writing process for each one, access to patron-only posts (which will include early access to things that I will later post here) and advance notice of any future projects.
For the price of a two chocolate bars, you also get access to deleted scenes from my published works and early draft scenes of works-in-progress.
For the price of a Starbucks coffee once a month, you get all of that and two extra flash pieces that will be exclusive to patrons for 12 months.
There are more rewards and if you're interested, you can read them all here.
So, how will I use the money that is pledged to me? The first £20 or so each month will go to pay for the software I use for writing - my Microsoft office subscription as well as a PDF editor. Anything over that will contribute to me learning to drive and keeping a car on the road - something that will free up much writing time as I currently spend 2 - 3 hours a day just walking my kids to their various activities and running errands (a number which will likely increase with the pending birth of our third child). In that time I could write around 2000 words.
Beyond that, in a hazy future, I can see paying for some childcare maybe one day a week so that I can have an entire day to focus on work without having to squeeze all of my writer tasks into the odd little corners of my day left over from caring for my children. I actually get shivers thinking about how productive I could be with a whole day to work, uninterrupted.
If you read and enjoy my work here, please do consider popping over to Patreon and offering your support. In fact, go to Patreon anyway and have a look around - there are many wonderful artists there and I'm sure you'll find someone you would happily become a patron of.
What are your thoughts on direct models of patronage? Leave a note in the comments!