The Pitfall with Patreon

Okay, I realize that this title may be attention-grabbing enough to start people off with the wrong ideas. So I’m going to make it clear right up front: I am extremely grateful and thankful to those of you who donate to my Patreon. There have been months where I’ve only gotten by thanks to the kind and generous donations of my Patreon supporters. Writing is … a tough job. It doesn’t pay great pretty much until it does. But I am forever grateful to those of you that donate a little bit of your income each month as a thanks for the articles I post. I couldn’t do Being a Better Writer without you guys (especially as BaBW is ad and subscription free).

No, this post isn’t to have issue with that. Rather, it’s to bring up something I’ve mentioned before. An issue with Patreon that’s, well, quite prevalent. And ultimately, a death sentence if someone falls into its trap. Which I’ve seen happen more than once.

It’s not the fault of Patreon, and I don’t wish to insinuate that. I believe it has more to do with human nature, and the idea of “being owed.”

Okay, so let me just dive right into things. Patreon, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a modern take on the “Patron of the Arts” idea. See, back in the old days of history, “Patrons” of artists would basically donate money to various artists, musicians, so that these artists would have money to live while they made their creations. You have to realize the idea of a musician selling records is entirely unique to our modern era. If a talented young musician, say a classical composer, wanted to be a classical composer, they could find a patron who would support them with money for living needs in exchange for the musician creating music. If they stopped creating, the patron would stop funding them.

Patreon is the digital equivalent of this concept. Find a webcomic you like? An artist? A modder? Any sort of creative soul you want to support? You can support this person on Patreon, donating them a sum of money each month. The idea being if that 100 people donate $5 each, that creator then makes $500. So for the cost of a half-price lunch a month, 100 people can support their favorite webcomic creator, for example.

Cool, right? I agree. It’s a modern take on the “Patron of the Arts” formula.

But not one without its weaknesses. And it’s flaws. Some of which are, without mincing words, almost deadly to a creator.

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What Can You Do For Your Favorite Authors?

Apologies for this post being a little late today, but I wanted to get some other writing stuff done first. This week has been … chaotic.

But now it’s here. So then, what’s that title all about?

Well, I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a bit of self-serving logic behind this. Because, after all, I am an author, and yes, I do like to see support!

But it’s a question I’ve not just heard from my own readers, or mused on my own about. I’ve heard folks in person talking about their favorite book saying “Well, I read it, I bought it, so I don’t know what else to do.”

It’s a legitimate question! After all, unlike musicians, authors don’t go “on tour” in the same way, doing “writing concerts” and mosh-pitting. And when they do go on book tours, they’re something that is free to attend. At most, people buy a new book to get it signed, but many of the people that show up already have a book they want signed.

Same with panels or conventions. The authors that come to those do so out of their own pocket. They may sell items in a vendor hall, but no one pays them for paneling or putting in appearances. It’s all voluntary.

The point I’m making here is that authors aren’t like a lot of other celebrities or purveyors of the arts. They don’t get paid for public appearances, they don’t get paid for gigs … They make money from their books, and their books alone. Maybe some movie rights if they get lucky. Or merchandising. But you’ve got to be big for those to happen. Big enough that the money is just extra on top of a very stable income.

They’re not like musicians where you can buy an album, then a t-shirt, then go to a concert … Authors, basically, just don’t have the same avenues of support other artists have.

Sands, we’ve almost come to expect that too. It’s just become  the culture of our society. Who would pay money to see an author in person? For that matter, just look at this site. No ads, each Monday a new article on writing going up, all for free. Because that’s just how authors are in society.

Okay, I don’t honestly want to delve into that too far. The point I wanted to drive home was, as I said, that authors are kind of in a tricky space, insofar as fans “funding” them. There’s not much to it but book sales and merchandising.

This is why, I think, you have so many people who read a good book, enjoy said book, and then think to themselves (or say aloud, as I’ve heard it before) “I really liked this author, but what else can I do besides enjoy them?

Again, this makes sense. If you read something you enjoy, chances are you’d like to read more of it. Which means you want there to be more created, so you want to support the creator and let them know “Hey, this is good, make more of it!”

But with authors, those avenues are slim. So, how then, do you support an author you enjoy?

Well, there are ways. Let’s look at a few.

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The Shifting Tide of Employment – The Sci-Fi Future is Already Here

Alright, I’m gonna preface this with the note that I hadn’t planned on writing this post today, but employment and job-related issues are on my mind since my part time job is, well, no longer any-time. Which means financially, I’m about to hit … well, I wouldn’t call it a speed bump. How about a guardrail? Or just the ditch?

Basically, I really appreciate those book sales, Kindle Unlimited reads, and Patreon Supporters right now. In the meantime, I’m digging around for similar part-time work or gigs and selling off a few unneeded items.

That’s all I’ll say on the matter, but it has put the context of this post in mind. Which has been one I’ve been meaning to write for a while now. Because, well, what was Science Fiction a decade ago is right now becoming Science Fact (or already is), and in some cases I worry too many aren’t noticing.

All right, I’ll back up. What really sparked the genesis of this post was a post I read about six-seven months ago on someone else’s site that was, though I don’t remember the exact title,  basically “Automation is a Paper Tiger.” This article, from a fellow Sci-Fi author, mind you, was basically a giant opinion piece against automation (and in this context, we mean the broad-scale rollout of AIs and robots to replace most human workers).

If you’re thinking ahead and wondering “Hey, what happens to all those workers?” you’re on the right track. But let me get back to that.

This was, the article writer declared, impossible. Not only was it decades, maybe centuries away, it was a pipe dream. Companies will always need human employees, and robots couldn’t possibly do a job that a human did. They offered examples of jobs they (and commentators) believed were impossible for a machine to take over, like trucking (18-wheeler shipping). They were adamant that it was all just fearmonging, that no one had any cause to be worried about their job disappearing, it was all hearsay, etc etc.

I believe they were wrong. Actually, no, they are wrong. Why? Well, for starters, some of the very jobs they offered as examples of jobs that couldn’t be replaced by robots? Well …

Yeah, they’re already being replaced.

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Are Libraries Bad for Authors? Part 2: Overdrive Fires Back!

It’s time for round two, folks, and Overdrive has come out swinging and swinging hard!

So, remember yesterday’s post on MacMillan? Who are, by the way, the owners of Tor (whoops as I actually missed that fact), the folks who last year decided to ban new releases of their books from libraries as libraries, they felt were the equivalent of piracy and book theft.

Yeah … Anyway, yesterday’s post on MacMillan’s announcement (and claims) was read by a many of you, if the site stats are any indication. Well, in that post, I called MacMillan’s numbers into question (mostly by bringing up the ridiculous price they’ve set for ebooks, and them being a market leader despite that, yet somehow claiming they can’t afford to pay their authors, and then attempting to blame libraries for that fact).

Today, it looks like I’m not the only one. You ready to read a verbal smackdown?

What am I saying. Of course you are.

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Are Libraries Bad for Authors?

Before we stumble into a cliche-filled moment of drama where inferences are made off of the title, I’ll be blunt: No, I don’t think so.

Let me say that again. Are libraries bad for authors? No, I don’t think so.

MacMillan, on the other hand (one of the larger book publishers), does.

Remember about … I want to say eight months or so ago, but it may have been longer, when Tor went ahead and decided that libraries were a threat to their business, since they let people check out books “for free” (the library pays for the book at a high price, mind). And therefore, they were going to be barring libraries from purchasing new copies of their books until a set time after release so that readers would be forced to buy them, rather than reading them at a library?

Well. apparently this idea is catching. MacMillan is the latest publisher to jump on this train. Now normally I’d sort of shake my head at this and move on, because this is just more book drama with publishers trying to recoup a market that’s slowly and steadily slipping away from them, but then in the news release, something else caught my eye. Something that really said a lot to me, personally, about how MacMillan is seeing things.

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The Escalation of the Advertising Game

So I came across something interesting in my feeds the other day. This one on a Facebook feed. Facebook, for those of you who don’t use it, is a social networking site ostensibly about linking you up with friends and family to share pictures and goings on, but really more about collecting and selling your data while funneling ads at you (I get, on average, about one message or e-mail a day from them urging me to give them money to advertise this website). So, if you’re like me and attempting to use to to keep up with the goings-on of friends and family, that means that you end up seeing a lot of ads.

One of these ads I usually shoot by caught my eye, because it was a Science-Fiction movie trailer. Which you’d think Facebook would have figured out is the kind of ad I don’t mind seeing, but with their usual “show them how to think” mantra, most of the movie ads I see tend to be for films my interest rating is around zero in.

I digress. So hey, Sci-Fi movie ad! I’m game! So I started watching it. It looked a little low budget, and I don’t recognize any of the actors … But I’m not very in tune with Hollywood stars anyway (save a few) and it could be a SyFy flick.

Plot sounded … interesting. Not super attention grabbing, but at least decently interesting. A spin on the “last man” trope, one of those stories that opens after everything has fallen apart and the survivors have picked up the pieces, only to have someone come along and disturb the apple cart again. You know, familiar enough, but constantly on the rebound because it is a solid trope.

So I’m watching people run with desperate looks on their faces, shadowy figures raise guns, etc … and the accolades start popping up on screen. You know, the kind of thing where critics who have seen the film already or been given previews deliver quotes to make you excited for the film?

Except … these weren’t film critics. And my brain did a sudden, jarring “Wait, what?”

They were book reviewers. I wasn’t watching a movie trailer. I was watching a live-action trailer … for a book.

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You’ve Got to Be Careful with User Reviews …

Hey readers. Got a bit of an interesting one for you today. How well do you look at user  reviews when you’re examining a product?

Okay, now to be clear, most of us know that reviews, with the advent of the internet, have sort of become a giant free-for-all. Sands, I remember when One Drink had just come out, and I was young and innocent and looking for ways to get my book out there. I was astounded and disappointed with the amount of paid review services out there.

And oh yeah, that’s not allowed. But despite a lot of online companies’ best efforts (such as Amazon) the process continues. I recall, when looking out there for One Drink, being shocked at how easy some of these places made it seem. Why wait for real reviews when a company in China could simply give you several hundred reviews for a few hundred dollars, all from “guaranteed different accounts” with a “guaranteed variance” so that while you’d end up with the 4 or 5 star rating you chose (no joke) you could still have a wide range of reviews that averaged there, so that Amazon’s automated systems wouldn’t pick it up. Again, guaranteed. All you had to do was pay them and gift them a copy of your item for every review you wanted.

Now, while Amazon and other places have worked at closing down loopholes, they’re still there. I remember another site, a book review blog that seemed fairly popular (though that isn’t my sphere, so it’s hard to say) that would freely take any book sent to them … but pointed out very overtly in their “review request” section that they wouldn’t look at it without a “donation” and that said donation would have a lot to do with how much attention they gave your book.

I wish I were joking, but I’m not. If memory serves correctly, a “donation” of $500 meant that they were “very likely” to feature your book on their banner and praise it for at least a few weeks, while further “donations” could lengthen that time.

This was years ago, and I’ve long since stopped looking, but given that sites like Amazon continue to make changes to their review policies (such as the recent Amazon change where you must be spending $50 a year on average to leave reviews) would seem to suggest that the issue is still an ongoing battle.

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