Patreon’s Fee Changes And Me

For the past few weeks, I have been excitingly working on something new. Something that I hoped would enable me to bring you more content, make it better, and start to make a proper living from my work.

Truth time: thus far, I have made a huge loss on Mundane Magic. After the cost of editing, publishing and marketing, I am over a thousand pounds in the red in terms of my writing career.

When I got my first paycheck from Ingram Spark this month, I immediately spent it on re-investments – purchasing a HD webcam, which will allow me to bring you high quality video to supplement my work. This isn’t the only example of this sort of decision: at the moment, everything I make goes back into the business.

I am exceptionally fortunate that I do not need an income from writing to survive. I cannot emphasise how much of a privilege that is. It enables me to do that sort of re-investment, spending more to make more – in theory, at least!

But I do want to make money from it. And so a few weeks ago, spurred on by the example of some creators I really love, I decided to work on starting a Patreon.

For those of you who don’t know, Patreon is a kind of crowdfunding website where you can pledge money to your favourite creators. Either per month or per creation, depending on how the creator sets it up. You’ll often find that things like podcasts are per thing, whereas people who create more frequently (like Twitch streamers) are per month.

The idea of setting up a Patreon page terrifies me. I am uncomfortable with money, and the idea of asking people to pay me money for writing seems like opening myself up to judgement even more than publishing a novel did. Perhaps that isn’t logical, but it’s definitely how I feel about it.

But I had convinced myself to do it, reasoning that it’s not like people would support me if they didn’t see value in what I do. Since then I have been working on preparing it, building rewards and tiers and preparing to film the various videos needed. I’ve been so excited about it, about the things that I can give you, what the money would enable me to do.

And then, this week, Patreon announced that they were changing how their fees work.

In short, the changes mean that the patron will now pay the fees associated with processing their transaction, not the creator as is currently the case. Patreon says that these changes will make charges more visible to all involved. But the fee is flat, and paid on any amount of pledge. So if you make a $1 pledge, you’ll pay the same amount in fees as for a $100 pledge – and you will pay that for every single pledge you make.

If you want to know more about it, don’t listen to me. For that, I will refer you to people who have been doing this a lot longer than me and know things a lot better:

Firstly, here is the official post from Patreon explaining how they’re changing things and why, from their point of view.

Techcrunch have their own article on why the changes will lose people Patrons, and you can read blogs by photographer Brent Knepper and musician Amanda Palmer that demonstrate just how complicated this issue is.

I can’t pretend to fully understand the connotations of this. I don’t have my own figures to cite, and examples of what this has done to writers on Patreon are only just starting to come out.

What I do have is this question: should I still join Patreon?

My greatest concern is that, as highlighted by many creators, these changes deincentivise making multiple minor pledges. Why be charged payment fees ten times for $1 pledges when you could just make a $10 pledge and be charged once?

For small creators like me – and make no mistake, I would very much be a small creator on Patreon – this could mean a huge difference. People who might have been able to pledge me $1 will instead not be able to at all. There are plenty of Patreons where creators don’t even have tiers above $1, building their model around being open to everyone – what does this mean for them?

It is, of course, still very early in this process. The changes aren’t even in yet, and were only announced within the past days. But there are already plenty of examples of people who have lost Patrons amidst the burgeoning speculative bubble.

It’s not that these changes make Patreon completely untenable as a platform – but I would be lying if I said it isn’t making me have second thoughts about going into this.

One of the things I am certain of is that I want to be upfront with you about what being an author-publisher means. I truly believe in the future of self-publishing and I want to show you what that future actually looks like – not just for the massively huge success stories, but for the people like me who have made a reasonable number of sales and are trying to spread the word further.

So I can’t tell you, right now, whether I’m going to abandon the dream of setting up a Patreon page. It is still something I want to do, but I also want to be cautious – I don’t want to invest time in something if there is little chance of it succeeding. If I intend anything right now, it is to watch as the situation further unfolds and then decide what is best for me.

What I can say for sure is that you’re very much welcome along for the ride.

Following this post, Patreon stated that they are no longer intending to roll out these new fees!