Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why Patreon is a Lifesaver For Authors (Like Me)

People who look at my resume may wonder why it is I urge people to support me on Patreon so often. After all, I run two blogs, I have an entire archive of work at InfoBarrel, I have a respectable body of fiction on the market, and I'm constantly producing content for game companies. Why do I need you to donate $1 a month to me?

It's pretty simple, actually. None of that other stuff comes anywhere close to paying my bills.

Pennies in the jar add up, but you don't cover your rent that way.
If you'd like to understand why, I'll start at the top, and work my way down.

Ad Revenue (And Why It's A Drop in The Bucket)

First, my two blogs. Both The Literary Mercenary and Improved Initiative have ads on them. You'll see them, if you don't have an ad-block program on. While this blog only nets between a dozen and a few dozen hits a day, my gaming blog tends to fluctuate between 300 and a few thousand hits. Depending on what I've said lately, and whether the Internet has taken offense to it, or not. And that sounds impressive, but when all is said and done, an average day nets me about $0.08. From both my blogs. On days where the social media community has fixated on my latest post, and the flame wars are burning hot, that might get as high as $0.50. One time, I pulled in a whole $1.00!

What I'm saying is that ads earn me next to no revenue. Worse, I need to get that revenue up to at least $50 before it shows up in my bank. So, unless I manage to divert a four-lane highway of traffic onto my blogs (which happens from time to time, but pretty damn rarely), it takes me between a year to a year and a half to get an ad payment.

Isn't there a better investment out there?
But what about Infobarrel? After all, I have a respectable archive, and it's growing every month. Surely with thousands of hits, there's a viable check coming from them?

Yes and no. Infobarrel does pay me more than I make with my blogs' ads, but it's a matter of degree. You see, on an average month, the traffic I net there earns me between $10 and $17. Some months it's been as high as $20, due to total flukes in viewership. Again, though, it has a $50 payout, so I'm getting an average of 4 checks a year from them. While it's true that more content will generate more traffic, the total amount of ad revenue I make between this site, and my blogs, is enough to buy about half a tank of gas.

Would that change if I had more traffic? Absolutely! But if getting more traffic, and more followers, was something I could pull out of a hat I would have gone through my closet and wrecked my haberdashery some time ago.


There's just something nice about the word royalties. A sort of ring that you don't get from any other source of income. Despite the size of my Amazon author page, however, it's more like one of those royal families where the name is impressive, but the fortunes are all but nonexistent. Part of that is because most of the books that pay me royalties are anthologies, so an already small percentage of the earnings gets diced into an even smaller amount before it gets handed my way. The other part of it, though, is that I'm really not all that famous.

Most conventions I attend, I'm affectionately referred to as, "who?"
That is not to say that I don't sell books. However, most of my sales are made in-person, where I can talk to readers, and intrigue them with my pitch. While I pick up the occasional random sale online, and get a positive review from the ether every now and again, my personal royalties are so small that if I wanted to pay a bill with them, I'd have to save all year to do so.

Of course, if you'd like to read a free sample of New Avalon: Love and Loss in The City of Steam, you might find it's just the thing for the steampunk noir lover in your life.

What About Freelance Work?

This is the bulk of where I make my income. I write a great deal of content for RPGs, and you'll find my name attached to projects like Feats Reforged IV, The Demonologist, and others. In addition to working for half a dozen RPG publishers at a time, I also ghostwrite and freelance blogs for a lot of clients. On average I write at least 3 freelance blog entries every day, and I tend to put out RPG content at least once every two months. Sometimes faster, unless I find myself up to my elbows in a project with a particularly large word count.

Those of you skilled in pattern recognition likely sense a "but" coming.
The problem with freelance work is that you get paid on acceptance, or in many cases upon publication. So, while I can easily complete a $250 assignment in a weekend (with the proper supply of caffeine and someone to occasionally wipe sweat from my brow), I might not see that check for six months. So, while I do make the bulk of my income from jobs like this, it requires me to have so much content going out that there is always a check from something coming to me. Even if that check is for something I wrote so long ago I completely forgot about the project.

Sometimes that works. Every now and again it works beautifully, and I get a string of projects all clearing at once. There's a lot more famine than there is feast, sad to say.

And That is Why Patreon is So Important

One of the common themes of all the sources of income I've mentioned is that they fluctuate based on my audience. So, while it's possible I could write a blog entry that goes viral, post an article that gets a huge amount of traffic, or become an overnight bestseller, that's the same as saying it's possible to pick the right slot on a roulette wheel. It can be done, and if it makes me a small fortune, so much the better. It hasn't happened yet, though I keep spinning.

Patreon is different, in that it is more reliable. My Patreon payment comes in on the same time every month, and I can easily calculate how much I earn based on the current support level of my patrons. While it can and does fluctuate (new patrons come, and sometimes old ones decide they can no longer afford me), I always get a warning when changes are made.

And then I know when I need to gear up to rob another bank.

This Isn't All About Me, Either

I've been talking a lot about myself in this entry, but that isn't because my situation is special. If anything, it's because my situation is fairly typical. Most creative professionals have to take a similar, patchwork approach if they want to make ends meet. So, if you see someone who makes something you like, and they have a Patreon page, it's because they need your support. Trust me, if we didn't need money, we wouldn't have a tip jar out on the counter.

For all those who liked today's post, let me know in the comments below. Like, share, and if you've got the spare scratch, why not drop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page? $1 a month makes a huge different, and it gets you a free book! Lastly, if you haven't followed me on Facebook, Tumblr, or Twitter yet, why not start now?

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