Wednesday, December 13, 2017

What's Going on With Patreon? What Happened, and How You Can Help Your Favorite Creators

If you're going to be a creative professional in the Internet age, you need to make sure you don't put all your eggs in one basket. For instance, I run both this blog and the gaming blog Improved Initiative, I'm a freelance RPG designer, I write short stories, I publish books, I contribute to sites like InfoBarrel and Vocal, and at any point in time I've got my fingers dipped in half a dozen other pies.

At the end of the day, though, what really helps me keep my creditors happy is the support I get on The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. While I don't have the biggest following out there, it's often enough to make sure I don't have to pry open my savings account when the first of the month rolls around.

Seriously, I cannot thank you all enough for your support.
However, if you've been wondering what all the rumblings about Patreon changes were about (and wondering why creators like me have been panicking), allow me to break it down for you now that the worst appears to be over.

Good Idea, Bad Idea

The way Patreon worked, up until this whole kerfuffle started, was pretty simple. Patrons (people like you) would donate money to a creator. So if you wanted to, say, fund The Literary Mercenary, then you would go to my creator page, and pledge a certain amount per completed blog entry, or per month. Then, at the end of the month, Patreon would charge you that amount, and it would slide over to my tip jar, where I could use it to pay rent, buy food, stuff like that.

Seems pretty simple so far.
What most patrons didn't see, though, was that we had to pay a tithe to Patreon when it came time for our patronage to come in. So they would take some fees out of our pockets, and we would get what was left. For someone like me, who only had about 29 patrons, I was forking over less than $20 a month. Not too bad, in my opinion. Especially because I could absorb the costs in private, which meant this wasn't something my patrons had to worry themselves over.

Now, even though this was a perfectly functional system, there were no creators out there who liked paying fees. It was just what we all had to do to use the platform. Those fees kept Patreon running, and they allowed us to use the platform, so we all have to chip in to make sure the thing that made us money could also keep making itself money. Patreon saw this, and wanted to throw creators a bone so they could keep more of the money that was pledged to them. Which was where the idea got floated that Patreon would only take a 5% cut of a creator's earnings from that point onward.

To make up the difference, though, they wanted to charge service fees to patrons. So for every pledge someone made to a creator, they were going to get hit with an additional service fee, and a small percentage of their pledge, over and above what they were trying to pay to the creator.

Needless To Say, This Did Not End Well

The result of this decision to shift costs from the creators to the patrons with almost no advanced warning, and with no way for creators to opt-out of the new structure, led to a lot of blood loss. People started hemorrhaging patrons, because while some people just support one or two creators, a lot of patrons like to give $1 to 10 or 15 creators to help spread out that support. Which meant that those patrons were going to get hit with a service charge for every, single creator they supported. Add to that the patrons who were more than happy to give a couple of bucks to a creator, but who did not cotton to also being the source of Patreon's funding as a site, and there was quite the outcry.

Fortunately, between the mass exodus, creators writing in to complain, and patrons writing in to complain, it seems that Patreon is well aware it has stepped in a stinking pile of bad idea. According to emails the company sent out recently, it will not be pursuing this planned change to the fee structure. From what they're saying, everything is going to stay just how it was before this whole thing got started. Patrons pledge what they want, that is all the company charges for, and us creators will handle the costs behind the scenes for service charges and other things like we always have.

Of course, the only reason this is happening is because enough people complained, and withdrew their money. Patreon is just like its creators in that respect... if our supporters leave, then we're going to have to get a day job pretty soon. So if you've been withdrawing your pledges in anticipation of bigger fees, it should be safe to come out. But keep an eye open, just in case there is another proposed change in the works that we haven't heard about yet.

That's all for this week's Business of Writing update. Hopefully it helped folks out there get a handle on what's going on, and answered a few questions. If you'd like to help support me and my work (writing, gaming, or otherwise), then head over to The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page. I'm offering extra swag, since I lost about a sixth of my own patreons, and I'd like to persuade folks to chip in if I can. Lastly, if you want to keep up-to-date on my latest releases, follow me on Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

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