GCSF Column: What is a “Patreon”?

Hey there and this is Thomas Novosel and today I am writing about Patreon for the Game Creators’ Social Forum.

So what is a Patreon anyways?

A Patreon Creator page  (more specifically my page).
A Patreon Creator page (more specifically my page).

Patreon is a way for content creators (be that artists, musicians and writers) to put out content and receive compensation for their work upon completion.

This means that creators can work hard to put out quality content and creations, so put in the time and money for a project, then Patrons pay an amount of money (chosen by the person) to pay for completed product. The Creator may set reward levels for Patrons (“pay $8 and you receive an exclusive bonus PDF!” for example). And the Creator also is able to set milestones, so that if total dollar amount pledged by Patrons is at a certain amount the Creator may put more effort into publications, or may increase the frequency of free publication releases.

Now it may seem like this service could be abused, well it can and can’t. It can in that a Creator may put out a blank PDF and get paid for it by their Patrons, however doing this results in losing the trust/interest of a Creators fan base. Which means suddenly, no fans, no money. But the good people who made Patreon have a protective measure for Patrons, a limit. So the limit is the max amount of money a Patron will pay per month for a subscribed Creator. That way if a Creator is putting out items daily and is asking for payment, the Patron doesn’t suddenly see their accounts empty.

I have been using Patreon for a short while as a Creator writing Tabletop Role-Playing Games, but have done research on the service in the past. Here is what I have found to be important to success on Patreon (a lot of Patrons, and consistent compensation):

  1. First off, Creators should not charge for every post, update, or screenshot of a work in progress. That just shows that a person is grabbing for money and will push people away. A good method is to have a limit to the amount of paid content you put out per month. For me, creating small Role-Playing Games, I see that the best tactic is one publication every 1-2 months. That gives ample time to complete the publication, as well as give Patrons some air to breathe, so that each publication receives the best return possible.
  2. If you are a Creator, don’t overwhelm yourself, and be reasonable. Patreon is not meant to fund a full length book! Think about it, 250+ pages of writing, art commissions, layout/formatting and editing. Where you get paid after the project is finished and released. It doesn’t make sense, and furthermore, most Patrons only put down a couple dollars each (the highest dollar amount per creation I have seen so far is around $1,500). However, if you plan on working often and hard to put out quality publications on a smaller scale (ie: adventures, maps, characters) then it will work well for you! A Creator must strike a fine balance between the amount earned and the time put into a project.
  3. A Creator should have creative Patron reward levels, for example here are some of what I have done on my Creator page:

    A list of Patron reward levels!
    A list of Patron reward levels!
  4. If you want to keep the attention of Patrons as well as get the attention of more people who may be on the edge of becoming a Patron, it requires constant communication. That means a Creator should put out “Public” and “Patron-Only” updates on projects/creations being worked on. It also helps to give out some freebies every once in a while to sweeten the pot. Most Patrons want to know what is coming next, they want to be able to get updates on progress as well as know when a publication is being released.
  5. Milestones should be creative, give people something to look forward too! Such as removing ads from your website, putting out a free publication once a month that doesn’t charge Patrons. And increasing production values of those paid products is certainly a fine milestone, and something most Patrons will pledge more to see happen.

    Some milestones I set up for my Patreon page where I create Role-Playing Games.
    Some milestones I set up for my Patreon page where I create Role-Playing Games.

Overall I have found that Patreon is excellent for the casual RPG designer, but it tends to favor certain products over another (big book publication, not really a good choice). But it is an excellent service to consider if you write short stories, or make small games. I hope you find these observations and thoughts helpful when considering starting a Creator page on Patreon!

Thomas Novosel has been designing games for the last six years, and has been publishing his work for the last 16 months. He is constantly working on multiple projects at once, whether they be full length books or small pocket games; he is always working. Thomas Novosel uses Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/thomasnovosel) and puts out constant updates and high quality games at a rate of one every 1-2 months. However he also maintains a development blog that goes through daily dilemmas and every bump in the road to publishing (https://gentlekeyboard.wordpress.com/).


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