Is Patreon the future for genre publishing? Specifically, for small press and self published authors, where the pressures are much more acute. The small press arena can be a market much more open to new talent, taking risks, and doing things the larger publishers would hesitate to try. The openness and team spirit a lot of independent publishers can boast has made them much more attractive recently.
Indeed, even some authors who have had books published by traditional big companies have turned to small press for riskier projects and things that may fall outside a larger house’s remit. Tom Lloyd, for example, author of the Twilight Reign series, which was published by Gollancz (part of the Hachette group), has turned to independent publisher Kristell Ink for his new novellas.
But generally speaking, independent publishing is a place ripe for up and coming authors to get their first step on the ladder as well as develop their skills and networks. The drawback, of course, being the fact that they have nowhere near the spending power of the bigger publishers.
Independent publishing and even self publishing had something of a resurgence not too long ago, thanks in part to Amazon’s CreateSpace printing service. Suddenly smaller operations had access to a fairly affordable print on demand service, rather than spending thousands upfront on a print run. It was international, reliable, and tied to the biggest marketplace on the planet. But publishing is about more than just the printing costs, and countless overheads and new economic challenges have made the life of writers more and more difficult. Rarely will one be able to make a stable living on writing alone any more, so for publishers, the pressures are mounting.
Some small publishers and even lone writers have turned to crowdfunding to help them get by. Becky Chambers, author of the best selling ‘A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet’ (interview coming soon) turned to Kickstarter to get her between jobs as she worked on the novel. Kickstarter and other one-time crowdfunders are great for a single project and can give one big cash injection to a business or enterprise. But for a publisher, the sustained pressures are such that this kind of money dries up fast. As such, many are now turning to Patreon.
Patreon is a monthly subscription service that helps create something like an online ‘tip jar’ for fans of creators. Used predominantly by artists, musicians, vloggers and writers, Patreon has grown exponentially over the past few years. Fans chose to donate as much or as little as they like to their favourite creators and are rewarded either per month, or per produced product (such as a painting, song, video or story).
Kameron Hurley, Hugo Award winner, Arthur C. Clarke Award nominee, and author of The Mirror Empire, has her own Patreon project. (Again, our interview with her is coming soon). I asked her for some words of wisdom and what she’s learned from her campaign so far.
“As for words of wisdom about Patreon – you really do need to have an existing audience before starting one. It’s not like Kickstarter where they will help drum up supporters. You really do need to drive all of your supporters there. Also, include a $2 pledge level, which doubles your income for not a lot of $$ on the fan’s end. Look for easy-to-make digital exclusives for people at different levels that no one else will get. Folks love the exclusive or “sneak peek” aspect of it, like being an insider or part of a club.“
Other authors have also stepped into the world of Patreon, but so too have publishers like Grimbold Books. A small press based in the UK, Grimbold specialises in sci-fi, fantasy and dark fiction; it has been running since 2013 and produced around thirty titles, many of which have been nominated for major awards. But even award winning books cost money.
The Grimbold Patreon service began on 1st August 2016 and has already garnered $155 per month in pledges, covering almost half of the basic running costs of the business. I talked to Sammy Smith, the creative director of Grimbold Books, about what they hope to get out of the venture.
“Our Patreon will give us some ‘breathing space’ and free up funds for more marketing and more exquisite stories artwork. We love our authors and really want to help get their books seen and read. Getting them in bookshops, getting them on lists, getting them reviewed, it all costs money nowadays.
Publishing isn’t a cheap business and isn’t a case of simply writing a story, reading it through and publishing via Amazon, and we have vowed to never compromise on quality. We want to bring you more fairytale collections with personalised illustrations in gorgeous hardback editions. We want to share our novellas in print form with you, not just paperback, but in limited edition casebound. We have plans for audiobooks and large print editions, but of course, all this costs money.”
If you take a look at the monthly rewards, Grimbold Books is offering quite a range. Everything from bonus stories and behind the scenes extras, early releases and money off vouchers, to full, professional editorial services and publishing advice.
Indeed, the monthly Writers Workshops may prove to be a big hit with new and up and coming authors across the world. Every month writers are given the opportunity to have professional editors and authors look over their manuscript and give interactive advice.
That kind of service doesn’t come cheap, but at $75 per month for 7,000 words a time, that works out to be really competitive. Compared to a lot of workshop services I myself have used, it’s even quite cheap.
But there are also extras for people who just want to enjoy a good bit of science fiction or fantasy every month, people who want to help their favourite authors, and people who want to see their name in print. Little extras like this will hopefully get more people invested and involved in the business and keep it going, and keep it competitive.
Competing with the larger, more established publishing houses is always going to be a tough gig. After all, the bigger players can negotiate much more effectively with Amazon and Watersontes, for example, to lower their own costs, while the smaller businesses still have to fork out full price.
Sci-fi fantasy Network will be lending a hand to Grimbold Books. Our new series, Writers of Sci-fi/Fantasy will go up on the Patreon a week earlier before appearing on here. Coming up we have, Kameron Hurley, Seanan McGuire, A M Dellamonica, Karen Miller, Becky Chambers, and many, many more! So pop $7 (currently less than £5) a month into Grimbold Books and get the inside scoop before anyone else!
Check out Grimbold Books and Kameron Hurley on Patreon below.