here is some paint and a brush and also a corner
You know who's been missing from this blog parade of Patreon accounts? My husband, that's who. He's the first person I heard about Patreon from, and his insights have been key in helping me understand how it all works and how, arguably, it should work--but I haven't even bothered to link you to his page on Patreon yet.
That is a serious oversight that must be corrected immediately. Thus: John LeBoeuf-Little is creating games!
This is probably why I overlooked him last week. I was doing Google searches for
short story site:patreon.com and also following links from fellow Codexians' blogs--basically, I was only looking at what other writers are doing with Patreon. In my defense, the internet is vast; if one doesn't narrow one's search terms, one drowns in the results. I narrowed mine to "people doing stuff like what I'm thinking of doing," but I forgot that there are different axes of similarity.
Anyway. What John's doing with his Patreon account combines many elements of what we've seen before: Extra content offered at certain funding milestones, influence over creative direction offered to supporters, physical gifts mailed to a limited number of Patrons at the highest pledge tier. (I note here the reminder that "I'll mail you something" can be more complicated or expensive depending on where "you" is, in John's caution that "If you're international... you'll definitely be getting something very flat and very light.")
What I find interesting here though is the variation one can bring to the per-creation pledge scheme. Thinking back to Clarkesworld, I find in their use of the per-creation rather than per-month structure an echo of the traditional magazine subscription offer, something like "At $12 per year, you pay only $3 per issue instead of the newsstand price of $4.99." It's a different way of thinking about the monetary support. And although a pledge of $3 per issue has the same effect on a Patron's budget as a pledge of $3 per month (Clarkesworld publishes new issues monthly), it creates a slightly different creator-audience relationship--at least in the participants' minds. Which, arguably, is where a relationship is defined.
To put it another way: Think of a charity race. Why do we pledge a certain amount of cents per mile rather than a lump sum? It's not like there's any question of how many miles the runner will run. The race course is predefined. Maybe the cents-per-mile structure gives supporters a sense of vicarious participation, like they're running the race alongside of the runner they're supporting. Maybe it's because thinking of it that way makes it feel as though the charity doesn't get the donation until the runner finishes the race, giving supporters double the reason to cheer at the finish line. The emotional connection to Clarkesworld's monthly issues may be similar: Each new edition is like that moment when the runner crosses the finish line, an event for which each contribution acts as celebration and applause.
But of course the pragmatic effect of the per-creation pledge structure is to make support more like a purchase, in that the Patrons don't pay until they receive an item. That's not a factor in the case of Clarkesworld, which has been coming out every month without fail for over seven years now. But it's definitely a factor when you're a game designer who also has a demanding day job, a big trip to Gen Con coming up, and also a house that's about to get its interior rebuilt. (I may have mentioned. The reconstruction project started this morning. Tonight's blog post comes to you from a hotel in Louisville with relatively reasonable extended stay rates.) When you know your schedule is unpredictable and stressy, it's wise to avoid overcommitting. John has exercised this wisdom both by using the per-creation pledge model and by explicitly stating that new creations will only be made available once per month at the maximum, and more likely much less frequently than that.
By the way, aren't those avocado-skin boats lovely?
Anyway, this wise caution on John's part makes me wonder whether I'm in danger of overcommitting myself. True, I'm not going to Gen Con, and I'm not currently beholden to anyone else's paycheck or timeclock. But I do have roller derby. I'm skating in a home bout on August 30th. And I've recently rejoined the league's committee system as a member of the committee that's responsible for making that bout happen. Also, did I mention the house construction situation? And the way John stressing out stresses me out, and me stressing out stresses him out, and so on around the merry-go-round?
So how can I consider promising Patrons three or four short-shorts a month, or an audio release once a month, or that things will come out of my typewriter and into anyone's physical mailbox?
I think in this case the difference is that I don't have a day job--or, rather, that writing is my day job. Which is rather the reason I'm setting up a Patreon account in the first place. The potential for regular monthly paychecks, however small, reinforces the day job mindset. Also, the creations I plan to share (ooh, she's actually "planning" now!) will arise naturally from actually doing my day job. The bulk of the work required, that of writing the very short story-like thing, is already getting done four or more times a week. All that remains is to convert one of the resulting very short story-like objects each week into, essentially, a blog post. And then I need only convert one of those four monthly posts into a five-minute audio recording. And then it would only take maybe two hours once a month to make a few typewritten copies for mailing. And then...
Well. I could "and then" myself into a real corner.
Again, it's wise not to overcommit. More and more, my thought is to only offer a couple of things at launch (i.e. on September 1), then evaluate the work load and interest level several months down the road to see if there's even potential demand for another monthly task, let alone room in my working month to add one.
Less haste, more speed, as a certain tortoise once told a certain little girl. Therein lies wisdom.