Yesterday I posted to remind people of the Ctrl+Alt+Del Patreon, a campaign I’ve been running for the past four years that lets people directly support this website and, in return, get some bonus material as well.
I’ve posted in the past about the shoddy state of the online advertising industry and how it’s not as strong as it used to be, so I won’t rehash that here. Long story short, Patreon is a big part of keeping things running, and so I have to mention it once in a while so people are aware it’s an option.
My post sparked some debate, however, and part of that was a result of me assuming that since I’ve been running the Patreon for so long, and talked about it in the past, that most of you would be familiar with it at this point. As that doesn’t appear to be the case, I wanted to make this post so I can be as clear as possible about what Patreon is and is not, and how I approach it.
First, let me point out that for the past seventeen years I have provided free comics every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and I pride myself on having never missed an update day. And let me state, unequivocally, that I will continue to do so for as long as I am able.
The comics that I create for Patrons are in addition to the work I do here on the website. Not once have I have I taken content that would have been released for free and locked it behind Patreon instead. I do more work than I have in the past in order to fulfill my personal commitment to my website, and also provide value to the Patrons who directly support my work.
While I create an additional Analog and D-Pad comic for Patrons each month, I do so in a manner that in no way affects the storylines that I tell on the public site. The Patron comics are stand-alone one-shots that have no impact on the stories I tell, and are in no way required reading in order to enjoy or understand the plot.
When I moved The Starcaster Chronicles to Patreon in order to fund more issues, I was very clear to my audience and potential Patrons that those issues would still eventually be released to the public, for free, specifically because I was not comfortable with taking a story people had started reading for free, and locking it behind a paywall.
Patreon is not a perfect system, but it is a system that works well for me and my business. It handles payment processing and content delivery, and allows me to focus on creating content for my readers. Its archive system leaves something to be desired, but for the most part, it has had a positive impact on the comic’s sustainability and, more importantly, my peace of mind.
Most of you are used to having a very clear idea of what your time is worth. Whether your job pays you salary, or hourly, you have a reasonable expectation that if you work X amount of hours, you will receive Y dollars. It’s something you can plan around.
I don’t have that with my job.
With my job, traditionally, I do the work, I give it away for free, and then I hope I get paid for it after the fact, via enough unblocked ad views (or I do the work and then hope, years down the line, people buy it in book form). I’m not complaining; I love my job, I feel honored and privileged to do it, and I choose to do it. And I will continue to use ads for as long as they can reasonably contribute to my income and support a free-to-read website.
But ads are unreliable. Some people use adblockers. My pageviews can fluctuate (up in the fall when people go back to school, down in the summer when people are outside more). The value of ads changes with the season (companies go hard on advertising budgets right before the holidays, and then prices drop off a cliff in January). So advertising income can bounce around. You don’t know what you’re going to get until you get it.
That’s fine, if you do it long enough you can plan around, you recognize shifts in the season, in the industry. But it is something you’re constantly worried about.
Patreon, to a degree, gives me some income I can rely on. It gives me a relative concept of “If I do X work, I will earn Y dollars” that helps with planning things like mortgage, daycare, groceries, etc and also funding work on new projects. It’s not just me anymore, I have a family to support, and so having that peace of mind is huge for me.
It would be great if ad companies hadn’t fucked things all up, and ads were something people could reasonably ignore. You could come and read my comics without a care, I’d get paid, and we’d both be happy.
That’s not how it is, though. People hate ads (with justifiable reason). I hate ads. I’d get rid of them if I could. But seventeen years ago it’s how websites were supported, and I launched this comic as free to read, and I am determined to keep it that was for as long as is possible. So, for now, ads are a necessary evil for me.
If you can stomach some ads for the few moments you’re on my website, making sure my site is whitelisted is a great way to help support the site with no cost to yourself but a little tolerance.
If you’re dead set against ads, I won’t argue with you. I get it. If you like my content and still want to see it supported though, I think Patreon is a great alternative. At minimum, a dollar a month, $12 a year, to support the approximately 144 comics I release here (plus the extra 24 comics you’d get as a $1 Patron). That’s $0.07 per comic. It may not seem like it matters, but if I could get even a quarter of my readership to Patron at that level, I could get rid of ads altogether.
Merchandise is another way to support us. Buy a t-shirt once in a while, or a book whenever I get around to putting them out, if you’re so inclined.
I’m not asking or expecting anyone to do all or even multiples of the above. Just asking you to consider that, if you enjoy my work, there are ways to help me keep doing it.
Regardless of your decision on the matter, I hope this post has adequately explained both how I use my Patreon and why I use my Patreon.