How to Make Money Writing on Patreon

This image comes from my Pen-Name Patreon account. I focus less on my regular Patreon account for my real name (Kurtis Eckstein, aka AuthorKurt), instead putting more effort into making money via published books on that one, which is why you will see smaller numbers if you visit it.

These numbers took 6 months to achieve, starting from scratch with a new Pen-name, at no cost aside from my time spent writing.


   Table of Contents    

1) Story Strategy: How to Make Money Writing on Patreon

2) Patreon Strategy: How to Set Up Your Patreon Tiers for Success

3) Big Picture View: The Formula to Make Money Writing on Patreon

Making money writing on Patreon isn’t actually as difficult as you might think, though time and time again I’ve seen people do it completely wrong and struggle to get anywhere. That’s not because their writing is poor, or because their story sucks, but instead the issue is usually a symptom of three things.

  • 1) They underestimate the value of their writing.
  • 2) They don’t have a method of getting free repeatable exposure.


In truth, there is a very simple method for getting people to join your Patreon (and most importantly, stay there).

The foundation to this method is basically just ‘Exposure’ + ‘Interesting Story,’ which is usually the part most people get right.

Yep, that’s all you really need to start. An interesting and engaging story combined with a decent way to get free exposure (more on that later). Then, if you really want to move closer to your goal of success, you need to add two additional elements, including cliffhangers (even if readers hate them), and an interesting plot that does make progress but is very 'slow burn' in every way.


What exactly do I mean by this? And why does it matter?

First of all, let me back up for a second and say that there is a basic rule that defines everything about why capitalism works (and why other forms of economics don’t).

People respond to incentives.

Now, before you stop reading because you feel like what I’m about to say is manipulative, you need to also take a step back with me and remember that writing is a business. You are providing a service, and you deserve to get paid for your effort, just like any other job.

You wouldn’t expect to go into work, stay there for eight hours while you do your daily tasks, and then go home only to get paid nothing, would you?

Of course not.

And writing should be treated the same way.


However, in modern society, getting a book published doesn’t guarantee money in your pocket, and often you will earn almost nothing unless you have a method of getting your story exposure (that also doesn't break the bank). And if you choose to offer your story for free to get that exposure, then you need a way to encourage people to pay for your story (or again, you make nothing).

And you do want to get paid, right? Isn’t that why you’re here?

(Now, keep in mind that you aren’t going to be forcing anyone to give you money. You are only giving them the appropriate incentives to do so. But the choice is theirs. So don’t feel bad about providing the option for them to support you.)

Okay, end rant.

Now, let’s get back to the concept of ‘people respond to incentives.’

Imagine if you have a farm and can earn extra money by plowing and planting an extra ten-acre field. Most farmers would gladly do this, because they reap a direct benefit from their effort. Now imagine that the extra work doesn’t actually lead to any benefit, maybe because the farmer won’t get to keep the crops or money for him or herself (for example, maybe the government will take it).

Is this farmer going to plant that extra field?

No. Why would they?

And the reason they won't? Because all of us respond to incentives. We take action based on the incentives we are presented.

We work overtime, because we get paid more per hour.

And in fact, that is exactly the reason why ‘overtime pay’ even exists, because the extra amount per hour is a big incentive to many people, encouraging them to work the extra hours needed to keep the company functioning. Some companies also offer ‘shift differentials’ where you get paid a few dollars extra to work particular shifts, in order to incentivize people to work those shifts.

 

Setting up your Patreon needs to work in much the same way, but first we need to get people to want to sign up.

And all that starts with the following two elements that I mentioned previously:

  • Cliffhangers: This ‘creates a need’ to know more, and you provide a solution to that need by offering paid chapters on your Patreon. This is not the same as a paywall, since advanced chapters will eventually become free to continue getting you free exposure.
  • Slow Burn Plot: This ‘creates a need’ to know more, and...you get the point. Both aspects are important, and accomplish the same goal. And, again, this is not the same thing as a paywall, where future content is perpetually hidden behind a payment system.

Now, what do I mean by slow burn?

If you’re thinking of romance, then of course it means that the relationships take time to develop, maybe the main heroine is uncertain about which guy she wants to be with, and often it means the sex doesn’t happen right away (if it's that kind of story).

A plot can be like that as well.

Introduce a bunch of mysteries (and definitely answer questions along the way, so that the reader doesn’t feel like the plot is stagnant), but also provide those answers at a ‘drip fed’ pace. Don’t give the reader all the answers all at once, or else you kill the mystery, and the craving to know more disappears. And it’s also a good idea to introduce new mysteries as you begin to answer some of the others, so that there is an insatiable desire that can only be relieved with...

Advanced chapters.


Yeah, you might be thinking ‘Well, duh,’ but advanced chapters are the absolute number one reason why readers will join your Patreon, no matter what else you’re offering. Honestly, most of your readers don’t care much for your signed copies or even free digital e-books, though those can also be decent perks to sweeten the deal.

Alternatively, what they do care about is getting more of your story.

Or rather, more of your ‘drip fed’ unpublished story (as in, not in book format yet, even if it's published on a site), which creates a sense of premium, VIP, early access something people with pay extra for.

And this is where you need to stop undervaluing yourself and your writing. This is where you need to stop offering all your advanced chapters at the $1 or $2 tier, thinking it’s a crime to even have a $10 tier.

Because it’s not.

And if you have a $10 tier, you aren’t forcing anyone to join it. However, what you very much need to do is give people ‘a good reason’ to join it.

There are 238 patrons in this screenshot. 82% are in the $5 tier or higher. 66% are in the highest $10 tier, which is 157 patrons out of 238 total. I gave them a good reason to be in that top tier, and over half of them did just that.

Yeah, Advanced Chapters.

If you are writing, this is the incentive you can give your readers to join your Patreon.

And if you already have supporters and provide all your advanced chapters at the lowest tier, then that's exactly where your patrons will be, which makes a world of difference between success vs 'not there yet' (more on that later).

Let me Share What I do

Now, you can do your own experiments and see what works best for you, but I’ll go ahead and share what has worked well for me.

I've also gone into more details on How to Set Up Your Patreon Tiers for Success in a separate article, because this is the part that most people seem to struggle with.


Tier one offers one chapter for a reasonable price (maybe $2). Tier two offers a second chapter for a reasonable price (maybe $3, or essentially two-for-$3). Tier three offers yet another chapter (such as a $5 tier, or three-for-$5), and then finally the Fourth $10 Tier can offer an additional two chapters (essentially, five-for-$10).

I do this for chapters that are 5,000 to 10,000 words each, giving the reader the option to get up to five chapters ahead in the story, and I publish a new chapter every week.

Now, if you are posting on a site where smaller chapters are the norm, then you might consider doing 2,500 word chapters, and then offering ten chapters ahead (but you have less work this way if you only publish a single new 2,500 word chapter per week). Basically, you would just double the numbers above, so that you are offering two chapters for the first tier, four for the next, and so on, giving the illusion that there is more content upon signing up, while also putting less strain on you to write more than you can handle.

 

Now, does it sound like a crime to charge $10 for five chapters, when an e-book doesn’t even cost half that much?

It’s not. And you know why?

Because they are ‘advanced’ chapters.

Meaning, people are paying you a premium to read the chapters in advance, before official publication as a book (and they are also supporting you in the process, making them a bit more willing to pay that premium). And believe it or not, most readers who would be willing to support you understand this concept perfectly well, and are fine with it.

Seriously, I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve sent out ‘introduction messages’ to my new Patrons (something you should definitely do), asking if they are satisfied with the benefits in their tier.

Their response?

Always, 'Yes, I’m very satisfied with the benefits for my tier.'

Want to know why I always get that response?

Because I’m asking a ridiculous question. Of course they are satisfied! They wouldn’t have paid $10 to be in the top tier if they didn’t think the benefits were worth it!

In fact, the response I most frequently get is ‘Your chapters are really long, so I feel like $2.00 per chapter is fair.’

Yeah, it's fair.


An entire e-book is only worth $3 to $5, and yet $2.00 per advanced chapter is fair (or rather, $2.00 per 5,000 to 7,000 words), because people understand the concept of paying a premium to get something in advance like that. And they are willing to pay that premium if you have an interesting story that is drip feeding them the answers to the questions you've created, and leaving them on cliffhangers that make them desperately long for more.

So, please. Stop underestimating the value of your writing.

You can offer a $5 and $10 tier, and provide an extra few chapters as benefits for those tiers. You aren’t forcing anyone to join, but they will join if you’ve created a ‘need’ to read more of your story, and have offered the solution to get more via supporting you on Patreon.

It’s really that simple.

Follow this method, and you will get new Patrons, because this is a proven law of basic economics, and really it’s just how we all operate in life.

Again, we work that overtime because the 'overtime pay' gives us incentive to do so.

And what if this isn’t working for you?

Then the problem might reside with your exposure, rather than your story. Meaning, you’re not getting enough free exposure (since things like title, description, frequency of chapter publication, and even the cover, if the site offers that feature, can all affect your exposure level).

Granted, that’s not to say that your story isn’t the problem at all, since if you solve all the mysteries every few chapters, have zero cliffhangers, and create absolutely no suspense, then no one will want to join.

However, if that’s the case, then you probably already have your readers telling you that the issue is the story via poor ratings. But if your ratings are good, and people seem to be enjoying your story, then the issue is likely exposure.


You should take a look at your title, description, cover, etc., and ask for feedback from others on how it might improve. Preferably, try to talk to someone who will give you critical feedback, instead of someone who will say it's perfect just the way it is. And if they do give you critical feedback, don't get offended.

If they think your title is boring and doesn't grab their attention (no matter how amazing or clever you think it is), then that might be the problem.

One of the biggest 'first mistakes' I ever made was naming my first book something that only made sense if you'd already read the story (The Keras Genome), and guess what?

It has the worst sales of all my books.

And it's not because the story is bad, or because the writing is poor. In fact, a lot of people who have read my first book discover that it's one of their favorites. But that Title, it's just no good for grabbing attention, telling readers almost nothing about what the story is really about, and it probably would have failed at getting me patrons if I'd posted the story online in chapter format, using that particular title.

It's clever. It's witty. It makes sense if you've read the story.

But it's just not a great title, because it's not a title that entices readers to check out the story.

So seek out some critical feedback and seriously consider it.

However, for many, exposure actually isn't the problem either.

Often, writers have decent exposure and they have a good story.

The problem is, they aren’t letting readers know about their Patreon, and/or they aren’t giving people a good enough incentive to join it. Or they simply don't know How to Set Up Their Patreon Tiers for Success.

Sorry, but no one wants to join just to tip you.

But they will join and give you $10 for 25,000 extra words of a story. Because they do want to support you, but they also want to get something valuable in return, and when it comes to writing, the biggest incentive is more story.

Offer them more story, and they will gladly support you at the $5 or $10 tiers.


Now, let's say you've done all this, and you even have a decent number of patrons, but still aren't seeing success.

What might the problem be?

The biggest thing I've seen is writers actually do have supporters, but the ratio of 'income to supporters' is much less than what I've shown here.

I've seen ratios like $3 average per person, which would be only $750 for 250 patrons, instead of $1,610.

Alternatively, the average for my Pen-Name Patreon is about $6.45 per patron, and that is where the difference lies. Even the ratio for my normal Patreon account (Kurtis Eckstein, aka AuthorKurt) is over $5 per patron, and that is because I give people the most incentive to join my $5 tier on that account (which is why the average is above $5, since I give very little incentive to join the lowest tier).

And having 200 patrons could mean $600, or it could mean nearly $1,300 depending on how you have your tiers set up.

And if your average is truly under $4 or $5, then the issue isn't your supporters. The issue lies with the tiers themselves, and the fact that you are giving your supporters either too much incentive to pick a lower tier, not enough incentive to pick a higher tier, or both.

So if you do have a decent amount of supporters, but feel like you are no where near this level of success, then consider the incentives you are giving them. Usually, the issue is that you're offering the one perk they care most about (Advanced Chapters) only in the lowest tier, with there being no 'chapter stacking' like I've mentioned previously.


Now, that pretty much sums up the main points of this topic, but I will add a really short explanation of how to get started in order to make this work, as well as the basic nature of this process.

But the first step is for you to start valuing what you do.

So create that $5 and $10 tier, give decent incentives to join those tiers instead of offering all your chapters at the lowest tier, and don't look back.

How to Start Making Money Writing on Patreon

I'll keep this pretty short.

Unlike publishing books, the secret behind this method of earning money on Patreon is to have free content and paid content, with it becoming an on-going cycle of eventually offering paid content for free, so that you can keep that 'free exposure engine' running.

Note: This is different from a paywall, which gets the reader hooked and then makes it so they can never access the paid content unless they fork over money. This method allows most readers to get the whole story for free, while encouraging more generous readers to support you.

More specifically, when I publish a new chapter on the Patreon for my Pen-Name, I drop all other chapters down a tier level, while also posting the lowest tier chapter for free on an 'exposure site.' Such sites might include RoyalRoad, Webnovel, Wattpad, Scribblehub, Literotica, Reddit (r/Reddit Serials, r/HFY, r/NoSleep), Tapas, and many others where someone can visit and read stories for free.

And that's pretty much it.

From there, it's all about letting people know about your Patreon, informing them of what they will get for joining, and offering that incentive on a reliable and consistent basis.

If you're not sure how to do this, then check out my article on How to Set Up Your Patreon Tiers for Success, because I feel like this might be the vital key that people are missing.

And I also wrote a follow up article that brings this all together to look at the big picture: The Formula to Make Money Writing on Patreon.


The rest is simply allowing the law of 'people respond to incentives' to do its thing.

And I've seen a lot of writers who already have the exposure and good story, so all they need to do to bridge that gap is set up their Patreon the right way. Once that's done, the supporters will start trickling in, and it'll feel like magic.

But it's not magic, and this method can work for you too.

Happy Writing!

   Table of Contents    

1) Story Strategy: How to Make Money Writing on Patreon

2) Patreon Strategy: How to Set Up Your Patreon Tiers for Success

3) Big Picture View: The Formula to Make Money Writing on Patreon

Newsletter Signup

Join Author Kurtis Eckstein's newsletter to receive updates on new book releases.

Note: This is for new book releases only. I don't have a newsletter for Writing Tips.

Subscribe to Newsletter

* indicates required