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ysabetwordsmith in crowdfunding

Crowfunding for Readers Part 1

I'm reposting an article that I originally wrote for ErgoFiction.

Crowdfunding for Readers:
The Power of Patronage


Anna Harte invited me to make a guest post about crowdfunding and patronage.  For those of you who don't know me, I'm Elizabeth Barrette, or Ysabetwordsmith on LiveJournal and various other services.  I've been involved in crowdfunding for some years; I coined the term "cyberfunded creativity" back in 2008 to describe direct interactive sales between creators and patrons, then came across the broader "crowdfunding" movement later.  I'm a writer, editor, and reviewer across multiple fields; and in crowdfunding I am both a creator and a patron.  While my most successful cyberfunded project is my monthly Poetry Fishbowl, I have also done fiction including the Torn World Muse Fusion.  I'm grateful for this opportunity to connect with folks in a venue that focuses on webfiction, or weblit.  Let's take a look at what crowdfunding means to you and me.

The Benefits of Patronage

Many weblit projects offer readers an opportunity to contribute.  Popular crowdfunding options include a donation button for tips, a subscription or membership, the chance to sponsor individual pieces, and so forth.  People who do this are usually called patrons, sponsors, or donors.  Once upon a time, only rich people got to be patrons, because they did it by supporting a whole artist.  Now anybody can be a patron, because crowdfunding lets audiences pool their resources  to support a creative person collectively by funding individual projects.  Patronage gives you access to all kinds of goodies...

• Many projects have one or more "perks" for patrons.  You might get to vote on what happens next in a serial, see updates before the lurkers do, or enjoy an extra scene only visible to patrons.

• By sponsoring serial webfiction or other ongoing projects, you enable them to continue.  Projects tend to die out if they don't make money and/or attract attention.  Your money says, "Keep going!  I want more of this!"  It's particularly useful if you spot something rare that you wish got more exposure.

• Anything you contribute through cyberfunded creativity helps support your favorite writer.  Whether you chip in $1 or $10 or $100, it gives your recipient a direct and useful reward for their hard work.  This enables them to spend more time writing.  Writers give your sense of wonder a ride, so give them something back.

• As a patron, you have considerable influence over what gets created and shared with the world.  What used to be tightly controlled by editors and publishers is now also controlled by YOU.  Sometimes they just won't buy what you want to read; that's no longer a barrier.  Do you want to see more strong female characters, people with dark skin, lesbians who live to the end of the story, or heroes who are not total jerks?  Wave money around and ask for it -- people will write it and sell it right to you! 

• Patronage cuts out the middlemen, who get most of the money in conventional publishing.  Crowdfunding puts your payment directly in the author's pocket, minus at most a small handling fee from PayPal or another service.

• Crowdfunding runs to heavy writer/fan interaction to begin with, but pretty much all creators pay extra attention to patrons.  You've shown them how much you care; most of them will respond quite warmly.

How to Be a Great Patron

Patrons make cyberfunded creativity come alive.  Your interest, enthusiasm, and support determine which projects succeed and which fail.  That's a lot of power, so use it wisely.  Not all of it comes down to cash, either; many patrons use a combination of techniques to show their approval.  Note that different writers don't all value the types of support in the same order of importance, so watch for clues indicating what your favorite writer loves best.

• Money holds the greatest appeal for most  creators.  Even a small amount can have a big impact.  If you can spare it and you're dithering for some reason, stop dithering and donate. 

• Feedback delights almost all creators, and is the prime motivation for some  of them.  It costs you nothing, so if you care at all about a project, comment on it.  Specific feedback is more useful than vague feedback, but some creators use even "I like it" as a tally system to decide what to do next.

• Go first!  Many people will not donate or comment on a crowdfunded project unless others have already done so.  If you break the ice with either or both of these, it increases the chance that more people will join in supporting the author.  This is another tremendously valuable contribution that costs you nothing.

• Word of mouth advertising is precious online.  Blog about a project, review it, rate or recommend it on weblit sites, etc.  The more people you tell about your favorite webfiction, the bigger its audience and the higher its chance of success will get.  Pretty much everybody loves a horn-blowing patron.

• Similarly, promote crowdfunding itself.  Introducing new people to this idea makes it more successful.  That makes life easier for your favorite writers and improves the chance of you getting more weblit that you'll love.


"1000 True Fans"

"Crowdfunding and Personal Causes"

"How to Support Your Favorite Author"

"Salting the Mine/Priming the Pump"

"The Stories That Editors Won't Buy"

"Tanja Aitamurto on crowdfunding and the future of narrative journalism"

"What Is Cyberfunded Creativity?"