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Using Patreon and Youtube to Connect with Readers

I’m still growing my readership. I try to put something out fairly consistently, I’m terrible at talking to people in real life, let alone online, and I seem to embody the idea of the hermit writer.

The person who spends their time alone, and is usually better for it. The author who can barely carve out the time to go out to a movie with family, and for the most part, would rather be alone.

But that’s not to say that I can’t attempt to grow my readership, and my backlist. Like Edna Mode from The Incredibles said “Luck favors the prepared.”

Meaning that I’ve been spending the last couple of years preparing myself. Possibly not in all the best ways. There’s so much more I could be doing better, but one of my major pieces to my many plans is to create a huge backlist of titles that I can always fall back on, and to stay in contact with the people on my Newsletter list.

This falls into two parts. If I have a big backlist of titles, then each title is, in less than romantic terms, an asset that I can use and keep for the rest of my life. I can get them translated, turn them into audiobooks (which I’ve slowly started rolling out) and use them to show off to agents.

To grow my newsletter list and create and maintain a relationship with the people on it is a major part of my plans.

The first part, because having that list creates a direct contact between myself and my readers. Even for people who come on from contest wins and group promotions, I can let them get to know me with tidbits of my work, and this can lead to other fun things.

There are other people out there who can better explain marketing than I can. I would suggest seeking them out and taking notes from them. What you will hear from me is stuff that I’m still in the works on. I’m not famous, not rich, and on my self published works can break just over a thousand dollars a month from all the locations my books are published on.

Meaning that what you will read here is the stuff I’m hoping will pay off in the future. If you don’t want to follow along with what I’m doing or don’t want to think any of this will work, that’s perfectly fine. I’m still slowly working it all out anyway.

So, one of the main things you do with your newsletter list, when you have it, is to pimp your books out to it. Make sure your blurbs sound great and your covers look spectacular, and a couple of letters a month letting your readers know what’s coming should be the best plan you can muster up.

Just make sure not to come off as too salesy. I made this mistake and my click rates plummeted. I can’t entirely tell if this is because spam folders have started picking me up, or because people lost their patience with me, or if it’s a mistake from my mailing provider (because those can happen, too) But I’m fairly sure it’s because I pushed something too hard.

I’ll get into that later.

For that, just be warned. Not everyone will want to buy your stuff, some can be planning on it later, and others will just not be interested in that book at all. Some will be waiting for a sale to come up, and others won’t have the cash on hand for that month. Some people will be waiting for the book to be free.

All of these are valid reasons in their own way to not buy books. We teach people how to treat us, and our readers teach us how to treat them. Keep that in mind.

But there are other ways to get to know your readers without constantly trying to sell them things.

For me, I try to expand my reach and show people who I am (as much as I am comfortable revealing to the world) by asking these same people on my newsletter list to follow me on other platforms.

For example: I have a Youtube Channel now. A lot of the time in the beginning of the month, I will do live writing steams that can last anywhere from 2 to 5 hours. I spend that time chatting with my readers who show up, and I do a screen capture so that if anyone wants to read along with what I am writing, they are free to do so.

I currently have about 880 subscribers on Youtube. This can make for a nice and intimate setting with the readers who do show up to chat with me. I can even go for several minutes at a time with no one saying anything at all, and I can still get a lot of writing done.

I’ve found that I can still get a great amount of writing done even while chatting with readers who do come along.

Now, 880 subscribers will not be a success by the standards of most other writers. But for now, I’m happy with this. I like that I have this many people who have subscribed to my channel. Most people can really empathize and get to know a person better, not only when they’ve seen your face, as well as when you respond to them.

For that, I like my channel, and I find it helps me to write when I’m in that setting.

Other fun aspects of growing a Youtube following is that, after a certain count of people, Youtube will allow me to monetize my channel.

Their rules are that I need at least 1000 subscribers and 10,000 views in order to do so, and while I don’t intend on making the big bucks on Youtube, I can still use it to socialize with fans, other authors, artists, put on some chill music, and just hang out.

I’ve been told that watching me write out all those words live has even helped some other people get the fire lit under their seats.

So, that’s one reason for me to grow my Youtube channel, and a way for me to do that is by, every couple of months, asking people from my newsletter list to subscribe by either offering up a contest or a freebie of some kind.

And this is another place where my backlist comes into play because I can only have enough freebies to make it worth it with an extensive backlist.

But Publishing those ebooks can be expensive, especially if you want to do it on a fairly regular basis. If you don’t have a steady income heading your way, this can be a bit of a problem. Programs are expensive (Vellum). Good covers can also be expensive, even if you find a sweet deal on them and have a few cover artists in your contact list who can produce beautiful premade cover arts.

Over $200 USD is still a pretty chunk of change for many people and not something you drop with ease.

This is where Patreon comes in.

Patreon is a new-ish platform built by artists for artists. Jack Conte, the co-creator and musician, noticed that some people had massive followers on Youtube, or other platforms, and were still getting paid little to nothing for their works. A story he tells is of spending $10,000 putting together an awesome music video for Youtube and recreating the Millenium Falcon cockpit for it, and then making only a couple hundred dollars back in ad revenue on Youtube.

He and Sam Yam went on to create Patreon, a platform where artists could bring their fans and followers, and for a couple of dollars a month, become a Patron of the arts and support the artist’s work, or even get Patreon-only bonuses depending on how high they pledge.

I’ve seen a couple of authors do very well on this platform. Top Patreon creators make high six figures, and with Philip DeFranco coming onto the platform, I wouldn’t be shocked if he was the first Patreon creator to make more than a million dollars per year from Patreon payouts alone.

(A quick note: Not saying all of that is profit for the creators. Patreon takes 5% to cover their costs, and Paypal also takes a cut, not to mention some of these creators have full blown studios and employees to pay. This is where this money can go as well. That being said, even with the Patreon and Paypal percentages taken, if one person gives me $1 per month and I give them their monthly novella, the cut I get is still massively better than the percentage that comes from Amazon’s 99 cent books, which is about 35%. Even if I were to sell an ebook for $2.99, with my 70% cut and cost of delivery, the cut I get from Patreon from a $3 Patron is still about 85-90% after everyone get their slice)

I’ve been asked about this a couple of times already, and I get where people are coming from with this one. I’ve been told by some authors that they’d seen (or heard) other authors snickering behind the backs of those authors who go onto the platform, and it can be seen as a form of e-begging if not done right.

After all, if I’m already creating works to sell, why would I want donations?

For the first two or three months, I set my Patreon up in this way. It was basically a donation station and I had some excellent people supporting me there. I was basically trying to figure out what I could do or offer, and to be honest, I can’t remember what I was offering as a reward back then for Patrons.

Then I changed things up a bit, and it’s been almost a full year since I’ve done my first big Patreon deals, and ever since then, roughly 40 people have either since dropped off, or their cards have declined and I haven’t heard from them since, but the amount of money has remained roughly the same because, I think, one big thing.

I started promising at least one reward EVERY month.

I’ve seen some authors who offer contests for Patrons only, but I don’t think people want to pay to participate into a contest. I’ve seen others who offer early chapters, the chance to be the first to see new covers, and sometimes arcs are handed out. These authors offer rewards basically whenever they have them.

Not that this can’t work. I’ve seen some authors who make 4-5 figures a month on that, but it seems rare. Also, keep in mind that those authors have bigger followings, won awards, etc.

That’s why you need to keep an eye on your newsletter list, right ;)

For me, I wanted to stick to the idea that if someone will pay me any amount of money every month, then they need to get something.

The thing I promise for everyone is a 20K novella every month. So far these novellas have always ran into a larger story, and when the story is complete, I put the novellas together into a larger ebook and print book, and those at the higher tiers get the print books signs and shipped to them.

Other things that are only “some of the time” rewards from me are things like Audiobooks, coloring book pages, though I want to get back into that on a regular basis, and contests. The surefire thing for everyone, however, are the novellas themselves.

I also want to make sure that people can see where their money is going. Some Creators take issue with this, and I am undecided as of yet, but the amount of money readers give me is shown on my Patreon page. This allows me to be very transparent with what I am buying.

One month I spent a good amount of money on updating Vellum, the program I use for making ebooks. Now I can make print books! Every couple of months I also have to get new cover art, commission the cover artist to create a new front cover, back, and spine for the print books, pay the lady who quickly edits for me, keep a Bookfunnel account, etc. Whenever the extra cash is available, I also let my Patrons know when I can put together an audiobook, and in September I commissioned a new design for stickers and t-shirts that I can give away as prizes and rewards to Patrons.

There’s a lot to do, and every month I’ve been left over with nothing left when all is said and done. Patreon allows me to publish, and more, at cost. I wouldn’t have been able to put out Audiobooks yet without it. Though now that I hear ACX has opened up in Canada, I’ve heard it’s the cheaper option to go with than the one I’ve been using, so hopefully I can make audiobooks a little more frequent for my Patrons.

Now, remember earlier when I said that my click rate dropped? That’s because last year I think I pushed my Patreon page too hard. It turned people off. Patreon was created for artist, but it was also created for artists of every kind. Meaning that it hasn’t mastered how to cater to any of them specifically.

I’ve had my Patrons tell me they’ve had trouble finding their rewards. Unlike kindle, if you are my Patron, Patreon won’t send your ebook reward directly to your kindle upon release. You have to go to the website and download it after I send out the notification. If that notification goes to your spam for a couple of months and you forget (and this has happened) it can leave you feeling pretty upset and unloved by your favorite author. Even if the reward is still available to you for download.

There’s something unwelcoming about that. I don’t blame my readers for being put off by it, and I don’t blame Patreon for that either. It’s run by a small team, and they cater to podcasters, digital artists, painters, musicians, and writers. They can’t possibly make the website beautiful and perfect for all of us.

Also, the app needs to be updated. Badly.

A lot of my readers read on their phones. There’s something called Featured Tags Sections. Where I can tag all my ebook download links as “ebooks” and when a reader clicks on the tag, it will bring them to every ebook to download. My five favorite tags are ones I can “Feature” and these will show up on the left hand side of the screen, making it easy for readers to access their rewards if I tag them properly.

The app does not have Featured Tags. For some reason. I’ve been emailing them about updating that for a about a year. So yes, very slow going, and I have to be on top of getting links out to people, making them easy to find and everything.

Thank God Bookfunnel makes the next part easy, but still.

Just for the lack of user friendliness alone, it’s understandable that not many people would be interested in Patreon, even if they get something every month. Another thing to remember is that when someone becomes my Patron, they are essentially preordering all my Patreon books. They are announcing to themselves and to me that they are willing to become one of my instant buy readers.

To have any instant buy readers is a thrill and an honor. I didn’t put this together until recently, but that is what it means. These people are willing to throw down their hard earned cash on me every month, sometimes not even knowing what the book is that they get until I start showing off the cover art and sending out the book links.

For that reason, if you choose to try out this route, don’t be upset when even super fans aren’t interested. Some people really would rather stick to what they know, which is Amazon.

There’s so much more I can talk about, but I’ve droned on. I’m still learning how to make the experiences for my Patrons as pleasant as possible, and I’m still trying to woo my newsletter subscribers over to my Youtube channel, as well as my Wattpad profile, my Radish page, and even getting them to sign up again to my Draft2Digital email list.

I have to remind myself to pace myself. There’s so much I would like to do, but people don’t like being swarmed with too many emails, and many people are on multiple author newsletter lists.

Not all of those people on your list will be your readers. Depending on where you are in you career, a lot of those people will still be testing you out. They might not know your work well enough yet to want to jump through hoops, even for a freebie.

But your super fans, even your fans, will love to help you out if you treat them right. They wouldn’t mind seeing your face on Facebook Live or on Youtube. They wouldn’t mind following you on a new platform if you asked nicely. And if you’re lucky, they’d even put up with a less than great user friendly experience at a platform that will help you thrive.

So for that, always try to connect with your readers. In whatever way you’re most comfortable. Be grateful whenever you ask for something and they give. Write books that you and they love. Do your best, be yourself. Say thank you. Often.

I need to work on some of these myself. But this does work if you want to take the slow and steady route to growing your backlist and readership. Do it until you succeed. Eventually you will.

I hope.

Mandy Rosko

USA Today Bestselling Author


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