The fact is, I’ve been doing this crowdfunded on the internet thing longer than almost any author currently active. I was doing it before it had a name, before there were all the tools we have now, and before there were reams and reams of advice to follow on how to do it right.
The fact is, things should have been getting easier for me with the influx of new tools. The fact is also that they haven’t. My peak financial success as an author came before Patreon, before IndieGoGo and Kickstarter.
And the reason for this, I believe, is that rather than using new tools to make my life easier, I’ve been using them to make my life more complicated. Rather than using them to do more of what I was doing, I’ve been listening to other people’s advice about what to do with them, even when it didn’t fit what I’ve been doing.
Where I get into real trouble with crowdfunding… well, it ties into what I was talking about in my status post earlier today. The feeling that I’m not doing enough. I start soliciting money in exchange for the stories I create, and then I feel… and there are those piles of advice out there telling me that I should feel this way… like I have to add something extra, like I need to provide incentives, like a bank giving you oven mitts or a foam beer thingy when you open a checking account.
My dad told me a story once (and then maybe ten or eleven more times after that; we are a family of storytellers) about a new client of his who asked him why he didn’t send out extravagant holiday gifts to remind his clients that he appreciates them, as is common in the business. “My last guy always sent me a turkey,” he said, or words to that effect. My dad’s response was to show him how his account had fared under his stewardship, and tell him, in effect, “Merry Christmas.”
Going forward, that’s going to shape my basic approach to things. No promising turkeys. Once upon a time, I made $1,200 a month in recurring reader donations on the strength of little more than “I’m writing what I want to write, and if you want to read what I write, you can pay me to keep writing it.” I mean to get back to that point and surpass it, also on the same strength.
Now, it’s not just that my business direction floundered in the intervening years. I have also been struggling creatively, mostly because I was struggling cognitively. You go back a bit over six years and I was in a pretty scary place. I had serious, persistent memory problems. I had focus problems. My always (and still) bad sense of direction and poor visual processing of faces was at a debilitating level. I started experimenting with dietary supplements to improve things, and while those experiments are ongoing, I have been improving in a more or less steady direction.
Recent changes to my lifestyle have kicked that into high gear, and then this past few weeks I added a few more touches to my regimen that have me feeling… well, like I did back in 2007, when Tales of MU was new. I mean, I still have anxiety and such. On a purely cognitive level, though, in terms of clarity and strength of mind, I am on top of the world. I’ve been there for a few weeks now, through poor sleep and sickness, even.
Here’s the plan.
The hardest thing for me, using Patreon, has been to figure out how to sell myself on it, basically. What I’m offering. My creative output, at its best, is very eclectic. There’s poetry, flash fiction, my takes on explaining topics, out-and-out opinion pieces, stories, and stuff. Then there’s my biggest historical money-maker, Tales of MU. It’s suffered quite a bit lately, and one of the reasons it’s suffered is that I have a hard time figuring out how to sell it alongside everything else… do I make my Patreon “Tales of MU and the rest” or more, “Here’s everything I do and Tales of MU”?
Well, here’s my solution: I’m splitting my Patreon in two. Two patreons. One for Alexandra Erin In All Her Glory, one for Tales of MU. The Alexandra Erin one is going to be on the monthly plan. The Tales of MU one is going to be on the pledge-for-work plan; meaning, if you pledge $1 per chapter, then I get $1 from you each time I post a chapter. This also adds in some accountability.
The Alexandra Erin one is going to be my current one, because, it’s really not going to change much, especially from what it’s been lately, when Tales of MU updates have become basically quarterly occurrences. Once it’s divorced from Tales of MU, the eclecticness of it all is going to be something that I embrace. I mean, it’s not like people never buy a thing that gives them some current events, some opinion, some humor, some fiction, etc. That’s basically a lot of magazines, right?
So the details are still firming up in my brain and probably won’t settle completely until after WisCon, but starting in June, my creative and insightful output is basically going to, in some form, be shaping up into Alexandra Erin: The Crowdfunded Zine. I’ll still be writing and posting stuff to my blog or directly to Patreon throughout the month, but I’m going to be collecting, collating, and polishing it as I go so that at the end of each month I have a shiny package I can give to my patrons and sell to anyone else who wants it, and that I myself can look at with pride, knowing that yes, I definitely accomplished things this month.
Tomorrow I’m going to be updating my Patreon page and getting the new one in order.
Now, here’s an important thing: if you like Tales of MU and you also want to just support everything that I do, you will not have pledge twice. I’m not going to be like the Coca-Cola company, worrying that sales of Diet Coke are cannibalizing the market share of regular Coke.