tip-jar-resizeThe only model we used to have for publishing was to pay for a book after it was finished. Authors would write the book, publishers would sell it and people would buy it. It’s a model that was converted well to the e-book format; I myself sell several books on the Kindle store, and all of them were ‘published’ that same way—book is written, it is offered, people pay if they want to.

But is there another way? Our friends at Book Riot had an interesting report about an author who is testing the waters on Patreon, a platform that lets content creators solicit a monthly subscription fee from fans in exchange for rewards of escalating value. Author N.K. Jemisin has apparently collected $4,000 per month this way. (Chris Meadows also covered this story a few days ago.)

On one level, good for her—if people are willing to pay it, why not collect it? I can see how a monthly amount, as opposed to a one-time payment, would appeal to authors as much as it does to vloggers and other creative types. But I think some of the ‘rewards’ are a little insulting. Those who contribute $1 a month will receive a monthly picture of the author’s cat, for instance. Color me unimpressed. One vlogger I know is offering an exclusive YouTube channel for her Patreon fans. That is more in line with something I’d actually be willing to pay for.

Plus, as Teresa Preston points out in her write-up, there is the issue of how much blood you can squeeze out of a stone, in the end. If I am already paying an author a monthly ‘subscription,’ can they get me to pay extra for the book when it’s actually released? Or is my fee only going toward the monthly cat picture?

Personally, I suspect I’d rather just pay for the book if I want it. But Jemisin did manage to get over 600 people to subscribe, so perhaps I’m the minority on that one!

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"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


  1. Thanks to Joanna and Chris for writing about this intriguing topic.

    I operate the Quote Investigator website which has grown in popularity over the years. Currently, the website has no advertisements. My only income from this endeavor, so far, has been a book advance from the Little A imprint of Amazon. The target date for publication of my book is this holiday season. The contents will include text from the website together with additional material that is not available online.

    Joanna mentioned a vlogger who is offering an exclusive YouTube channel for her Patreon fans. I’ve considered creating a restricted access website that would supplement the Quote Investigator website. It would contain analyses of different quotations than main website. Alternatively, it would contain deeper analysis of quotations. Patreon fans would receive full access to this supplementary website.

    If I tried to put a paywall around the current QI website there would be anger and perhaps a sense of betrayal. There have been 4.5 million users in the past year. Also, I want to continue to share my research in some way. Yesterday, the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof linked to my analysis of a famous quotation that has been misattributed to Voltaire (“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”). Kristof would not have been able to share that information if the QI website access was restricted.

    If there is no income stream I will eventually have to stop.

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