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04 June 2014 @ 04:43 pm
patreon difficulties  

So one of the real problems people are having with Patreon is that it’s non-intuitive. Maybe this is partly because my project, crowdfunding a book one chapter at a time, is not actually an ideal one to run via Patreon, but there are definitely problems that go beyond that.

Kickstarter is easy. Kickstarter you give $X and you get #Y in return. One shot and it’s done.

Patreon sets a price-per-creation and then asks for many small donations to achieve that price-per-creation. It’s intended to cater to a totally different platform than Kickstarter, and I think it’s a good, necessary, *viable* platform in the crowdfunding pantheon. It’s just not a well-explained one.

People have been trained up to Kickstarter, where it’s one big donation for one big project. Patreon wants its creators to offer many smaller projects, with each project’s delivery being supplied once the creator-set price-per-creation is reached. A creator might provide a song, a chapter, a gaming adventure, a drawing, a poem, a painting, as her project, and might deliver one project a month or might deliver ten.

The FAQs do not explain this well enough. I spent almost an entire day frowning hard at the FAQs and Evil Hat’s Patreon project before I started to understand what the site wanted, and I’m not *dumb*, guys. It just is not well explained. The videos are charming, but almost totally useless.

Creation vs Activity
As a creator it took me ten tries to figure out how to mark a post as a Creation rather than in the default of Activity. As it turns out, there’s a box to check at the bottom the post page, but the fact that you go to the Creation page and it says there “You haven’t posted any Creations yet!” and offers a big button to make a post *implies* that your post made from that location is going to automatically fall under Creations.
Note: this has been updated. There’s now a big + button to make Actual Creations. However:

Once I *did* figure out how to make a post a Creation instead of an Activity, it appears that there’s no way to go back to the Activity posts and find the box to click to make it a Creation, which means reposting all of it, which is a pain in the tuckus.

Furthermore, posts marked as Creations *also show up* in Activities. This is totally counterintuitive as far as I’m concerned. It means there’s no real point in splitting the two of them out, because if Activities is meant to let patrons easily find, say, my (or other patrons’) commentary about the project, they’ve got to sift through all the Creations to find that information.

Donation Difficulties
The donation process has gotten even less intuitive recently. When I began this campaign, I didn’t set any ‘reward’ levels. After a few weeks, at someone’s recommendation, I set a one-click “$1 reward’ level that let you just click that and donate a dollar per chapter. However, it still seemed to let people put in, say, $.20 per chapter if that was what they wanted to do.

Now, however, it seems to have changed so that it will either let you select $1 or No Reward. If a patron wants to only donate $.20 per chapter, she now has to select $1, then make sure to set her *own* donation limit at $1/m so that if I post up to 5 chapters it will only take $.20 for each chapter. But there is no indication of needing to do this before you get to the setting-your-own-limit stage; it just looks like you either have to pay $1/chapter or get no reward at all.

It literally took five emails back and forth with Patreon for me to understand what they’d done there, and I think it’s idiotic.

I have it set up so that all patrons get to read when I post. However. Again, however.

The past few months I’ve been getting in the region of $600 per month, depending on how many chapters I’ve posted. Accordingly, for May I expected around $450, because I only managed to post 3 chapters. But I got paid this morning and it was only $150ish.

I have emailed Patreon and await their answer, but the only thing I can figure out is that because I set the chapters I posted to ‘all patrons’ instead of $1+ patrons, something has…gotten dropped. Or gone wrong. Or something. I honestly don’t know. But *I* have not changed anything, and I’ve gone back and checked and made sure that *my* settings weren’t messed up, that they are in fact set the same way for the more recent chapters as the older ones, and they are.

It was clear, last time I looked at the pending payments from the Patreon account, that there was $15 or $17 or so that was from patrons who’d pledged, say, $.05/chapter and whose payment wasn’t set to trigger until it reached (say) $1. It looked very much like there was this little bit of money working its way toward reaching the tipping point from those patrons, which made sense to me.

However, it wasn’t anything like $150 in waiting-for-tipping-point money, and since I posted 3 chapters which each should have triggered a minimum of $150 in donations (the site itself keeps track of how much has been donated, and if it falls below $150, which is my minimum threshhold, it will announce that this milestone has no longer been reached and it has to wait until it breaks $150 again before the system starts up again), I have no idea why I only received $150 for last month’s 3 chapters.

It’s possible I’m *badly* mis-understanding something here, and I’m willing to accept that that *is* a possibility. But I am, and have been, trying really hard to understand exactly how this works all along, and I keep running into roadblocks. At this stage I’m incredibly frustrated and annoyed, and I’m feeling strongly that this has been a near-total disaster in terms of a crowdfunding experiment. I know not everyone has had such aggravating experiences, so I really don’t know if it’s me/the project, but I’m pretty close to throwing in the towel here.

I will say that Patreon’s customer support has been exemplary and they’ve answered all of my questions promptly and responded to some of my commentary by implementing changes. So I admire and thank them for that, at least. I just wish the entire thing was running more smoothly for me.

(x-posted from The Essential Kit)

M. C. A. Hogarth: presenthaikujaguar on June 4th, 2014 04:59 pm (UTC)
You are not the only one who finds it counter-intuitive and puzzling, I'm afraid. Like you, I keep thinking 'this should make sense' and... it keeps not doing that. :,
kitmizkit on June 4th, 2014 06:53 pm (UTC)
That's actually a great relief. At least it means I'm not alone in my bewilderment.
M. C. A. Hogarth: presenthaikujaguar on June 4th, 2014 06:57 pm (UTC)
You're not. Worse, because I can't figure it out, I can't explain it to my audience so they can use it. I've defaulted to using it as a glorified tip jar because that's about all we can make of it as a group... but then I've got people asking, "Why should we use this and have you lose out on 8% of it when we can use Paypal to tip you and you keep more of it?"

*rubs head*

They're not doing a great job of explaining themselves.

Plus, it deeply annoys me that under a certain amount you need to log in and make them disburse the money every month. They should have a 'deposit every month' option I can check so I can stop logging in to force the money out of them. I know why they do it--they want you to keep the money in the system so you can go spend it on other artists--but it drives me crazy. I have enough retailers/vendors/etc to audit without adding Patreon to my list.
angela_n_hunt on June 4th, 2014 08:02 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm not having a whole lot of luck making it work for all of the same reasons, and I really want it to work. As a result, I've got all of one supporter there and it doesn't make much sense to have it for *one* person.

It's super frustrating. I just wish I knew how to make things work.
Kari Sperringla_marquise_de_ on June 4th, 2014 05:20 pm (UTC)
That sounds... complicated. Thank you for sorting it out.
Geek of Weird Shit: fireygows on June 4th, 2014 07:00 pm (UTC)
Good God, that sounds like a nightmare. O.o
Brienzebrienze on June 4th, 2014 07:26 pm (UTC)
As a patron, it seems to be working okay for me. I donated(subscribed?) at $1, capped at $1 a month, as you'd suggested in the "if you do this you're paying about the price of a trade paperback for the whole book" example. I've gotten an email from Patreon and the debit from my paypal at the beginning of each month. I was a bit unsure when I was signing up, but after poking around a bit I was pretty confident that I'd set up my account the way I intended to.

If it takes too much of your overhead time that would better be spent writing, then it's not a very good system. But as a consumer it's been okay.
mikaela_lmikaela_l on June 4th, 2014 08:07 pm (UTC)
Actually, I'm about to delete my pledge to Magic and Manners. Every month, Patreon tells me that " There is an issue with your pledge." I think it is because my Paypal account is empty, but my CC card is connected to it so it shouldn't be any problem.

I'll just buy it as an e-book sometime in the future.
Lola: Meidancewithlife on June 4th, 2014 09:06 pm (UTC)
I was a little surprised when your recent entry here to win a free copy of Shaman Rising got only 10 responses. I checked, and you have 112 friends on LJ. I was thinking you might be able to serialize the book here with a "next chapter posted when we reach $" method, but I doubt you can raise $150 per chapter and you *were* doing that on Patreon (good grief, even their name is weird). I'll stay on it for you and Maggie Hogarth, but I would be very happy to delete my account and back Kickstarters instead :-)
kitmizkit on June 4th, 2014 09:10 pm (UTC)
LJ has really taken a dive in interactivity. I mean, it's been dying for a long time, but it's taken another hit recently. I get a lot more response on FB and Twitter, fwiw, but it's a bit too cat-herdy to try to do a $150/chapter thing across all 3 platforms like that.
K. Feete: tattookatfeete on June 5th, 2014 12:52 am (UTC)
Wow, that is a lot more problems than I've had. :(

Looking over your page the main difference I see is that you don't really use tiers. I don't recommend putting tons of effort into tiers - I think people agree to pay based on what they can afford to pay, not on whatever rewards they're being offered -- but they are an excellent way to nudge people's brains. Almost all of my patrons donated at a tier amount. It's therefore possible -- even though Patreon says "donate any amount" -- that you are in some way breaking their system, because they assume most people will be using the tiers.

Another option is that many people did something like this: "okay, she says no more than four updates, I'd like to spend... a buck a month!", entered .25 in the wee box, and set it to only pull when their charges were over a dollar. So when you only posted three updates, what you got from those people was crickets. Again, it's a guess, but I just skimmed through your patron list and saw an awful lot of people who were clearly donating, who had clearly been reading the updates, and yet weren't marked as "has supported CE Murphy for X days" or given Patreon's Good score -- far more than seemed likely for people donating 5 and 10 cents.

A final suggestion is you might want to look in your Patron Manager and see if you have an unusual number of people with declined payments. Patreon seems to be excessively stupid in its handling of bad charges: as far as I can tell, it tries once and gives up. I've had it happen two or three times now where people who'd shown up as a bad pledge the previous month run just fine the next time. Clearly they'd had a card that expired or whatever, been told so by Patreon, updated it... and nothing happened; I just lost that five bucks for the month. This irritates the hell out of me but I haven't had the energy to complain about it.

There are many problems with Patreon -- the activity vs. creation thing, the stupid inability to edit posts, the above dumb handling of cards. But it's been working well for me, and it doesn't seem like a chapter-by-chapter novel should be this frustrating for you. It probably helps that -- like many or most people using Patreon -- I am not a pro: I am giving content away for free, and using Patreon so that people who'd like to see me keep giving content away can chip in. The Patreon money isn't something I have to count on or measure against time I could be spending more profitably. It's just a nice bonus.

In that sense Patreon may not work for you. But I hope it does.

(ETA: This is a long and not that useful post but I am suffering from pressure headache and three-year-old at the moment and I can not brain to make it shorter. I hope something in here is worth the long haul. :P)