EDIT: Since writing this, I am now on Patreon, for my Youtube work. Check it out! www.patreon.com/owenadams
“Why aren’t you on Patreon?”
I am hearing the question a lot these days.
“I am on Patreon.”
“Oh great, send me your page.”
“No, not like that.”
I like Patreon a lot. I like crowd funding a lot. I have kickstarter accounts, indiegogo, patreon. You can find me at all these places, but as a donors not a recipient. That’s not really a surprise. Crowd funding is so big right now that whoever you are, chances are at least one of your childhood heroes is trying to fund a revival. You never know, as we speak the guy who originally played Grimace in the McDonalds ads might be seeking funds to create a replica of the original suit or something. It’s a wide world out there. But there are others on there, new artists and some of them are pretty good, and they want you to support then so they can keep making great art. Bloggers, YouTubers, Podcasters; the children of the new media are all there seeking your support. So, why aren’t I?
Of course, the immediate answer is the hardest to come to terms with. I don’t really feel like I’ve done anything to justify asking for people’s money. I do ask for people’s money anyway. I wrote books, I like those books, and I sell them through Amazon. You can go there right now and give me some money, but that is a very different sort of transaction. It is done through an intermediary, with terms clearly understood by both parties. I have written a book, pay Amazon and they will provide you with a copy, they will then pay me a share. I take some additional pleasure from the knowledge that some people will tell me they paid for the book and read it. Some will even tell me they enjoyed it. (Some will tell me they hated it, but it’s best not to dwell on those.) The book might not be to everyone’s taste, but people always get what they pay for. But to go further than that, to open myself up, as some of my peers have, to funding of my art solely on the basis that my art is of value as an endeavour and not only as a final product. Well, that’s a statement that takes some guts to make, and I’m not sure I’d ever get there.
I’m proud of my work. That’s a statement that takes no effort to make. I like what I do and I think I do it well, sometimes the work is slow because I don’t have as much time to devote to it as I’d like, but it has become the main focus of my life. The little stories I post, the blog posts I write, they might just get sent out there into the ether, they might never pay the bills, but they represent more than just a way to fill my spare time. Whatever my day job might be, this is the person I want to be. A person who creates, a person who tells stories and discusses the stories of others. I am a ravenous consumer of fiction in all its forms, I need stories and games and films, and I need to talk about them, and if I’m paid millions or doing it for free between working hours, I’ll be here doing it with whatever time I have.
So why can’t I talk to you about it as if it has value? I’m not the first person to try and make a living this way. There are few people whose work I respect more than the late Roger Ebert, a man who made his fortune writing short pieces about popular films. It’s not an easy line of work to fall into, lots of people would like to write for a living, but there’s hardly enough money to pay them all. I’m not so naive as to think my drive in any way influences my ability to actually turn my work into a healthy looking bank statement, but it’s also worth remembering that the success of our work is not necessarily contingent on its value.
I have spoken in the past of my discomfort for self promotion. As a child of the internet, it is hard not to look cynically on self promoters, whose general lack of restraint has turned the online world from a free and open melting pot of ideas to a gated, patrolled world always on the lookout for the cyber equivalent of door-to-door salesmen, armed with megaphones. I understand it’s necessity, but the discomfort is always there, lingering. Always ready to whisper in my ear that every tweet updating people as to my progress is turning me closer and closer into one of those indie authors that tweets the link to their book every ten minutes, seven days a week.
And this is probably why I’m not on Patreon. It would be easy to start. I could go right now, I could be spending the time writing this post on a glowing pitch about me, about the work I do and about why I deserve your support, but at the heart of this is that little festering nugget of doubt that holds me back. I’ve written four short books I think are worth the money I sell them for, but the truth is I don’t really believe that I do deserve your support. The impostor syndrome lurks at all times, reminding me that I’m not the same as those other writers, I’m not the same as those famous people, I’m not the same as those big companies, the work I do here isn’t real work like their’s is.
Of course, this is nonsense. Like all creators, bloggers, writers, the quality of my work is variable and is open for the judgement and criticism of anyone who encounters it, but the value of the work and the time spent on it is every bit as valuable as anyone else working to create, and to discuss, it’s just a little hard to see that from the inside. It can be a little too easy to forget that the creators we admire rarely do their own promotion, they work with agencies and large companies, separated from the artist’s doubts and fears, whose job is to sell indiscriminately for their client regardless of the quality of the product. I couldn’t do that, I wouldn’t want to. It’s a world I neither understand nor respect, and yet it is tied to the work I do so intricately. The need to create and the need to sell.
I won’t have a patreon account any time soon, you won’t be seeing my books sitting in the middle of some fancy google ad. I don’t have the stomach for it, but it’s time I became a little more forthright when it comes to promoting my work. I have on desire to be a shill, I can’t stand there on the internet’s street corner and shout “BUY MY BOOKS!”, but what I can do is value myself, and value to work I do for the enjoyment of others. And when I finally get the hang of communicating that value to the rest of the world? Well, maybe you’ll see me on Patreon then.