Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Out with the Old & In with the New

After so long of silence or near silence, I‘ve been quietly prepping to relaunch my self-publishing. I even have a few things even sitting on my hard drive, poised to help me hit the ground running. Start date I’ve had in mind for phase one of my plans is my birthday, a week from today (May 8th).

(Well, technically speaking, my start date‘s actually today, due to today being when I’m announcing it everywhere. But that’s prelaunch stuff.)

I‘ve had two parts in mind for phase one, resurrecting both my Patreon releases and my First Draft Fridays on Wattpad (…and my language study blog, but that’s another thing). That way, my fans, no matter their financial situation, can enjoy. Then phase two is wrapping up the Chronicles of Marsdenfel and the current plot arc on Destiny Walker series, and the phases continue from there. I’ll get more into that in a minute.

As I was putting things together to springboard into phase one, specifically the Patreon part, I received a newsletter from an author I have long admired and respected: Holly Lisle. She and Kristine Kathryn Rush get an insane amount accomplished despite chronic health issues, and they"re excellent teachers. (On the topic of excellent teachers, Janice Hardy and Jami Gold are, too, though they"re more information magpies than coaches.)

Anyway, back to the e-mail I received. It was really two: “Why I closed my Patreon fundraiser today" from April 4th and "So... bye-bye, Patreon. Hello Ko-Fi.” from April 9th. I saw the headlines but didn’t open them.

Then, after I posted a pre-announcement of my plans on Patreon (on the 19th, to give patrons plenty of time to adjust their donations if they needed to), I remembered those headlines. Kicking myself a bit because, over the past umpteen years, I’ve found I usually agree with her assessment of things like that, read what she was saying. She posted the same information on her blog at "Why I shut down my Patreon fundraiser" and "Why I chose Ko-Fi to replace Patreon".

In summary, the Patreon terms of service (TOS) claim some particular irrevocable rights to whatever is published on the platform for “the purpose of" what they need to run the site. That phrasing does not actually limit their rights claim to that purpose, which was recently pointed out by the very experienced IP lawyer commonly known among authors (especially self-publishing authors) as "PG" or "Passive Guy”.

PG reblogs posts potentially of interest to authors, and sometimes he adds comments. In this case, he reblogged a post that demonstrates that Patreon seems to be having cash flow issues, judging from the CEO’s own words in an interview with CNBC.

PG says he went looking at Patreon‘s TOS to see if there was any mention of patent or something like that which would mean they had a corner on the market. Instead, he found that clause that states the rights taken are for “the purpose of" X, Y, and Z. (If you don’t see how that’s not a limitation, check his post.) PG even bothers to provide a clause that would actually limit the TOS in the fashion that Patreon claims to intend, elsewhere on the site.

So I opened a support ticket with Patreon to ask what, if anything, they were planning to do about that clause. I included explicit explanation, links, and request for the issue to be kicked up to whoever could answer my question. I mentioned outright that PG—an much-experienced IP attorney—included both how the current clause is problematic and an example correction in his post.

I was thanked for pointing it out and told that my e-mail had been forwarded to the tech department. Not legal, but tech. Okay.

Then, around a week later (on April 29th), Patreon announced a new resource hub on the site for the terms and such—oh, that explains the forwarding to the tech team—and an update to their terms of service. Oh, cool. They listened! Promptly, even!

…Or, as I discovered when I looked up the current clause, they at least tried.

I won‘t bore you with the specifics of the differences, but in summary, they changed the terms to expressly limit the purpose of the license but not the license itself. It’s a simple, easy-to-make syntax error that nonetheless significantly affects your meaning. A bread knife might have the sole purpose of cutting bread, but that doesn’t prevent you from being able to use it to cut something else.

In itself, it‘s not necessarily a big deal. Trusting that they’re working at it would be a calculated risk, and it’s a reasonable one to either avoid or take.

The real problem comes when you consider that interview I mentioned. Patreon’s CEO says that Patreon needs to “build a sustainable business”.

Patreon turns 6 years old this month. Why are they having to build a sustainable business? And what are they going to have to do or change in order to do that?

Personally, I think the problem comes from choices Patreon made when they first launched, that they started off taking too low a % of creator income in order to support their model. If they had launched at a higher percentage, like Fiverr with its 20% fee, that would‘ve given them room to adjust the fee either in general or with Lite / Pro / Premium versions of the service without triggering all the negative sentiment and publicity that’s resulted when they’ve tried to move in the other direction, increasing their cut after they started too low.

I‘m not sure that they’ll be able to recover from that. They’re obviously trying, and I do hope they can pull it off. Patreon’s financial model, taking a % of supporter donations, that helps people with $0 or minimal disposable income. It also means that Patreon benefits most from drawing in patrons, rather than content creators, so they should prioritize accordingly. With a good search engine and SEO on the content creator’s part, that’s potentially free marketing. This is doubtless why Patreon tells the content creators that the patrons, the supporters, are customers. They actively encourage creators to give patrons early releases, special editions, unique content—actual product that the patron is funding.

Now, contrast this with Ko-fi, which expressly limits the licensure and views supporters as donors. Ko-fi gets is funded from a mix of 1. charging content creators a small fee (monthly or yearly) to be able to receive monthly subscriptions, and 2. running their own donor page. So Ko-fi actually uses its own service. (Maybe doing that would help Patreon? I don’t think they have their own page.)

This ultimately means that Ko-fi benefits most from keeping the content creators happy, rather than the supporters. Keeping supporters happy is a secondary concern—and, because supporters are there to support the person, keeping supporters happy will be a consequence of keeping the content creators happy. It's quite efficient.

Ko-fi further promotes this distinction of supporting a person vs. buying early-bird access to a product by making it possible for content creators to sell commissions. In their tutorial documentation, they outright recommend that content creators release things more like previews, snippets, deleted scenes.

What I was offering on Patreon, things didn't really fit their model very well. Ko-fi’s actually a better fit for what I’m kicking off on the 8th.

(If you‘re a content creator yourself and want to sign up for Ko-fi Gold, you can get a 10% discount by getting it with an affiliate link, and that discount applies even on top of the sale that’s going as of this writing.)

So, with all this talk of phases, what am I talking about? What are these phases that I’m planning?

  • phase 0: pre-launch
    • We are here!
    • This is announcements and prep work. I have the bulk of this done.
    • I need to track down both my file and contact the publisher for the Wynne d‘Arzon series, because I’m suspecting my submission of the last story in that series got eaten by e-mail gremlins. This is something I’m hoping to do before phase I launches, and hopefully things will go smoothly enough for be on-time in phase two.
  • phase one: update regularly again
    • launching May 8, 2019
    • The return of First Draft Fridays on Wattpad!
    • The start of monthly releases every 8th on Ko-fi! It'll be a complete story, with author's notes regarding headspace, process, inspiration, how and why I came up with a particular kenning, etc.
    • I will be looking at growing to include more regular updates to this blog, my Twitter, and my Facebook page.
    • I may also include getting back on-track with my language study blog in this (which needs some technical things fixed and where I have a draft of a post pretty much done and just need to post it; scope creep is a jerk).
  • phase two: publish installments wrapping up open plot threads
    • scheduled to launch November 8, 2019
    • I’m looking to start with finishing the Chronicles of Marsdenfel and getting at least one book further in the Destiny Walker series. (I have more Destiny books planned, but I think book #4 will be launching a new arc, kind of Act II.)
    • I’m also including my Torn-Up Faery Tales (as Carralee Byrd) and some Cara Lee things.
  • phase three: grow into a regular publishing schedule for each penname
    • tentatively scheduled to launch May 8, 2020
    • Inherent in this would be releasing regularly in various series, ideally on a rotation.
    • I‘m currently thinking that this will be when I return to updating Tapas, too.
  • phase x: secret until I start phase three
    • The reality of how I finish phase two will affect these, as well, so they’re on the shelf for now.

All this is starting in a week. Join me on Ko-fi and-or Wattpad, whatever fits your interest and budget.

How are you doing?


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