My Four-Month Patreon Experience

Joe DeRouen
3 min readJan 22, 2019

I’m a freelance writer and novelist and have published three dark fantasy novels and a collection of short stories. My day job is that of a substitute teacher, which unsurprisingly pays much better. Like most novelists, I’m not getting rich anytime soon, but I’ll never have the wildly successful career I dream of if I don’t have time to write. If I could devote even a couple of extra days a month to my writing, I’d get more done. But how?

I’d been considering Patreon for years, and finally decided to give it a try. It’s been wildly successful for some, not so much for others, but I figured, what have I got to lose?

I first announced my Patreon in September 2018, to the sound of crickets. It’s a big social media world out there, and I am but a lone voice, and I tend to stick to Facebook. So how do I get noticed? I began writing friends who I knew were fans of my work and directly asking them to become a patron. That kickstarted things, and suddenly I had three patrons.

I know it’s contrary to most people’s instinct, but asking directly really does work…some of the time. Just don’t be pushy about it, and respect the fact that even $1 a month may be out of someone’s budget.

Things were creeping along and then, in October, I had an idea. I created what I decided to call the “Patreon Challenge,” which to my knowledge has never been done before. Each month, I’d put the names of my patrons times their monthly contribution (if Bob pledges $5, he gets five entries) and draw one at random, and that person would get to tell me the kind of short story he or she wanted me to write that month. After a year had passed, I’d put the stories into a book and publish it.

The rules were pretty simple. The reader could be as specific or as vague as they wanted with their ideas, and I’d put my own spin on whatever they gave me. If their idea was something I absolutely didn’t want to do or that I felt I couldn’t do justice to (say, erotica) I’d simply ask them for another idea.

The first winner gave me a pretty open idea. The story was to involve a gardener who has her plants turn against her, a cat, and a happy ending. I, of course, put my own spin on it, and it turned out pretty well. Subsequent ideas have been a bit more specific, but I think I’ve managed to make them work while also making the story my own.

Honestly, I’ve relished the challenge. It’s made me stretch my writing wings, as it were, and…

Joe DeRouen

Joe is a freelance writer and novelist.