Friday, November 9, 2018

Subscription based Crowdfunding on Drip ~ Observations and a working hypothesis

Art by: Alexia Veldhuisen
From: Monthly PDF release on Drip

Drip has been an interesting adventure.  I've now had the page running for one month and this morning I released the second issue of the monthly PDF.  From what I have heard from the subscribers thus far, these releases are a bit hit.  I am thrilled to be releasing monthly content and beyond happy that folks enjoy the content.

This blog isn't just about what is happening and how I'm feeling. We're here to discuss the adventure of writing, self-publishing, game design and all the steps (and missteps) so you can find what works for you.  So lets get into that!

My hypothesis on subscription based crowdfunding:  (be patient, it takes a moment to arrive)

I call it a hypothesis as I have not yet completed testing my premise.  Over the coming years we'll see how well my hypothesis holds up under the data that becomes available.

After reading several articles concerning Patreon and Drip, speaking with creators who have Patreon accounts, and speaking with people who support other creators through Patreon I arrived at the following data points which support my hypothesis:

1) Subscription based crowdfunding really works best if you already have an established audience.  This is a very common sense kind of notion, that is widely believed.   I support this as likely being true.  Estimates vary widely as to what kind of numeric conversion you should anticipate based on your audience size.  My best estimates put my regular audience, spread out between KickStarter, this blog, Twitter, Instagram, MeWe, and Facebook is somewhere around two hundred individuals.
(I know, I was surprised that number was that high too!)

Given that audience size, and an initial number of subscribers of seven (7).  I have achieved a 3.5% subscription rate for my audience size.  Remember that number, it comes up later.

2) For people to subscribe to your Patreon or Drip page they must see value in what you offer.  Okay, this is the "Duh" moment in this blog entry.  Basically, you have to be offering good value for people to want to support your efforts.    Presently, I offer three different subscription levels ($1, $3 and $6 tiers) with higher level tiers encompassing the benefits of the lower tiers.

As a creator, I like this approach to subscription levels as it gives your audience common ground for what you are releasing.  It also means that having created content for the $1 subscription audience, my $3 and $6 audiences have ready made content as well.  My thoughts are that this builds the value for higher tier audiences and doesn't leave folks feeling "left out" from other tier builds. 

Price points on the tiers need to reflect the value of the release. I confess that I looked at the Patron and Drip pages of other creators to see what the going tier rates look like.  I then realized it was unlikely that I would break even on art costs for my monthly release.  If you've been following this blog, you probably know what happened next.  That's right, I said 'So be it!' and marched forward.  So I'm losing money on my Drip page due to art costs, but its a loss I can absorb.  In the meantime, I'll keep working to promote the page and will (hopefully) reach the break even point within the next ten months or so. 

3)  My current subscriber base is too small to derive meaningful statistical data. {My fellow math nerds often disagree with regard to relevant sample size.  For purposes here, I'll assume the minimal, meaningful sample size for this topic is sixty subscribers.... yes, I know... flame away.}  At the risk of using entirely unsubstantiated data references, I've looked at my current subscription data points and discovered that my highest tier ($6) is the most popular with the second highest ($3) being the next most popular.  To coin a phrase from earlier RPG sessions, "I actively disbelieve!" that $6 will continue to be the most popular and will use the $3 as the most common or average projected subscription tier.  Knowing what I require to break even on art costs, I then project that will $3 being my expected average / most common tier, that I will need 60 more subscribers to reach that break even point. 

Now, why is that important?  Because you don't want to lose money on your crowdfunding (it defeats the purpose).

So, keeping in mind the 3.5% subscription rate to my audience size and the need for a total of 67 subscribers, I can rough out what I need to grow my audience to in order to reach my break even point.  (I know we're talking about math here folks, stick with me as if you begin a Patreon or Drip page you'll want this information).   So I'm going to need to increase my audience size to 1915 people at the current subscription rate, to break even.  OR, increase the percentage of the audience who are actively subscribing. 

I don't like the way that sounds "I'm going to need to increase ...."  it makes it sound like you can control who likes what you do and who doesn't.  That isn't realistic.  I create to the best of my ability, and I am fortunate enough that some people like my material and enjoy what I do.  So let us accept that we do not control who likes what.  Let us, instead take ownership of the work we do and move forward into the working theory I'm using....

Call it "Sam's Hypothesis" or whatever you like, but here it is:

The best quality work will receive the best possible interest from your audience and the highest possible subscription rate among your audience, while growing the population of that audience.  

So there we are.  As creators, using Patreon, Drip or whatever other site we like, we must produce the best quality work possible.  Not just to retain those people who already like our material enough to support it, but as a necessity to growing the audience and the number of subscribers.  Though you may be tempted to think of subscribers as being more important than your overall audience, I'm going to shout "DON'T DO THAT!" because the fact is that one is simply a portion of the other.  The entirety of your audience is important and equally as important as the portion who support you through subscriptions. 

But what about promoting my page???? 

Okay, yeah, do that too.  But first: Create the best, highest quality work, you possibly can and do that consistently.  I'm reminded (often) to work on my promotional skills, because they sort of suck.  Let's be honest, they do. I like having my work speak for me, which is not the most productive line of thinking in today's world.  I've been very fortunate to have several people within my audience who actively help promote my books through social media (Big shout out to John (all five of you), Miguel, Leslie, West, Draco, Nerdie, Rene, Mike, Michael, Jordan, Joto, Han, PrincessP., Josh and the other Josh(es?), all of the Chris(es?)... seriously its not easy pluralizing names..., West, the Shadowrun fanfic audience, and really to all of you who read this blog).  Without them I would just be another shouting voice in the void.

Now, for everyone who likes to point out that I have a small audience and may not be the best source for deriving theories on this topic:

1) You may be right.  (Seriously, anyone who reads this blog knew I was going to admit that.) Having said that, I have asked subscribers and other creators about this topic and used their feedback for developing this working hypothesis.  If you have other feedback please do post it below, I would love to get your insights.

2) See point one! (lol) No, but seriously now, yes I have a small audience.  The people who read my blog are likely in the same position as well.  Learning to grow your audience and what to realistically expect is, (I think) more useful than saying "first grow your audience to 10000 people who love your work!", because that doesn't exactly help people who don't have huge social media presence or people who are socially awkward to begin with. For that matter, it doesn't help people who are just getting started, or who (like me) are just into to their second year of content creation. So your feedback is certainly welcome, but please lets keep the audience in mind, shall we?


This entry was titles ".... 'On Drip'" because that is the platform I'm using.  I had a brief appearance on Patreon, but shut it down for many reasons.  Nothing against Patreon, by the way, I just wasn't doing a good job with it and that goes against my primary convictions.  Do your best in all things, right?

 Hard examples:

There are a number of creators who have attracted a sizable audience of subscribers on Patreon and/or Drip.  Below are a few to check out, see how they do things, and learn from what is working.  I'm also going to put a link to my Drip page (as I do hope you'll check that out too):

Bully Pulpit Games (On Drip):   I'm not personally familiar with their work, but with 208 active subscribers (as of this writing) they are certainly doing something right.  I'll leave it to your best judgement to judge what that may be.  I first discovered their page by scrolling through every creator on Drip.  (There wasn't a search feature, no seriously, it wasn't there).  I check out this page frequently as I'm interested in what they do.  You should too.

Story Forge (On Drip):  I don't own any Story Forge products, but I'm taking a hard look lately. The content on their Drip page is intriguing! Their Drip page is particularly interesting to me and I'll be adopting their practice of linking the Youtube videos in the public posts.  I think this is a fantastic idea, that is probably a no-brainer to someone with marketing savvy or social media acumen.  Not being either, I'll just nod knowingly and trudge forward. Check them out.

Kobold Press (Patreon):  I am a long time fan of the Kobolds.  Having said that, I'm at a loss as to why they don't have more subscribers on their Patreon page.  The Kobold Press Facebook page and Twitter account are active, engaging and personable.  My only thought is that people may not be aware of the Patreon account and the benefits it offers.  As one of the bigger 'Indy' RPG companies around, Kobold Press has years worth of audience building supporting their efforts and quality has always been top flight for their releases.  (Told you I'm a fan!)  I would really like to see their Patreon subscriber base reach 1000 or more as more funding could potentially mean more cool stuff from these people.  Something I wholeheartedly support.

Terminally Nerdy (Patreon):  One of my favorite Twitter personalities.  Patreon creators take notes.  His page is full of transparent data that tells you exactly what you're getting, what he uses the money for and gives you a perfect sense of the value of pledging. If you're looking for quality content, he's got it.  You can follow his exploits on Twitter as well, and you should.  Take a few minutes and read up on what he is creating.  It is definitely worth your time.

W.S Quinton (Drip):  Yep, me. Presently, I'm providing subscribers with detailed behind the scenes information, access to play test material, how-to information on creating KickStarter campaigns, sneak peeks at art and material in development, and the art for my monthly publication is in color and commissioned specifically for that monthly release.  I'm striving to release high quality content from the beginning, and I hope to expand the content release as more subscribers come on (allowing me the luxury of affording more art).  So check it out (please) find a tier you like (I hope) and subscribe to help me create cool stuff. 


Thank you for joining me on my adventure in writing, self-publishing and game design.
I hope this blog continues to provide you with insights that will help you in your own efforts, and help you to avoid my own missteps. 

As always, your comments/questions/criticisms are most welcome.

Until next time, remember: Adventure Awaits!

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