Recently Patreon screwed over a bunch of its creators. I know that’s a harsh thing to say, but it’s true. Due to their desire to transfer their billing from California to Ireland (which is well known for beneficial corporate tax rates), many recurring member charges were declined. Their banks saw the change in billing location from the US to Ireland and it pinged their fraud-radar. So they declined the charges.
The unfortunate part is that when that happened, those members’ subscriptions cancelled and it became virtually impossible for creators to see whose charges were denied so they could reach out and perhaps resolve the issue. For the supporters, it’s equally bad because they want to support that creator I’m sure, and now they may not even know this happened. Some creators lost up to 30% or more of their income.
There’s been a few great posts written up about it on social media. I encourage you to check out this post on Mastodon by David Gerard.
Previously Patreon ran into problems when it fired it’s entire Trust & Safety team. And for those who creative works could be considered “adult content” (And I consider erotic romance to fall under this umbrella since the lines aren’t well drawn), the platform has been problematic, even kicking creators off for various infractions real or imagined.
While Patreon might be one of the bigger, if not the biggest name in the game, there are other ways for creators to receive subscription billing from supporters and even deliver perks. In this blog post I’ll discuss a few of them.
Ko-Fi and Buy Me A Coffee
Both Ko-Fi and Buy Me A Coffee operate on the same principle. Supporters can either provide a one-off donation (usually about $3, but they can choose a different amount if they want.) or can provide monthly subscriptions. Ko-Fi has their “ko-fi shops” which allows creators to sell merchandise, and both also support subscription billing. I recently set up an Epona Author Solutions Ko-Fi because it connects with Twitch, and you can check it out and explore Ko-Fi’s capabilities at https://ko-fi.com/eponaauthorsolutions. Buy Me A Coffee is very similar, and my author page is at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/musehappens.
Neither Ko-Fi NOR Buy Me A Coffee take a fee out of supporter payments. They also don’t cost creators anything at the basic tier. They do have a higher paid tier with more benefits. You only pay your Stripe or Paypal processing fees.
Liberapay is an open source monthly recurring donations platform. It’s “owned” by a cooperative, and like Ko-Fi and Buy Me A Coffee, it doesn’t take a cut of your money. Also like them, it connects to Stripe or Paypal directly and sends funds through those services. I’m not sure about content delivery on LiberaPay, but it’s something I’m going to find out as I’ll be adding it as an option for the Epona Author Community/Epona Author Social supporters.
Build Your Own Membership Site
Okay, I admit it, I’m a bit of a geek, a tech nerd, and I’ve been playing around in WordPress pretty much since the project began. This is also something I’ll be doing for my author site as I finish rebranding and reworking, and isn’t too difficult if you’re familiar with setting up plugins and got some time to play around. Once I get some things set up, I’ll be talking about this in more detail. But it is entirely possible to bypass these services directly by building your own, which will integrate with your newsletter, and probably just about anything else you can think about.
The Bottom Line: Own Your Platform
If anything, the Patreon debacle shows that it’s vital for creators to own their platforms or at least be able to export information from it to keep safe. We cannot trust major companies, especially once venture capital gets involved, to care for us as customers. If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, I highly recommend learning about Cory Doctrow’s theory of enshittification for the internet. It’s real and it’s happening right before our eyes.