In April this year, Raging Swan Press launched its Patreon campaign. Since then, we’ve hit our first and second milestones and quintupled the word rate which we pay our freelancer game designers.
Patreon is awesome for Raging Swan Press and I wanted to share why with other 3PP publishers. In short, the heroic support of my patrons means that our standard length supplements breakeven before they are released.
The economics of 3PP are notoriously tight (something I blogged about several months ago). Many companies struggle to survive in a crowded marketplace in which it is very hard to get noticed. Furthermore, it’s a generally accepted fact that if you sell 200 copies of a product you’ve got a hit on your hands. With these depressingly small sale figures, it’s very hard to make any meaningful profit and even harder to actually make a living.
Breaking the Paradigm
Earlier this year, a minor controversy raged over freelancer pay rates in the gaming industry. In short, they are crap. (It’s somewhat more complicated than that—some companies such as Paizo and Wizards of the Coast pay very well while others pay much less—but that’s the basic state of play).
In the ensuing conversation there was a fair amount of mud slinging and passionate debate. Simply put, there’s not a lot of money in this industry, for 3PP. This forces freelancer wages down, which isn’t ideal, because most companies actually want to stay in business. I found myself in the frustrating position of defending low word rates while all the time wishing I could pay more. I took the conversation to heart and looked at ways to change the way Raging Swan Press does business. After all, I *want* to pay my freelancers more, but I also want to stay in business. There had to be a way.
Patreon is Awesome
- Guaranteed Sales/Guaranteed Revenue: What company wouldn’t want guaranteed sales? With Patreon, Raging Swan Press gets just that! Every patron pledges a certain amount of money per product and Patreon collects this money at the end of the month. After taking a small cut (5%), Patreon dumps the excess into my PayPal account.
- Rewards for Everyone: Using Patreon allows Raging Swan Press to connect with our most loyal fans and reward them for their support. As part of our evil scheme our patrons get our books earlier and cheaper than normal and even get access to discounted print products. Our freelancers get better pay and Raging Swan Press gets a decent part of its expenses covered automatically. Everyone wins, everyone is happy!
- Warm Fuzzy Feeling: I get a warm fuzzy feeling (and I hope my patrons do as well) knowing we’ve managed to increase our pay rate to 5 cents a word. That’s epic, and hopefully by the end of the year we’ll be paying 7 cents a word. (After that, it will be the turn of the artists and cartographers to benefit from my patron’s generosity.) Our freelancers are incredibly talented and hardworking. It’s nice to reward their effort with better pay. I’ve done a fair amount of freelancing in my time and while my primary reason for doing so was the joy of design, better pay isn’t exactly unwelcome.
Some Example Maths
The numbers are quite small, but their affects are huge! To date, Raging Swan Press has got 55 patrons pledging $234.50 per supplement. Let’s look at our costs for a typical 6-page supplement such as a Village Backdrop:
- Cover Design: $0
- Cartography: $40
- Design (5 cents/word): $175
- Editing: $0 (in house)
- Layout: $0 (in house)
- Patreon Fees (5%): $11.72
- PayPal Fees (2%): $4.69
- Total Costs: $231.41
So already, even with our enhanced pay rate, our patrons are covering all our costs. When we hit our next milestone ($300) we’ll be able to up our pay rate again to 7 cents a word and still have all our costs covered.
And the best bit: only another 20-30 people need to sign up to make this a reality!
What I Didn’t Know (But I Do Now!)
I’ve been watching closely over the last months to see whether the Patreon campaign has a detrimental affect on our sales through traditional web retailers. My suspicion was that it wouldn’t, but it’s something that needed close attention. I’m delighted to report that Patreon sales don’t seem to impact our traditional sales in any way. This means our Patreon revenue is extra revenue—which is the best kind of revenue!
In fact as it turns out, after only four months Patreon is already Raging Swan’s third most important revenue stream (after OBS and Paizo). When we hit our next milestone ($300 a release) it’s likely to move into the number 2 slot!
If you are a 3PP and you haven’t already considered setting up a Patreon campaign I strongly urge you to make the time to at least look into it. (And, of course, if you’d like to see how to run one why not sign up to Raging Swan’s—you could view it as an extra free bonus for your support?!)