Why do independent artists sound like they’re begging you for money all the time?
The answer? Because we probably are.
The thing is the creation and promotion of art, in any medium—be it paint, sculpture, music, writing—is costly for the artist. And even a represented artist ends up spending a lot of their own money to fund their dreams.
I can skim over the costs of being a professional musician, having known several of them over the years. But obviously, my knowledge is in the costs of being a writer.
Let’s talk about that.
First, let me begin by saying, obviously, there are ways to do it for free. It’s like trying to get to China in a rowboat, but it can be done.
However, if any artist—writer, musician, painter—wants to make a real living out of their art, they can’t skate by on free. At least not all the time.
Sure, you can recruit a trusted, honest, sympathetic group of writers to serve as beta readers and forego a developmental editor.
You can use the spelling and grammar checker in MS Word or Google Docs and forego the copy editor (warning, the grammar bot doesn’t catch everything!).
I have enough experience with graphic design that I can comfortably make my own covers. I am learning to sculpt in Blender so that I can make my own covers without using stock photography. And Creative Commons is free, but you can’t always find what you want there.
You can go to Pexels or Pixabay and download videos for trailers or teasers, but the really good stuff is only available with a free account.
The point is for everything we can do for free, there is a paid version that is going to offer a little more. There are sites like Bookfunnel or AllAuthor that send out newsletters with new releases, but you have to pay to be part of them. AllAuthor offers instant book cover mockups but maybe four or five layouts for free. If you want more, you have to sign up for the pro account.
Wix is an incredible website design and hosting platform. But if you want your own dot com, you have to pay for that. If you want your own firstname.lastname@example.org email, you have to pay for that. If you want to sell your books directly from your site . . . yep, you guessed it. A paid add-on.
And most of these things are cheap. Five to ten dollars per month or maybe $100 for a year. Not much if that’s all you need. But when you need ten things that are $100 per year . . .
So, we sign up for Patreon or Ko-Fi or similar because—especially in the beginning—it’s hard to make the kind of money we need from book sales alone. Maybe you sell 1000 copies the first week or the first month but then you sell five or ten the next month and three the month after that. But with subscription services like Patreon, all you need is 100 people who appreciate your work enough to give you $5/month and BOOM! Your website is paid for, your advertising budget is secured, maybe your registration for a con or two. And all each person had to invest is the cost of one (or two, in my case) cup of luxury brand coffee each month.
That’s why you find these video game players on Twitch who are making a couple thousand dollars a month. Because 1000 people pledge $1 to see their content. That’s the breakdown. It really is that easy and that hard, all at the same time. The support subscription model really is pretty awesome.
Providing you have the kind of content people want to pay for. And that’s where the real work starts.