If you’re a supporter of The Dawn Chapel on Patreon, I made a post recently that I am also going to share here for the benefit of folks that might have their email notifications for Patreon turned off. If you’d like to participate in the conversation, you can comment on the corresponding post over there.
The Dawn Chapel has been Patreon-supported for a year now, and I’ve learned a few things from the experience. Most importantly, I’ve learned that I have a terrible habit of over-promising and under-delivering.
I guess I shouldn’t say this is something I’ve learned recently, it’s an ongoing pattern that emerges whenever I pass the hat around: I feel guilty for just straight up asking for help, and so I turn it into an exchange – nevermind that most folks are likely to contribute because they consider the comic itself to be the thing I’m already offering in return. And nevermind that I fail to first fully consider whether or not it’s realistic for me to commit to whatever it is I’m committing to.
(This mental and emotional bramble that I get myself snared in becomes especially complicated when the number of people pledging their support gets quite large – not only am I failing to deliver on my commitments, but I’m failing to deliver on my commitments to an awful lot of people, and guilt and anxiety and a sense of obligation are things that historically get in the way of me actually doing the work.)
In the space of time I’ve been having my comic supported through Patreon, I have drawn exactly zero icons for backers. I have shipped zero prints. And it’s not as though I’m actively avoiding them, or procrastinating, or even just plain lazy – it’s that I fail to plan when I’m going to do these things when I’m scheduling my work week. And then I forget, or when I do remember, it’s always when I’m doing something else that I’ve placed a higher priority on, like the commissioned work I owe, or working on the comic itself.
And I feel like a tremendous heel about not following through. It feeds into this cycle of guilt and anxiety that I tend to let myself get locked up inside, and – paradoxically – it has a very corrosive effect on my ability to actually put my head down and do the work.
Over the last year that I’ve been running a Patreon, I’ve dropped the ball in a rather spectacular fashion, and I don’t know if there’s an apology I can make that is big enough for this abdication of my responsibility to you.
But there is something else going on, too, that I find to be rather incredible: nobody’s nagged me about where their prints are. Not one single person has been on my case about icons. It causes me to suspect that the primary reason that you are backing my comic is because you want to see the comic continue.
At first that’s a difficult thing for me to wrap my head around, but then I think about the projects that I’ve pledged my support to – I mean, as a backer of other projects myself, I don’t even check my Patreon feed regularly to see whatever backers-only goodies I’m ostensibly ‘paying for,’ I only ever sign in when I have something to post. And while I know that my own experiences aren’t necessarily going to be reflective of other people’s, my point here is I’m not at all concerned about what I’m ‘getting’ in return for the pledges I’ve made to other artists. I pledged my support to them because I want to live in a world where they’re free to do the work they want to do. I don’t exactly know why it’s difficult for me to think of myself on the opposite side of that equation, but here we are.
So, you know why I’m changing my Patreon, now let me tell you what the plan is.
-First, I’m placing an order with my printer for the prints owed my $10 backers through the last year. (Note: I have now done this, an order for a year’s worth of prints-of-the-month has been placed.) I have the mats and mailers (and most of the prints) already, it likely won’t take me more than two or three weeks to get that squared.
-Second, I’m scheduling time to draw a sheet of nine icons per week, for every backer who’s cleared the $16 minimum cumulative pledge threshold (which at this point is nearly everyone). If I stay on top of that, it’ll only take me a month to get through everyone.
-And finally, I’m eliminating the reward tier structure for The Dawn Chapel – there will only be one (1) backer level, Patron, with a $1/page minimum. Everyone gets an icon once they clear the cumulative minimum. Everyone gets a tambourine.
(note: nobody actually gets a tambourine.)
I’ll also continue to offer other things and share them with patrons, but rather than stratify them into an arbitrarily complicated reward system, or commit to them at a regular interval, I’m going to share them as I finish them, the way I did with the tiger book, and keep you updated on my progress with each of these side projects as I work through them.
I think that this approach – to just do the All Cool Stuff I Want To Do and then pass it out to patrons once it’s cooked – will work better for me. In some cases, like when there’s a production and distribution expense involved, I may give priority to people who’ve got a higher lifetime support amount, but for the most part I like the idea of just having the side projects be a nice surprise for all patrons whenever I finish something.
Here’s some examples of the things I have in mind, and will give as rewards to patrons before putting them up for sale:
-A series of chapter books set in the Empyrean, in the vein of stuff like the Spiderwick, Narnia, or Prydain books. These books will involve psychic whales and very eloquent robots.
-Campaign source materials for D&D adventures set in and near the Empyrean.
-Vinyl decals of city crests of major powers like Allsaints, Lethowstow, Wellingtonia, and factions like the Nicotani Company, for placing on your laptop, car, or other sticker-compatible surface.
-Custom printed USB drives and conbadge sleeves with artwork relating to the comic on them.
-A story told in the form of a correspondence exchange between Empyrean scholars, similar to the Griffin and Sabine books, in which very comprehensive worldbuilding of the setting is explored. The Dawn Chapel version of the Silmarillion, basically.
-There’s more, but for some reason whenever I sit down to write lists of everything I want to do, I forget like half of them. Do you have ideas for things you’d like to see from me through Patreon, like character q&a’s, reviews of other comics and children’s books I read and draw inspiration from, new and interesting merch, etc.? Please do let me know.
The executive summary here is I want to give more back, and I hope that this strategy will make it easier for me to do that.
The patronage model operates on a very simple principle of human generosity, so in keeping with that principle, I’m simplifying my approach. As you give what you can, I will do the same in return.