getting down from a duck

A question I see a lot of creators asking is “how do I promote my Patreon”. Or “how do I promote my Kickstarter”.

And, well, it just reminds me of the old joke: “How do you get down from an elephant?” “You don’t. You get down from a duck.”

The duck to a fund-raising campaign’s elephant is your own site. With your own work on it. For free. Find a way to carve out time and energy to make your thing, post it all online. And when you post it, make sure that there’s a link to that Patreon right next to it, every time. And make sure that when Kickstarter time comes around, you add a prominent link to that as well.

And put some money into advertising your thing. Promote that. Buy ads in places people who’ll like your thing seem likely to hang out. Use your analytics to figure out which ads do best – not just in terms of people clicking on them, but in terms of people clicking on them and hanging around to look at a decent chunk of your thing. Give your thing away as you build an audience of people who like your thing, then give them a chance to start paying for it. Some of them will. And some of them will promote it for you. Some will even do both.

It’s when I say “give your thing away for free” that people balk. They view every person who consumes the whole thing as a lost sale, and want to lock the whole thing behind paywalls. That works fine when you’re a big name who a lot of people will buy a new thing from sight unseen, sure. But it doesn’t work for you. Not when you’re a beginner. Reproducing your thing on the net is free. Embrace this; give it away. And politely ask that people who’ve read a lot of it consider paying you something, or spreading the word. Everyone who tells their friends about this cool thing they read for free? They’re providing value to you, right there: advertising.

I’m not gonna lie. It takes time to do this. A few years. I’ve been doing this with Rita for four and a half years now and it’s just barely starting to pay the bills. But I’ve found it a hell of a lot easier to repeatedly get down from a duck than to try to get down from an elephant right off the bat; the Kickstarter for the first volume of Rita made its goal in one weekend because I’d already built an audience for it.

(Of course, there is an elephant in the room here: your thing has to be good enough for people to want to pay you for it. That’s another matter entirely. If you’re building your craft at making your thing at the same time you’re gathering an audience, it’ll take longer than if your craft is already pro-level, like mine was when I started drawing Rita..)