#6: Neil Gaiman, Authenticity, Patreon & Social Media

Good morning people! Our ranks are growing, and it’s nice to know that I’m not shooting missives into the ether. It would, however, be nice to hear from you sometime! I’d like to have a conservation rather than just spout (though it is helpful to get some stuff off my chest).


Neil Gaiman & Authenticity

Neil Gaiman Sandman #1
My life with Neil Gaiman began here in 1988.

I’ve been watching Neil Gaiman’s masterclass on The Art of Storytelling this week, on & off. It’s not a binge watching type of thing for me, where I’m trying to suck it all in fast as possible to Become a Better Writer Immediately. So far it feels like a conversation we could have at a pub, where he’s bestowing wisdom on me between pints.

I expect I’ll be listening to his class on & off until I feel I’ve subsumed it all. I’m sure I’ll take notes at some point but it’s currently on when I’ve been working or drawing, where I expect things to seep into my unconscious even if I’m not paying full attention. (Plus he hasn’t dug into process yet.)

He managed to catch my ear with something he said yesterday:

You [have] to be a little more honest than you [are] comfortable with.

Neil Himself

He’s talking about writing honest, authentic stories. Stories that aren’t derivative, stories that could only have been made by you. Once we get past the first phase of being a creative (mediocre early writing, so-so early art, etc) and have a modicum of competence in our chosen field(s), the next step is to create without pretense.

I say ‘step’ but this is a process, one that can take years as we peel away idea after idea on what we think we should be doing.

(Side note: I posit that thinking too much about what they should be doing is what ruins most sequels.)

Neil Gaiman rules
YAY there goes another hangup out the window…

This isn’t easy to do. It’s work – sometimes hard work as we face truths that we might prefer not to. But we’ll be left with the ability to make things that no one else in the world can.

That’s the holy grail for me. It’s what separates the masters from the creations they inspire; at least that’s my understanding of it at this moment. These inspired creations can be very good and enjoyable on their own since they scratch some of the same itches. But there’s a chasm between Neil and Similar to Neil, between creations that resonate deeply versus entertain briefly.

I get how this process works because I haven’t always put myself into my creativity, or in other areas.

As an entrepreneur (which is a super secret code word for ‘someone who doesn’t like to be controlled very much’), I’ve come across idea after idea for making money that sounded pretty damn good. I know now that it often had more to do with what the success looked like than anything else. I’ve worked on a lot of business ideas because ‘______ should make money’ instead of ‘I really want to do ______.’

This is a trap creators can fall into as well:

  • “Gag strips are popular so I should do one too. (______ idea I’ve had for years would work for this)”
  • “Pinup/NSFW artists have huge followings, I’m going to add boobs to all my art now.”
  • ”______ genre is really hot right now, I should jump on that.”
Cosplay clown
Copying is great … for cosplay

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to copy success. It’s a smart idea in the entrepreneurial realm, where the goal is to make more money than you spend. (Successful creatives borrow from this realm quite a bit; case in point: mailing lists. But it doesn’t always work. It can be hard to do something well if you don’t really believe in it.

If we creatives want to be authentic, we can’t just copy someone else’s end product (we can, but it’s not fulfilling or sustainable – or kosher, depending on how much copying is involved).

If we want to copy anything, it’s how much of themselves a creator puts into the art that resonates with us.

You know when you’re half-assing it. Drop that crap like a rock and full ass it instead.

(Writing a weekly off-the-cuff newsletter is a step for me towards being more authentic.)


My DIY Patreon

I’ve had an insanely productive week, with a lot of progress on rolling my own patreon.


I don’t hate Patreon (unlike my feelings toward Facebook). It’s great that they, along with Ko-Fi, provide a way for creators to build a sustainable income. But what Patreon is doing is providing an easy way to setup a membership site and focusing on marketing to creators.

Membership sites have been a successful business model for decades that works extremely well on the web. Think of any business or organization that’s reliant on recurring membership fees, either monthly or annual. Chambers of commerce and unions are membership based organizations, with annual membership fees.

Membership sites and their recurring revenue have been gamechangers for creatives.

Building a membership site is not an arcane process

Everything on the web gets easier over time. We don’t have to manually code websites anymore (unless we want to) – we use content management systems like WordPress that help us make a much more robust site than a non-coder could have made 20 years ago.

Building a membership site has taken the same trajectory. What used to be hard to do is now easy — there are a plethora of plugins that can turn WordPress into a membership site (or a DIY Patreon). A handful are free, but usually with limited features; most are paid, with monthly or annual licensing fees.

DIY Patreon
This is only thing that came up when I searched for ‘arcane’

Only one is free and fully featured: Paid Memberships Pro. It’s what I’m using to roll my own Patreon.

PMPro does offer more feature and support for their paid tiers but everything someone needs to build their own Patreon can be had for free:

  • Their main plugin is free and can be used on as many sites as you want
  • They support 6 payment methods out of the box, including Stripe (my pref & rec) and PayPal
  • They offer 19 free addons, including Mailchimp &. WooCommerce integration
  • Most (all? I haven’t counted) of their paid addons are available for free from their GitHub repository, including one that give members the option of paying what they want for a tier

Patreon is a quicker and easier way to do this, but you need to consider these factors:

How to make your own patreon
Forking over your Benjamins to venture capitalists is not good strategy.
  • Patreon has fees.
    • Payout fees (ie you have to pay Patreon to get the money you earned)
    • Currency conversion fees (optional)
    • Transaction fees.
      • 2.9% + $0.30 per successful payment over $3 (this is common for most payment processors)
      • 5% + $.10 per successful payment $3 or less
  • Patreon is backed by over $90M in venture capital. They’re not a small mom & pop – they have major investors whose only goal is to make a significant return on their investment.
  • Using Patreon is digital sharecropping. They can change their terms & fees anytime they want. They already tried to charge patrons a 2.9% fee plus $.35 for each pledge. This dumbassery was dreamed up by some fucking analysts who didn’t think about how much a patron would be pissed the fuck off to find out their $1 pledge actually cost $1.38. The reaction was so bad that the proposed changes never went into effect, but I guarantee the VCs are hard at work trying to squeeze more juice from the orange.

Rolling your own Patreon means the only fees you incur are transaction fees for payments, along with any payments you make to a web dev if you decide not to build it yourself.

Let’s illustrate this with some numbers

  • If you make $1000/mo from pledges, that’s $12,000/yr
    • Subtract transaction fees and you take home ~$950mo or so
  • Platform fees: 8% of $12,000 = $960
  • Creators are giving Patreon more than month of their earnings just to use the platform

I’m already against an internet where everything is dominated by big players, but giving up a month of my annual earnings is INSANE.

I believe there’s a better way, and it’s not onerous if you can you follow step-by-step instructions. It won’t match Patreon feature for feature but it will cover all the important features related to protecting content and receiving payments. I’d rather have control over everything and keep more of my earnings – wouldn’t you? Once I’ve got my DIY Patreon (which I’m calling an old school Fan Club) up and running, I’ll make tutorials on how I set it up. I’m even pondering designing a site to look like Patreon.

How does this all sound to you?


How to social media without misery

If you follow me on social media, I’ve already shared this video and raved about it. Megan Rose Ruiz is a 23yo visdev artist who is wise beyond her years. Her video about the problem with social media lays bare what platforms’ intentions are (not good), the hurdles artists can face (like not being a cute white girl), and what she’s done to grow a decent following (one thing: keep sharing the same stuff over & over).

I wish I’d made this video – that’s how good it is. It ties in perfectly with my ideas on how to use corporations more than they use us. You will not regret watching this.


What I’m reading

Persephone by Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky

I was so productive this week that I didn’t read a lot. I’m in the middle of reading Persephone by Loïc Locatelli-Kournwsky, “a modern-day retelling of the Greek myth of Demeter and her daughter Persephone in an exciting universe that blends high-fantasy adventure with visuals reminiscent of Japanese anime and 1950s American-style comics.” So far I love the art, I could see it as a Studio Ghibli film.


That’s all folks!

That two hour time limit isn’t working out too, by the time I get everything off my chest it’s more like 3-4h. That’s not too bad though – certainly better than wasting the time on social media.

Reply or leave a comment if something caught your attention!

Photo by flickr user nrkbeta under the CC BY-SA 2.0 license
Photo of author


Arp Laszlo

Hi, I’m Arp! I make comics and write about life as an Indian-American with late-diagnosis ADHD. I’m a self-taught and self-employed creator so I write a lot about art, learning, and entrepreneurial stuff that I’ve picked up along the way.

My stories are kinda weird, because that’s just how I am. My formative influences are Indian mythology, Batman, Tintin, 70s Bollywood, Ray Harryhausen, and Monty Python. There’s no way anything normal could come out of that, right?

Leave a Comment

Already a member? Login here.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.