Wouldn’t it be nice to have a rich patron to support your artistic endeavors? No more can’t-afford-to-quit-my-day-job blues. You could be like Shakespeare and have your writing supported by the Queen of England, or maybe Michaelangelo, who had the financial backing of the pope. Imagine the heights to which your art will soar.
Or maybe, you’ll just waste even more time on the internet.
Patronage for the arts got its start Renaissance period. It was a status thing for the artist—the richer the patron, the more esteemed the artist. The patron also got status points for supporting the artist’s work because it was seen as a civic, or even religious duty. Of course, it also let everyone else know just how rich and powerful the patron was.
So Shakespeare had Queen Elizabeth (among other patrons), who can a modern writer turn to for patronage? There are endowments and fellowships out there, but it seems most of them are linked to academics. I haven’t seen any Hollywood stars, rich athletes, or socialites offering to fund your next novel. It seems today’s patrons are ordinary people.
Lately, I’ve seen quite of few anthologies and magazines being funded by Kickstarter or something similar. People pay upfront for a future product. Then there is Patreon, which seems to be the newest “thing” for writers to raise money. It is based upon the patron concept, but instead of a single rich sponsor, you have many fans who donate to your work. In return, you can give them early access to stories or special content.
I have mixed feelings about Patreon. First, I don’t want to miss out on an opportunity that could help me with my writing, but this seems like just another thing to take time away from actually writing. Second, and my biggest issue, is that it feels more like begging for money than having a patron. Don’t get me wrong, I like money, but publishing isn’t that expensive in this Amazon era. It seems like just another way to get money out of people instead of selling books (Not that I’m selling a lot of books or making any money, but I figure that’s my issue to deal with not anyone else’s).
I guess it’s my old-fashioned desire to not owe people money. Patreon still feels like taking a loan to me. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet:
Neither a borrower nor a lender be; / For loan oft loses both itself and friend.
Of course, whenever I think of this line it comes out in the Skipper’s voice from Gilligan’s Island.
I would like to think that if the next Shakespeare is out there, he would be easy enough to spot and would be successful without the need of a Patreon page. Or maybe not.
Anyone out there using Patreon? Please let me know your thoughts.