You probably don’t read Amelia Cook’s blog, Anime Feminist. The website and community depend on you being interested in not one, but two niche interests: a subset of Japanese cartoons from Japan known as anime, and feminist issues that deal specifically with it.
As a rare somebody who is interested in both of those things, I tossed a dollar Cook’s way when I saw she created a Patreon campaign to fund the blog’s editorial side. Imagine my surprise to learn that 190 other people quickly did the same, netting her more than $800 a month—for a blog that isn’t even three months old. According to Patreon statistics tracker Grapheon, Anime Feminist is already in the upper 60th percentile of successful Patreon campaigns (defined on the tracker as campaigns that earn more than $300 a month).
“There is a piece of ‘conventional wisdom’ I came up against time and again that Patreon is only effective if you build up a large, loyal community first then ask them to pay for the content they consume. This just isn’t true,” said Cook. “You can use Patreon itself to build up that large, loyal community, full of invested and supportive people.”
Patronage for the arts is as old as Mozart and Michelangelo, but with the advent of crowdfunding site Patreon in 2013, it has taken on a digital twist. The service adjusts the crowdfunding model from one-time donations to recurring monthly ones, sort of like a salary. Now more creators than ever are able to earn a reliable monthly income from their art.
And like Cook has discovered, Patreon rewards those who take risks and delve into a specific, narrow niche. Earlier this year, journalist and critic Noah Berlatsky wrote What I learned from my failed Patreon campaign about his experience with just the opposite approach:
“Writing for a mainstream audience is about trying to give everyone what they want; Patreon is about encouraging some smaller subset of people to see the worth of this one, important, special thing you can do,” he wrote for the Kernel.