Patreon is a crowdfunding website designed to let fans of things become patrons of the arts, or at least patrons of those things of which they are fans. And speaking of fans, many of you have contacted us in recent months and asked how you can support the comic strip without buying merchandise. Some of you have even said "put up a Patreon so I can pay you."
Now we have! So now you can!
The Schlock Mercenary Patreon has two tiers of support: "Patron" and "Schlock Troops."
Patrons spend $1.00 per month, and get regular drops of behind-the-scenes goodies. These will include things from my sketchbook, abandoned strips, abandoned scripts, commentaries on the worldbuilding, and other things that don't make it onto the web. Patrons also get a two-day head start on pre-orders, and upcoming pre-orders will be announced via Patreon emails, so they don't have to check the website every day.
Schlock Troops spend $2.50 per month, and they get everything the Patrons get, plus regular drops of desktop wallpapers, high-res crops of panels, pre-release (potentially spoilery) unfinished versions of strips, and other things that might, in a different context, be considered "digital merchandise." Schlock Troops get the same 2-day head start as Patrons, but they also get access to convention-exclusive merchandise without attending the convention (while supplies last, anyway.) Oh, and quarterly we'll be dropping coupons on Schlock Troops that will save them money on store orders.
Patreon will ask you for a credit card, and will automatically charge that card once per month for the sum of all your patronage that month. You can cancel at any time.
We're new to this system, so we'll probably make some mistakes, but we're hoping to err on the "gave you more than your money's worth" side of things. Eventually we may expand the tiers and the rewards to include things like ad-free browsing, but that's a technological problem we're not in a position to tackle just yet. Currently the rewards are for patrons only.
Let me now speak to the elephant in the room: Isn't Schlock Mercenary too big and too successful for crowdfunding?
The answer is complicated. On a personal level, Sandra and I both work for the same "employer," Schlock Mercenary, and while we have lean months and fat months, Sandra does a fantastic job of managing our budget, so our family of six lives within our means.
On a corporate level, Schlock Mercenary rents a warehouse, pays several employees and/or contractors, and regularly invests tens of thousands of dollars in merchandise projects. The company does not have enough money to run down every avenue for possible growth, however. Last year's challenge coin Kickstarter opened some cool doors for us, but there are still lots of things we want to be able to pay other people to do.
Ultimately, however, the answer to the question lies in the sad truth that no business is too big to fail. We have to keep moving, and changing, and thinking, and learning, and firing up a Patreon is part of that process.