Can you consistently offer valuable or entertaining information that people will pay for? Most authors can. Here are the subscription-based publishing platforms you might use to provide written, audio, and video content to your readers.
Three of these platforms, Drip, Patreon, and Steady, do much the same thing. You create content on their site and they handle membership, subscription, delivery, and payments. Flattr is a browser extension that follows subscribers around the web and pays you based on the amount of time they spend on your website and social media properties. PayPal handles your subscription and other e-commerce but does not deliver content.
IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER
Drip is a new offering from Kickstarter that lets creators publish on the platform and collect subscriptions from supporters. It’s in beta with an invite-only signup right now. You publish to your supporters who subscribe to your channel on Drip in exchange for a monthly subscription fee.
If you want to leave Drip, they promise to securely download and transfer content, subscriber data, and payments information. This is an important differentiator from the other offerings.
Pricing is not published at this point, but Kickstarter takes 5% and 3% plus 20¢ per pledge (€0.20 in Europe).
Flattr (founded 2010) is a Swedish-based company whose platform allows your supporters to reward you for work published on your own website, blog and social media channels. Subscribers sign up, choose a subscription level (starting at $3/mo), and install a Chrome or Firefox browser extension that privately follows them around the web.
To link a website using your own domain, you add the following meta tag (simple HTML code) to the <HEAD> section for all pages on your website. It looks like this: <meta name=”flattr:id” content=”12dnke”>. (If you can’t do this you can hire somebody to do it very cheaply using Fiverr or another service.)
Once the code is in place and you link your social media channels, the tracker can tell when a Flattr subscriber visits your site or social media channels and you get paid according to level of engagement, such as time spent on the page and other activities. The amount will be variable, as it’s taken from a monthly pool of Flattr subscribers.
Trackable social media accounts are currently YouTube, Vimeo, Twitter, Flickr, GitHub, Medium, Twitch, WordPress.com, SoundCloud, and 500px.
Flattr takes 7.5% of received revenues and their payment provider takes 9%. If you earn above $10.00/mo their fee is $3.00.
So if your audience is web-savvy enough to, there’s really nothing to lose by trying Flattr.
Find out more about Gumroad in the chapter on Direct Sales Tools.
Gumroad (founded 2011) has long been one of my most highly recommended tools and they offer a subscription program as well as a sales widget you can place on your site. They charge a $10/mo hosting fee plus a per-transaction charge of 3.5% plus 30¢. See Gumroad’s full review in Direct Sales Tools for a complete description of all the other things Gumroad can do for you, such as preorders and physical sales of books, mugs, t-shirts, or whatever.
Leanpub is an iterative or serial publication tool, not strictly a subscription tool, but has similarities. See more about Leanpub in the in the chapter on Direct Sales Tools.
Patreon (founded May 2013) was the first robust subscription platform for artists. You can post blogs, audio, video, live streams on the platform and offer off-platform perks like ebooks and print books. It’s an excellent way to raise money and keep in touch with your fans. I used it to fund my Baja Adventure Guide.
Patreon takes a flat fee of 5% of successfully-processed payments, which gives you 95% of earnings from the site.
See more about PayPal in the chapter on E-Commerce Solutions.
In addition to using PayPal as your e-commerce system for single payments and donations, you can use it to collect a subscription fee. It’s very easy to create a PayPal subscription button, customize the button text and appearance, and place it on your website.
You’ll need to host your digital products elsewhere, but PayPal can take the work out of hand-creating accounts for your subscribers by automatically generating usernames and passwords for member-only content on your website. This requires writing or editing a Perl script and placing it on your website server. If you don’t know how to do this, you can easily hire a web expert to do it for you on a site like UpWork or Fiverr. (See Business & Productivity Tools.)
You can even offer a free or discounted trial period, have it track inventory so you don’t oversell books or other products, and add a drop-down menu with prices and options.
Like Patreon and Drip, Berlin-based Steady (founded 2016) provides you with a project page on their platform where you can set prices and decide what to offer your subscribers. You promote your page to your community and they take care of the subscription process. Steady keeps a 10% commission and there are no fees for payment processing.
Substack’s moto is “paid newsletters made simple.” Use it to start an email newsletter that makes money from subscriptions. Just sign up, connect your bank account, and get to work.
You can use it to publish your book serially for free and just collect emails for your newsletter.