Viable Alternative Platforms with Potential for Author Income
The model for authors is simple and straightforward. You self-publish your book on Amazon and wait for millions of dollars to roll in. Or you land a publisher, they publish your book, maybe they get it in stores, they definitely put it up on Amazon, and you wait for millions of dollars to roll in. You can also get an agent who negotiates with a publisher, does all the stuff above, puts it on Amazon, and waits with you for millions to roll in.
In some cases, the millions of dollars are slow to roll in. You start to believe they might not be coming at all. This is when you might start to consider alternative platforms to share your work with the world.
This list is not simply about a brand or social media presence. The concept of an author platform includes all of this, but we are focusing on something more specific which might help build that viable author platform. For this list, the sites, services, communities, or platforms included must offer original work from writers to readers available nowhere else. They cannot simply offer passthrough links to content on Amazon. They should also include a viable monetization element—either directly or indirectly—that is more than just an opportunity for exposure. I’m not going to go into a ton of detail on the ins and outs of the operation or set-up of accounts on these sites. I’ll introduce them, explain them, and let you decide as a reader or author if you are interested enough to go find out more. I will bend and break these rules a couple times.
One of the principles I’ve operated under since becoming a full-time writer at the beginning of 2013 is diversification. Just like with a financial portfolio, I always strive to diversify my writing income so when one line of income dropped a little or dried up entirely, I’d have other sources producing or that I was working to build to make up for losses elsewhere.
Another less noble principle I’ve operated under is throwing stuff at the wall and seeing what sticks. Lots of things don’t and haven’t. When something does, I try my best to go after it, learn all that I can from people who have been successful before me, and then try to find my own path to success with that avenue.
Some of these platforms might be that thing that sticks to the wall for you and provides diversification within your writing income. If you are a reader, these might be places to find some cool material from authors that you won’t find anywhere else.
The Ones You Already Know
Nothing new here, but still a viable author platform with monetization potential. As they compete with Twitch for livestream dollars, YouTube is innovating faster in that arena than many other options. Streamers are leaving Twitch for YouTube more and more. Authors have had YouTube channels for a while. Most authors who do livestreams started here or on Facebook. Then, of course, YouTube is the number one spot for pre-recorded videos of all types. As the pandemic of 2020 pushed more authors to virtual events, there was more exploration of live events on Zoom, Streamyard, and elsewhere. YouTube, like many platforms, is saturated with content and with content creators, but the potential is still there. There’s lots of author content on there if you know where to look.
Many authors are well aware of Patreon. It’s a subscription model with tiers, offering original content, access to creators, and behind the scenes previews and peeks. There are many imitators of this model we’ll discuss in a moment.
Lots of authors, publishers, and readers have podcasts. A number of them offer original author content. They are so easy to start that some authors can’t seem to stop themselves from starting new ones all the time.
• Author/Publisher Newsletters
Email newsletters are one of oldest arrows in the quiver. Many authors started and abandoned them years ago. If you have some favorite writers or artists, signing up for their email newsletter isn’t a bad idea. They often include perks, original work, and cool insights into what they are creating. The good ones are worth the subscription.
• Copies and Castoffs
There’s no way to say this without sounding insulting, whether that’s my intention or not. Every platform I mention will have competitors who are trying to compete for an audience with the same model. There are also creators who have been banned or restricted by one platform or another who flock to one of these copies that promises more freedom and less censorship.
Ko-fi, Flatter, Podia, Memberful, and many other platforms are alternatives to Patreon that offer essentially the same thing. Some creators are making money on them. They offer material not available anywhere else. They strive to serve some particular niche in order to compete with Patreon. Others among the many Patreon castoffs are made up of mostly porn stars and conservatives who thought Patreon wasn’t giving them a fair shake.
I’m not going to get into the validity of the claims of these platforms or creators other than to say that in the list below my goal was to offer alternatives that weren’t just other versions of each other. They all have similarities, but I chose these for the way they stand out from the rest and because fewer readers and writers have heard of them.
Viable Alternative Platforms with Potential for Author Income
godless is hot right now. Authors are putting out original ebooks exclusive to the site for low prices. Some really great stories are as low as 50 cents on the site and available nowhere else. There is a lot of buzz and a lot of repeat buyers who are excited about what they are finding to read. The owner/operator is very hands on with promotion and is getting readers’ attention. Extreme horror and bizarro stories are doing really well with the audience of godless. The site is very creator friendly with high royalty rates and a focus on customer/reader satisfaction and excitement that is drawing attention to the exclusive titles. You can click the “Creator” button to contact the owner directly to discuss creating a presence on the site.
Wattpad has been around a while. It came out in November of 2006, preceding the Kindle by one full year. Authors put up all sorts of work on Wattpad. The most popular work on there is episodic or serial stories. It is very well-established with a depth of content in any genre readers might want. Wattpad’s audience trends younger as do a number of its creators. Many of the authors are not published anywhere else, but there is some real talent there.
You should be a little angry that I’m including a platform connected to Amazon on a list of alternatives to Amazon. This is a betrayal to the bill of goods I sold you at the beginning. Still, this new arm of Amazon bears mentioning after Wattpad, as it is an attempt by Amazon to co-opt that audience. And it is worth discussing because it is so new that it hasn’t launched yet as of the writing of this article. There is an opportunity for authors to jump in at the beginning. The similarity to Wattpad is also a breaking of the rules I established earlier for this list.
For authors, you can schedule and publish episodes/chapters of an ongoing serial story as long as it has not ever been published anywhere else in any form. The first three episodes are free and the rest after that are paid for by an as yet undetermined number of tokens, similar to Wattpad’s monetization structure. Where things go from there, no one knows yet. We’re still in the “throw at the wall” “waiting to launch” phase with this one.
This is an audio-only and invite only social media platform. A few authors are staking out territory here and using their invites to bring in readers. The audio format lends itself to readings, Q&As, and other live discussions without video. The potential here has not yet been fully explored.
This operates much like other platforms that offer ebooks. Readict, a combination of the words read and addict, I believe, recently paid a number of bigger name mid-list authors very well for exclusive work. There are quality novels on there available nowhere else.
Medium’s content is primarily made up of nonfiction articles. It has free and paid content. Writers earn by reads and reading time from subscribers. Medium has a number of copies and castoffs with criticisms of the site. Medium also has a number of writers making hundreds or thousands of dollars a month from their regular articles and blogs.
I’ve talked about Twitch a lot, but I think it is worth mentioning again for the position it holds in the livestreaming field. It is primarily for videogame streamers, but has a growing number of artist and writer livestreams joining in and earning money every month. Twitch has a number of avenues for revenue from supporters and for interaction with viewers. There is a robust circle of supporting software to add to the streaming experience. It is still a fairly open field for writers to get in before everyone else does. Being off-brand for writers as a primarily video-game oriented platform, it requires creativity to find your lane and to achieve a working level of monetization. This platform is also owned by Amazon, but that gives the opportunity for anyone with Amazon Prime to subscribe to a channel for free and the streamer gets paid.
This site offers an interactive community that tends to be supportive from writer to writer. It also includes a regular self-selecting magazine from among all the various creators on the site. Some of the monetization potential is indirect, but there is a lot of great content for readers to browse through.
This is the sister site to FanFiction.net. The fan fiction arm has a huge following. The fan fiction work is, of course, based on existing franchises. Fictionpress offers original stories not based on existing franchises. A lot of the potential in Fictionpress comes from the bleed-over from the fan fiction site as a percentage of the readers explore new material.
10. Virtual Conventions
This one will be a bit of an outlier, but I think it’s important to discuss. Live virtual events are not really anything new, but they got a new push as 2020 shutdown everything. Over that year and into 2021, virtual conventions got better, more refined, and offered richer experiences. Of course, I’m excited to get back to in-person events, but I think it would be a shame to let everything organizers have learned about virtual events fall out of use. Hybrid events could be really powerful and would offer a reach beyond those who can show up physically. A number of virtual conventions over this timeframe included virtual dealers’ rooms. There was interaction at some of them in formats like chatrooms or messenger systems, and there were sales for authors and publishers participating in the events. All of this innovation in addition to better and better presentations is too valuable and too new for us to cast off. We are only beginning to unlock the potential. Businesses are exploring more and more what virtual events can offer and the publishing industry along with independent authors should explore whether this avenue has some sticking potential we haven’t unlocked yet.
Making a profit at writing is an uphill climb. Making a living with writing is more difficult than that. Every profitable avenue that can be developed, especially where not all other authors have thought to try yet, increases the chances for success.
For readers, there are a lot of things competing for your attention. If you are growing bored or are looking for something new, these alternate platforms have stuff you won’t find anywhere else. There are some real treasures among those exclusives.
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