You should totally check this website out, it's awesome. Also, it was totally my idea (Disclaimer: I'm not claiming that the actual creators of Patreon, who according to Wikipedia are Jack Conte and Samueal Yam, stole my idea. Just let the record show that I thought of the same thing about two months before it became a reality; it makes me feel all cool and progressive).
I should probably back up and explain. Patreon is a website that works a bit like Kickstarter, but directly for artists' careers rather than for specific projects. Artists who are producing work regularly, or running on-going projects like webcomics, can list themselves on the site and fans then pledge a certain amount per month or installment in support.
Why is this so great? It enables an artist's fan-base to act collectively as his/her patron, in the old-fashioned sense - a wealthy individual who pays an artist's keep for the prestige of association. It's another way for artists to make money from their work that doesn't rely on huge, inefficient corporate superstructures of the kind that have so badly damaged the publishing and music industries.
And, unlike Kickstarter, Patreon offers something I think is essential to any artist's work - the freedom to follow capricious passion. One of the nagging worries with Kickstarter (and last I knew, it still hadn't happened, but I may have missed it) has always been 'what happens if a big project fails?' - what happens if a million dollars' worth of funders don't get their pledged rewards? With Patreon, because the support is for the artist rather than the project, there isn't quite the same scale of risk involved in failure. Provided the output stays good, the artist is free to switch away from a struggling or stuck project to something more fruitful.
I think it has the potential to build some stronger bridges across the artist-audience divide, too. Patrons on Patreon get rewards based on how much they pledge, just like on Kickstarter, and Patreon make much of the fact that potential rewards could be things like Google+ hangouts and Q&A sessions. Being pathologically shy, I don't know if I'd get much out of it as a patron, since I'd probably just stay silent the whole time, but as an artist I'd love to talk to fans directly.
Of course, I'm not actually jumping on Patreon right now. That would be proactive, effective and sensible. After all, I'm currently publishing a serial on a monthly basis, which would be the perfect kind of project for this format. It's even doing quite well - due to hit 5,000 total downloads at Smashwords any day now (I was expecting it this week, but things have been slow).
There are a few reasons why I'm not going for it right now. First, and most painfully obvious, is the fact that the schedule for The Second Realm hasn't exactly been reliable the last few months. Life's pretty disorganised at the moment, and will be until at least Easter, and I'm still trying to deal with the tail end of the PhD. Finding the time to focus on The Second Realm - I work best when I can bury myself in a project for a week or two at a time - has been tricky and, yes, the episode that should be out tomorrow is going to be delayed (another) week. Sorry.
There are other problems, though. First off, I have no idea what I could offer as subscriber rewards. I don't have the technology to offer a Google+ hangout, and even if I did I'm sure I'd just be awkward. I don't have time to write additional episodes or related material - I still haven't compiled the bonus material I want to include in the print editions, which is a project that's been going on for a year and a half now.
Finally, there's the issue that The Second Realm is due to end in about eight months. Actually, I hope it will be somewhat less than that, because I'm starting to need a change of project. Don't get me wrong, I still love the world and characters, but I'm getting to the point where I'm really looking forward to the finale. Two and a half years is a long time to live with a project, particularly one which has been as out-and-out hard as The Second Realm.
It's hard to think past that point, and I have no idea whether my next project will be as well-suited to Patreon. I prefer working in neat discrete bursts, which may after all suit Kickstarter better. I'll see what I decide to do next, but I'm very glad Patreon is available as an option.