Last year, Joe DeRouen took a break from shaping the minds of America’s youth as an educator and allowed me to interview him about his work as a novelist. We specifically talked about his projects Memories of a Ghost and Odds and Endings. Since then, DeRouen’s career has further evolved and he is now building a Patreon page. Wanting to learn more about his evolving career, I was able to interview him again for ScifiPulse.
Nicholas Yanes: I last interviewed you over a year ago to discuss Memories of a Ghost and Odds and Endings. How has your life been since then?
Joe DeRouen: Good and not-so-good. My wife broke her femur in January of 2018, and her recovery has been long and difficult. She’s much better today, though she’ll probably always have pain in her leg and walk with a limp. Writing-wise, I’m working on a bunch of different things, including the final book in the Small Things trilogy.
Yanes: You’ve recently started your own Patreon. What was the inspiration behind turning to Patreon?
DeRouen: Time and money. I want more time to write, and that means having more money. It’s really as simple as that, though accomplishing that goal is anything but simple.
Yanes: When researching crowd funding platforms, what writers did you study to get a sense about how this ecosystem works?
DeRouen: I studied many different writers’ Patreon pages, including such superstars as Seanan McGuire and David Gerrold, I also perused the pages of many independent writers like myself. I wanted to make my Patreon as unique as possible, and that meant NOT doing what others had done while also trying to emulate some of what the more successful writers were doing. It’s a bit of a tightrope walk, but I think I’m getting there!
Yanes: You have a unique twist for your Patreon program. When did you think of the “Want to Tell Me What to Write” position?
DeRouen: I started the Patreon in September, but it wasn’t really going anywhere. I wanted to come up with something no one else was doing, and it hit me: why not let my readers tell me what to write? I mean, I’d love to direct the stories of some of my favorite writers, folks like Neil Gaiman and Christopher Golden, and I thought perhaps my fans would like to direct my stories as well. So far, I’ve written three short stories and am working on a fourth. Writing a good short story in a month is a challenge, at least for me, and it’s even more of a challenge using other people’s ideas. But it’s a fun challenge, and I think I’ve thus far been successful in meeting the challenge. The results have been well received!
Yanes: What are some obstacles you’ve encountered by using Patreon?
DeRouen: Getting lost in the crowd is a big one. There are a LOT of writers on Patreon, and it’s difficult to get noticed. The same goes for getting noticed on Facebook and Twitter. I think part of the answer is to be loud without being obnoxious about it, which isn’t always easy! Also, people can be funny about money. They think nothing of dropping $5 every day on a cup of Starbucks coffee, but it probably wouldn’t occur to most people to spend $5 a month supporting one of their favorite writers. My job is to change that and make it worth their while to support my work.
Yanes: While developing this new strategy, did you learn anything new about social media engagement and approaches?
DeRouen: It takes a lot to be noticed, and you can’t give up. Engaging with people is a must, and you should never do it solely to sell something. It needs to be organic, which isn’t always an easy thing to accomplish.
Yanes: It is clearly important for every creative person to have a digital presence, however, what are your thoughts about in person events? Have you found these to be helpful?
DeRouen: I have. I always participate in book signings at my local library and have signed books and sat on panels at various conventions. I had a lot of fun participating in a panel on world building at the Rogers public in January. It’s a great chance to meet people who have read your books, to make new fans, and to network with other authors.
Yanes: Finally, what else are you working on that people can look forward to?
DeRouen: I am finally (finally!) finishing the third Small Things book. It’s been a long time coming, but I think fans of the first two books will agree that it was worth the wait once they’ve finished the book. Most of not all loose threads will be tied up, and both resolutions and revelations will abound. I’m really looking forward to getting it out there! It should be published in 2019. I’m also working on an unrelated novel and another book of short stories, the stories I’m writing for my Patreon. I haven’t had a new release since 2015, so I’m excited!