Separate Patrons only versions of RR content... your thoughts?

For the past few months I've been trying to decide if I wanted to post my 4th draft to RR. This was a no brainer before I had a Patreon account. 
I'm advised that the 4th draft along with all of the insider details - why I made certain changes, why I made certain decisions about the narrative direction, etc. should be restricted to my Patreons who would be much more invested in this sort of information.

The purpose of posting my 3rd draft to RR was specifically for feedback. Plus my 2nd draft was just point-form scene sheets where I was working out motivations and details for the scenes. Not something I'd consider riveting reading material.

The rational behind the advice, which I don't disagree with, is I am hoping to build a career through writing by exploring various revenue channels. Now that makes me sound callus. I'm not a fan of paywalls personally (though I am writing for a paywall publisher at the moment). But because I am a slow writer (I'm not churning out books every month) I am focused on writing something that entertains and is put together thoughtfully. This is where the feedback on the third draft has been extremely useful, and justifies my keeping that draft of the work available over the long term. 

Which brings us back to the 4th draft. This draft, I'm not interested in feedback. When the 4th draft is done, I'll be sending it off to my editors, where it will undoubtfully get another overhaul, and then where it will be released for publication.

Like honestly, I don't know... I don't know what the question is. But I do want to know your thoughts on what I'm doing, how I'm doing it? Not so much if I'm right or wrong, but I guess how you feel about it. Honestly, the conversion rate from free reader to paid reader is less than 1% - so I guess I'd want to know:
  • Are you subbed to an RR writer?
  • what drew to subscribe?
  • What things/perks do you look forward to?
  • And of course I am very open to your opinions on the rambling mess above.  I need perspectives to consider.

Re: Separate Patrons only versions of RR content... your thoughts?

I will reply to your ramble with a ramble. 

I have felt like the web fiction format works best for works in progress. That is kind of the assumed status quo, and people will give feedback with the expectation that the author is looking to change things and improve. I feel like posting would run into a weird clash like this is a finished work, but some readers might still try to give criticisms in the form of feedback when it's like sorry, this is literally it--last draft. 

It works well to provide a subpar product for free, but now that you're hitting whatever your actual publishable quality stage is, I am inclined to say that it should be behind a paywall. As an industry, I think it's kind of important to place some kind of value on our work. Giving away questionable 1st or nth drafts for free--sure, but giving away a complete, finished product is harmful to fiction as an industry because it devalues our work and can eventually set a precedent--this is the thing that writer's are expected to do. Heck, look at the music industry giving away their product--music--for free on YouTube and they have to become a merchandising brand and rely on ad revenues and payouts from the various Internet radio app things. Let's try to not follow that model.

Basically, I'm saying value your time and your work! You can let your readers know that you're doing a rewrite for the final draft--Patreon only. Advertise it on your fiction page--description or end of chapters kind of thing--so that anyone who would rather read the polished final draft in progress can do that instead of reading the free version online. Nobody has any right to complain about you doing this because you've already offered a full, free version of the story that they can still read. It's asinine how people complain about not getting enough for free, although I've seen a much more positive culture here than over on Wattpad. If anyone complains, ignore them. 

Personally, I have not subscribed to any Patreons primarily because I'm not a working adult yet, so I don't have expendable income that I can rationally spend.... I can't really speak much on what would make me subscribe, other than a story that I really like and a super friendly and positive author personality. Like the author would need to be the type of person that I'd want to support as a human being. I think that's important to remember--the price for the final draft in progress is going to exceed the price point for the final book, so it's either people who love the story so much and they can't wait or nice people who also love the story, maybe can wait but just want to support you as a creative person.

Re: Separate Patrons only versions of RR content... your thoughts?

I can't answer your question, but it sounds like you could use some reassurance. I looked at your web page, patreon, and writing briefly. You're doing great, friend. I would kill to be in your position. Just trust your gut. I'd say put your best foot forward. If the 4th draft is the best you can do and making available only to patrons/publishing it is your path forward, then go. Whatever you do will be awesome! 

Re: Separate Patrons only versions of RR content... your thoughts?

In an ideal world, it would be nice to write a book and just sell it and make good money. Unfortunately, the market is highly competitive. 

I believe that having an audience is massively important. If you have 10,000 followers and manage to convert even 1% to a paying customer, that's better than silently putting out a brilliant book on Amazon that no one ever sees and never sells. 

Posting the writing online helps build that audience. More, it serves as social proof for publishers who don't want to take risks. Look at the people on Royal Road and Wattpad who have had their books published. 

The Martian by Andy Weir was originally serialized on his own website in 2009. His fans urged him to put it on Amazon for $1 and their attention helped drive sales to snowball. After selling 35,000 copies himself in 3 months, THEN publishers came knocking with $100k. And then a movie deal. Without fan support, he never would have been successful.

Likewise, Fifty Shades of Grey was a Twilight fan fic that only became a huge hit AFTER it was a massive hit online and established fans then turned around and bought the book in droves from a tiny publisher to show support.

What writers might need to do a better job of is fan mobilization. Rather than passive readers who just swing by for free reads, we need fans who are engaged and can help make stories viral. Or at least draw support. Select authors may be able to do this on their own, but it's something we, as a writing community, should be wncouraging as a culture. And it would be wonderful to see Royal Road and Wattpad build things into their systems to get readers more active and spreading the word.

I went from writing books privately to doing it online. Production has gone up. I've got followers and feedback. A couple of beta readers. I plan to write proper books rather than an unending serial, and then publish. But I'll keep things here as well unless traditionally published. 

Frankly, I think the size of the online audience is quite small outside of romance. I think you can have the book free on Royal Road and sell it on Amazon and largely reach two different groups, so it's not costing you much. Online readers are often kids with no money; Amazon shoppers are adults with jobs. And most of those reading it free were never going to pay for anything anyway. 

Use the Patreon for extra content like side stories. If a trilogy is a hit, leave the first book or two online to gain a following but make the climax and ending paid only. And don't price it cheaply. Price it the way it deserves.

Hope that helps. 

Re: Separate Patrons only versions of RR content... your thoughts?

Thank you all for the wise words. 

Building a following is why I post to RR to begin with. RR is also rich with fantasy readers, even if they gear toward particular niches. It's still better than publishing a non-romantic fantasy on a romance site. RR readers have been very supportive and I don't want to disregard their support though something that feels like a paywall. But if it's a case of putting the work on hiatus for 3-6 months because I have to work a contract, it's also a disservice to readers. In this case, I think taking a chance is worth something, isn't it? 

Honestly, I had plans to finish Awakening this year, I had wanted to have it on my editor's desk by the end of this month - but that isn't going to happen until next year due to various work and client contracts happening at the same time. I'd say poor planning on my part, but honestly it was poor execution from one side, and a non-comital "we'll rattle your chain when we need you" from the other. I like to eat. I like being warm. These are things that is part of adulting. So back-burner Awakening went.

I completely agree that I need to not undervalue my work and time. A hard lesson I learned with client work, but a bit more challenging mindset with WIPs. Obviously I'm not charging for a 3rd draft and giving readers the option to sign-on for advance content. Engagement and a following is something I am totally after, because sometimes these folks grow up to have jobs and may even pay for a copy of Awakening in the near to distant future.

After a bit of thought, I suppose my conflict is that I'm here to develop a following first and foremost. Engagement through feedback has been wonderful - and I'm publishing work at a stage where I'm very much open to story feedback. Where with the fourth draft, I'm closed off to additional story/structural changes. Which leads to am I putting my best content forward? Well, at this time no. I can write much better content now. Posting the old stuff may mean inadvertently cannibalizing my potential readers who are turned off by some of my early efforts.

That said - I'm aware that free readers largely don't pay for content, largely never will. So I feel comfortable leaving them with less than perfect unedited work - free for me to make with the exception of time.  

I think I just answered my own nebulous question. Thank you all for all of your replies - it's given me a lot to think about, which I appreciate over solid yes/no's. I love the nuance.