Why I shut down my Patreon fundraiser

I’d intended to send a Questions & Answers email to my How to Write a Novel launch list, but that’s going to have to wait.Instead, I did THIS.

Closed my “Move out of Florida while writing fiction” fundraiser.

Here’s why — it’s this clause in the Patreon Legal Agreement


By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content.

Understand that I read that clause and all the rest of them before signing up.

BUT… I’m not a lawyer, and I understood that clause to mean that Patreon was claiming the right to use my Patreon-created content (in other words, my POSTS) to promote the site.

I DID NOT think that they were claiming the right to use and abuse the content I was giving my patrons. In this case, three monthly chapters of the raw first draft of one of my current novels in progress, Dead Man’s Party.

A friend emailed me with a link to this post, however:


Turns out, I was wrong. Patreon is claiming rights to my novel.

So I’m out. I sent the first copy of this email to my patrons using a private Patreon post, and then I shut down my Patreon fundraiser, and am now trying to figure out how to actually close my account.

I’m not letting this kill my dream of moving us out of Florida…
…(hopefully before the next hurricane, if not the start of the hurricane season).

How you can help, if you want to —

I have created original classes ranging from under ten dollars to way over a hundred. If one of the classes I offer could help you, then you buying it would help me.


*** How to Write a Novel *** 


(IN LAUNCH: On sale ONLY through Tuesday APRIL 8 — Final Discount Launch)

How to Revise Your Novel: 


How to Write a Series: 


How to Think Sideways: Career Survival School for Writers: 


WRITING CRAFT SERIES (Each class is under $10)

Create a Character Clinic: 


Create A Plot Clinic: 


How to Write Page-Turning Scenes: 


WORLDBUILDING SERIES (Each class is under $10)

Create A Language Clinic: 


Create a Culture Clinic: 


Create a World Clinic: 



How to Write Short Stories: 


How to Write Villains: 


How to Write Dialogue with Subtext: 


Title Cover Copy Marketing Basics: 


How to Find Your Writing Discipline: 


How to Find Your Writing Voice: 


How to Motivate Yourself: 


Beat Writer’s Block: 



How to Write Flash Fiction That Doesn’t Suck




You can help out by buying some of my indie-published fiction.


Light Through Fog: 




Strange Arrivals: 



Fire in the Mist: 


Bones of the Past:


Mind of the Magic:




Both of the Cadence Drake novels Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood and Warpaint, are off sale while I come up with new titles and new cover art for them, and new key words, descriptions, and other marketing that allows me to correctly put them in front of the audience that likes a few vampires and a bit of horror with its spaceships.

The Longview Chronicles (complete Series) is in the same universe — still dark, but without the vampires:


Or you can get the individual stories:

Born from Fire: 


Suzee Delight: 


Philosopher Gambit: 


Gunslinger Moon: 


Vipers’ Nest: 


The Owner’s Tale: 



Minerva Wakes: 



Author Page: 


Midnight Rain: 


Last Girl Dancing:


I See You: 


I have much more fiction that’s commercially published, or which is out of print and has reverted to me, but which I have not yet republished.

I’m not linking to ANY of that fiction, because your purchase of used books or books where publishers haven’t paid royalties in years will not help me.

So there we are.

I want to thank all my patrons again, and I am so sorry that I had to do this, but there is no way I can permit this:

Excerpted from Patreon Legal Terms

You keep full ownership of all content that you post on Patreon, but to operate we need licenses from you.

By posting content to Patreon you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content. 

No. Just NO.

P.S. I have had one of my Patreon patrons already ask me how she could continue to support me on a monthly basis.

Here’s the answer I gave her:

“I’ll look into what’s available. Right now, I’m crushed to discover the rights Patreon actually claimed, and worried about getting involved with any other site. So I’m in limbo. You’ll find my blog at HollyLisle.com. I’ll be keeping my folks there up to date on how I deal with this. It sucks.

Hugs, and thank you for asking.”

Why is EVERYBODY on my blog, my mailing list, and in my forums getting this?

Because if you know me, you’re probably either a reader or a writer. If you’re a writer, you may be considering using Patreon, and you need to know. If you’re a reader considering funding someone on Patreon, THEY need to know.

And this is the ugliest, broadest rights-grab I have personally ever seen. Or sadly, been caught up in.

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12 responses to “Why I shut down my Patreon fundraiser”

  1. Michelle Vance Avatar
    Michelle Vance

    Thank you for the information.

    Off Topic,

    Ms Holly Lisle, have you considered getting your books on audible. I listen more than I actually read print.

    Thank you.

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      I have. The finances of the thing have me kind of stalled at the moment, but yes, this is something I would love to do.

  2. Mil holmes Avatar
    Mil holmes

    I was just looking at this today and read that. Wondered bout it. Didn’t sign up. Then I read this and now am glad I didn’t sign up.

  3. Chris Meadows Avatar

    I’d like to suggest that you may actually have misunderstood the purpose of this particular bit of legalese.

    This sort of clause is one of the most scary, and yet most frequently misunderstood, clauses in any online service that displays user content.

    It SOUNDS scary, but that’s because it’s written in confusing, obfuscating legalese. What it actually *means* is, “If you submit content you want us to display for you, we have the right to display it for you.”

    Literally EVERY SINGLE SERVICE that displays content you submit has something like this in its terms of service. Every blogging service, every social media, every ANYTHING that lets you upload something to their web site. And sometimes it seems like every other month someone discovers it and gets upset because they don’t understand it and it seems scary.

    Here’s an explainer of one such clause.


    1. Holly Avatar

      I accept that Patreon may not mean harm with its phrasing, and may not have offered it with any evil intent.

      The problem is that while services like Ko-Fi explicitly state that fact:

      Quoted from the Ko-Fi TOS:

      “Any content you upload to our website will be considered non-confidential and non-proprietary. You retain all of your ownership rights in your content but you grant us and other users of our site a limited licence to use, store and copy that content and to distribute and make it available to third parties. We may use this content to improve our site and our business without liability to you.”

      …Patreon goes the big step further in delineating all the many ways that it can use your (ITS) content for free forever.

      And though it says it isn’t going to, Patreon has specifically claimed the following UNLIMITED rights.

      “you grant us a royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display or prepare derivative works of your content”

      This isn’t a case of “seems scary.”

      This is a difference between “limited license to use, store, and copy” and “royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, sublicensable, worldwide license to use, reproduce, distribute, perform, publicly display, or prepare derivative works”.

      Which are not the same thing.

    2. Holly Avatar

      And a tiny extra note on this: Sun Tzu in The Art of War noted that what matters is not what the enemy might do… but what the enemy can.

      And while it sucks going through your life looking at every contract and asking “what CAN they do with that clause?”… taking that step when looking at your livelihood and rights a third party is claiming to it is not misspent time.

  4. K.A. Jordan Avatar

    I just opened a Patreon account a few months ago, and I’ve been debating how to use it, and this comes out.

    Not good – it’s getting harder and harder to find anything writing related that doesn’t have a gotcha clause of some kind.

    Where will you go when you leave Florida?

    I live in Kentucky, near Louisville, and except for the Allergy Issue in the Ohio Valley, it’s a lovely state.

    Best Wishes

    1. Holly Lisle Avatar
      Holly Lisle

      So far, Ko-Fi.com looks clean. After investigating, I went in with a pay-for-the-year purchase — and I’ll give them a year to not turn into dicks before I relax a little. But the fact that the people benefitting from their service are the people PAYING for their service is a model much less likely to turn ugly.

      If you’re earning your money from the people you work for, you’re less likely to look at your customers as sheep to be sheared. Patreon is a sheep-shearing business because the fans, NOT THE CREATORS, are their revenue source. Ko-Fi is a business-to-business service, where the creators are their revenue source.

      With Ko-Fi, there is no buffering layer between the people for whom they provide the service and money coming in.

      Big. Damn. Difference.

      As to where we’ll live, I have two kids in two states several hundred miles apart–and neither of them particularly wants to live where they are. So I don’t know. I’ll make plans when doing so makes sense.

  5. Amelia Avatar

    Glad that it looks like there might be other options! I’m so sorry that Patreon didn’t work out.

  6. Holly Lisle Avatar

    Folks got to me with a lot of info early yesterday, and I’m just now getting back to my email to find a lot more :D. I think I’ve found a good replacement for Patreon: I’m looking into https://ko-fi.com

  7. Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker, Mantua-Maker Avatar

    There used to be a way in PayPal that people could send you money without buying anything. You sign up for a http://www.PayPal.me account, and anyone can send you money that way. For example, mine is paypal.me/mantuamaker.

    I’ve never gotten money that way, though, and I haven’t seen them push it in ages. It might have tumbled into dust.

    1. Wendy Avatar

      PayPal.me is still working. Sad about the rights grab with patreon. Just as I was about to start something there too… oh well.

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