I’m just going to alert you right now: this post is largely about the fan/platform side of selling books. It may be boring, but this is where my brain is right now. I’m trying to figure out how to grow my mailing list and fan base. Spoiler alert: I probably need y’all to help me. More on that later.
The Sanderson Unicorn
I don’t know if any of you have been following Brandon Sanderson’s latest endeavor, but Website Goddess Robyn alerted me to his announcement video a while back. I watched the whole thing, and I have two things to say before I get to the crux of the matter:
- How in the holy hell does he “accidentally” write FIVE FREAKING BOOKS in less than two years? I mean, God bless him, but if I wrote that much in two years, I would never see my family and I would have zero clients left. Also–and I think this is vitally important–you would definitely NOT want to read any of that. If I wrote that much, that fast, it would definitely not be worth reading.
- What he says in the beginning about the non-writing work? Yeah, I feel that. Not the travel part–no one is asking me to attend conventions or book signings. But all of the social media promotion, blog writing, publicity planning… That stuff? That stuff drains the crap out of me.
Anyway, in case you haven’t heard, Sanderson’s Kickstarter wildly successful. Not long after I watched that video, I saw this response to Sanderson’s Kickstarter campaign, and one thing stood out to me: 1000 True Fans scales.
The Concept of 1,000 True Fans
If you haven’t heard of this concept, it was first posited by Kevin Kelly back in 2008; you can read the original and the updated posts here. The basic formula is that if a creator has 1,000 true fans who will buy everything the creator produces, and the creator releases $100 of product per year, then the creator can expect to earn $100,000 per year gross. That’s a pretty decent living from art.
But is it realistic?
For me? No. I don’t put out $100 of new content every year. Right now, I feel hopeful about producing a lot more new stories than I have in recent years, but I’m no Brandon Sanderson. I still have a day job–one that I really like, honestly–that precludes me from spending all of my creative energy and time on fiction. And although my goal is to eventually replace that income with income from fiction writing, even if I spend all of my work hours on writing and promoting fiction, I can still promise you that I will not produce $100 of new content every year. I just won’t. Best case estimate–I could maybe produce one novel and a few short stories or novellas, so maybe $10 of new e-book content per year? Maybe $20 if I also have a paperback novel out? And I suppose in the absence of commercial writing work, it could be more than that. But I promise it will never be $100 per year of new content.
In any case, how much content I put out per year doesn’t really matter, because I know I don’t have 1,000 True Fans. I love to call all of you my “threes of fans” because you can multiply three by anything (four, 25, 7,000), but realistically, my best guess is that I have maybe 25-30 threes of fans–in other words, maybe 75 – 90 True Fans.
That’s more than twelve, but a long way from 1,000. And I could be wildly overestimating.
The Essence of 1,000 True Fans
So let’s talk about the essence of the 1,000 True Fans theory. I think this post sums up the essence nicely: essentially, it’s not about 1,000 people or $100 per year or even a goal of $100,000 gross income per year, but rather it’s about figuring out what your own personal formula is and aiming toward your own personal goals.
I spent some time thinking this through and doing some research on the whole thing over the weekend, and I came up with a few… realizations, ideas, concepts, goals… I’m not sure. Some things to consider:
- I currently have about 40-50 blog/newsletter subscribers and readers. That’s not a lot. However, a lot of those people are ones I would count among my True Fans. (I’m not sure what the others are doing there… pointing and laughing, maybe?)
- I need to release more content. Like, a lot more content.
- I do not have a specific income goal in mind, really. I’ve been doing pretty well as a freelance commercial writer since the onset of the pandemic, but that’s not really my specific income goal. In reality, I don’t need to have an income at all. The Man makes enough for us to live comfortably, especially now that the two boys are on their own, we only have one more year of college to pay for for the older daughter (and she never asks us for money outside of the tuition we’ve agreed to pay for), and younger daughter will probably move out within a year or so. I would be content earning less money as long as I can still cover publishing and promotional expenses for upcoming releases.
It seems to me that there are two places where I need to focus my efforts: getting more subscribers, customers, and (hopefully) True Fans, and putting out more content.
I can handle the content. I have plans.
But what I need is for you all to help me with the fan part.
I need a lot more people who see my newsletter in their inbox or hear that I’m releasing a new story and react like Buddy the Elf when he sees Santa.
Finding New Fans
There are two basic elements to finding new fans: exposure and content.
In other words, I have to both find lots of new visitors and write enough good content that they convert to customers and True Fans.
The content part is on me, and it’s my fervent hope that my writing is good enough to at least convert a few new visitors into True Fans.
The new visitors part… Well, yes, there are things that I can do, and I’ll try to do them, but I’m really dependent on the True Fans to be evangelists for my work and share it far and wide.
This is where I need all of you.
Let’s say that among you I have 30 True Fans.
If all 30 of you shared my stuff with enough people to get three additional subscribers, I’d have 120 subscribers overnight.
If that kind of math continued, it wouldn’t be long before I had 1,000 subscribers. Obviously, not all of those would be True Fans–building a True Fan relationship requires time, content, and trust. I know I have some content and trust work to do, and time is just time.
But with 1,000 subscribers, I’d be well on my way to finding that True Fan Base that would eventually propel me to a respectable level of book sales.
Sooooo… If you are a True Fan, or even if you aren’t a True Fan but you’re maybe a sort of Moderately Committed Fan, I would love for you to help me. Here’s what you can do:
- Share my Substack newsletter with everyone you know who might be interested in some epic fantasy.
- Share my social media pages with people who might give me a follow. I’m active on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest right now. I don’t post a lot–once a day right now, maybe twice a day when I’m closer to the book launch–but just following my pages/accounts helps me in the algorithms. Liking the occasional post helps even more.
- Tell people about my books and share where they can find me (Amazon, B&N, Smashwords).
The thing that has always been true for authors throughout history is that the best way to find new fans is for existing True Fans to evangelize their work. This is a team effort. I promise to put the work in and publish more content. I need those of you on my team to promote me to everyone you know.
Here we go…