Glad to see you could all make it here. We're on our third installment of Randy Ingermanson's writing E Zine. Today's feature: Marketing: 1000 True Fans
I hope you enjoy this and use the information.
Marketing: 1000 True Fans by Randy Ingermanson
A couple of years ago, WIRED Magazine co-founder Kevin
Kelly suggested the outrageous-sounding idea that an
artist can make a decent living if he or she has a mere
1000 "true fans."
By "artist," Kelly meant anyone trying to make a living
in one of the arts, whether fine arts, music, writing,
What's a "true fan?" Kelly defined it as someone who
likes your work so much that they're willing to spend
$100 per year on you.
The calculation is simple. If 1000 people are each
willing to spend $100 on you, then you can earn
$100,000 from them. Most of us would consider that a
You can read Kelly's original article here:
It's an interesting idea and I think it has merit. I
won't repeat Kelly's article here. Instead, I'll expand
on his idea. I have three main points to make.
My first point is that there are different levels of
fans, from rabidly loyal fans who would give you their
left kidney, all the way down to very modestly loyal
fans who would be happy to read your next book if they
could get it for a dollar.
You tend to have many more modestly loyal fans than
rabidly loyal ones.
Mathematicians learned long ago that this common sense
idea can be reduced nicely to numbers using a "Pareto
distribution". (Google it if you're a geek and want to
know how it works.)
Here are some example numbers to show roughly how it
plays out in practice.
If you have 200 true fans willing to spend at least
$100 per year on you, then you probably have another
200 fairly true fans willing to spend at least $50 on
you. And you probably have another 400 modestly true
fans willing to spend at least $25 per year. And maybe
another 1000 slightly true fans who would spend $10 a
year. If you've got all those, then you would likely
have close to 20,000 very tepid fans willing to spend a
mere $1 per year on you.
Add up those various levels of fans, and you've got a
potential $70,000 per year, which isn't bad.
What this means is that you can get by on fewer true
fans than you might have imagined. In principle.
My second point is that a lot of authors focus most of
their efforts on building their number of Facebook
friends (or fans) or on building their Twitter
There's nothing wrong with that, but there's a very low
entry level to becoming a Facebook friend/fan or a
Twitter follower. Anyone can do it in a few seconds. Low
investment, low commitment.
These kind of fans are nice to have, but bear in mind
that they are mostly the $1 per year crowd. If they
hardly know you, then they hardly spend money on you.
These are what we might call microfans.
Fans who follow your blog or subscribe to your e-mail
newsletter will be fewer in number, but they'll also be
far more likely to be in the $10 per year group.
You don't have to find your superfans. They'll find you
and tell you how much they love you. You can't sanely
keep in touch with very many superfans, but that's okay
because you probably don't have many anyway unless
you're a superstar. Bear in mind that your superfans
are the $100 per year people. These are the ones who'll
drive 200 miles through a rainstorm to come to your
booksigning. And buy a case of books for their friends.
The important thing to remember is that you probably
need different tools for keeping in touch with your
microfans, your regular fans, and your superfans. Don't
treat them all the same, because they're not.
My third point is that you won't earn $100 per year
from your superfans unless you have more products
available than just books. To earn $100, you need to
actually have $100 worth of products available.
It's fairly rare for authors to have that much product
available for sale. Generally, the only products
authors display on their sites are their own books, and
their publishers get most of the revenue from those.
But there's no reason for you to earn money only from
your books. As an author, your main job is to be an
entertainer. Any way you can entertain people is a
possible way to earn money.
As one example, if you're an entertaining speaker (many
authors are), you might pick up some extra cash by
speaking. Your publisher will love you, because good
speakers can move a lot of copies.
A friend of mine, Robin Gunn, has a store that sells
all sorts of goodies related to her books. She's got a
large fan base, and naturally some of those fans are
eager to spend money in her store.
Scott Adams, creator of the massively popular Dilbert
comic strip, has a terrific web site with an online
store containing cool stuff that any Dilbert fan would
Of course the great majority of Scott's fans spend
hardly anything on his site. The point is that those
few who WANT to spend a lot on Dilbert goodies CAN
spend a lot -- because Scott provides a ton of them.
If you're not published yet, you may think that none of
this applies to you. Maybe it doesn't apply now, but it
might apply extremely well someday. Whether you get
published one year from now, or five, or ten, you'll
want to earn enough money to keep writing.
Now is as good a time as any to start thinking about
how you'll want to keep track of ALL your fans -- the
tepid ones, the moderate ones, and the rabid ones.
What could you do for each of these classes of fans
that would make them happy -- and earn you enough money
to do what you love doing?
You don't have to answer that question now. But think
The future keeps coming at us faster and faster. When
it gets here, you want to be ready for it.
Permission is granted to use any of the articles in
this e-zine in your own e-zine or web site, as long as
you include the following 2-paragraph blurb with it:
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the
Snowflake Guy," publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing
E-zine, with more than 29,000 readers, every month. If
you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction,
AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND
have FUN doing it, visit
So, there you have it. Again, I hope you can use the material in these articles and
go to Randy's website and check out his books, recommendations and courses.
Tomorrow--well, I'm not sure what we'll have tomorrow. Perhaps a Christmas short story and poem. Maybe, I'll even tell you about my day.
It's cold here--yesterday was brutal. Today I will go to the barn and ride my horses, Jackson and Smokey. Jackson has a trainer (believe me, it was needed) Smokey has me. I haven't ridden so much in a long time. My muscles ache and when you exercise (and this IS exercise)pain is good.
Have a great and save day