Our favorite marketing guru, Daisy Whitney, is back with an in-depth look at the 1,000 True Fans Theory.
There’s a theory in marketing that if an artist has 1000 “true fans” she can make a living at her craft.
Lisa, Laura and I wanted to explore this theory in my guest post with an eye toward what it might mean for a teen lit author.
The 1000 True Fans theory was developed by Kevin Kelly, the co-founder of “Wired” magazine and author of the book “What Technology Wants” due out from Viking/Penguin this fall.
He posited that given the massive amount of competing content artists are creating in the Internet age it may appear as if there are only two options – pen a blockbuster or toil away in the backwaters of the Long Tail. But never fear! There is another choice. And an artist can escape obscurity by cultivating 1000 True Fans, he says.
“A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce. They will drive 200 miles to see you sing. They will buy the super deluxe re-issued hi-res box set of your stuff even though they have the low-res version. They have a Google Alert set for your name. They bookmark the eBay page where your out-of-print editions show up. They come to your openings. They have you sign their copies. They buy the t-shirt, and the mug, and the hat. They can't wait till you issue your next work. They are true fans.”
Yes, he’s talking about musicians in the above quote, but the theory applies to authors too. And 1000 actually sounds doable, right?
But how do you get there?
“You have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans,” Kelly says. “Pleasing a True Fan is pleasurable, and invigorating. It rewards the artist to remain true, to focus on the unique aspects of their work, the qualities that True Fans appreciate...You also benefit from the direct feedback and love.”
What that means is you need to LOVE them back. I’ve talked about this notion in other columns here, such as when we’ve discussed social media, blogging and commenting on other blogs. It’s about customer service, it’s about relationships, it’s about real connections!
But does the 1000 True Fans theory work?
Well, let’s look at the theory from the position of a fan.
I am one of Elizabeth Scott’s 1000 True Fans. I read all her books, I post recommendations of her books on my blog, on GoodReads and on Amazon. I rave about her book to other writers, to teens and to anyone else looking for a good read. I’ve bought her books for friends. I also have exchanged emails and Facebook messages with her. I am confident that I have accounted for directly at least 20 sales, if not more, of her books.
If she has at least 1000 fans like me – and she has way more – then she’s generating at least 20,000 sales of each book from those true fans. Her next novel, The Unwritten Rule, releases March 16 (a date I bookmarked on my calendar so I can buy it at the local bookstore). It’s listed at $16.99. If it sells 20,000 copies that equals $339,800 in sales.
Elizabeth will receive some portion of that in royalties. Now, I’m not going to speculate how much exactly each author needs to quit her day job and just live on her writing. However, I do think making a living from writing alone seems doable if you cultivate 1000 True Fans.
I’m a believer in it only because I have been on the other side. I am a Fan Girl for my favorite authors. I’m playing a big role in keeping them in jammies and slippers in front of their computer all day long, rather than pounding away at a day job.
By day, Daisy Whitney is a producer, on-air correspondent, podcaster and raconteur in the new media business. At night, she writes novels for teens and is the author of The Mockingbirds, to be published by Little, Brown in Fall 2010. When Daisy's not inventing fictional high school worlds, she produces conferences for iMedia and provides strategy consulting to businesses on online video. She is the host of her own online newscast The New Media Minute that covers the business of Internet video and of the top-ranked iTunes audio podcast “This Week in Media."
And remember, Daisy is going to be back next month and she's dying to answer your questions, so ask away in the comments!