Thursday, February 25, 2010

Daisy Dishes on the 1,000 True Fans Theory

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!

46 comments:

Katie said...

This was fascinating! What an interesting topic to ponder.

Thanks Daisy! (and Lila too :)

Christine Danek said...

Thanks for the post! I would like to know her advice on starting out in the writing world. You guys can add advice as well:)

Thanks!

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

Hi Daisy!
I have heard about the 1000 fan theory before. Cool stuff! Just think if you had a large Italian family of the sort, hmm could be halfway there lol!

Karen said...

The 1000 True Fans concept is so interesting to me. I realize that the number must be tweaked depending on what genre you write. Obviously, 1000 True Picture Book Fans isn't going to be enough to quit your day job. But it's such a cool (and encouraging) idea.

Thanks for sharing!

Kristi said...

Great post! I'm off to check out Daisy's site - thanks LiLa!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Very interesting!

Alissa said...

You might even be able to get away with less than 1,000 true fans if some of them have very big mouths. My father has been working hard at selling my book, which doesn't come out for another year. At a shuttle bus to a wedding the other day he managed to convince some guy that by his own admission hasn't read a book in 20 years that he needs to buy a copy. He's trying to figure out a way to force the 800 sales reps at his company to buy 10 copies a piece.

storyqueen said...

I'm a true fan of LiLa! (But I don't really see myself driving from SoCal to Cleveland....)


Love you girls!

Shelley

jessjordan said...

Okay -- If Daisy is a True Fan of Elizabeth Scott, then I'm a True Fan of Daisy. Or at least a fan. I think we should get to know each other better before we go exclusive.

Thanks for this, Daisy!

Melissa said...

I guess I'm a true fan of Angels & Airwaves because I'm driving hundreds of miles to see them haha ;)

This is a really fascinating topic though! :)

A. Grey said...

Even if someone told me that there was no way 1,000 true fans would work, I would argue that it would.

This is based off the fact that I'm friends with the lead singer of a 'local' goth/industrial band. Bella Morte, look'em up. They rock. They're also into EVERYTHING. They stay local and loyal, but they've toured both Europe and the U.S. They make themselves accessable. They always talk to the fans. They LOVE their fans. And their fans love them back. Yes their music is good. But we love them because they love us. When Andy wrote a book, he was able to tell potential publishers that he already had a fan base which would stand in line for his book. All five publishers agreed to publish him and he was able to choose the one that fit best. He now has a one book out (The Sticks) a novella due out this spring, and a second book due out next fall. And we are all still standing in line for them.

I think you have to be your own brand. You can make yourself sellable without selling yourself out.

Now, where can I find a thousand folks to love me... :)

Carrie Harris said...

Sooo interesting! I'd comment further, but my brain is mush today.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Whoa! This is totally cool! I'd never heard of True Fans, but it makes sense.

I wonder... do you count as a True Fan if you don't stalk the person online (maybe they're not really online), but you religiously buy everything they produce?

~Jamie said...

Wow, that sounds like a lot. How will I ever get 1k people to love me??? :)

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

I really like this theory, it makes sense and it feels totally doable! I'm definitely one of Lisa and Laura's true fans...I might even come to NY when they're there in March....

Nisa said...

I like this theory. The reality of it is seen in the blogosphere. I'm more likely to go pick up the books of authors who I feel care about me as their reader. That personal connection is huge I think.

I think LiLa and Daisy probably already have a good chunk of those 1000 true fans because you're all awesome!

Southern Princess said...

Ooooo I envy Frankie's proximity to New York! lol

This is a wonderful topic and definitely something to think about...it is like the gossip rule: if she tells ten friends and she tells ten friends and so on and so on and so on....hmmm I like it!

I most definitely am a true fan of LiLa...you two are amazing!

When my sister & I love a series we have a 'collection contest' - see how many people can we can get hooked on that series in a certain time frame...yeah we are weird but we love sharing good books with friends and their friends and their friends ;o)

Thanks again for such a great topic!

Visit My Kingdom Anytime

Christina Lee said...

Wow this is totaly cool concept!!!

Patti said...

I'd never heard that theory before, but it makes sense. Kind of like that shampoo commercial. If you tell two friends and they tell two friends etc.

Question: What's the best on line way to market yourself

Danyelle said...

Fascinating! And it makes complete sense, which is why I think networking--whether through a blog, twitter, or facebook--is so important. It's reaching beyond the wall and showing people a part of who you are. :)

hollitylene said...

Consider me one of your 1000 True Fans! I believe in this rule, it translates to so many markets. As a photographer, I've made it my goal to really love my clients back. I keep in touch with them after their weddings- I don't know how many other vendors really do that. :)
Lisa & Laura, you do an amazing job of loving your fans back! It seriously makes my day when I see a comment on my writing blog from you guys. I would keep coming back regardless, but it just makes me adore you girls even more to know you're responsive. :)
Thanks, Daisy, for the awesome post! Happy Thursday!

Nicole Ducleroir said...

I'm a HUGE fan of Madonna's. Through her best years and her worse, I've stuck by her. I buy everything she puts out. I even have a copy of "SEX," even though I was a dumb twenty-something without a clue when it came out and threw away the mylar bag it came in. Just threw it away, even though her publicists said the book was limited edition and would someday -- intact -- be worth a pile of money. (*stupid, stupid, stupid*)

I think Daisy has a valid theory!

Tess said...

I am fairly certain I have 7 1/2 true fans. on my way....on my way...

Tere Kirkland said...

Thanks for such a reassuring post, Daisy (and LiLa)

Now I just need to find about 900 more followers... ;)

Lisa Desrochers said...

Great post. If it's true, you guys already have it made! :p (or do you need 2000, since there's 2 of you?)

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, I love this post! 1000 fans? That seems totally do-able, but you're right. Are they really true fans?

I love trying to wrap my head around this. Oh, and just so you know, you've got a true fan in me, girls!

roxy said...

Actually having a thousand True Fans? That's an amazing goal to shoot for.

Rebecca Knight said...

I LOVE this! This is so encouraging :). I feel like I'm already a True Fan of a few authors I just discovered this year, like Cindy Pon of SILVER PHOENIX and Kristin Cashore of GRACELING and FIRE fame.

I've even bought postcard versions of Cindy's Chinese brush art, and am going to frame them :).

Fans can happen in a relatively short period of time if your books and online presence are awesome enough!

Also, Daisy, you're now on my list of people to fangirl when their books comes out :). YAY!

Marsha Sigman said...

This is interesting and I can see this actually working. Great post!

Dara said...

Very fascinating. Never heard of this theory before but it makes total sense.

Jackee said...

What an interesting theory! I'm completely fascinated... and off to read the link.

(BTW, soo excited for Daisy's Mockingbirds to come out. Love those Tenners!)

Thanks, ladies!

ASBLACKASOBAMA said...

What an interesting theory.... Now I just need to work on getting some fans.... And writing a book.... And selling 20,000 copies.... Easy enough, right?

Jen said...

This is fantastic, and very intriguing! I would love to see it in action, and would love to be one who has 1,000 true fans! I for one am a true fan of Susan Elizabeth Phillips, I love all her books and work hard to own every single one of them! I would be a true fan of J.K. Rowling but the funds don't allow me to travel the distance :(

Shannon O'Donnell said...

I am in love with this post! Consider it bookmarked, printed, and filed. Love it! :-)

Cheree said...

Great post. The 1000 fan theory is interesting to think about.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

700 down only 300 to go! maybe now ill get that contract! ;)

Kimberly Franklin said...

I absolutely adore Daisy! I love this idea, and I believe it is 100% true. Thanks LiLa!

Erica said...

Great stuff LiLa & Daisy. Daisy - you really knows your stuff, this is at least two posts where I've walked away thinking - and that's always a good thing!

Thanks so much for sharing ;o)

Daisy Whitney said...

Why do my posts always look so short in my word processing and so long when I post? Must write shorter!!! Glad you all enjoyed.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Amazing. This actually makes it seem possible. Of course, it always comes back to writing something so good that the true fans stay true. Thanks for the fascinating post, Daisy and LiLa.

Kristy said...

I've never heard of it before but that's a very interesting theory...

Sharon Mayhew said...

Great post! You know, I am a true fan of one of my published friends...Laura Bradford or Elizabeth Lynn Casey...I buy her books for all of my grown up friends. I mail them to her and she signs them for me. She's a doll, a talented doll! Wednesday we were in B & N, we were in the adult mystery section. There was one copy of her book left on the shelf. A lady walked down the row we were on...I started chatting with her...I walked away...I later saw her in line with Laura's (on this book Elizabeth's) book in her hand....Yes, I'm a Maven...Can't help it, it's who I am. :-)

Amy said...

Cool post! I've never heard that theory before, but it makes perfect sense. I'm a True Fan of a few authors, and I'd definitely like to think I've helped keep them in coffee and pjs. :)

Jeannie Lin said...

Fascinating marketing theory! I'm trying to think of authors I am true fans of and I can maybe only think of 2 or 3. Okay, maybe more now that I'm really thinking of it. I wonder how long, on average, it takes to develop such a true fan base?

I'll start building. One down, 999 to go. Thanks Mom.

Central said...

1000 True Fans is a great idea... unfortunately, Kevin Kelly, the guy who coined the term has done some follow up, looking for examples of people who make it work (and who weren't famous before switching the to the model - i.e. it doesn't count that Radiohead made a lot of money selling an album direct to fans on their website). His verdict was, for now, that he doesn't have a single real example of someone who has managed to work solely as an artist supporting themselves on this model.

It's worth exploring... but there's some significant obstacles.

Here's Kevin Kelly's follow up post:

http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2008/04/the_case_agains.php

YARebels said...

This is FASCINATING :)

~V