Thursday, April 24, 2008

1,000 True Fans?

A friend on my Forum mentioned this post to me (which I think he saw because of a Scalzi connection). It's on the 1,000 True Fans Theory - Kevin Kelly - The Technium.

So, 1,000, huh? Is that daunting or encouraging? Whadda ya think?

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Blogger Corby Kennard said...

I'd love to have 10 true fans.

1:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting theory. The reasoning behind it seems sound. A thousand doesn't seem too daunting. Sounds like a hell of a lot starting out, don't get me wrong--but it does sound doable.

Wondering how a thousand will sound to me tomorrow, or the next day, after I've chewed on it some more... :)

2:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting. I think it's valid as an idea, as a formulation to make "creators" aware of the possibility of True Fan patronage thorugh direct contact, and that you don't necessarily have to have a million fans to make a living. It's a good spur, perhaps, to explore other opportunities for making a living as a creator. He did make some qualifications, though, and these are rather important I think. Having 1000 True Fans... well, the number is arbitrary, and he/she admits this to an extent in that it's suggested that this number may be variable, particularly between different media.

As a writer, though, I don't think there is enough product. A very busy writer might try to get a book out every year. What else is a True Fan going to purchase except a copy of the book? Not much. Writers don't have many bells and whistles to throw in. Maybe a True Fan will buy a copy of both the hardcover and paperback... or some extra paperbacks to give away. So, what are they putting out? Maybe 20-50 dollars? And how much of that would go to the writer? A small amount. At a guesstimate, let's say five bucks. Suddenly those 1000 True Fans aren't hauling in a pleasing 100 grand but rather a far below poverty level $5000. And to get that 100 grand you suddenly need 20,000 True Fans... a somewhat more daunting number. Yes, it's certainly not a million, but it's certainly not a drop in the bucket either.

The problem of that 1000 is the arbitrariness of the number, and the fact that for writers there is a limited product output, the result of which is the lack of a distinction between a True Fan and a so called "lesser fan". There might be differences, say, in the level of direct engagement with the author. The difference in the level of investment, however, will be minimal I think. I mean, are they going to buy 10 copies of that year's book to put up on their shelf? It's possible, I suppose, for them to bid more for signed copies or something, or to collect varioius reprint editions of the same book (though most authors outside the bestsellers won't see too many of these I'm guessing).

I bet that for an author the most important aspect of True Fandom is word of mouth. The more direct engagement and True Fans you have the more people are out there plugging your book for you. Maybe the lesser fan (annoying term, by the way) will read the book and say "That was great" and then put the book down and go about their business while the True Fan will go out and pester friends and family to buy and read the book. Maybe they can't buy more themselves... but they can sell it for you via word of mouth.

Anyway, that's my take. Though maybe I'm wrong. I have a sudden image of a bunch of True Fans who each have an entire bookcase filled with identical copies of Acacia all neatly lined in rows, spines immaculate and uncreased...

12:13 PM  
Blogger Dirk said...

Here is Mr. Scalzi's take on it:

1:46 PM  
Blogger David Anthony Durham said...


As ever, Mr. Scalzi makes a lot of sense. I suggest people take a look.


That final image of all those Acacia books is actually quite creepy. Whomever did that would likely specify that he/she was my "Number One Fan"... I'm spooked.

I do hear you about the limited yearly output, though. If you were to look at my book-related tax returns for the last seven years you'd see a pattern of one flush year followed by two down years, one flush year and two down years, etc. That's just the nature of the payout schedule for most of us, and it's one of the real reasons - even when making fairly significant multi-book deals - that it's still hard to support a family on a publishing income.

Fortunately, tenacity pays off a bit. I'm starting to see multiple sources of book-related income. My foreign sales have become very important. Film deals come in separately, as do my audio books now. And - most significant - royalties are finally looking like a viable source of continuing income that may take some of the steepness out of the roller coaster motion of the yearly income. That's great, but it's taken years and books to build toward that, and there's still a ways to go.

I think there's something to be said for re-evaluating your goals to look for attainable levels of success - hopefully defined in your own terms. I also think, though, that's always harder than it looks, and the reasons it's harder are many and diverse and you usually only understand them after the fact...

2:02 PM  

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