They say an indie writer can have a nice career with only 1000 True Fans. Perhaps the same is true for other people who need public support, from musicians to artists to would-be school board members. But what is the wise way to recruit those fans?
Some people beat the bushes of social media to recruit people to buy their book and hope that some of those will become their True Fans. They Tweet book promos to a batch of Twitter followers who only followed in order to up their own follower count. They start Facebook author pages and have a few readers of their book join, but they get discouraged when they don’t get thousands of Facebook fans for their page that they can blast out their book promos to. They join forums and Facebook groups for the purpose of posting book-spam and get all upset when they get reminded of the forum’s no-book-spam rule.
Stop! That’s not what social media is for. You use social media— including your blog— as a way to interact with your True Fans and other readers/consumers of your work.
How do you find those 1000 True Fans? Or even the first 3 True Fans? Number one, you have to keep working. If you are a writer, write books. Write short stories. Write novellas. Write poetry chapbooks. Heck, write individual poems and get them out there. It’s not enough to write one novel and try to promote it until it sells well. Most first novels never do. If you are an indie writer, you need to remember that most first novels never even got published in the pre-indie-fiction days. An author’s ‘first novel’ was usually the third, fifth or tenth that he’d written.
When a reader reads one of your books, let him have many other books/stories by you available as a follow-up. That’s considered the success secret of many indie authors such as Hugh Howey, and I believe that it also helps traditionally published authors as well.
But there is another bit of wisdom about finding your 1000 True Fans, and it is perhaps best expressed in the words of Jesus Christ: ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ That’s the basic mathematics of wise human relationships. What it boils down to for the 1000 True Fan seeker is that if you want True Fans, you must be a True Fan to others first.
And by True Fan, I don’t mean something like being a Twitter follower of someone, like so many are, purely in the hope that the someone will do good things for you. That’s not being a True Fan.
To understand the True Fan concept, you need to look at your own favorite authors. I have a list of them myself. Some of my favorite authors, I kind of like something they wrote, a little. I’m probably willing to try something else of theirs when I’m hard up for reading material. But my liking never gets to True Fan level.
There are some authors where my liking gets to the much higher level of True Fan. For many years, I was a True Fan of Stephen King. Now, I’d read Carrie without any particular desire to become an obsessive King fan, and I believe I also read Salem’s Lot (and didn’t like it). But one day, in the book section of Angeli’s Supermarket in Menominee, (upper) Michigan, I was looking for a book and came up with misery. Stephen King’s Misery, to be exact.
I loved Misery. I re-read it many times, and then haunted the used bookstores in the area (Bookworm Exchange in Marinette, Wisconsin) to pick up Stephen King’s other works. I read and re-read them. My original copy of The Stand fell apart and I got my dad to buy me the expanded hardcover edition one Christmas.
Now, my Stephen King phase came to an end over King’s loudly expressed intolerance of Christians and of political conservatives— when my favorite authors are bigots, I don’t want to know it. But I was still a big fan when I first started being active on the internet, and went to Stephen King’s website early on (where I found some of the stuff which lead to the loss of my True Fan status).
These days, being a true True Fan involves things like visiting author web pages, reading/following author blogs, ‘liking’ author Facebook pages… One could even become a Twitter follower although I tend to regard Twitter as such a sinkhole of self-centeredness that it’s hardly worth doing.
One question: how many authors can a person be a True Fan of? Perhaps on the highest, Annie Wilkes level of True Fandom you can have only one true author-obsession at a time. But most True Readers have a collection of True Fandom Authors at any given time.
I don’t think it’s possible for the author seeking 1000 True Fans to be a True Fan of, say, 1000 other authors. Or even 1000. But I think that 10 is a good number, and 5 is a good starting point. What are the 5 living authors you like best? Are you a True Fan of all or most of them? What can you do to be a more loyal fan?
In my own case I have a dilemma. Many of the authors that I have been a long-term True Fan of were selected when I was not only not a Christian, but I was sadly all too open to authors who had nothing good to say about Christians. I’d rather like to replace some of these by Christian authors, but too often the Christian authors I read don’t write quite the kind of books I like best.
My solution is to go on loving the authors that I love, but to read some of the Christian authors who are almost-right in the hope of awakening an obsessive-fan love for some of them. I read the blogs of such authors and ‘like’ their Facebook pages, and once in a while I encounter a Karina Fabian or Jill Williamson who actually makes it on the list of authors whose books I obsess about.
What writers are you a True Fan of? What qualities attract you to an author enough to make you a True Fan?