This Sunday’s a big day in living rooms across American. The San Francisco 49ers will square off with the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl
Okay self-publishing writers pull up a chair in front of the TV. The San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens are about to square off in Super Bowl XLVII. You should be watching. No, not the game! The marketing.
The Retail Advertising and Marketing Association estimates that 179 million football fans will it tune in to the big game. “The average game watcher will spend $68.54 on new televisions for viewing parties, snacks, décor and athletic apparel…” There are lessons there for authors.
Lesson #1: You need to find some fans Think about the loyalty that makes people brag about their team and their devotion to it and shell out cash for anything that helps them identify with their heroes. That’s how you want your fans to feel about you and your work.
You don’t have a National Football League- sized budget, so how do you build that loyal fan base?
Lesson #2: You don’t need 179 million fans? A few years ago Kevin Kelley, the founding editor of Wired Magazine, offered a more realistic number in a log post titled 1000 True Fans. He said:
A creator, such as an artist, musician, photographer, craftsperson, performer, animator, designer, videomaker, or author - in other words, anyone producing works of art - needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.
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.
Suppose you had 1000 True Fans. What would that mean for you? Word-of-mouth is the most important road to success for self-published books. With a thousand people willing to talk about your books, post on Facebook and Tweet about them could you jump-start the buzz about your book? How would having a thousand people as a floor for sales of your book feel?
Kelley took a couple of steps back from his idea as he explored it further, but I think there’s something there for self-publishing authors.
Let’s take a look at somebody who has been bashed a lot of late, but who sells a lot of books, thriller writer Jon Locke. It’s easy to dismiss Locke as ethically challenged for paying for favorable Amazon reviews. Not too many writers are drawn to someone cynical enough about books to say, ““…your writing doesn’t have to be really good,” as Locke did. But if you are interested in selling books, you have to pay at least some attention to somebody who sells a million ebooks as Locke did in less than a year.
What was the key to Locke’s success? He says in his book How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, “I have never taken myself seriously as a writer, but I’ve always felt I’d be able to write effectively enough to acquire and keep 10,000 loyal fans.” There’s that word again loyal fans.
Locke attributes his sales to target marketing. He says, “I write to a specific audience and I know how to find them.” That comment is the key, because if you want to build a fan base you have to know where to find people who will be likely members.
So, that was a pretty big jump from Kelley’s 1000 true fans to Locke’s 10,000 loyal fans, you say. True. The fact is, pinning down a specific number is less important than realizing that the road to success entails reaching a much smaller number of people than most authors think.
Consider the way so many diligent authors try to promote their books. They blog. They are all over social media. They issue press releases. They schedule public appearances. They look for opportunities for media coverage. They wear themselves out trying to publicize their book, but their results are often disappointing. They might be better off narrowing their efforts.
By identifying your target audience more specifically, learning where these people hang out both online, and off and planning strategies to connect personally with them you can build a cadre of people who will buy your books and more importantly will spread the word about them to others.
You aren’t looking just for people who will buy a copy of one of your books. The key is that the people you are connecting with are not just Twitter followers or Facebook likes, they are people you have met in person, spoken to by email or telephone, or in an online forum. They feel they know you personally. That takes work on your part. But focusing on developing a personal relationship with potential fans will help you build a sound fan base for your books.
Whatever the number of fans your efforts produce, if there are the rabidly loyal kind that will be tuning in to the Super Bowl, you are likely to score a growing number of sales. That’s something to cheer about.