1,000 True Fans:
Answering the Money Question
Even if you’re sold on the 1,000 True Fan concept, you may still be asking the Money Question.
For many of you, you may already be on board. Most authors write for reasons other than making money and the idea that their 1000 True Fans make the author’s life more rewarding is enough for them.
Others still want an answer to the Money Question.
Regardless which one you are, this question is still important. Even if you’re in it for reasons other than making a living, there are emotional rewards in knowing that there’s a tangible benefit to your work.
It’s also a good guide to knowing what actually resonates with your fans and what doesn’t. Asking the question of why your fans buy one thing and not another lets you know if you’re actually serving them the way you should be.
The flow of:
Service → Sales → Creation → Sales → Service → Sales
is one that’s mutually self-reinforcing.
Don’t Just Sell on Amazon
I can’t reinforce enough just how much authors can’t rely only on book sales to create a financially healthy career. Yes, there are plenty of authors out there who do make a living (or even a fortune!) selling just books. But they’re the outlier. They’re the 1% or even the 1% of the 1%.
And I should define exactly what I mean by “not only relying on book sales” because there are lots of elements of the 1,000 True Fans concept of audience building that still includes selling books.
When I say don’t rely on book sales I mean, very particularly: Don’t just sell your books on Amazon!
It’s super easy to throw your book up in ebook and even print on Amazon KDP and, poof! You’re a published author. Millions do just that every year and sell just a few copies.
No author wants to spend all that time creating a book just to have no one read it.
Making Money with 1,000 True Fans
If you want to reach more than a few people and make a living selling books, you need to consider the other parts of the equation mentioned in part one:
Annual Sales = Products X Buyers X Price
Put differently, if you want to make more money, you need to sell more stuff or sell it to more people or sell it for a higher price. Or, ideally, a combination of the three.
Your 1,000 True Fans Should Buy From Your Site
In the previous article we talked about how best to engage with your fans. In the same way that one of the best ways to do that is on your own website, the same is true for the best way to sell.
When you sell things on your own site, you control how your fans see what you’re selling. You create everything. You control everything. And you don’t have to share the profits with anyone.
Yes, there are expenses, but you can get started with little to no extra costs than what you’ve already had to spend on the website.
Your site is where your 1,000 True Fans will make most of their purchases from you, so make it count, make it special, make it memorable, make them feel loved.
Your store should be an extension of the way you’re already growing and nurturing your fans, not just a place for e-commerce. Their movement into buying should be a natural one—as natural as reading an article or blog post, following you on social media, or signing up for your newsletter.
You can also sell things that you can’t sell anywhere else, which is where the 1,000 True Fans method really comes into its own.
Selling Signed Books
Signed books are an absolutely fabulous way to get started selling on your own site. They’re something that can’t be sold anywhere else. They’re a great way to create a personal connection with your True Fans (and make more at the same time!).
There’s something to getting a personal note from an author that can’t be replicated by an Amazon box.
And if you’re selling signed books, you’re going to make the full retail price, not the net that retailers give back to you. That means that instead of $5/book you make $10 or maybe even more.
Selling Secondary Products
Did you know that a lot if not all of the profit that creatives like musicians make from live events come from T-shirt sales? Guess what? You can sell T-shirts too.
In our house, when someone says something funny or particularly quotable we say, “T-shirt!”
We want that shirt to remind us of something true we want to share with the world. Remind you of anything? Why you wrote your book, perhaps? And did you put any of those ideas into a particularly quotable form? Put it on a T-shirt!
But that’s not all. These quotes can go on endless items thanks to print-on-demand folks like Printify. Or your book covers could be made into posters. You could sell tie-in items, like jewelry mentioned in your story.
Your ability to sell secondary products is limited only by your imagination, and that starts to make that equation of Products x Fans x Price look pretty good!
Definitely Sell on Amazon—and Lots of Other Retailers Too!
I said don’t just sell on Amazon. That doesn’t mean you should avoid it or give up on it.
Selling on third party retailers might not be where you want to sell to your 1,000 True Fans, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be selling there.
Frankly, a certain percentage of even your truest fans will still buy on Amazon. It’s what they know. It’s what they trust. They might love you, but for whatever reason they’re not going to buy from your site. And it might not be Amazon they buy from. Maybe they prefer Barnes and Noble or another small local store. Make sure you’re available in as many places as possible so you can serve your readers.
This is a good thing. The more people you have buying on sites like Amazon, the more exposure you get. We’d already talked about the benefits of Verified Buyer reviews and Bestseller Lists and sales algorithms—put them to work for you.
It’s also true that there are tons of readers out there that aren’t your 1,000 True Fans (yet!), and they might find you because of these metrics that are completely outside of your control. That’s very often the crack in the door that true fans come through. Once they fall in love with your book, they fall in love with you, and the cycle continues.
The 1,000 True Fans model is the basis for everything I do in marketing, but it’s not all there is. It informs the fact that we don’t need to have millions of fans and readers to be successful. It makes it possible to have a sustainable and rewarding career.
As long as you’re willing to be as creative with your “marketing” and “audience building” as you are with your books, then it’ll be just as rewarding as your writing. Maybe even more so, in some ways, because while writing can be a solitary life, creating your 1,000 True Fans won’t be.