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Finding 1,000 true fans by nurturing a devoted fanbase is a viable alternative to the unlikelihood of achieving bestseller or megastar status. Despite our lofty dreams, most of us mere peons don’t have oodles of folks going stark raving mad to buy everything we produce. So even though you have 10,000 Twitter followers or maybe even 2,500 people on your e-mail list, how many are actually true fans?


In last month’s author interview with Linton Robinson, his his advice of finding 1,000 true fans has prompted me to look more into the pros and cons of the theory. He also pointed out that in addition to building an email list, authors should be contributing to anthologies and online serials. Intriguing too is his statement that where he sees it worthwhile to blog is on other people’s blogs.


We can probably all agree that building an audience takes time. Of course it’s worthwhile to put energy into one’s blog and social media presence, but potential fans will discover your work faster if you share some of who and what you are with a variety of established audiences.


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In any case, technology really does open up possibilities for success. What follows below are five main points taken directly from each source. I highly encourage you to explore the content of each source more in depth on your own.


1,000 True Fans

The former editor of Wired, Kevin Kelly, wrote an article titled 1,000 True Fans where he points out how marketing’s long tail is great for huge sellers like Amazon who can make a lot out of selling smaller quantities of a large number of products. However, the long tail doesn’t benefit most creators much. The solution for the creator is to go about finding 1,000 true fans. The model is for a solo artist, and Kelly also emphasizes that not all artists are cut out to nurture true fans. Plus 1,000 is not a one-size-fits all number. It varies by type of artist.


#1: A True Fan is defined as someone who will purchase anything and everything you produce.


#2: True Fans will each spend one day’s wages per year in support of what you do.


#3: The key challenge is that you have to maintain direct contact with your 1,000 True Fans.


#4: This small circle of diehard fans, which can provide you with a living, is surrounded by concentric circles of Lesser Fans.


#5: There is a place in the middle, that is not very far away from the tail, where you can at least make a living.



The Problem with 1,000 True Fans

Author John Scalzi offers a note of caution in his post The Problem with 1,000 True Fans. It’s a given that most people realize superstardom is a rare feat that also involves a whole lot of luck. Scalzi agrees that Keller’s theory does indeed seem reasonable, and even more so when online resources for reaching fans are taken into account. Yet, he cautions finding 1,000 true fans is not as easy as it looks. He also writes, “as someone who is arguably at a 1KTF level of notoriety … it’s not what I do.” Getting and keeping 1,000 fans is extremely hard work.


#1: Gathering a thousand true fans is harder than it looks


#2: The available universe of “true fans” is not the entire US (or the entire Internet), but the subset of those who are willing/able to spend a significant sum of money on a single creative person.


#3: Artists are likely competing for “true fans”.


#4: “True Fans” may not stay true fans.


#5: Just because a “true fan” spends $100 on you doesn’t mean you get $100.



1,000 True Fans – Still Relevant

A voice of inspiration and valuable resources on the topic comes into play in 1,000 True Fans – Still Relevant by pediatric surgeon and fundraiser for heart surgery Dr. Mani. He draws attention to how many of us seem a bit scared of reaching our full potential because it can be hard to believe that each of truly has a quality that potential fans will want to connect with. We are all deserving of true fans, but the trouble comes from how to get them, where to find them, and to keep them attracted to your particular circle. In short, be remarkable.


#1: Being remarkable really just means being worthy of being talked bout.


#2: You can be remarkable in many ways by being:

  • the first – or the last
  • the cheapest – or priciest
  • the easiest – or hardest
  • the simplest – or most complex
  • the highest – or lowest – value provider


#3: Whatever you are currently doing is in fact remarkable. You just need to crank it up a notch.


#4: Just do something that no one has done before!


#5: Follow your heart.


To a degree all artists exhibit the influence of their predecessors and contemporaries, but it’s rare for an artist to come off as truly unique and alluring. It’s a fine line to walk. If an artist tries too hard to be different, it can feel forced. If they don’t try to stand out, it’s next to impossible to hold a potential fan’s interest for very long. We all long for connection, so find what enables you to make those connections.



What measures have you utilized to nurture true fans? On the flipside, who do you consider yourself a true fan of?



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