It’s been a busy world lately, both in my mind, and in the real world. I’ve been attacked with a few new story ideas while I’m trying to edit both a collection of short stories for publishing next summer, and also editing my novel WIP with the hopes of publishing in the fall or winter of next year (I still have to rewrite 75% of it and then send through Beta readers, etc.).
But, despite this hectic life I’ve been living, I’ve also been listening to a lot of self publishing podcasts and reading up about self-publishing. I’m only partway through my TBR list, but some of the ones I’m working through are:
APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepeneur. Kawasaki, Welch
Write. Publish. Repeat. The No-Luck Required Guide to Self-Publishing Success. Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, with David Wright
I’ve lost track of other freebies I’ve picked up and browsed. And I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts, mostly from Truant & Platt’s “The Self-Publishing Podcast” & “Savvy Self-Publishing.”
But one thing I’ve come across multiple times is the idea of 100 true fans.
100 True Fans:
The general idea for this apparently hasn’t come from writing, or even blogging. It’s developed from a business point of view, and originally started as a blogging article entitled “1000 True Fans” by Kevin Kelly. (I was unable to find a link for his article, but just search his name on Amazon and you’ll come up with his books.)
Anyway, the idea of 100 (1000) true fans is that if you develop relationships with a small number of people, they will be more invested in your success and support you by buying your product. Now, the key to this would be that they are “true” fans. They cannot be partly on board or do anything other than adore you and your work, because these are the people who will spend their money on whatever you sell.
If you want to make a living off your work, you need these 100 true fans.
I think this is the dilemma between an author’s platform and traditional authorhood of writing and only writing. Before the Internet and ebooks, writers didn’t have to worry about promoting themselves, they only had to write their books and submit them to a publisher. A few would choose the self-publishing route and it would become their business or a side business selling books from the trunk of their cars–but few could make a living from it.
These days if you want to self-publish, the best time to begin your platform is years before you publish. Heck, if you want to traditionally publish, agents and publishers are looking for the same thing (but they may take a chance on you if your book is really good. A platform can be developed after all).
But this platform business is why there are so many author blogs out there (of which I am one), trying to get their baby blog off the ground and get followers. Not only followers, but followers who are invested in you and your product.
How do you do that? Don’t ask me. I’m no blogging expert. But I think this is easier said than done. Deliver what your reader wants, how your reader wants it, when your reader wants it. Deciphering what all those things are is another matter.
The point is that as writers, we want to be seeking those 100 true fans. You don’t need all 100 of these fans when you publish your first book. Instead, you can develop them as you publish. One of the major points made in Write. Publish. Repeat. is that you must write and publish frequently. (Indeed, the authors of this book write fast and furious, and publish often.) If all your hopes are in one book, you are probably not going to do well as a self-published author. When you have 100 true fans, they want more from you, or else you’re already going to have deivered all that you can to them and they have no further use for you. To be a successful self-published author, you must treat writing like it is your career. (Hopefully, it is.)
The easiest way to make and keep those 100 true fans, in my opinion, is to write a good series. I’ve never been much of a series person. I do enjoy a few, but I usually wait until almost all the books are out before beginning the series. Therein lies an issue for an author self-publishing. If I don’t begin reading your books until the entire series is out, you have to first publish all those books–even if the first book doesn’t sell that well. So you really can’t count your success by your first book, can you? But series are great for one main reason: if you wrote the first book well, the second book practically sells itself.
Note the two keys in that last sentence: you have to write the first book well, and you have to publish again. Also, readers aren’t going to wait years in between books. You have to push out books in high quantity and quality.
I recently picked up a self-published book on Kindle for $.99 with a fantastic cover and a great premise. Seemed like a good buy. Inside, it reads like a first draft. You can write a great book with a professional cover and everything, but if it’s unedited and you haven’t put the time in, your readers (i.e. your fans) will be able to tell. Would you want to read a book with multiple typos on every page? No? Then don’t expect your readers to be willing to do that. This particular author has written two books in this series and published both, as if putting the series idea to work. Shockingly, there are many 4 and 5 star reviews for their book on Amazon, graciously forgiving the typos and praising the story. Now, I doubt she’s making a living off these books, but she clearly has some devoted fans, or at least people willing to write a review for her books. She’s doing some things right, even if editing is too low on her list of priorities.
Quality editing is also something mentioned in 100% of the books on self-publishing that I have read. Quality editing. You can’t just have a few friends read over your novel and give it the thumbs up. They aren’t editors. And they’re your friends, they are going to be kind. So is family.
If you are going to go the self-pub route, quality editing is vital. If you happen to be a great editor, perfect. But you still need to send it to someone else for another round of quality editing. You won’t catch everything–the perfect editor won’t either. But multiple rounds and multiple eyes will catch most of fit.
Why do you need a quality editor? Can’t people just forgive a few typos if they know your’e indie? Yes and no. If it’s really a few typos, sure. But chances are, where there’s one you caught, there are twenty you didn’t catch. And while people don’t really care these days if you’re indie or not, they are going to care if you’re unprofessional or not. And what quality editing tells your reader is that you’re professional.
Remember, any typo or glaring mistake takes a reader out of your story. I’ve read a lot of beginning writers’ works and helped edit a lot of them. When something published reads like a first draft, I’m in red-pen mode. And I know a lot of non-writer readers that do the same thing. So do everyone a favor, and do your sales a favor by hiring an editor.
If you’re going to make a career out of writing, then an editor is a must.
So 100 fans. Are they necessary? What do you think?