1,000 True Fans: Myth or Legend?

If you’re an artist or entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard Kevin Kelly’s famous assertion:

To make a living as a craftsperson, photographer, musician, designer, author, animator, app maker, entrepreneur, or inventor you need only one thousand true fans. (Kevin Kelly)

I went back and read his original blog post from 2008 this morning. While his words make complete sense, as a traditionally published author, I think I’d need more like 100,000 true fans.

Here’s my math logic:

Kelly arrives at his magic 1,000 number because he assumes that 1) you are selling directly to these fans (no middle guy, i.e. Publisher/agent/bookseller) and 2) that you sell enough items to make $100 profit per fan per year.

This way 1,000 true fans (we’ll get to what makes a fan true in a moment) spend $100 on you each year, so you make $100,000 a year. That’s a pretty decent income for sure.

Since I make about $1 per book sold, I’d have to be writing 100 books each year, or at least, also designing t-shirts and totes to go with each title. Probably not going to happen.

street vendor

Kelly’s math doesn’t work for me since not only do I not write 100 books a year, I also share my profits with my agent, publisher, and booksellers.

But I’d still love to find 1,000 true fans.

more fans

What’s a true fan?


A true fan loves your writing and probably really likes you, too.

They buy your books, want to have them signed, and give them as gifts.

They tell others about you, write reviews, and come to see you at signings and book clubs and workshops.

They follow you on social media, subscribe to your blogs, visit your website, and send you occasional emails.

Who wouldn’t want to have 1,000 fans like that?

Having 1,000 fans like that would surely make up for the low income and the long, lonely hours of a writer.

I’ve decided to embrace Kelly’s words, not because 1,000 true fans would enable me to make a nice living at this job I love, but because 1,000 true fans will make the living I’m not making more than worth it.

But, how do you get 1,000 true fans?

Now there’s the question, right?

I’m not sure, but I think it starts by writing from your heart, honestly, openly, and sometimes painfully. People respect authenticity. They know when we’re simply dressing up for company.

It also means writing with your readers in mind –trying to offer them something that makes their life a tiny bit better – a word of encouragement, a helpful idea, a thought to ponder, or maybe a picture of a puppy that makes them smile.

For me, marketing my books is about making a connection — one person at a time. Taking the time to respond to comments on my blogs and Facebook, replying to emails, and being as curious about other people as they are about me.

It means being willing to show up to give a talk at a library on a cold winter night and giving my best even if only a handful of people are there.

It means being happy to volunteer my time and knowledge to writers who are just getting started on their writing journey.

It means not taking a single fan for granted.

Bottomline: You have to give, to get.

You have to give to get (2)

I’d love to have 1,000 true fans, but I think it starts by being a fan myself — of my readers and other writers. That I know how to do.

If anybody has another idea, I’d love to hear it!

Hey, thanks for reading. I know you’ve got lots of options, so thanks for sharing a few of your minutes with me.



If you’d like to know more about me, my books, and where you might run into me, check out my website, CaraWrites.com.

If you’d like to subscribe to my (sometimes) monthly e-newsletter, click here.

If you’re a dog lover, check out my other blog, Another Good Dog.

I’d love to connect with you on Facebook, twitter, or Instagram, and I’m thrilled to get email from readers (and writers), you can reach me at carasueachterberg@gmail.com.


Author: Cara Sue Achterberg

I am a writer, blogger, and dog rescuer. I live in the darling town of Woodstock, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley with my husband and three rescue dogs (who rescue me on a daily basis). Find more information about my books, my dogs, and all my writing adventures at CaraWrites.com.

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