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How to Convert Your Followers into 1000 True Fans

1000 True Fans

If you’ve been reading blogs for a while, you have probably come across the term “1000 true fans.” Kevin Kelly first wrote about this idea on his blog Technium. The number 1000 is an estimate, of course, but the rationale goes that all you need to succeed in your field are 1000 true fans, a “true fan” being defined as someone who will buy everything you have to sell. In other words—every book you publish, every T-shirt you design, every webinar you offer. Kelly estimates that each “true fan” would have to spend one day’s wages, or $100, per year to support you. Let’s suspend our disbelief that 1000 people are each going to buy four of our hardcover books every year and talk about what makes a true fan—and how to win them.

I want to emphasize how important this is because, for all the effort we put into gaining followers on social media platforms, some people estimate that less than 3% will purchase our books. Sure, there are benefits to having followers besides the number of books they buy, but let’s say our real goal is to sell books. How do we convert 1000 of our followers into true fans who will purchase everything we produce? Here are some tips:

1. Make your followers your friends.

Friends will buy everything you produce—at least “true” friends will. How do you convert a follower into a friend? Interact. Comment on their blog posts. Retweet and @ reply them on Twitter. Share their Facebook updates. Follow them on Instagram. Have conversations. Get to know them—both online and off.

2. Meet your followers in person.

We can’t spend all day on social media chatting with 1000 of our followers. But a ten-minute conversation in person can go further than hours of online interaction. I’ll give you an example. There’s an author whose book I had heard about, even picked up and skimmed. We have friends in common, so we’re friends on Facebook. I had seen her writing in print, seen her book in bookstores, heard stories about her. But it wasn’t until I met her in person and had a conversation with her that I became a true fan. Now I consider her a friend and will buy everything she writes. So get out there and interact with people—whether at a friend’s wine-tasting party or at a writing conference. The more people you meet in person, the more “true fans” you will have.

3. Give Good Content.

One of the best ways to gain and retain followers (and convert them into true fans) is to offer free content via the web. If you have a blog, you should be offering focused, high-quality content on a consistent basis. My favorite writing blogs do more than rehash what’s already been said. They tell me something I didn’t know before (like the latest publishing news and trends), give me insight into something I know little about (like how to publish an e-book), give me valuable information (like a list of agents looking for new clients), or make me laugh, like this post on doing chores by author Nathan Bransford.

4. Have a product to sell.

No matter how much someone likes you, if you don’t have anything to offer, they won’t have anything to buy. So between tweeting and blogging and socializing at writing conferences, make time to sit down and do what you do best—write!

5. Continue honing your craft.

My most popular friends on Facebook also happen to be writers who have achieved a degree of success in their field. They aren’t the ones with the most friends or followers. They’re the ones whose friends and followers “like,” share, and comment on everything they do. Those are true fans. If you have thousands of followers and no one is interacting with you, you have a shallow fan base. Your goal is depth, and that will come automatically to writers who succeed at their craft.

6. Teach.

Writers love their teachers. They look up to their teachers. Sometimes they worship their teachers. You have something that they want—expertise, publication, success. They will attend your readings and buy your books in the hope of getting As on their report cards, in the hope that your success will rub off on them, in the hope that you will introduce them to your agent. Teaching isn’t for everyone, and you shouldn’t do it if you aren’t passionate about it, but it is one sure way to build true fans. 

7. Make Yourself Accessible.

No matter how great of a writer you are, if you don’t have an online presence, your fans can’t interact with you. Remember, that interaction is what will convert any old fan into a true fan. You don’t have to spend hours every day on social media. But do share some information about yourself. And do respond to comments. It can make the difference between someone buying one of your books and someone buying all of your books.

What about you? Have you had success converting followers into true fans? What is your secret?

56 comments to How to Convert Your Followers into 1000 True Fans

  • Meghan,

    I love your tips here! I have a following on social media, but it is not robust. I often think about how publishers require an online presence. I suppose I have one, but I would be shocked if even 10% of my followers bought my book. This is partly because I have a "split personality" online. I have a career from which I make money, health and fitness, and a passion for writing. I don't think the people who follow me because of my fitness tips would buy my book, which is about an entirely different subject matter. People are, of course, multi-dimensional, but sometimes it is a struggle to manage this online.

    • meghancward

      That's a major point that I failed to mention, Christine – the importance of blogging to your audience and not any ol' audience. You want to become friends with the people who have an interest in your writing and subject matter, or they will never buy your books!

  • christicorbett


    This is such a great post! I have a VERY small following so I'm of no help to answering your question, but I do plan on implementing some of your tips 🙂

    Christi Corbett

    • meghancward

      Christi – I'm glad this was helpful! I think I'll revise this post to include the importance of blogging to your audience, as I mentioned in my comment above.

  • Liza

    Great piece. Thanks for putting this together!

  • That is a very solid list. I haven't done any of the "meeting in person", but the other six have all been beneficial.

    • meghancward

      Brian, I am excited to go to the BlogHer Conference in Chicago next month and meet some bloggers in person. Writers' conferences are great, too. People remember you much better if you meet them in person.

  • Very good points. It makes me realize I’m a true fan of some writers simply because we’ve had personal interactions online or in person.

  • kidfreeliving

    I was just thinking today about the % of followers – even enthusiastic followers – and the sort that will buy your book. Excellent post!

  • evelintamm

    I was watching a documentary about Sofi Oksanen, a Nordic author writing about Estonian history, just few days ago in Swedish TV. She mentioned spending 80% of her time for marketing that is social interaction with readers, publishers etc. and she has done a remarkable job being on top of all the lists in Europe with her books! Unfortunately it leaves only 20% of her time for writing…
    I have been blogging for few years by now and are thinking about starting with my first book about education. It is hard to keep my focus on one big challenge (300 pages!) while chatting, facebooking, commenting, tweeting, blogging and writing minor articles for magazines and newspapers. One of the recent posts I wrote was a call for writers hideaway on a lonely island. Another question is the mastery of the language of course…

    How do you do it?

  • Thanks for the tips. Just found your site on Facebook. I am new to the blogging world…chasing a long time dream with my serial fiction blog. (Yes…I know..fiction on a blog is like swimming up steam…but I do have a rather unique gimmick revolving around my illustrations.) Will keep checking back for suggestions and ideas to bring my 101 followers to 1000.

  • Very insightful – I've shared with my writing group and writer friends.

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