Writers: Can You Achieve Your Dreams With Just 217 Fans?

If your goal is to be a writer, do you NEED a published book to succeed in that goal? What if it flops, if no one reads it, if you don’t make back your advance, if thousands of your books go right to the landfill, and if you never get another book deal again? Is your goal still fulfilled?

Dan Blank What I’m asking is: if your goal is to be a writer, what does that have to do with a book? Now, I love books, and I understand how having a published book can benefit a writer in hundreds of obvious ways.

But is the book essential to you becoming a writer? Is the goal the book – the THING – or is the goal to have a dedicated AUDIENCE of readers?

There is a huge difference.

I want to share one example of what I mean, and it’s a take-off on the 1,000 true fans concept. A band I really like called Crooked Fingers recently, they posted something on Kickstarter.com that went like this:

They asked fans to fund the production of a new collection of songs. The studio time and overall cost would be $5,000. So they offered fans a variety of things to buy that would fund the project. For example: I donated $15, and in return, I get a copy of the vinyl record if they reach their goal of $5,000.

The result? In less than 48 hours, 217 people bought something, resulting in $5,200, exceeding their overall goal. A couple of weeks later, they have more than $7,000 with 324 backers. Interestingly, this was largely collected by small donations of $15-$100, for which each fan got a copy of the album or concert tickets. A very fair trade – this was by no means a donation model where people are asked to give money out of sheer good will. They got very cool stuff in return, worth at least what they paid for them.

Okay, so here are some lessons we can pull from this:

  • This front-loads your career. The band now knows that it can afford to record the EP and go on tour, as opposed to planning the project and hoping that there is enough interest.
  • They learn WHO their fans are. This is incredibly valuable, there are so many ways they can connect to and leverage their top 300 fans to turn that number into 400 top fans.
  • The band didn’t need to have thousands of devoted fans, just 217 to reach their goal. What’s more, these fans only needed to be willing to buy a product for a reasonable amount of money. It didn’t diverge from the way people traditional relate to a band – no new behaviors were needed.
  • This group can be a band and make music that is loved, and do so without a record label, without a national ad campaign, without touring every day. Is it their idealistic dream? Probably not. But does it work? Yep, it does.

Sites like Kickstarter do this for all kinds of creators, just as Adopt-a-Classroom performs a similar function for teachers and schools. They break down the larger goals into small ways that people can hear your story, connect with you, and become a part of the solution.

Is that any different for writers?

The goal is not the ‘thing’ is it? The book? Isn’t the goal to reach someone – to connect with an audience – to inspire, to education, to entertain? A book is a phenomenal way to do that. But is it the ONLY way?

Now, there is another whole side to this. That, if you are able to create an audience of 217 fans WITHOUT a book, that you are much more likely to get a book deal. This is why authors who have already built a platform have an easier time getting published. They’ve proven that they can build an audience and that they know how to connect with them.

Instead of HOPING to find an audience, they PROVE that they already have one.

But again – what if we remove the option to be published. Would you be satisfied if you shared 1 short story a month on your own website, and had 300 fans who LOVED you. Not 20,000 page views, not 3,000 Twitter followers, but 300 people who read every word you wrote, and loved it.

And if you wouldn’t be satisfied with this: why not?

This question is most interesting to me not for the top authors of the world, the top 1% who have incredible expertise or writing skill, but the thousands of people who want to be writers, but will likely never get a book deal. What concerns me is that without the validation of the published book, many people don’t consider themselves writers.

And I wonder: what if 1,000 unpublished authors, instead of giving up, engaged 300 people each. That’s 300,000 fans. And what if, every year for 20 years, each of those authors kept sharing their work, and slowly grew their fan base my a mere 20 fans a year.

Well, in 20 years, those 1,000 authors would not have a total of 700,000 fans. 700 fans each.

I know, for many who dream of being famous authors, the thought of dying with only a few hundred fans seems like a letdown. But for most, the alternative is that many would-be writers never develop their craft enough to publish, to share, and end up with zero fans. Their efforts sit alone in a drawer, never finished, never shared.

When I consider the band I mentioned above, I am reminded that it took just 217 connections for them to pursue their dream of recording new songs. Can you build 217 fans for your dreams?

Let me know if I can help you: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or dan@danblank.com.



Authors Have To Be Entrepreneurs. Here’s Why.

In all likelihood you will never earn a decent income as a published author. (I’m sorry to say that, really.)

But, you can earn a decent living BECAUSE OF your book; they are an incredible platform to develop other revenue streams. Today I want to share one compelling example as to why that is. I’m going to focus on someone who published a successful nonfiction book. In fact, he got his book deal because of his blog, and he earns a significant income because of everything BUT his book.

Dan Blank

Darren Rowse  makes 6-figures a year (close to 7-figures a year) by blogging. But the blog is merely a POWERFUL launch platform for other products which generate his revenue. This is how his revenue streams break down for April:

  • 23% AdSense Ads
  • 22% Affiliate Ads/Partnerships
  • 16% E-Books
  • 15% Continuity Programs (Subscription forums)
  • 7% Direct Ad Sales
  • 6% Chitika (A search-targeted advertising solution)
  • 5% Amazon Affiliate Program
  • 3% Job Boards
  • 1% Speaking

The last revenue stream he left off the chart because he only collects royalties twice a year: book sales. He said if he included it, it would rank in the 1-3% range. TINY compared to his other revenue streams.

Darren’s book is ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income and his websites include Problogger.net, Digital Photography School, and Twitip.

Okay, let’s model this out. I’m not doing this to pry into Darren’s finances, but to understand how it is someone can really earn a living because of their blog and/or book. Assuming Darren made $750,000 in 2009, this is how the revenue streams would break out (on average) for each month:

  • $14,375 AdSense Ads
  • $13,640 Affiliate Ads/Partnerships
  • $9,920 E-Books
  • $9,300 Continuity Programs (Subscription forums)
  • $4,340 Direct Ad Sales
  • $3,720 Chitika
  • $3,100 Amazon Affiliate Program
  • $1,860 Job Boards
  • $620 Speaking

Keep in mind, this is PER MONTH. Now, some revenue streams deliver higher revenue depending on if there is a new product launch or time of year, so this is just a guestimate.

If you add in the book sales, that would be an additional $700 or so a month. BARELY ANYTHING compared to his other revenue streams. YET, the book features prominently in his marketing as it establishes his authority and builds his platform.

To give a more balanced view, let’s assume that 30% of Darren’s revenue goes to expenses and another 30% goes to taxes. (Darren works from home, and has been careful to not build up a lot of overhead in his business.) Even with these figures, he would still take home $300,000 a year, own his business, along with a variety of revenue streams and the skillset that goes with them.

What does this mean for you? It means that AUTHORS HAVE TO BE ENTREPRENEURS.

Not because the world needs more business people, but because no one is more passionate about your work than you – no one can connect with your target audience more than you – no one wants your writing career to succeed more than you.

The web affords you incredible opportunity that authors in the 20th century never had. This is not something disrupting to your goals, it is empowering!

Let me know if I can help: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or dan@danblank.com.



Writers: Develop Your Audience, Not Just Your Book

As a writer, yes, it’s your responsibility to develop a GREAT book. But it is ALSO your responsibility to create an engaged audience. Maybe you can’t conjure up 4 million passionate fans by yourself, but you may be able to engage 400 or 4,000 fans.

Dan BlankSteve Blank and Eric Ries have some innovative theories about this. They focus on startup companies – those who have a great idea for a product, get financial backing, then work furiously hard to make it a reality.

Most startups focus on PRODUCT development. Once they get financial backing and put the team in place, they lock themselves in a room and focus intently on developing the PRODUCT, working towards launch.

What Steve and Eric evangelize is the idea of focusing of developing CUSTOMERS.

This means involving your target audience at every step of the development process, and constantly iterating your product based on their needs & feedback.  So instead of focusing on the ‘thing’ you are building, you are focusing on the needs & people you are creating a solution for.

It’s not a direct correlation for authors, but consider it this way: Too many authors work alone in a room on their book, then get the gears rolling at a publishing house, only to drop their LIFE’S WORK into the world, and have it greeted by silence.

Do you want crickets chirping when your book finally hits the shelves?

These authors developed the product, but not the audience. They ASSUMED people would react a certain way. And we all know what happens when you assume…

If you want to earn a living as an author, don’t focus just on the book. Focus on the audience – at every step of the process, involve them. By the time you come to a publisher or agent with your book, you should have proven your ability to not just write a book, but develop an audience.

Let me know if I can help: @DanBlank, 973-981-8882 or dan@danblank.com.



Book Giveaway! Energize Your Online Business

Dan Blank and Darren Rowse

UPDATE 4/28/10: The contest has ended and winner has been chosen. Thanks to all who entered!
Win three books: Linchpin, Rework and Problogger the book. Details below…

You really can earn a living because of blogging. I don’t mean by getting paid per post or because of Google AdSense ads, but because blogging builds a platform for your life and career that allows you to reach your goals.

Here’s why blogging delivers:

  • You establish yourself as an expert.
  • You make your value apparent to your audience.
  • You train yourself to GIVE each day, by sharing advice and information on the blog.

I’ve known people who have gotten book deals because of their blogs, who have built lucrative speaking careers because of their blog and who are now considered experts in their field, ALL because they chose to blog.

A few years ago I had a chance to meet Darren Rowse at an event in New York City. Darren is well-known as the man behind Problogger.net – a blog that shares tips to make your blog a success.

It was his first trip here, and I was amazed that after a week in town, he was stuck in midtown, and hadn’t been to areas such as Greenwich Village and SoHo. So my wife & I gave he, his wife, and their first son a tour of lower Manhattan.

It was such a nice day, and really proved to me what an incredible person Darren is.

Linchpin, ProBlogger and Rework BooksI want to share that with you today. So I’m giving away a copy of a great book on blogging written by Darren and Chris Garrett. It’s the new edition of ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income which was just released today.

As a BONUS, I am throwing in a copy of Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. This bestseller helps you rethink how to manage your business and career in order to achieve your goals, instead of getting wrapped up in tasks that don’t deliver value.

As a DOUBLE BONUS, I’m also adding in a copy of Seth Godin’s book Linchpin.

So one person will win all three books, shipped to their door directly from Amazon, for free.

How do you enter? Simply leave a comment below answering the question:

“Why do you blog?”

If you already blog, just share why it’s important to you. If you are just starting out, just share one of your goals. If you don’t blog and don’t plan to, tell me why.

The rules:

  • The contest is only open to people within the Continental U.S. (sorry about that, I do appreciate all of you though.)
  • Please enter only once.
  • Be sure to add your email address when entering the comment. Do this in the ’email’ field – it won’t be published live on the blog, but I will be able to see it so I can contact you if you’ve won.
UPDATED: I will be picking a winner… tomorrow, Tuesday April 27th at Noon EST
EXTENDED ONE DAY: Wednesday April 28 at Noon EST.
Good luck!
-Dan Blank
Twitter: @DanBlank