Publish & Prosper

Can You Really Support Your Business With Just 1,000 True Fans?

March 06, 2024 Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo Season 1 Episode 15
Can You Really Support Your Business With Just 1,000 True Fans?
Publish & Prosper
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Publish & Prosper
Can You Really Support Your Business With Just 1,000 True Fans?
Mar 06, 2024 Season 1 Episode 15
Matt Briel & Lauren Vassallo

In this episode Lauren and Matt discuss Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans theory, what it means to be a true fan (or super fan), and a few unique ways small business owners and content creators have turned casual buyers into true fans. 

Dive Deeper

💡 Read the Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans essay

💡 Read The 1,000 True Fan Theory: Sustainable Income for Creators on the Lulu blog

💡 Watch Joe Pulizzi’s webinar on Creating a Multi-Million-Dollar Business From Your Book

💡 Get inspired by Audrey Hughey’s author planners

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [16:39] “It's actually one of the things I love about social media…you can find that there's always at least somebody else in the world that shares your thoughts or shares your opinion or shares your interests or anything like that…no matter how niche your content is or how niche your book is or whatever, you will find fans for it. You will find people that will be a dedicated audience.”

🎙️ [26:16] “If we were giving those numbers back at the beginning and you were hearing like $100 of profit per year from every individual fan, I'm only publishing one book a year. Like, how am I supposed to make $100 off of a single book? This is how you do that, is by creating these supplemental products that go along with those books.”

🎙️ [33:13] “This idea that you might struggle for content or run out of things to do or ways to monetize. I don't think that's going to happen. I think once you get started doing this and understanding the model and figuring out what your fans want, what they will buy from you. You're not gonna have any shortage of products.”

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Lauren and Matt discuss Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans theory, what it means to be a true fan (or super fan), and a few unique ways small business owners and content creators have turned casual buyers into true fans. 

Dive Deeper

💡 Read the Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans essay

💡 Read The 1,000 True Fan Theory: Sustainable Income for Creators on the Lulu blog

💡 Watch Joe Pulizzi’s webinar on Creating a Multi-Million-Dollar Business From Your Book

💡 Get inspired by Audrey Hughey’s author planners

Sound Bites From This Episode

🎙️ [16:39] “It's actually one of the things I love about social media…you can find that there's always at least somebody else in the world that shares your thoughts or shares your opinion or shares your interests or anything like that…no matter how niche your content is or how niche your book is or whatever, you will find fans for it. You will find people that will be a dedicated audience.”

🎙️ [26:16] “If we were giving those numbers back at the beginning and you were hearing like $100 of profit per year from every individual fan, I'm only publishing one book a year. Like, how am I supposed to make $100 off of a single book? This is how you do that, is by creating these supplemental products that go along with those books.”

🎙️ [33:13] “This idea that you might struggle for content or run out of things to do or ways to monetize. I don't think that's going to happen. I think once you get started doing this and understanding the model and figuring out what your fans want, what they will buy from you. You're not gonna have any shortage of products.”

💀 Can’t wait for our next episode? Check out our Resources page for links to our blog,
our YouTube channel, and more.
💀 Find us on Facebook, X, Instagram, and LinkedIn at luludotcom!
💀 Email us at
💀 Sign up for our mailing list.

Lauren: Hey everyone and welcome back to another episode of Publish & Prosper. I'm here with my co-host Matt to talk about a subject that we love rambling about and that is having true fans and being true fans. More specifically than that, the 1,000 True Fans theory written by Kevin Kelly, and how it relates to content creators and content entrepreneurs and authors.

Matt: I think I'm going to take offense to the use of the word rambling though. I mean, you know. On this particular topic, I don't think we ramble because we're both very passionate about it, as well as our organization is very passionate about this theory and people putting it into practice and using our tools to do that. So.

Lauren: Okay, I - I will accept that correction. 

Matt: I will say that we do tend to ramble about a lot of other things, especially all things Disney or pizza or anything else. 

Lauren: Right, right, right, right. We're not going to say that we're rambling about the True Fans theory, but rather that Matt and I love to ramble about being true die-hard fans of things. 

Matt: There you go. 

Lauren: And that we are, like, the total embodiment of this theory. 
Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Because we've both talked repeatedly about how there are so many different things that we have that we're like, I don't care what it is. As soon as this creator says they have a new thing coming out, I'm buying it. I don't need to know what the title is, what it's about, anything like that. They announce it, I'm buying it.

Matt: Very fair. 

Lauren: And that is the heart of this theory. 

Matt: Speaking of which, Jen brought to my attention yesterday that the Los Bros restocked on the Heaven is a Place on Earth shirts. 

Lauren: Oh my god, did you get it? 

Matt: I did. 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: I missed out last time, or my size sold out last time. I got it. 

Lauren: I wore that one of the days that we were in Orlando. 

Matt: Yes. 

Lauren: So, it was a great shirt. 

Matt: I've kept that sticker on my desk that you gave me as a constant reminder to keep checking back. 

Lauren: Actually got a package from them yesterday, because I did a mystery order. They do every now and then like - which, pro-tip, great idea. I love that they do this, and I wish more brands did something like this. This is a t-shirt company, they do like small bulk orders of their t-shirts for initial sale and they will do, periodically, a misprints and imperfect t-shirt buy. It's, you know, a $10 t-shirt or a $13 sweatshirt. And you know going in ahead of time that there's going to be something wrong with it, but it's a mystery order. And I'll always do that. Every time they put them up on their site, I'll do an order for a couple of t-shirts because I think it's really fun to have that. Like, it's going to be a mystery. It's going to be a surprise. What am I going to get? And some of the ones that I've gotten, I've gotten them and I've been like, I can't tell whatever's wrong with this. Like whatever misprint happened here, like it's not enough for me to notice it. So I've gotten some really fun t-shirts from them because of that. And I think that's a great idea.

Matt: Well, Lauren also just gave you guys a little bit of insight into what a true fan will actually do for you. 

Lauren: Oh yeah. 

Matt: To the point where many brands can even pawn off their misprints and screw ups to true fans under the guise of a mystery bag of shirts. 

Lauren: Yeah, no, but actually. 

Matt: No, it's true. Yes, a lot of brands do that. And I have actually purchased a quote unquote mystery bag before, of two t-shirts, I just give them my size. I know that I like pretty much everything from that brand. What shows up, you're right, is often not something I would consider a misprint or something that I wouldn't wear. So yeah, I mean, it is a great idea. It's just another example of how, if you're a creative person, you can get rid of dead stock and all kinds of other things to your true fans.

Lauren: Yes, and if you have true fans that are dedicated fans, they will buy them from you. 

Matt: There you go. So how do we get true fans? Well, I guess let's back up. 

Lauren: Yeah 

Matt: For those listening who aren't aware of Kevin Kelly or the 1,000 True Fans theory, why don't you give us a quick intro as to what this is? 

Lauren: Sure. Here's my modern-day book report. It's been a long time since I've written a book report. 

Matt: How about we do the CliffsNotes version?

Lauren: Oh, you - you can already tell that I was the kind of kid in high school that turned in a book report that was 50 pages long. 

Matt: Yeah. I don't think you ever knew what CliffsNotes were. You probably would have frowned upon them. 

Lauren: I did. 

Matt: Oh.

Lauren: Actually, I did read them for Shakespeare sometimes.

Matt: Oh.

Lauren: I would still read the Shakespeare play, but then I would read the CliffsNotes so that I could actually understand what was happening because I was not a big Shakespeare kid.

Matt: I had to use them for Shakespeare and I never was able to do anything Greek mythology related without the help of CliffsNotes. 

Lauren: I actually think that they're a great asset as like a study aid, but when it comes to replacing - 

Matt: Oh yeah, no. 

Lauren: Like you have to read the original content too, but I do think that they're a great supplement to reading the original content. It was when people would read CliffsNotes instead of - 

Matt: Maybe CliffsNotes were the first version of ChatGPT. 

Lauren: They were probably written by an early version of ChatGPT too, cause they were always very bland and didn't - like bare bones, like no dressing to them. 

Matt: Yeah. 


Lauren: But anyway. Let's talk a little bit about the 1,000 True Fans theory. So, if you don't know, Kevin Kelly is - I tried to summarize his bio in a single sentence from his website. And it sounds like that quote from Iron Man where he says ‘genius, billionaire, playboy…’ best-selling author, entrepreneur, photojournalist, philanthropist, futurist and self-proclaimed radical optimist. Sounds like a very cool guy sounds like a very knowledgeable guy. Back in 2008 he wrote an essay explaining the 1,000 True Fans theory according to him, and then he updated it back in 2016. So this is a slightly updated version. He actually has both versions still available on his website. So I will definitely link them in the show notes if you've never read it before. It's a quick read. It's not really super long and it's definitely worth checking out. But I did wanna actually highlight a couple of quotes and like major bullet points from it. So I thought this kind of really, this intro paragraph that he provides kind of sums up the whole thing. Bear with me because it's long, but:

“A true fan is defined as a fan that will buy anything you produce. These diehard fans will drive 200 miles to see you sing, they will buy the hardback and paperback and audible versions of your book, they will purchase your next figurine site unseen, they will pay for the Best Of DVD version of your free YouTube channel, they will come to your chef's table once a month. If you have roughly a thousand of true fans like this, also known as super fans, you can make a living.”

I've gotten a lot worse at reading out loud in my old age. 

Matt: Well, it is hard when you're double focused on reading from your notes there, but you're also very cognizant and aware that you're speaking into a microphone. 

Lauren: That's true. 

Matt: I feel like that sometimes amplifies my heightened fear of messing up when I'm reading from the screen. 

Lauren: It definitely does. And it does also - I've been doing this now for long enough that I can hear the things that I'm gonna have to edit later as they're happening, but I - not with enough time to stop them. But I'm hearing myself say something that I'm like, I know I'm going to try to cut that  umpteenth ‘you know’ later. 

Anyway, I thought that was a pretty decent summary of what the actual definition of a true fan is and what this theory is going to go on to talk about. He does then go on and kind of makes two major points for this. First of all, before I give this one. Just to be clear, when he's talking about like a thousand true fans that's kind of like a sliding scale. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Like it's not, it's not like a hard and fast. 

Matt: That’s right. 

Lauren: Like you have to have a thousand fans. 

Matt: And his math was based off of, refresh if I'm wrong here, but a thousand fans at a hundred bucks each. 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: Per year. 

Lauren: Yes. So his, his idea was if you have a thousand true fans that will spend $100 - or not spend, but you can make $100 in profit off of every year, then you will end the year with $100,000 in profit. So, you know, you have to adjust that accordingly for your goals. You know, if you're just trying to like supplement your income, if you don't think it's possible for you to make $100 in profit, even off the most like truest, bestest, biggest fan you have, so maybe then you need only $50 a year, but then you're  going to need 2,000 fans instead of 1,000 fans, whatever. So this is all - these numbers are not set in stone. They're just for the sake of example.

Matt: No, I think you said it well, it's sliding scales. Probably the best way to look at it. 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: If you had two levers that you could pull up and down or almost like a Liberty scale, but you could just as easily say instead of 1,000 fans with $100 worth of profitable income to you per year, you could reverse that and say, okay, I just need 100 super fans that I can make $1,000 in profit of each year. 

Lauren: Yep.

Matt: You know what I mean? 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: And that's completely doable for some people, depending on the content they create, whether that's fiction books, nonfiction books, music, figurines, whatever you add to your portfolio of products. It can be all of those, by the way, regardless of what type of content you make. Yeah, that sliding scale goes both ways, so. 

Lauren: Exactly. So that is his caveat, main point number one, is that you need to be producing enough content every year to make that profit off of each of these fans. If you're saying ‘I'm going to go with this 1,000 True Fans theory, but I'm only going to publish one book ever in my lifetime,’ it's not going to work. It's not going to work because people only buy so many copies of a book. If you don't make any changes, if you don't produce different editions of it, anything like that, if you're just going to make one product ever. This theory isn't going to work for you. 

Matt: Yeah. 


Lauren: So number one, you need to be doing that. And number two, which I thought was so interesting. He wrote this - now, keep in mind, he wrote this in 2016. I didn't check to see if it was in the original version, but this quote comes from 2016: “You must have a direct relationship with your fans. That is, they must pay you directly.” So almost ten years ago now, he was already talking about the idea of selling direct and the idea that the best way to connect with your true fans and to support and have them support you is to be selling direct. 

Matt: And I'm almost positive the original version of this in 2008 also included a statement similar to that. Yeah, it is interesting that even - let's just stick with 2016, eight years ago. There weren't a lot of ways to connect directly to your fans or customers in a way that was efficient and easy. Like you could do it, but the road to get there was very bumpy and littered with speed bumps and traffic cops and all kinds of other things that slow you down. Yeah. The fact that he was saying that in 2016 and was very adamant about that. And it makes sense. I mean, I guess let's put this aside for a second for anybody thinking about this. Now it seems like common sense, but in 2016 and even more so in 2008, it wasn't necessarily common sense because again, a lot of the tools that we have now and the technology that is at our hands right now to do things with wasn't there in 2016.

Lauren: Right. 

Matt: And definitely wasn't there in 2008. 

Lauren: Right. And especially if you consider that he didn't say this out of nowhere. This didn't come out of nowhere. This came from a place of him finding success with this business model and probably other people too. Like he probably had more than just himself as a sample pool for this, which means people were finding this as a successful option eight years ago when there were so few tools available and when it was a much more arduous process. And now we're at a place where if I wanted to, I could probably set up a direct store before the end of today.

Matt: Easily. Yeah. I mean, you could, you could hop on Shopify right now, buy their basic plan, $29, $39, whatever. You could have a website with an ecommerce store built in and probably even a few drop-ship products connected to something like Printful or even Lulu before the end of the day and be selling - 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: It's, it's insane how, how easy it can be for people to - but now, everybody's different and everybody's skill level is different and their, you know, focus and attention to what they're doing.

Lauren: That would be the thing that would cut - that would cut down for sure.

Matt: I don't want to oversimplify this, but you know, the fact that I think that you're really trying to get across here, the point is that: the tools exist, the platforms exist, the technology exists to where if you're driven enough, if you're internet savvy enough or whatever, however you want to phrase that, you could absolutely spin up a website with an ecommerce drop shipping store attached to it in less than a day. 


Lauren: Yeah. Absolutely. One of the other points that Kelly makes in this article that or essay that I just wanted to highlight in here is that he points out that this theory is actually particularly suited to small and independent creators as opposed to big corporations. Because big corporations don't have that kind of flexibility, support, opportunity or concentration -  

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: - to focus on serving a niche audience of true fans, and small business owners and independent creators do. 

Matt: Yes, also different focuses for those categories too, though, but that's absolutely right. And bigger enterprise level businesses, they're typically not interested in a small niche market. I mean, they're always focused on boiling the ocean and absorbing as much market share as possible, so. 

Lauren: I thought you meant literally boiling the ocean. And I was like, oh, we're taking a turn into the B Corp side of the topic. 

Matt: No no no no. Well, that's a whole other story. But yeah. Small and independent types of creators, they're definitely more suited towards a niche-based approach. And in fact, most of them have built their business or their brand around a niche, whether you're a fiction author or somebody who's opening up a brick and mortar store in your town to sell Funko Pop dolls. 

Lauren: I'm not selling any of mine. No, it's - that's a great point. Actually, we - not to put a timestamp on when this episode is being recorded, but we literally just finished listening to a webinar with Joe Pulizzi and it was a great webinar. I will definitely link it in the show notes for this episode, and probably other ones too, just for the sake of sharing it. But that was one of the things that he kept talking about, that he was really highlighting the point of like, if you think that your content is a narrow enough focus, take it another step further. Like you can never be too narrowly focused on a niche audience with your content or your brand or whatever it is. And I think he was so right about that. Finding that niche and really like focusing on those people. He said something about your content should be narrow enough, or your focus should be narrow enough, that it is realistically viable for you to be the world's foremost expert in this specific subject because it's so narrow that you're not gonna have a whole lot of competition for being the world's foremost expert in this. 

Matt: He's definitely right about it. He's, he's, he's built and sold several businesses and written several books based off that.

Lauren: Yes of course.

Matt: But so have a lot of other people. And I think really what he was trying to say was when you're trying to figure out how far you should niche down, like that's one of the questions he gets asked a lot and we've heard it asked of other people a lot is ‘how far should I niche down?’ And I think that's part of what he was saying was, like, if you can't say that you could be the world's leading expert on this particular topic without laughing, then you need to niche down a little bit more. 

Like until you're comfortable truly internalizing the fact that you could potentially be seen as one of the world's leading experts on this topic, then you need to keep niching down. And then other people are like, well, if I go that niche and that narrow, am I going to have enough audience? Well, the answer is probably yes. There's a lot of people on this planet, but you know, secondarily, that's your starting point. And often what happens is yes, you do grow up from there. And once you've established yourself as an expert in this - this small niche, you now have expert stamped on your profile. And so you do start to grow back out from there. 

Lauren: We had a conversation recently about how, if there's anything that social media has taught me, it's that I've never had a unique experience in my life. Like there's always going to be other people that have had some kind of overlapping experience or interest or anything that I'm like, there's no way that anybody else is obsessed with this book and this song and would love to see like a video fan edit of these characters set to this song. Like they're, they're so disparate. There's no way anyone else would think of it. And then like five minutes later I'll be on TikTok and there's a fan edit that somebody made to this song. And it has 2,000 likes on it. And I'm like, well, okay, at least 2,000 other people also had this thought or appreciated this content. It's actually one of the things I love about social media. I have a lot of disparaging things to say about social media. But one of the things that I love about it is that you can find that there's always at least somebody else in the world that shares your thoughts or shares your opinion or shares your interests or anything like that. And I think that it's like a perfect representation of the fact that no matter how niche your content is or how niche your book is or whatever, you will find fans for it. You will find people that will be a dedicated audience

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: For whatever it is you're talking about.

Matt: So I want everybody to be clear. What you're saying is that no matter how, how many times you take a slice at that niche, you keep going down and down and down and you just keep thinking this is too finite, this is too finite, that you'll always find people who are, who can relate or are fans of that. What you're not saying is don't create that content because you feel like somebody's already done it, so why bother? 

Lauren: Oh, of course not. 

Matt: Right, so again, just to be clear, when you say something like I've never had a unique experience, some people might take that as what Lauren's saying is everything's already been done. So nothing you do is going to be new or unique. However, that's arguable. But what you're - what you're saying is that you're going to find audience out, there because so many variations on every single thing on the planet exist already to a degree. And if it doesn't, people have still thought about it and would probably be fans of it if you created it. 

Lauren: Yes. 

Matt: Okay. 

Lauren: Yes. And I think there’s no better example of that than when you're seeing anytime that there's a really popular TV show or movie or book that has just come out and there's like a big, you know fan surge of everyone's really interested in this and burned through it immediately and now loves it and now people are all sitting there going I need something - I need - like what's the next thing? Like I need something to fill this void. Like I just read this book and I loved it so much and I really want another book to read next, so what can you recommend to me that is similar to this one?  

Matt: Yeah. Yeah, definitely

Lauren: So yeah, oh no, I definitely I'm not trying to be discouraging with that, with that idea. What I'm - I'm definitely saying, like, you will find your people, you will find your fans, you will find your audience. If you can think of it, you will find people that have thought of it too and are looking for content. 

Matt: Yeah. Perfect. 

Lauren: For sure.

Matt: Yeah, I just - again, I knew that's what you meant. I just wanted to make sure people understood that's that's what you meant. 

Lauren: Oh, no, I'm - I appreciate you clarifying that. 


Matt: And the reason I say that is we talk about content creators all the time and we talk about, you know, the creator economy and all these other things and you know, everybody's just like content this, content creator that, but for somebody who's thinking about just getting started, it's pretty daunting, right? And so when you take the same concept and you think if you're trying to create some content because you want to sort of stake your claim in this creator economy, in the world, and just start your journey to becoming an independent creator. It can be overwhelming. You could think, why would I create this? It's already been done or somebody's probably already done it or - and you can't have that mentality. There's another podcast, there's a gentleman named Jay Clouse and he got a question that he answered on one of his podcasts where somebody was like, you know, it's 2024. Like I feel like it's too late to get started and absolutely not. It's not.

Lauren: It’s never too late to get started. 

Matt: It's not too late to get started. People get started every day. It's not too late. And whatever it is you're thinking about creating, do that. Just niche down a few more levels and then go with it. 

Lauren: I feel like that's one of those things. D’you ever have this experience where you're like, you tell yourself, oh, I'll - I'll get up and I'll stop reading this book and I will get up and go cook dinner at 6:00. Oh, no, it's 6:05. Now I guess I have to wait until 6:30 or 7:00. Like I have to wait.

Matt: No, wait. 

Lauren: No? 

Matt: No, because what I do is if I'm doing anything, whether it's reading a book or anything else, and I tell myself that I'll start dinner at six, if I look up and it’s 6:05, I go ‘time to DoorDash some food.’

Lauren: Okay, maybe dinner was a bad example. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: But you know, I think - I think it's still - I think that's a little mind game that humans play.

Matt: Yes.

Lauren: With themselves where it's like, ‘oh, it's too late for me to start this. I've already passed the point where it would be reasonable to start it now. So I'll just wait until the next opportunity to do so.’

Matt: It’s your internal snooze button. 

Lauren: Sure. Yeah. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: And there's lots of different things. There's lots of different reasons to hit that internal snooze button. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Some of them might be like, ‘oh, I'm not ready to do this yet.’ You know, Matt and I kicked around the idea for this podcast for like a solid six months before we were finally like - 

Matt: At least. 

Lauren: Yeah. I mean -  

Matt: I think you've blocked out the other six months that we were - 

Lauren: Well, you were talking about it. I mean, I know you were doing a lot of mental planning and thinking about it before you even brought me into it. So I don't know how long you were doing it, but. 

Matt: Oh, I definitely stalled on this idea for at least six months. 

Lauren: I'm sure. And but then we still like we finally reached a point where we were like - 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: If we don't just get started, we're never going to. 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: Like we could research forever and we'll never feel 100% prepared to start. We just have to start doing it. 

Matt: That's right. 

Lauren: Setting that end date, setting that goal gave us something to be like, okay, we're going to launch on this day. We're going to be ready to launch on this day. We're going to do what we have to do to be ready to launch on this day. And we did it. So it's never too late. 

Matt: There's another, uh, adage or cliche or however you want to say it. It's something along the lines of like ‘finished is better than perfect because perfect often means you never started,’ right? 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Just getting something done and finished to the point where you can then go back and make it better if you feel like you need to, it's better than not starting cause you're afraid you won't be able to create something perfect, right? 

Lauren: Absolutely. And as somebody who is chronically, chronically that kind of person who's like, ‘oh, if I don't get it just right, it's not worth doing, so I'm gonna procrastinate on doing it,’ I totally understand. But if this is something that you really wanna do, if starting a content entrepreneur business, starting a content creation business, writing a book, like whatever your goals are here, if this is something that you wanna do, you have to just start doing it. 

Matt: Yeah, and again, just throw this out there, we have to do this from time to time. I know a lot of what we're talking about right now might be very skewed towards the nonfiction side of the creator world, but honestly, the people we see sort of embodying and embracing this 1,000 True Fans theory the most and being the most successful with it are usually fiction creators, people who are writing and producing and creating books, written content on a regular basis. They have super fans and these are people that are literally waiting on bated breath for the next book to come out, the next volume, or whatever that might be. And it does not matter what format these authors are selling it in, their fans will buy it. Fiction writers are very well versed in this theory. They've been putting it into practice for quite some time and a lot of them do it really well. 

Lauren: Yes, we've referenced so many times on this podcast, the different things that we are diehard fans of. There are so many different things that I would I would drop everything right now for… if Taylor Swift dropped a new album right now, I would literally get up and walk out of this office. I'd be like, I'm sorry, I have to go and stop recording and that's it. But the thing that I am - 

Matt: You could keep recording, by the way. 

Lauren: That would actually be great. Just an hour - 

Matt: I would just talk a lot of crap about you after you left. 

Lauren: Which would be, I would deserve that, that's fair. 

Matt: Absolutely. 

Lauren: But the thing that I am the most ride or die for it. Like if you told me I had to cut every single type of fandom out of my life and I could only care about one thing, it would be books. And it would be the authors that are the authors that I'm like, say no more, whatever it is, I'm buying it because I am a diehard fan of your work. And so I absolutely agree. Fiction authors have been putting this into practice for years and are doing it so well. But that doesn't mean that nonfiction authors can't do it too. And in fact, they can do it very well. 


Matt: Yeah. And again, this also obviously extends beyond books, right? So again, we see a lot of fiction authors who have started incorporating other types of merch and things. You'll see their books on their site and then you'll see now they've got t-shirts or notebooks that accompany the books. Or, you know, we've seen a couple of them who have created really nice map books that lay out the worlds that are being inhabited in the stories that they're writing. So then you have this supplemental book that is like, again, maps of all the worlds that are being traversed in their stories, or - 

Lauren: Awesome. 

Matt: There's really no end to the stuff that you can create and, like with Lulu, you can just plug in to Lulu and sell your books direct to your fans through your Shopify store or WooCommerce or whatever it is you're using. But there's also other platforms that do other things like - and we've talked about this before - t-shirts and mugs and posters and pillows. And I mean, you name it. So again, if whether you're fiction or nonfiction, if you wanted to branch out and start offering other really cool things to your fans and your super fans, which they'll buy, there are also other easy ways to do that outside of just books.

Lauren: Yeah, in the original inception of this, I'm pretty sure Kelly was talking about selling direct because that's the best way to maximize your profits and to have an ongoing relationship with your fans. But another thing that he probably didn't anticipate back when he first wrote this is that now with selling direct, it makes it that much easier to plug other ecommerce solutions into your website. So like Matt was saying, like if you were using a Lulu Direct plugin to sell your books on your website, you can also then use other plugins in your website that'll run simultaneously that are other print-on-demand products. So you can have them all sold from your website, even if they're coming from different sources. And you can have that all in that one stop shop place that your fans can come in and be buying different products from you.

Which is also, if we were giving those numbers back at the beginning and you were hearing like $100 of profit per year from every individual fan, I'm only publishing one book a year. Like, how am I supposed to make $100 off of a single book? This is how you do that, is by creating these supplemental products that go along with those books. Even something as simple as, you know, like, Matt and I both, I, you know, I sit here every time we're recording and I look at all the stickers on the back of Matt's laptop. I have a bunch of stickers on the back of my laptop. That's a great and easy thing to have available for fans in your store. And it's not something that takes an insane amount of design effort. Pretty much anybody can hop on Canva and create a cool sticker. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: You know, these little things like that, it's not as hard as it might sound or not as daunting as it might sound to create supplemental products that go along with your book. And I'm sure you could think of some with pretty little effort, honestly, that tie into your specific book that we would never think of because we don't know the specifics of your book. 


Matt: Yeah, you touched on something in that example, but sometimes we might think the idea of generating $100 of profit per fan is somewhat of an intimidating number. I would argue against that to a degree because I think most people that we work with and we see who have created a book or written a book, it usually doesn't take them too long to crank out the next one. So I think it is more rare to see somebody who did write a book, and was able to build a fan base either prior to or around that book, not create another piece of work or some other supplemental type of… So I do think that if you are able to write a book, which is not an easy task, depending on the, it doesn't depend, it's not an easy task. The path to your next book gets much shorter. And then the path to your third book becomes even shorter. And then in between those, maybe you're pumping out a little bit of merch to accompany those books, whether again, that's t-shirts or supplemental manuals or things, and you keep shortening that path to your next book, before you know it, the idea or the bottom line of $100 of profit per fan is no longer something where you're like, I don't know about that. You've already, you look in the rear view mirror, you're past that now. 

This is also meant to be a jumpstart. The essay itself is really meant to help people break down that fear of finding a way to support themselves as artists and creators by breaking it down mathematically to say, let's say, you know, you've got 10,000 followers on Instagram. This is saying that what you need is 10% of them to become super fans. To me, that seems a little more user-friendly than if somebody said ‘man, you got to get all 10,000 of your fans to buy $5 worth of content from you.’ That's just not going to happen at all. We all know that if you got 10,000 followers - 50% of them are bots, first of all. Sorry to break that news to anybody who truly believes that 100% of their followers are real people. But that other 50% who are human beings of that 50%, probably 50% of those are hitting the like button, if you're lucky. And then of those maybe 25% of them are actually doing anything that you asked them to do, i.e. click on this link to go here, or check out this, or… 

So when you start breaking things down mathematically and looking at the numbers, it does start to make a little more sense, but it also gets a little more comfortable to think, okay, getting a thousand people to net me $100 of profit each in a 12 month period actually is possible. 

Lauren: Yeah. 

Matt: Or if your sliding scale means that you don't need a thousand, maybe you've got a day job that you love for right now, and so you just want to supplement your income for a little while until you go full-time writer creator. So maybe you can drop that number to 500 or 250 and you're, you're okay with that for a little while, right? So that's what we mean when we say sliding scale. You don't have to get to 1,000 necessarily, everybody's different. But again, I think that that math, and why Kevin Kelly really wrote this, is to help people understand and break it down in a way that's not so intimidating and scary. 

Lauren: I think that that's a really good way of looking at it, cause it is definitely a lot easier to set yourself the target of, I wanna get $100 from 1,000 people than to just say, I'm gonna make $100,000 by the end of this year. Don't know how I'm gonna do that, but I'm gonna do it. And it's also not for nothing, there will be casual fans mixed in with your true fans. 

Matt: Oh definitely. 

Lauren: So there are gonna be those casual fans that will supplement your target goal of whatever your annual income is going to be. 

Matt: Yeah. 


Lauren: Matt said something in there that reminded me - I was trying to do the math which historically not great at on this podcast, or in life. You know when you're talking about supplemental income and - Oh! It was the thing, it was the books. It was how, you know, once you've written that first book it gets progressively easier to write each one after that. I was thinking about my favorite podcast - not this one. 

Matt: Are you saying this one isn't your favorite one? Or you're saying you have another favorite one - 

Lauren: I have another favorite one.

Matt: Besides this one. 

Lauren: Of course, I have another favorite. 

Matt: Okay. 

Lauren: Other than this one. 

Matt: Alright. 

Lauren: They put out one episode a week. They have a Patreon subscription available that is $8 a month. Not even a full $10 a month. It is $8 a month and you get extra episodes every month. And that's it. There are no other perks to being a Patreon subscriber. It is just additional episodes, every month, for $8 every month. And I don't know a lot about how Patreon works. This is coming off the cuff, so I didn't do any research into this. So I don't know what - I don't know how much of a cut of that Patreon takes off of every subscriber. 

Matt: Right.

Lauren: But $8 a month from me, every month, and I've been a Patreon subscriber since 2020.

Matt: So. 

Lauren: So, even - 

Matt: $96 a year from you, and let's just say Patreon takes 10% of that to cover processing fees for the credit card and all the other things, right? So they're taking $9.60 from that $96, right? You're getting very close to that hundred dollar profit mark is what Lauren's saying.

Lauren: Yeah, very close to that hundred dollar profit mark, and I haven't bought a single piece of merch, I haven't bought anything like t-shirts or merch or anything like that. Any additional things that might happen. If they put out a book, I would buy it immediately. I would probably be a Kickstarter for a book if they tried to do something like that. Any of those additional things that haven't come up, I'm already most of the way to giving them that $100 a year. And all they're doing is creating additional episodes every month. It's not even something like creating a podcast from scratch. They already have the podcast, They already have the content, it's not that much harder for them to create that additional content and they're making a profit off of it. 

Matt: Yeah, we also have somebody who recently used Lulu and our direct solutions. They took, I think it was a year's worth of the newsletters that they've sent out. And so essentially what they did was they took, I think, a year's worth of newsletters, maybe more, I don't remember. And they put them all into a book. 

Lauren: Awesome. 

Matt: And they offered - I think they initially were going to do 5,000 copies. That was it. And to the best of my knowledge, I checked our database the other day and I believe they've already sold through the 5,000 copies. 

Lauren: Wow. 

Matt: So this idea that you might struggle for content or run out of things to do or ways to monetize. I don't think that's going to happen. I think once you get started doing this and understanding the model and figuring out what your fans want, what they will buy from you. You're not gonna have any shortage of products. 

Lauren: Yeah, and I think that is another thing that is applicable regardless of whether you're writing fiction or nonfiction, you can find ways to create supplemental content that ties in. Whether it's merch or, you know, if you're a fiction author and you're like, ‘well, that's great, I don't do a monthly newsletter, I don't have educational content to contribute to that.’ Audrey Hughey is a Lulu Author that does a great job with this, because she is a fiction author, but she creates a ton of nonfiction content. She creates these awesome writing journals and author planners to help authors with the writing process, the editing process, all of that. She creates all this content that is basically like, this is what I've learned as a fiction author myself and the processes that I use to get through this. And now I've created this content and I share it with other people. I think that's a great way to take your experience as a fiction author and create a new product for your fans of your books and for other authors that might be interested in stuff like that. Because I know I immediately ordered one of those planners. Have I used it? No. Did I buy it aspirationally and does it still sit on my bookshelf? Yes. 

Matt: There's another author that we've come into contact with. She - this is an interesting one - but she started selling an hour of her time to her fans.

Lauren: Ooh!

Matt: And she said she was scared to do it in the beginning because she, for two reasons, one, she was afraid her ego wouldn't survive if nobody wanted to talk to her or book that time. But two, she was a little worried about, this is just different and are people gonna think this is weird or whatever? So she did it. She put up on her, I think she was just in Shopify at the time, that you could get, I think it was a half an hour to start. I wanna say it was like 200 bucks. She said within a day or two of putting that up there and telling her fans that she'd added that to her store, that over the course of a few weeks, she had booked like 20 of those spots. 

Lauren: That's amazing. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: That is such a great idea. 

Matt: She said it worked out fine because in all but one case, people just wanted to talk to her and like ask her pretty normal questions, like what's your day like, or how do you come up with new characters, or like they were just fans that just had these normal interactions with her. And again, I don't think there's any shortage of ways that you can get to that $100 profit mark if that's your goal. But I think there are things you can do like that where through word of mouth and other things, your fan base will increase. Because when certain super fans are able to spend time talking to their favorite author and then go tell other people like, hey, not only are her books amazing, like you should read these, but these are the things she does for her fans. We get all these really cool extras and those things help build your fan base too. Those are one of the things that could really take somebody from a follower to a super fan and that's really the name of the game. 

Lauren: Yes, I literally, as Matt was sitting here saying that, I was thinking about the list of authors that I would absolutely spend $200 for like a half hour coffee talk with them. Yes, absolutely, great idea. That's so cool. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: Oh my God, I love that. And yes, you're completely right about that idea of like, this is how you turn casual fans into true fans. 

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: For sure. Oh man. 

Matt: You're welcome. I'm not going to say who it was only because she doesn't do that anymore. And it's only because it got too overwhelming for her. 

Lauren: I could see that. 

Matt: So in the beginning, it worked out great for her. It served its purpose from not only a financial standpoint, but from an audience building standpoint and sort of just that fan sort of wow moment she was building. But it did get to the point where too many people were wanting to book that. So she did have to stop doing it. But I still consider that a wild success if you had to pull a product because too many people wanted it.

Lauren: I would completely consider that a wild success. And it is also - even that then - is still a good audience-building opportunity, because it gives you that content of, you know, if it's something that you decide you wanted to do and you say, I want to make it manageable, so I'm going to do it. I'll offer 15 sessions every three months. Like every three months I will open 15 sessions and that's it. And it's going to be first come first serve. And that's it. It's very tattoo artist style, like a very in-demand tattoo artist will say like, you know, I'm going to open my books for this window of time on this date. I'm going to book people first come first serve. And once those are full, I'm not accepting new appointments. I'm not doing walk-ins. Like you have to book with me in this window of time and that's it. And that is a great way to connect with your fans because now your fans are like, if somebody wants to do that, if I knew an author that was doing that, I would be paying attention to their content to see when it's just gonna open up again. When am I gonna have this opportunity? 

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: I don't wanna miss the ball on this one. 

Matt: Yeah, I was just thinking too, if I was this author that I was talking about, actually now that I think about it, I would have put that sliding scale into place. And instead of just closing down that opportunity altogether, I would have just raised the price. 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: So I would have less people booking it, obviously, but that's the point, right? The sliding scale works both ways. If something's wildly successful at a low price point, and there's too many orders to fulfill it, then you just flip the model and all businesses and brands do that. You could just say, okay, well now instead of it being $200 for 30 minutes, it's gonna be $2,000 for 45 minutes. At that point, given the success already, you're probably still gonna sell some, and great. You'll sell less, which was the point, but if people are willing to go on Cameo these days and pay $350 - $400 to get a Cameo from George Santos, which is true, I'm looking at it right now. 

Lauren: Jesus. 

Matt: And apparently he turns them around in 24 hours, right? 

Lauren: Wow.

Matt: People will probably pay that or somewhere in that neighborhood to talk to their favorite author for 30 or 40 minutes. So, you know - 

Lauren: Sure. Cameo is a great example of how true fans are out there -

Matt: Absolutely.

Lauren: And are willing, are willing to pay for content and other products from you. 

Matt: A hundred percent. Yeah. 

Lauren: For sure.

Matt: If anybody ever tells you that this model is - I mean, Shannon Doherty from Beverly Hills 90210, $500 for a Cameo. Uh…

Lauren: Yeah, I, I mean, I have - I have received a couple of Cameos. Actually, one of my, one of my really good friends got me a Cameo of one of my favorite Survivor players saying happy birthday to me for my birthday a few years ago. And that was - I cried at my birthday party. 

Matt: How much would you pay for a Cameo from Doug the Pug? 

Lauren: Okay, alright. That's admittedly a bad example because I'm not as big on dogs, but I'm trying to…

Matt: Okay, it's $120. 

Lauren: That's insane.

Matt: Absolutely. 

Lauren: I was trying to translate it to like my favorite celebrity pet of all time was Grumpy Cat. 

Matt: Oh, yeah. 

Lauren: RIP. 

Matt: It costs more for a cameo from George Santos than it does Geraldo Rivera. I don't know what that says about George Santos or Geraldo Rivera. 

Lauren: Okay. 

Matt:  What it does tell me is that we need to move on because I'm, I need to close this tab for Cameo. 


Lauren: You know what? I think we probably need to wrap this up, because I think very, very easily this could go on to be not only our longest episode, but possibly twice as long as our next longest episode. If we just let it go endlessly, because clearly Matt and I both have a lot to say about the idea of true fans, how to find true fans, how to convert casual fans into true fans. We could talk about this endlessly. We probably will do episodes on topics like that in the future. We've probably done some already and just not, not called it that, but I do think we should probably wrap this up. 

Matt: Well, to be fair, I think that we have all been passionate about this because A. that's what our platform facilitates, right? Lulu allows you to sell your books directly to your fans. We talk about the fact that Kevin rewrote this essay back in 2016. We launched our first Shopify plugin in 2018. 

Lauren: Yeah.

Matt: I think a lot of people even here at Lulu forget that we were in this direct sales game way early and there were times where we would go to author conferences and talk about selling your content directly to your readers and fans and we would get laughed out of the room. So, you know, when this essay from Kevin Kelly was put in front of us, like when we were all made aware of it, I don't know about you, but the first time I'd even known about it was around the time we were launching our first Shopify plugin, around 2018. And so at that point we were all like, oh, this is validation. Like, yes, somebody else is talking about this and it makes sense. This topic for us is something we live and breathe every single day as something that we try to help authors work through every day. Even the goal of this podcast, Publish & Prosper, is really to help authors and creators get to a point where they're prospering from their work, and whether that means financially or through gaining other opportunities or more time in their day or whatever that might be. Like that's why we could talk about this for days on end.

Lauren: I couldn't have said it better. I know I do agree. Actually, it's one of the first things I remember learning about when I started working at Lulu, because one of the first things I did in the first few weeks that I worked here was read as many of the Lulu blog posts as I could in between like onboarding and training. And there was a blog post that our content manager Paul, had written about the 1,000 True Fans theory. And I remember reading that and being like, oh, this maybe taught me more about the company that I have just agreed to work for than anything that I've read so far. And it was - but in a good way.

Matt: Yeah.

Lauren: It was like, it set the tone very much for like, this is our mindset as a company and this is what I'm getting myself into. And I support it and I agree with it. And I'm really excited to be here.

Matt: Yeah. 

Lauren: So hopefully we have inspired you a little bit and gotten you a little bit excited to be here, too, and thinking about your true fans and how to find those true fans and what you can create when you have 1,000 true fans at your disposal. And if not, keep listening to some of our other episodes. And get inspired.

Matt: Don't forget, we have an email address now. If you want to send us any questions, suggestions, talk about how annoyed you are with our obsession with Disney, you can hit us up at 

Lauren: Thanks for listening, everyone.