Do You Have 1,000 True Fans?

March 6, 2008

Many of you create some sort of artwork as a way to make a living. If you are not already doing this, you have a desire to make a living from it.

I read a really good blog post entitled 1,000 True Fans that anyone creating “artwork” for sale should read. The idea is that you don’t need a bestseller to make a very good living, you simply need 1,000 true fans. A number of good examples are cited and I’m sure you will get some inspiration from it.

I’ll add my story to this. I wrote six books for major publishers. Isn’t the dream of every writer to get picked up by a major publisher? Well, it was good for a while, but it certainly wasn’t any way to make a living. I got a measly royalty payment for each copy of the book sold. So while there were a much larger number of copies sold, the amount of money that filtered down to me wasn’t so great. Finally I told the publisher that I couldn’t do it any more.

It took me a few years to develop a book I could self-publish. CorelDRAW 12 Unleashed was the first version. It was good and it sold well. Heck, it sold more than I had initially projected. While it sold only a small percentage of what the “major publishers” sold, it was much more profitable that any of the books they published. I was proudest that the book I published was a more complete learning tool than what the “major publishers” produced with their large staffs.

With Corel’s development cycle between versions of two years, I had time to build upon CorelDRAW 12 Unleashed and give the book even more of what “true fans” want.
CorelDRAW X3 Unleashed had more information (page, movies) and I even created the special DVD-ROM edition as a way to provide more for those who wanted to spend a little bit more. It sold even better than CorelDRAW 12 Unleashed, yet still only a fraction of what the “major publisher” sold.

Now I’m nearing the finish line of CorelDRAW X4 Unleashed. I’ve taken what I’ve learned from the first two books and providing even more of what the “fans” want. I don’t know what the sales will bring, but I’m guessing that it will sell even better than the previous books. Yet it will never approach the numbers of the “major publisher”.

A funny thing happened not too long ago. I got a call from a “major publisher”. They wanted me to write a book on CorelDRAW X4 for them. I politely told them that I’d been self-publishing and that I was very happy with this. They suggested I could write two books, one for them and one that I self-publish. This is physically impossible since it is all-consuming just to write a single book. I told them that my profits for my self-published books far exceeded what I got for my “major publisher” books. The “major publisher” still didn’t understand why I didn’t want to write a book for them.

In the music industry, the big publishers are struggling to change with digital music. From my conversation with a “major book publisher”, it was clear that they didn’t get it either.

So for all of you creatives working for yourself, I can only agree with the 1,000 True Fans theory! Put out some great work, build your fanbase and you can do it alone!

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Foster D. Coburn III

Foster D. Coburn III built his first Web site in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013. He has used the Divi theme exclusively since 2015. Earlier in his career he was the author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences.

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