★ One Thousand Number One Fans

At The Literature Network, the writer James Burt wonders how many fans a writer needs.

Kevin Kelly, editor of wired magazine, gave an interesting economic answer. He suggested that artists could build a successful career with “1000 true fans“, willing to buy anything they produced. So, assuming an average UK wage of around £24,000, Kelly would suggest an artist could make a living from 2000 people paying them £12 a year, after costs.

There are many counter arguments to this position, but I think that the emergence of the Internet has made this kind of artist-audience support more than feasible. We have here a free, global and uncensoredSo far. distribution network. It allows people to congregate within niches that large-audience media can’t support, from fans of P. G. Wodehouse to aficionados of the 1980s Thames TV programme Runaround.

Jonathan Coulton, singer-songwriter, is doing this kind of thing quite successfully. And, just yesterday, I received an email confirming that my monthly donation of five dollars has been sent to the technology journalist Leo Laporte, whose podcasts on computer security, the Mac, and general technology I listen to regularly.

I mean, why not be patronised by a hard core of fans? A writer doesn’t have a TV studio or a staff to support. He or she wouldn’t require too many fans to donate a small amount each month. The questions are: What would motivate a person to contribute financially? How would the writer get in touch with these people to start with?

How many readers do you need? | The Literature Network

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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