You Only Need 1,000 Readers to Make a Living

Everyone wants to sell millions of books, but the days of reaching consumers efficiently through mass media are over. Technology has fragmented the market. Remember when there used to be three major TV networks? Now there are hundreds of channels – and exponentially more if you count Internet, video on demand, satellite, and crowdsourced outlets such as Youtube and Vimeo.

People no longer have to default to any one channel. They can find exactly what they’re interested in and ignore the rest. What’s exciting is that you don’t need to sell millions of books to make a living by writing. Small is the new big.

Consider the theory known as Dunbar’s number, named after the British anthropologist Robin Dunbar. He suggested that there’s a limit to the number of people with whom we can maintain a meaningful relationship, and that number is probably somewhere around 150.

Kevin Kelly, co-founder of Wired magazine, wrote an article based on a similar idea a few years ago. In “1,000 True Fans,” he theorized that an artist who would like to make a living creating art needs only 1,000 true, passionate fans to make that a reality.

You don’t have to speak to everybody. In fact, you shouldn’t. Think as narrowly as you can and find a pocket of readers who are passionate about the same things you are.

– Kevin Kaiser, “Rewriting the Rules of Marketing” in Writer’s Digest Jul/Aug 2012

*Photo by Shayna HobbsPublic Domain Archive / CC0