Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Stark Raviing Fans Revisted -- a must read for all authors

A while ago I wrote a post about Stark Raving Fans. While "recommendations" are important in many business: restaurants, lawyers, financial advisers, etc it is especially important for authors. The only thing that will make you a true success as an author is word-of-mouth. You can't make a living wage off of sales generated directly through your marketing efforts. The shear volume of books you have to sell makes it impossible. What you need is to touch a few people deeply enough that they become Stark Raving Fans and let them be ambassadors for your books. It is only after people start recommending your books to their friends and loved ones.

The first step in making Stark Raving Fans is to write a great book. One that when people get done they smile and say to now that was worth reading!

The second step in making Start Raving Fans is to write another great book...and another...and another. It's very hard to make a living off a single book. Once you have Stark Raving Fans they want to read everything you write. They are hungry...they get mad when they see you blogging and not writing. Many people say that the best marketing you can do is write the next book and I agree.

I had a whole bunch of ideas about how to cultivate Stark Raving Fans. I've been mulling them over in my mind trying to determine exactly how to present the material in the best way possible...but then something happened. Someone else did all that I wanted to and more.

Yesterday, John Locke's newest book, "How I Sold 1 Millon ebooks in 5 Months". I bought it because I was curious and was expecting to be highly disappointed. After all, I KNEW how John Locke did it:
  • He wrote a lot of "pretty good books"
  • He priced them at rock bottom prices $0.99
  • He was in the right place at the right time books ready to read in Oct/Nov 2010
So I bought it expecting to see a lot of "rah-rah" about the benefits of $0.99 and being a prolific writer. What I got was a concise, well structured secret for making Stark Raving Fans.

John is going to sell a ton of this how to books. He's going to get rich off of it...and he deserves every penny. The reason he'll make so much money on this books is because he's going to have a ton of people like me, people who are already evangelizing how to make writing for a living possible proclaiming from the mountain tops what I'm going to say now... BUY HIS BOOK! Read it. Follow his advice. If you do, I know you'll be a success.

Reading it you can see the genius that is John and that his rise to fame is not, as Joe Konrath might suggest, because he got "lucky". It's also not because of my original assumption that he wrote a ton of good books and priced them at $0.99. It is because he understand the concept of Stark Raving Fans and has a developed a technique to find and grow them.

You'll see at the core of John's "system" is writing blogs that showcase you as a writer. That gives a piece of yourself to your readers. To touch people...make them like you...make them want to help you make a success. John gives a few examples and as I read them I couldn't help but notice that many of Michael's blogs fall into that category. He was following John's system without evening knowing that such a system existed.

I'm going to give you a homework assignment...
  1. Read John's book (it is short and easy to get through)
  2. Read these two blogs by Michael
  3. Write your own blog (take your time - take several days)
  4. Post me a link

I'm going to collect and post all the links. Then ask each of you to do one more thing to complete your homework assignment. Choose one of the posts that you liked the best and tweet share it with your own followers.

Here are my first submissions:
Now go. Do yourself a favor and if you learn nothing else from this blog take to heart the importance of creating Stark Raving Fans and listen to John who said it better than I ever could.


TheSFReader said...

Yet, Robin, I wonder how You (personally) manage to make Start Raving Fans (such as me) without writing your own book ;-)

Suzanne said...

Uh oh. I've dropped the ball. Your post today is a huge reminder that I need to deliver Part 2 soon on my post about where the villain in my series came from.

Thanks, Robin.

Suzanne Adair

Stephen T. Harper said...

So right, Robin. I just one-clicked that book, but I don't have to read it to know this is the case.

I think I mentioned this in a comment here a couple weeks back, but as I observe what works and what doesn't in early marketing experiments... a good blog (or other strong internet presence), unique to you that consistently provides something truly useful and/or entertaining is the one constant with the successes.

I'm gearing up for a relaunch, trying to think of a simple, enagaging through-line that is honest to who I am. But man... lot of writing to do (screenplay, new novel to finish and edit) it's so easy to keep pushing that back and back.

Absolutely sure that's the key, though. Thanks for the reminder.

Great post again, btw.

Robin Sullivan said...

Well theSfReader - in many ways my blog is my book so in that respect I'm writing content and hoping it is of value.

Robin Sullivan said...

Glad you bought it Stephen I hope you find it as enjoyable as i did.

India Drummond said...

I really DID NOT want to read that book. I've read a lot of marketing/publishing advice books for writers, and most of them annoyed me because either the advice was so obvious and had been so often repeated that it wasn't worth the dosh, or it was out of reach/impractical (Like telling me to go to conferences and do book signings. I live in a place where the population is mostly sheep and travel to these things is expensive and difficult.)

But.. but.. I have come to respect your advice, so I bought it. The book is bloody brilliant. OK, the first third is sorta flabby. The second third was hard to get a grip on, but promising. The third third was the bloody brilliant part and made the other two parts completely worthwhile. (I didn't even care that the kindle formatting was a little wonky, and that's saying something. I usually care very much about such things.)

His advice resounded with me, and it helped me put a finger on something I've been thinking about, but couldn't quite place, like an elusive dream. For example, when authors guest post on my blog, I ask them not to write about writing and publishing specifically, but they can write about themes in their books or something related. I would tell them that my blog isn't a publishing-industry specific blog. But, they would often ignore my request, and so I would give in and even quit bothering to say it, because no one really listened. Well, now that I know why my gut was telling me to make the distinction, I want to go back and revisit my past 3-4 months of blogging.

Instead I'll just forge ahead. But I feel much more focused now that I understand WHY certain things had been working on a small scale for me. I have no idea if I'll sell more books, but I think it WILL help me connect with readers better.

So, thanks for making me eat my vegatables. Turns out it tasted like cake.

India Drummond said...

Vegatables? Dear god. *casts a spell of typo-correcto*

John Twipnook said...

Wow, Robin, I've never heard you endorse a marketing book this strongly. I will shell out the $5. Thanks for the tip!

Robin Sullivan said...

@India - I know EXACTLY what you mean. Most of these books are not worth their time - as you said - they state the obvious. I've read enough to know what works and what does not. And this one works!

I'm glad you took the chance and saw that it paid off.

Robin Sullivan said...

@John - I find gems so rarely in this particular venue that when I do - yes I'll shout it from the marketops. Well worth the $5.

Suzanne said...

India focused on "why." YES. Simon Sinek says that people don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. Check out Simon's TED presentation on this concept.

Suzanne Adair

Stephen T. Harper said...

Okay, i've Read it. Very good purchase. India is right. The last third answers the big question of, "I know blogging is important, but what do I write about?" Very smart. Thanks so much for tip, Robin. Wouldn't have known without you!

Anonymous said...

I think John Locke has done amazingly well in a very short space of time. But, as I've said in other places, I'm curious as to what he's included in this book that he hasn't made available elsewhere on the internet for free.

cidney swanson said...

Robin, Tee-hee-hee! I had already bought and read (and started marking up with notes) John Locke's Howie when I read your brief remark the other day about being soon to read it. (You said something like "I already know how he did it.") I laughed and thought, oh, I betcha anything Robin changes her mind after reading it. Why did I think this even though I don't know you personally? Well, you've provided some of the best analysis of the self-pubbing/small press industry that I've seen. And I figured you'd recognize how original and brilliant his strategies are once you saw them.

Thanks, yet again, for a great analysis (and boil down) of what's working in self-pubbing/small press today. You're the best, Robin!

I wrote and revised my blog yesterday. I'll be sending a link after additional revising!

cidney swanson said...

Homework completed!

Robert Bidinotto said...

I bought the book, Robin, and will read it ASAP. Then do the rest of your homework assignment. Thanks so much, as always, for great tips.

David Wisehart said...

John's book is truly amazing. Every indie author should read it.


Robin Sullivan said...

Suzanne - Thanks for the Ted link - I'm listening now - I love Ted!!

Robin Sullivan said...

@Stephen - glad you made the purchase and found it a worthwhile read.

Robin Sullivan said...

@clairswrite - I'm not sure what he's posted elsewhere - though based on th text of the book I don't think he has this elsewhere. In any regards - to have it all in one place and presented in a logical manner that he does it's well worth $5 to have it in the format it is.

Robin Sullivan said...

@cidney swanson said...Well you know me very well...I'm not too proud to admit when I am wrong. And of course wehn I see quality yeah, I'm going to reverse my initial assumptions as fast as possible.

Ruth Madison said...

You were so right, that book is really good. I would not have read it if not for your recommendation. I was suspicious of him and his success and now I think you can't read the book without coming to like him!

I followed the advice, and here is the blog post that I came up with:

Cathryn Grant said...

Echoing everyone else. I also did not want to buy another marketing book. John's book is brilliant and is driving me take a big step back to develop a new marketing plan.

You were so enthusiastic, and like someone else said, I wondered what he could say that he hadn't already mentioned on his blog, I was very skeptical. I read the sample and was ho-hum. But like many, decided "what's 4.99?"

Thank you for the recommendation.

India Drummond said...

Finally finished the last part of the homework assignment, my post: Who Killed the Dragon-Mouse

My typical reader is smart, has a sense of humour, likes a bit of mystery with fantasy/imagination, so that's who this was written for.

Nathan Lowell said...


Here's mine.

Robin Sullivan said...

Great post Nathan. Thanks for sharing it and glad this post inspired you.

Robin Sullivan said...

Thanks for the post Ruth - it was charming and heart warming.

Robin Sullivan said...

India - thanks for your tale of mystery and intrique. I have no idea what the truth is ... but I know it's out there.

Chris Eboch said...

I've been doing some guest blog posts lately. Some of the bloggers specifically request that guest posts not be self promotion, while others are flexible and say anything goes. I figure no one wants to hear just about me, me, me... but I also figure you want to give people at least a hint of your books, especially if you are a guest only likely to appear on the blog once.

This post should go live at midnight tonight. I tried to talk about things I've been going through (feeling burnt out, switching genre/age range, and finding the passion again) that relate to writing but are not just about my books.

PS -- if anyone wants to trade guest blog spots, that would be great. I discuss self-publishing issues on Wednesdays and the craft of writing on Fridays at

PSS -- Robin, I just found your site. Thanks for the info!

Charlotte said...

Hi Robin, I'd just read John Locke's book and liked it so much I sent it to my marketing expert. She loved it and has since spun off some great ideas to promote "Enchantment" (enough to keep me busy for months!)

Here is the link to my first blog post after reading John's book and your excellent articles.

Thank you so much for your generosity of spirt in sharing the things that have made you and Michael so successful.


Charlotte said...

I forgot to tic the checkbox for email notification of follow-up comments, so ... this is me doing that now.

Rob Cornell said...

Robin, I wonder what your thoughts are on John Locke's Twitter strategy. I'm not sure I entirely understand it. He says he searches for keywords based on the theme of his post and sends individual messages to people "Tweeting" about that topic. I did a search of Locke's early tweets to look for examples, but didn't find nearly the amount of tweets he mentions in the book. (Something like 100 for the Joe Paterno blog.)

What do you think? Is that borderline spamming? Seems to have worked for him, but I'd hate to tick a bunch of potential readers off.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Rob - a lot has to do with "intent" and "context". If your blog is sincere and relevant to the community of people then its not spam it is being participatory. If it happens to have a side benefit of someone looking into his books and possibly buying them then win-win.

To me what this is really finding your passion and expressing it and making that passion contagious to others. If you do it simply to make a sale - yeah I'm not interested. But if you are showing me a bit of yourself and that endears me to you - I'm a big fan.

Rob Cornell said...

Thanks for the response, Robin. I like your take.

Rob Cornell
Author of Darker Things
Let the world you know meet the world you don't.

Rob Cornell said...

A little late on this, but I finally got my blog post up, "Everybody's Adopted."

You can find it here: Everybody's Adopted

cidney swanson said...

When you get the chance to put together a list of all the blogposts, I'd love to read and RT the ones that touch me. Do you plan to notify by comment here or in a separate post? (So I make sure to catch when it happens. . .) I already RT'd about Michael's b/c it sooooooo hit home (fellow fantasy geek and all.) But I'd like to see 'em all when you get there.

Thanks Robin!

Charlotte said...

I'd like to see a list of links to all the blog posts inspired by your article and Locke's book as well. Great idea!

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