Making Money Mondays – How to Cultivate and Create True Fans

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted an article on True Fans, what they are and how they can be good for you. This week we’re going to talk about how to find them, and how to cultivate them.

Tip #1 – Follow Wheaton’s Rule – Wil Wheaton’s Rule is, to put it bluntly, Don’t Be a Dick. As a writer, especially a published writer on panels, at a dealer table, at a signing, at the bar networking, at lunch, at breakfast, in line for other people’s signings, walking down the hall, crossing the street while looking for Pokemon, in the restroom, or in your car at stoplights – it’s important to always remember that you are a public figure.

I don’t give a single damn whether you have published one book or one hundred, if anyone outside the circle of people you know outside of writing has ever given you money for your work, then you have put yourself in the public eye. You weren’t thrust into it. Nobody crept into your house in the middle of the night, hacked your computer, and uploaded your work to Amazon. You wanted to be a published writer, so being a public person is part and parcel of that. If you have no interest in interacting with a public that has a sincere belief, right or wrong, that their purchase of your work gives them a claim on your time, then I suggest you follow the Emily Dickinson School of Publishing.

And part of being a public figure is dealing with people. I was at LibertyCon last weekend. That’s a great convention in Chattanooga every year. It’s a small con, with memberships capped at 750 people, and no intention of getting any bigger. I always have a great time there, because the people that run the con are lovely, and take great care of their guests. Also, the fans there become like family, because you see the same people year after year, and have a chance to chat that you don’t get at some larger cons. But I digress.

One of my roommates for the weekend was the boyfriend of the daughter of a good friend of mine. He was a young dude, mid-twenties, very smart, very personable, and a budding professional in the field. One of the reasons he wanted to come to this con in particular was to meet a specific pro in his niche of the SF/F world, and maybe get some advice from this pro. One evening I asked him if he had the chance to meet Big-Time Pro, and he replied in the affirmative. I asked how it went and he replied with “Well, they were probably tired from traveling, or…”

I said, “So he was a dick.” I could tell that my roomie had been blown off by Big-Time Pro, and that it stung. I could relate. My first DragonCon, in 1991, I stood in line for a long time to meet one of my Comic Heroes. No it wasn’t Gaiman. I’ve met him several times, and he’s always been very gracious. I also met Todd McFarlane that year, and he was cool. In fact, almost every creator I’ve ever met has been awesome. That’s what makes the bad encounters stand out more. After standing in line for quote a while, I got to the front of the line with a few comics, and I told Big Deal Comic Writer how much I loved his work. He grunted a little, signed my comics, and pushed them back at me. He was there hawking his new novel, and wasn’t interested in talking about comics, so he was pretty rude to me. If he’d just been moderately polite, I would have bought his new novel, but as it was I didn’t buy it then, and haven’t bought it or any of the sequels since. And I could tell that this is what happened to my buddy last weekend. This guy is young, scrappy, and hungry, to quote the Best Damn Musical I’ve Heard in Years, and he’s going to be someone in a few years. And he’ll remember two things – 1) how bad that felt, and never to do that to anyone else, and 2) that Big-Time Pro isn’t worth his time.

The easiest thing you can do to cultivate fans is just Be Nice. Just like Patrick Swayze taught us in this video. Be Nice. And sometimes it’s hard. I’ve had fans stand in front of me and insult my covers, my books, spend half an hour bending my ear while telling me why they don’t buy anything written after 1980, stand in front of my table with their backs to me holding long conversations with their friends while blocking my only source of commerce with their butts, and work hard to explain to me how all my personal beliefs are wrong. Through it all, I try to Be Nice. Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I’m way more like Big-Time Pro than I want to be. But when I’m good, I try to be more like Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon the first time I met them. I was already a huge fan of Lackey’s work, but I’ve bought a lot more hardbacks and first-release ebooks since that chance meeting in 2011.

As usual, I’ve run long, so this series will continue in two weeks with more tips on How to Cultivate True Fans. If you’re anywhere near North Carolina (or an airport) this weekend, please come join me, Misty, Gail, Melissa, Emily, David, AJ, Tamsin, Stuart, Edmund (Friday only!) and a ton of FOMWs (friends of Magical Words) at Con-Gregate in High Point, NC. I’m on a ton of panels, we’ll be in the Author’s Alley (Room), and of course, when things are over, I’ll be where the real work gets done – in the bar.

John G. Hartness is a teller of tales, a righter of wrong, defender of ladies’ virtues, and some people call him Maurice, for he speaks of the pompatus of love. He is also the author of the EPIC-Award-winning series The Black Knight Chronicles from Bell Bridge Books, the Bubba the Monster Hunter series of short stories and novellas, the Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter novella series, and the creator and co-editor of the Big Bad anthology series, among other projects.

LATEST RELEASE NEWS – Check out Modern Magic, a 12-ebook box set featuring John, Gail Martin, Karen Taylor, Julie Kenner, Rick Gualtieri, Erik Asher, Stuart Jaffe & more! On sale at Amazon for only $2! 

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