If you can build a list—a fanbase—a consumer base of diehards, you have your autonomy. Developing a critical mass of supporters who love your brand, who love your mission, who like the product and the services that you are providing allow you to navigate around traditional gatekeepers and control your own destiny.
For example, in traditional publishing, you rely on agents to get you in the door. They go to bat for you and try to sell your manuscript to publishers. In return, the creator receives a sum in advance limited royalties in the future.
Now, thanks to technology, the frequency indie authors are able to publish, and their ability to directly communicate with their fanbase has created a unique advantage. Though they have to self-fund their projects, and don’t have the same resources larger publishing houses have, they have the nimbleness to capture niche markets and build sustainable brands.
The significant number I’ve heard tossed around is 1000. If you can land 1000 fans, not just 1000 casual observers, or 1000 people who know you exist, but 1000 diehard fans who will buy everything you put out, will tell all their friends about you, will subscribe to your newsletter and promote your giveaways, then you have the means to build a career.
1000 is probably not a guarantee, but it’s great to have a figure in mind to strive for. After all, Napoleon Hill made it abundantly clear in his work you need specific numbers if you’re going to visualize your dreams into realities.
Hugh Howey, who wrote the Silo series has written plenty of content on the indie market and how much he supports creators pursuing their own paths instead of relying on traditional gatekeepers. He thinks writers should be more like musicians, building an audience on their own and building a brand on their own. That way, when those with money and resources approach the creators, those who have the content aren’t in a vulnerable position. They can control their own destiny because they built a brand others want and can negotiate from a position of power (or at least operate with some leverage outside an unpublished manuscript).
It all starts with building a critical mass—building a fanbase that can take you to the next level. Personally, I’m putting my focus on creating a mailing list, making a YouTube channel, and building a network on LinkedIn.