Are You Making This Marketing Mistake?

Crowd by James Cridland

Today’s guest post is from Jason Kong.

When your goal is to sell ideas, books, or yourself, it’s easy to think that the key is to target strangers. People unfamiliar with your writing seems like the best opportunity to reach new readers.

The problem is that even if you’re just looking to create awareness, talking to the masses doesn’t work very well. Most of the time you’re ignored. Even when you’re not, the attention you get doesn’t translate into anything meaningful. No wonder many writers loathe marketing.

Luckily, there’s a better alternative.

How an artist raised over a million dollars in 32 days

Amanda Palmer is a musician. Just last month, she held a Kickstarter campaign to fund her next record and tour.

In just over a month, nearly 25,000 people made a contribution. The seven-figure raised exceeded her goal by over ten-fold.

What made this such a successful fundraiser? You have to wonder if Palmer is a marketing genius in addition to being a rock star.

Checking out her Kickstarter page provides the insight.

What you’ll find is an in-depth description of what the contributions would support—plus pictures, video, and the different rewards associated with each pledge level. It’s a lot to take in, and completely uninteresting if you didn’t like Amanda Palmer already. Which is exactly the point.

This wasn’t a campaign for strangers. It was for her fans.

Creating a tidal wave of success

In a revealing article written by Palmer herself, she explains her approach to the project. Some of the interesting takeaways are:

  • She focuses obsessively on her fans and depends on them.
  • It wasn’t a marketing trick. She connects with her supporters because it brings joy to both sides.
  • Her success didn’t happen overnight. Years of hard work led to big results.
  • Palmer’s fans trust her because she earned it.

Palmer makes it all about her fans, the ones who care and appreciate her work. In return, they support her with money and positive word of mouth. Her following grows because of relationships developed over time. She clearly enjoys herself, and so do her fans.

What this story means for you

Okay, you’re not a musician and you don’t have Amanda Palmer’s platform. But putting an emphasis on your fans can lead you on a similar path.

Ask yourself:

  • Do you know who your fans are?
  • Are you showing enough love and gratitude?
  • Is it easy for them to connect with you and each other?

The essence of good marketing isn’t simply awareness or selling. It’s also about focusing on the people who matter.

Your fans are waiting.

Posted in Marketing & Promotion.

Jason Kong (@storyrally) helps fiction writers build better platforms. Sign up for his free newsletter here.

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Katriena Knights

Amanda also added reward tiers and new rewards as the campaign progressed in response to feedback from backers. I know I upgraded my contribution when she added a contribution tier with an item I wanted that fit my budget. Not a lot of artists are this flexible on Kickstarter. Jane Espenson did this, too, when she was funding the second series of Husbands–another high-budget project that was funded well over its goal.

Jason Kong

I’m still amazed at how connected Amanda is with her fans. Not all artists are able or willing to do what she does, but it certainly works for her.

Thanks for sharing!

Adriana Ryan

Thank you for the tips! I’m always astounded when I see Kickstarter campaigns that have exceeded their goals. Nice insights.

Jason Kong

The secret of Kickstarter is that it works really well if your fan base is strong (strong and big is even better, of course). If you lack fans the campaigns won’t be nearly as successful.

Ed Cyzewski

Thanks for the reminder Jason that it’s easy to become so focused on attracting new fans that we can forget about connecting with our existing friends and colleagues in our networks.

Jason Kong

The happy coincidence is that existing fans are great for bringing in new ones. And it’s also nice that the process happens organically; you don’t have to hard sell your current fans to “bring a friend.” If they’re excited about your writing, they will.


Not to diminish her accomplishment, but Amanda Palmer is married to Neil Gaiman. And he does blog and tweet about her projects and their joint projects which is cool. Gaiman has something like two million twitter followers and who knows how many people follow his blog. That’s how I know about her and her work from reading his blog. I could be wrong, but I think that is a factor in this success story. So she gets attention from the tweets and blog posts that Gaiman does on her behalf in addition to what she does for herself, and she… Read more »

Jason Kong

Diana, you nailed it. Amanda most certainly benefited from Neil’s platform, but I would argue that she created the most impact (for herself and her followers) by focusing on her fans.

There’s a huge difference between getting attention and keeping it. The best way to keep it is to make those people very, very happy.


Oh yes, If people didn’t like her music or she didn’t do anything to keep them happy and coming back for more, then no amount of tweeting and blogging by Neil would make her successful.


Well, I am guessing that having a fan who has two million twitter followers still counts as “having a fan” 🙂


One sign said it all. Did you see it? It read: “WE ARE THE MEDIA” I liked that one. That’s a keeper. Frame that.

Jason Kong

Yup. And we continue to both underestimate and overestimate its power.


[…] Focus on your fans (do you know who they are and have you thanked them?) […]

Seeley James

Great post. She did an amazing job on that one.

You do realize it was not her first Kickstarter, right? It was her 4th. The first three, starting in Sep, 2010 were more modest. She built a following off each one. The numbers go like this: Oct, 2010 $8,500; Jul, 2011 $13,000; Oct, 2011 $133,000; and May, 2012 $1,192,000. She tweaked her package as she went along.

Marketing is a building program and she worked hard to build herself.

Jason Kong

No doubt that each subsequent Kickstarter campaign led to new fans, but Amanda credits the hard work done between those events as the main reason for her success.

And as you pointed out, it’s a building process. Learning, adapting, and taking a long-view all factor in, all things Amanda also does well.

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[…] Are You Making This Marketing Mistake? By Jason Kong at Jane Friedman […]

August McLaughlin

Uplifting post, Jason—thanks! Giving of ourselves and supporting others seems like the best route to me, from a practical and financial standpoint, and from an emotional standpoint. Tweeting this about. 😉

Jason Kong

Thanks, August! Really appreciate the tweet.


[…] Today’s guest post is by Jason Kong. You may remember him from an earlier guest post here at Are You Making This Marketing Mistake? […]


[…] let the critics stop you. Instead, focus on your fans and your writing will reach and delight the right […]


[…] “met” Jason on Jane Friedman’s blog, where he wrote an interesting post on book marketing. I asked him for his thoughts on how fiction authors can use social media for their own book […]


[…] writer in your genre, all that attention won’t matter much if your fiction isn’t good. Fans and repeat customers are still the foundation of your long-term success. Subpar storytelling won’t take you […]


[…] Not only is this unpleasant for you, it’s ineffective as well. If you’re trying to build a fiction readership, focus your blogging on people who already care. […]