The Difference Between a Fan and a Follower—and Why It’s Okay to Have Both

Marketing books can be difficult. And confusing.

When I talk to brand-new writers who venture out into the marketing side of things, one of the first discussions we have is the difference between a fan and a follower.

A fan = someone who reads and/or buys your books

A follower = someone who follows your social media, but doesn’t buy or read your books

Why do I separate these two types of people? Because many newcomers get confused when they send out a newsletter to 800 people and only get 100 buyers. (Or post to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or so-on.)

Extra thought: A “follower” is also a fan. They are a “fan” of you. 🙂

Take my blog for instance. I currently have 21,000 followers. Did I sell 21,000 copies of my latest release? No. Because not every follower of mine is here to buy my books. They are here for my writing tips, my publishing insight, and (hopefully) my cat photos. And guess what? I’m perfectly okay with that.

There’s huge pressure to convert all your followers into fans, and I’m just not buying it. Don’t get me wrong. I would be ecstatic if 21,000 of you bought my book, but I also understand that my books aren’t for everyone.

What if all 21,000 of you bought my book, but it was only written for 10,000 of you? Well, that’s 11,000 1-star reviews just based on the work being inappropriate for that audience. My ratings would tank. Not that ratings are everything—but I’d rather have those who are genuinely interested in my books try them out. Attracting the right audience for the right things is more important to me than tricking the wrong audiences into buying something they probably won’t enjoy.

Granted, I get it. Sometimes it can hurt that thousands of people are following you for (insert # of reasons here) for years but won’t check out your books to show support, but, at the same time, aren’t they showing support by connecting with you? By cheering you up on Twitter? By reading your articles? By sharing your posts? By simply being there?

Don’t let the marketing world convince you that your work is only worth what is bought.

Your work connects you with others. It builds relationships. It allows you to reach out and be a part of the world. It gives you a way to express yourself.

You may have fans, you may have followers, and you may have both. But converting those into sales isn’t the most important thing in the world. (And those sales will come in time.)

What matters most are those connections you’ve made—and you’ve made those by chasing what you love.

Enjoy that,


P.S. If you’re a follower who is considering becoming a fan, I have two free young adult books out right now on Amazon. 😉

Two free YA SFF books!

14 thoughts on “The Difference Between a Fan and a Follower—and Why It’s Okay to Have Both

  1. This was really interesting. I sometimes wonder how many followers actually keep up to date with my writing or simply scroll past me on the Reader. I think you have made a valuable point in stating that connections are important and even a like, comment or view, is valuable in the same way as a sale is. Great article!

  2. I think this is an important message for everyone to remember, in the same way that we should try not to get lost in how many of either we have and remember the reasons why we do what we do.

  3. I think this is an important message.
    In the same way that we shouldn’t let ourselves become consumed by the number of either that we may, or may not have and should just try and remember why we do what we do.
    Those connections really matter.

  4. Shannon, you were one of the first bloggers I followed when I set up my WordPress site in 2013. I’ve always enjoyed your writer’s blogs, full of practical advice and inspiration for someone like me, a lot older and a lot less productive than you. Have I read any of your books? I have to admit I haven’t. YA fantasy/paranormal romance just aren’t my thing, I’m pushed with keeping up with the reading I need to do as it is. So I absolutely go along with there being a difference between a fan and a follower. There are, in my experience, different sorts of followers too. There do seem to be WordPressers who simply like and follow whatever happens to pop up, collecting people in the hope they will like and follow back. However, I like a reason to follow, and when I look at some of my followers’ sites, I can see nothing in common, nothing that tempts me to follow back. So, I can tell you, I am a true and active follower of your blog, without yet being a fan (though I might be tempted to give it a go one day, as I can see what a thoughtful insightful writer you are). Thank you for this, and all the rest, and all best wishes to you.

    1. Hi Penny! Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I truly appreciate it, and it made my day! I love just talking to fellow bloggers/writers/authors/poets/anyone. Thank you for sharing your story.

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