The cost of shoe leather

There are two types of successful authors.

  • Authors who sell a lot of books
  • Authors who sell a lot of books and are adored by their tribe.

Brent Weeks is a fantasy fiction author published out of Orbit Books. He hit the scene at the end of 2008 when he released all three of the books in his debut trilogy in just three months. And although he is now a New York Times bestselling author, it took six months for him to hit the list.

Conventional publishing wisdom says that if you don’t make bestseller status in the first week, the odds of you making it are extremely slim. By then, all of the marketing by the publisher has fizzled out and they have long since moved onto other books. The initial excitement by initial fans often dies out and your books start getting pulled from the Barnes & Noble shelves and shipped back to the publisher.

So how did Brent Weeks pull this off?

Besides the fact that the wrote three fantastic books, he put himself out there. He blogged on a regular basis and even started a little social network so fans could interact with him and each other. Just recently he started a series of blog post teaching his fans how they can get started in the world of writing.

Brent loves his fans. And in return, they adore him.

Dan Pink is sitting on top of the author world. His latest book, Drive, was an instant bestseller and continues to sell extremely well over a year after it’s release. His last book, A Whole New Mind, has sold millions of copies and was endorsed by Oprah.

But how did he get to this point? Was it a fluke? Was it luck?

In the paperback version of his first book, Free Agent Nation, he told readers that if they lived within 50 miles of Washington D.C. (his hometown) and there were at least two people reading the book together, he would drive and meet them in person and talk about the book. If they lived outside of the 50 mile D.C. radius, he would do a phone call with them.

He travels extensively to speak and meet readers. When you meet Dan Pink, you come away feeling like he thinks you are just as important as any other reader of his book including Oprah. He truly appreciates every single person that buys his book and proves to be regularly giving of himself on his blog and in person.

On Dan’s first book tour, he often spoke to crowds of 1 or 2. On his Drive book tour, he was filling out every venue he booked.

Dan loves his fans. And in return, they adore him.

Recently I asked Dan what it takes to have his kind of success. Here was his reply:

“Lots and lots of shoe leather.”

A couple years ago I got into gardening for the first time. After an argument with my 3 year old over his belief that vegetables come from the grocery store and that it is a gross idea that they come from plants, I went out and spent a bunch of money to start a garden on my porch.

Recently, when discussing gardening with a friend of mine, he shared with me that he wasn’t very good at it. “I’m the type guy that goes out and works really hard for a couple days on a garden and then forgets about it for two weeks. Plants don’t respond very well to that. You have to do a little bit every day.”

It struck me that this is also what it takes to build a tribe of readers that adore you. You have to show up every day. Writing your blog, attending conferences, answering people on Twitter, emailing fans and even driving 50 miles just to meet with a couple readers… it’s all about “lots and lots of shoe leather”.

I often talk to authors that point at people like Seth Godin, Guy Kawasaki, Dan Pink, Pamela Slim and others that are adored by their fans and they say “I want to be like them. How do I do that?” My answer now?

“Lots and lots of shoe leather.”

Tim Grahl
Tim Grahl
Tim Grahl is the author of Your First 1000 Copies and the founder of He has worked with authors for a decade to help them build their platform, connect with readers, and sell more books. He has worked 1-on-1 with over a hundred authors including Daniel Pink, Hugh Howey, Barbara Corcoran, Chip and Dan Heath, Sally Hogshead and many others. He has also launched dozens of New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post bestsellers.
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