Using a Book to Build Your Platform: An Interview with Dave Ramsey

Can you use a published book to launch your platform? Can you use it as a catalyst to build a media empire? You bet. Dave Ramsey is living proof.

What many people don’t know is that Dave self-published his first book, Financial Peace in 1992. He began selling it by mail and out of the trunk of his car.

It was so successful, Viking Press (a division of Penguin) picked it up and re-published it in 1997. Dave did a 21-city tour and the book landed on the New York Times best sellers list.

The Story I’ve Never Told

Fast forward to 2002. I am the publisher at Nelson Books, a division of Thomas Nelson. Dave has already had two bestsellers, and I wanted to sign him to our company.

But I needed an idea.

In the video above, I share how I came up with The Total Money Makeover while driving to work one day. I also reveal how I sold it to Dave and got him on board. This is the first time I’ve ever told this story publicly.

The Total Money Makeover went on to become a mega-bestseller. It has been on the New York Times best sellers list for more than 200 weeks, selling more than five million copies. It continues to be one of Thomas Nelson’s bestselling books, year after year, month after month.

The Story Dave’s Never Told

Tomorrow, at Platform University, we will post my “Master Class” video with Dave. This is the full interview with some phenomenal take-aways for anyone wanting to build a platform. We talk about self-publishing, social media, and the mindset you must have to succeed in today’s competitive environment.

You can get a little taste of the interview by watching the video above. If you want to experience everything Dave has to share, head over to Platform University. Members get access to the video, the transcript, and a complete study guide, designed to help you apply Dave’s insights to your own platform.

By the way, the monthly Master Class is only one of the regular content features we provide at Platform University. Our goal is to give you the inspiration, training, and resources you need to build your platform or take it to the next level.

Question: How could you use a book to build your platform? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Get My New, 3-Part Video Series—FREE! Ready to accomplish more of what matters? 2015 can be your best year ever. In my new video series, I show you exactly how to set goals that work. Click here to get started. It’s free—but only until Monday, December 8th.

Get my FREE video series now!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read My Comments Policy.

  • Kent Lapp

    That’s too cool, an interview with Mr Ramsey, looking forward to it!!

  • John Richardson

    Total Money Makeover is a life changing book. I can see why it may have taken a while to take off. The key to the book is tying it in with Dave’s radio show, where he allows you to call in and yell, “I’m Debt Free.” Cause and effect!

    • TorConstantino

      John, for you and me both – my wife and I used the book to erase more than $69K in consumer debt over a two year period. Life-changing indeed!
      I guess I actually owe a deep thank-you to Michael as well ;-)

      • John Richardson

        My wife and I did a similar program at our church years ago with a guy named Ron Blue. Really made a huge difference. I picked up Dave’s book a while back and it ties in real well with his radio show. The book makes a great gift for newlyweds or graduates. Unfortunately, most of our schools do not teach basic financial information.

        • Michael Hyatt

          Ron Blue is a good friend. I published his first book, Master Your Money, while at Thomas Nelson. Years later, he became one of our board members at Thomas Nelson.

          • John Richardson

            I was thinking back about that program. It was called, Master Your Money. It had to be in the 80’s. But that’s where I learned about the envelope system. That one technique probably saved me thousands of dollars alone. I remember because it was when Instant Tellers first came out. Those machines made it WAY too easy to get money. Thankfully, the envelope saved the day!

        • Jeanne Ahlers

          That is so very true! My kids didn’t learn anything about money management in high school! Their Home Economics class gave them a project where they had to budget money for a family, but for a high middle class family. Most people don’t start out there, you have to learn how to budget on a modest income first, and then hope you can up that as time goes by.

          • John Richardson

            I know it’s hard to believe, but most kids don’t even have a clue about balancing a checkbook or creating a budget. Yet they start getting credit card apps in High School. Give a credit card to a young, uninformed student, and what do you get… debt… and lots of it.

          • Lori Ferguson

            It is possible for our kids to learn to be financially responsible – even if the schools don’t support it! We just need to advocate. One of our requests to our grown kids before they married was to go through the Dave’s Financial Peace program. They’re married 2+ years and continue to use the concepts – they started their married life with no debt, and have continued…

  • Chris Jeub

    Wow, this is totally cool! I’m so glad you’re coming out with a behind-the-scenes story of how Dave/Michael worked together at the onset of the Dave Ramsey platform.

    And I’m very curious on how the self-publishing played a part in it. I’ve done self-publishing myself, and have settled on what I call a “flagship publication,” that that leads the charge to a larger vision that follows with product, programs, etc. Looking forward to this one.

    • Michael Hyatt

      I think this will really motivate you, Chris, plus give you some very practical take-aways.

      • Brandon Gilliland

        I also found it interesting. I had no clue that your team helped develop the idea for the “Total Money Makeover”. I’m familiar with Dave Ramsey and his books, so it was nice to watch the video. I have really enjoyed your “interview” style blogs. Keep it up!

        • Barry Hill


          I had no idea either! I kept on thinking if Michael just got $.10 for each book —for coming up with the idea, …that’s a lot of dimes! :)

          • Brandon Gilliland

            Haha! For sure!

    • TorConstantino

      I completely agree Chris, and that’s the incredible value of being a member of the Platform University – we’re able to get deeper access to this type of exclusive content. Awesome stuff!!!

  • Jonathan Harrison

    I had no idea about this connection – what a great story!
    My wife and I attended the Financial Peace University in August of last year. Since starting FPU we have changed our thinking, helped others, gifted the FPU kit to family members, and paid off almost $40k in debt! We will be debt free (aside from the mortgage) in June 2014 or sooner!

    • Michael Hyatt

      Woo-hoo, Jonathan. That is a great testimony. Dave’s content is so life-changing!

      • Jonathan Harrison

        Thank you – Life changing for my whole Family Tree. My son will be growing up in a house where the family pet will not be a 30 year old Student Loan. Then again, it comes back to stewardship.

        • TorConstantino

          Congrats Jon! My wife and I paid off $69K in consumer debt using Dave’s system. As far as the mortgage goes, I have a different take than Dave. I’m not in a hurry to pay it down for the following reasons because I don’t necessary believe that all debt is created equally:

          1. Unlike consumer debt (e.g. credit cards, car loans…etc) your home is an appreciable asset that increases in value over time – it’s the largest investment most people make;

          2. The mortgage interest is still tax deductible – I need all the write-offs I can get;

          3. My home meets a critical need of providing shelter for my family, which is a tangible benefit;

          4. Lastly, liquidity is important and people who locked up all their cash in home equity back in 2008 experienced a major paper loss when the housing market/value dropped. Home values are slowly creeping up again – but it’ll take time.

          You didn’t ask for it, but that’s my humble opinion on the topic of mortgages…

          • Jonathan Harrison

            That is awesome, Tor – congratulations. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about the mortgage. I’m in no rush there either (as a buyer in mind 2007, point number 1 is a long-term benefit).
            Dave Ramsey also lumps the mortgage into a later step, that we will not fully address until we have a fully funded emergency fund (6 month’s worth), and have gone to town on maxing the retirement funds and college savings.
            But we will still be accelerating the principle payments at that time.

          • TorConstantino

            I agree with that over-arching strategy – additionally, we do a bi-weekly payment via Nationwide where we pay half of the monthly mortgage every two weeks. Since interest is a time-value phenomenon, the mere act of time-shifting half of our monthly mortgage payment every two weeks equals an extra monthly principle payment per year at NO incremental expense to us.

  • Adam Rico

    I had no idea you were involved with the Total Money Makeover Michael. Dave Ramsey’s FPU and TMM have completely changed my family’s life. We’ve paid off more than $30,000 of debt in the last two years. Our goal is to be completely debt free within 2 years from now. Thank you for helping to create Total Money Makeover – yet another way you have influenced my life in such a positive way. I’m grateful beyond words.

    • Jonathan Harrison

      That is so awesome Adam! Keep rocking – we should compare notes & strategies.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Adam! Thanks.

    • TorConstantino

      Way to go Adam – that’s a fantastic result!!! I didn’t know that Michael played such a critical role either in developing the implementation of the FPU principles.

      • Michael Hyatt

        Just to be clear: it was ALL Dave’s contents. My role was limited to packaging the content in a way that resonated with the market.

  • Dan Erickson

    Great story and video clip. Thanks for sharing. I’ll be checking in tomorrow.

    I have already written two books and am working on a third as part of building my overall platform. I think it’s a bit tougher of a proposition for a complete unknown fiction writer to reach enough sales to get a publisher to notice and pick the books up.

    Now if publishers chose books based on reader reaction instead of sales my chances would greatly increase. I’m also thinking about doing a non-fiction work. I have the idea and will introduce a series on my blog later this summer that will lead to the book.

    • TorConstantino

      Dan, I completely agree that fiction writing is a much tougher platform option.

      However, at least two successful authors are re-writing the publishing rules regarding fiction publication – they are Amanda Hocking and John Locke.

      Both began as “unknowns” and leveraged Amazon’s ebook channel almost exclusively and serialize their high-quality, low-cost writings to help spur demand and create “sticky”, recurring readers.

      Until recently, Locke specifically priced all of his fiction books at $.99 (he just jacked his prices to $2.99) and stated that traditional published books priced at $9.99 had to “prove” they were ten times better than one of his books.

      Locke’s low-price economics model drives product sampling but his high-quality writing drives repeat business.

      I’d strongly encourage you to check out his enlightening book “How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months” – – it looks at the fascinating paradigm shift that’s occurring in the publishing space due to the Internet’s democratization.

      • Michael Hyatt

        I read his book and found it fascinating. I didn’t agree with everything, but still learned a great deal.

        • TorConstantino

          Agreed – not everything made sense especially his haphazard approach to blogging. That didn’t make much sense…

        • Dan Erickson

          We should rarely agree with everything we learn, but always be willing and open to learning what makes sense and works for us.

          • TorConstantino

            Great comment Dan!

      • Dan Erickson

        I’ll have to check out Locke’s book. I have looked at both Lockes and Hockings web pages in the past and I understand the model they have worked from. However, I think of myself as a poet and literary writer and lowering the prices of my work seems as though it would cheapen the validity of my artisitic integrity. This in turn cheapens the whole category of literary works. The books that sell at these lower prices are usually more pop-culture in their appeal. In the end, I would like to be known as a literary novelist, as one who stayed true to the art of writing, and took it seriously, not one who became succesful writing pop-culture books and sold them cheaply on Amazon. In 100 years, I would guess that Hocking and Locke might not be remembered, but Steinbeck and Hemingway still will be.

      • John Richardson

        I picked up his book yesterday and found it very interesting. One thing that stuck out was the fact that some people should NOT like your writing. I’ve always taken the advice that I should write for the greatest audience and not ruffle any feathers. According to Locke, this gets you nowhere. His point: You’ve got to find your niche and write specifically for them. You need to go deep instead of wide.

        I also liked his blog posts. When I have written like he does, I get a LOT more responses. My Takeaway: Writing a key post once a week from the heart, will be better than 3 posts of average quality. Will have to test this theorem.

  • TorConstantino

    Few people know that Robert Kiyosaki, author of the “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” series of financial/motivational books – self-published his first book and used it as an extended brochure to promote a family board game he created called CashFlow.

    The board game used to retail for something like $149 and Robert had a tear-out $20 coupon at the back of the book to help spur readers to buy the board game.

    His intent for the book was to use it as a platform to sell the higher-valued game – both of which are still available and being updated regularly:

    I’m thrilled to be a member of Platform U – REALLY looking forward to watching the entire interview with Dave!!!

    • Michael Hyatt

      I forgot about Kiyosaki’s story. Wow.

      Thanks for your kind words about Platform University, Tor!

  • Kix Blogger

    If you are going to use your book to build a platform, then it needs to be a well written book with relevant and useful information. Dave has successfully done this.

    If you just throw something together and call it a book, the only way you will build a platform with it, is to stack up all the unread books and put a board across them.

    • Michael Hyatt

      Agreed. As I say in my book Platform, you must start with wow.

      • Kix Blogger

        WOW = Writing Out of this World :-)

  • Heather C Button

    I have been considering using “white papers” to build our office platform. My boss has a tremendous amount of information to offer, and we want to capitalize on it. What would be the difference really, in doing one over the other? Do you think more people would pay attention to a e-book than a traditional white paper?

    • TorConstantino

      Heather, I think a key consideration is distribution and message dissemination. I’m not sure which channel works more efficiently for your target market – but why not pursue both and cross-promote between both channels? Just a thought….

      • Heather C Button

        Thanks. White papers are sort of the traditional route, so we were going to do the PDF route, but maybe other e-pub forms might be more amenable, essentially since architecture is a primarily visual field.

  • DS

    This reminds me of the Paul Harvey segment, “And now, the rest of the story.” What a fun conversation, and a tremendous illustration about product differentiation between the two books (Financial Peace, and Total Money Makeover) – the system -vs- the how.

  • Zech Newman

    Thank you Michael! Two of my book and podcast mentors in the same place. Didn’t know I have you also to thank for FREEDOM!

  • Darin Sargent

    Looking forward to this interview. Huge Dave Ramsey fan. Thanks Michael.

  • Erik Fisher

    Dave’s had a huge impact in my life. We did FPU in 2008, and over time have gotten to where we only need to finish paying off my college loans and our mortgage, and we are debt free. WE WILL GET THERE!

    Part of building a platform to me is building from a firm foundation. I believe that includes being as debt free as possible, and staying there as you build your platform. Not being debt free pushes me to be savvy and make choices more wisely, because the money that is spent building my platform must be used in good stewardship.

    It’s also motivating because part of the why to me about building my platform is to pay down that debt faster through creating passive income streams. I won’t let not having money stop me from building. It truly makes you focus on making the money you do have budgeted for platform building “work smarter, not harder”.

    • TorConstantino

      Erik, I think you’ve got an interesting correlation between debt reduction and platform building. Both require discipline, focus, intention and a plan to be successful.

      Best of luck toward achieving your goals!

    • Jim Martin

      As a regular listener of your podcast, I really appreciate what you say here. I have great respect for you in working to get out of debt.

  • Paul Steinbrueck

    Great story and video, Mike! Thanks for sharing it. Makes sense to me that writing a book would be another leg in the stool of building a platform. I’m a big advocate of reusing content and packaging ideas in as many forms as possible. For anyone who blogs, podcast, or creates videos, it makes sense to organize and combine a lot of content into a book as you did with Platform.

    Now I just need to be intentional and actually it myself. :)

    • TorConstantino

      Great comment Paul, I’ve heard Michael say on several occasions that he’s a huge fan of residual/passive income streams. Re-purposing content across a variety of divergent channels to amplify your message and expand your reach is a great way to build a robust revenue stream that generates profits – even while you’re sleeping!

      • Jonathan Harrison

        I love this idea too – it is so ripe with potential that new technology only serves to fertilize.

    • Jonathan Harrison

      Well said. I think the important part of this approach is ensuring that new packaging makes the most of the core idea.
      A bit like being a musician, right?
      You write one song = one idea, but it can be packaged as a digital download, radio single, music video, live concert, live concert DVD, licensed as a TV theme song, etc.

      But each iteration offers something different.

      • Paul Steinbrueck

        Exactly Jonathan. Each media has the potential to reach a new or slightly different audience, and you give your hard core fans new variations of your stuff to buy, experience and talk about.

      • John Tiller

        Great example, Jonathan!

      • Jim Martin

        That makes sense Jonathan. I especially like your point in the opening paragraph. “I think the important part of this approach is ensuring that new packaging makes the most of the core idea.”

  • Ricardo Butler

    I have actually used my most recent book and audio-book to build a Facebook Group, an email list, my new leadership team, and to build up buzz to my own school like Platform University this fall based upon the book.

    • John Tiller

      Very cool, Ricardo!!

      • Ricardo Butler

        Thanks John!

    • Jim Martin

      Wow! Very nice.

      • Ricardo Butler


  • Sean Nisil

    Highly motivating. Thanks!

  • kimanzi constable

    A book pretty much launched my Platform Michael. I guess technically two self-published books and a guest post on your blog last year :)

  • FromHisPresence

    I’m learning so much from Platform U. I just wanted to say “Thank you,” Michael and team. I’m looking forward to hearing the interview with Dave, too. Everybody loves Dave Ramsey. :)

    • Barry Hill

      It was a FANTASTIC interview! It was really in depth and Michael asks some really tough questions—not just fluff. I thought it went by so quickly— and Michael provides a great study guide to go along with the interview. I give it a 10!

      • Michael Hyatt

        Wow! Thanks, Barry!

  • Brandon Gilliland

    Very good video! Thanks for sharing this!

  • asmithblog

    Great reminder to look into taking things further when needed or if opportunity is given. Don’t stop short! That’s awesome that you are so connected with marketing the beginning platform that Dave had. Pretty cool.

  • Brian Horvath

    Michael, you blessed us with the story that outlines the “behind-the-scenes” from one of your podcast comments regarding your CEO at the time and how he trusted you with the company bottom line!

    Thanks so much for your work, inspiration and encouragement. Being a Stewardship Director, I am also glad that you’ve adopted the same views I have on debt!

    Keep rockin’

  • David J Soler

    Michael, Great meeting you at Innov48. Wow! I never knew you had a hand in the Total Money Makeover. Great story & great lesson. Thanks for sharing.

  • ryamane

    Dave Ramsey is an inspiration because his message is so practical. I find the same to be true of you as I read your blog. It is awesome to hear how the two of you are connected. Thanks for all the valuable content!

  • DK Buenting

    Dave Ramsey has taught me so much and is changing my financial picture.

  • DK Buenting

    Here is a blog article I just wrote on ways I’m saving a HUGE amount of money by implementing sound financial principles taught by Ramsey. I hope it will be helpful to your readers.