How Can You Get Published If You Don’t Have a Platform?

I received an email yesterday from a young lady who wanted to write a book. She complained that neither publishers nor agents would give her a chance. According to her, their main objection was that she didn’t have a platform. “How can I get a platform,” she wrote, “if no one will publish me?”

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Sean_Warren, Image #7152512

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Sean_Warren

Frankly, I get this question a lot. The answer is simpler than you think: build one. It’s never been more possible. For the first time in history, perhaps, you don’t need a lot of money or even the right connections. What you need is something to say, a fair amount of determination, and persistence. But it is possible.

By “platform” most publishers mean the ability to influence an audience that is large enough to make publishing a book less of a risk. Just a few years ago, this meant you had to have a television or radio show or write a regular magazine or newspaper column. This typically required a lot of money or important contacts.

But today, by starting a blog and making use of social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook, you can build a big platform with little more that the investment of your creativity and time. I’m not saying it is easy, but I am saying it is within reach. (By the way, I consider my blog to be my “homebase” and Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo, LinkedIn, etc., to be “outposts.”)

Therefore, if you are thinking about writing a book, and if you don’t already have a large media platform, I would strongly urge you to start blogging. Why? I can think of four reasons:

  1. It will hone your writing skills. The truth is, that if you can’t muster the discipline to blog consistently, you won’t have the discipline to write a book either. In addition, blogging enables you to “find your voice,” one post at a time. The more you write, the better you will get. There’s no substitute for practice—and lots of it.
  2. It will provide near-instant feedback. The problem with writing a book is that it is a long process. You won’t get much feedback along the way. And you won’t really discover if you have hit the bulls eye, so to speak, until after you have invested a great deal of blood, sweat, and tears. With blogging, you get almost instant feedback, particularly if you encourage comments. This will give you a tremendous boost to stay with the process and keep writing.
  3. It will enable you to build a tribe. If your writing is good, and if it connects with people, then they will begin to tell others. Whether they mention your blog in casual conversation or Twitter a link to a post that was meaningful to them, you will start to attract readers. This will be slow at first, but you must persevere. Like almost everything in life, it’s difficult to overcome inertia and get the flywheel turning. But once you do, the growth will come more quickly.
  4. It will eventually get an agent or publisher’s attention. Once you are getting 500–1,000 unique visitors a day, you suddenly have a platform that can be leveraged into a book deal. In order to track this, I would strongly urge to sign up with Google Analytics. This will provide you with a verifiable way to prove to an agent or a publisher that you have the traffic you claim to have.

Obviously, you can blame agents, publishers, the industry, or even the economy for why you can’t seem to get published. Or, you can roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Question: What’s keeping you from blogging consistently? What can you do today to get back on track?
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  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    Last summer I surrendered and began a twitter account. My biggest problem was what to post at 140 characters or less, and that was when I read your blog as well as a blog in Christianity Today regarding leadership. In 140 characters or less I can show people I care and maybe shine Jesus' light into that secular world. Where once I began a blog and Facebook and Twitter to build a platform, now I have multiple motivations to do this. I am encouraged by the responses and the people who choose to follow me. It is now fun and not a job in order to have an online presence when my book is ready to send to publishers/agents.

  • http://Thinke.org Matt Brown

    I am absolutely loving your blog and tweets. Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to pour your wisdom into people like me : )
    Matt

  • Frustrated writer

    I have a solid platform of at least two-thousand, on fan created blogs. I even have a Wiki-page, but still I can't get published. Is it because the trend for books and the agency fields are Female-Liberal dominated? Am I being held back because I am a Male with conservative views in my writing?

    Solid Query Letter–Check

    Refined Manuscript–Check

    Platform–Check

    Now what?

    • Stephen Hill

      I am having this same problem. I have a platform and a well ironed manuscript, but I feel because my manuscript leans right I am being rejected. I would also like some input on this.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        I doubt it. See above. On average, I think conservatives have a better chance of getting published than liberals. Please see my comment above.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You mean like former President George W. Bush, #1 on the New York Times Best Sellers list as I write this, or Sarah Palin at #2, or Glenn Beck at #7?

      Seriously, I don’t think it makes any difference whether you are conservative or male. Liberal females might have the same complaint.

      Two thousand is not a big platform. I don’t intend to be cruel. It is a start. But a commercial publisher will be looking for way more than that. I would say you need a minimum of 10,000 unique visitors a month. The good news is that you have something to build on.

      I would suggest that you read my post, “So You Can’t Seem to Land an Agent.” It contains my best advice for someone in your situation.

      Thanks.

  • http://www.thedefaultlife.com SammcL

    Learned this lesson when I met with IVP in June… been steadily blogging since then. Wish there was a quick fix solution to get 1000 views a day… you know, besides inserting ‘lindsay lohan celebrity rumors’ into your tags. Is that cheating?
    ps. Mike, if you have a sec, check out my latest blog post on Atheists vs Christmas. If you don’t laugh, I’ll…. do better next time!

    http://thedefaultlife.com/popculture/can-busses-be-atheists/

  • Nicole

    I was challenged on this same thing at a writer’s conference I went to recently. I had stopped blogging over a year ago because it didn’t have much direction. Now I have a more focused idea in mind, but there seems to be so much to do before I can start again! I use Facebook and Twitter regularly, and have run the idea off friends for encouragement. There seems to be some interest in my topic, so – Lord willing – I will try to start again in January.

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  • http://thoughtbythought.net/ Tresha Thorsen

    really practical sound nuggets here. thank you. stuff one knows and yet you helped echo the ‘why’ today when i needed that reminder. high five. ;)

  • http://thoughtbythought.net/ Tresha Thorsen

    really practical sound nuggets here. thank you. stuff one knows and yet you helped echo the ‘why’ today when i needed that reminder. high five. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/lkblackburne Livia Blackburne

    Platform is good, but it has to be carefully done.  I actually think a lot of fiction writers are wasting their time by blogging without a purpose or blogging only for writers.  I blogged about that recently

    http://blog.liviablackburne.com/2011/07/author-blogging-youre-doing-it-wrong_21.html

  • http://ivettealegria.wordpress.com/ Ivette

    Brilliant, practical advice that I need to put into action. Thanks!

  • adela tamayo

    I like this blog. I just found it the other day becasue I was looking for litrary agents that work with christian authors. I working on a book called confession of imperfect sinner. It my journey of walking with Jesus. I also started a blog but the book is only half way done.
     Here is my blog if you want to check it out http://adelaslove.blogspot.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bruce-Schultes/500073783 Bruce Schultes

    I wonder about the ideas less traveled for which there is not a ready categorized set of readers.  Seems like a short pointed message – a voice in the wilderness – would never make it in today’s marketplace.  Like Solomon said.  Too many books.  Who can even read all the titles with over 2000 being published every day.  If God’s words are like gold and  mans words like straw – finding the golden needle in this haystack seems impossible.  Is it an industry for the profound or the profane?  Is it an industry to promote God or bury him in an unending stream of dusty utterance?  What makes us so wise?  God stopped at 66.  I want to write a book but I feel I am casting a poor echo into a churning sea of voices and to what effect?

    http://markthearrow.blogspot.com/search/label/Testimony

    I would write a book, but all I ever felt authorized to write, commanded to write, fit on four pages.  I blog, but my rants can’t touch what He has already said and who am I that I should elect myself to be a fomentation.  Testify.  And the occasional love poem.  I do not want to be a lamp shade and obscure the more pure light of His original 66.  I am an arrow that can do nothing but point to the target, point to the word. For this, I need few words.

    That, for me, is the hard part.  Finding the authorization to say anything beyond my simple testimony, to say anything beyond the four pages I wrote in 2006.

  • Dr. Stalworth

    Dr. Stalworth

    Hi Mike,

    Yes, its evident that you are a brilliant man.  I’m going to get started on creating a ‘Platform.’  The one question I have is “How do I start a blog like this one.”

    I am already with facebook, but I need to also join twitter.

    Thanks for the info Mike. 

  • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

    Finding topics is the thing that keeps me from blogging consistantly. And I also have been writing around 400-600 words. I don’t think I can keep up with that pace. Perhaps I need to do much less to keep it consistent.

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Daren,
      I am with you 100%. I think the biggest challeng in blogging is trying to find daily content that is compelling. However, I will say that after you push through it, it ends up being one of the biggest blessings as well.

      • http://darensirbough.com/ Daren Sirbough

        I think most people have the life experience to write on most articles of content. I think someone should write the blog post with a list of articles to write on. Perhaps it shall be……

  • http://delightfulrepast.com/ Jean | Delightful Repast

    Thank you, Michael, for this information. Looks like I’m closer to having a “platform” than I thought — about 2/3 there! Is it too soon to start looking for an agent? 

  • Cy Bishop

    Coming into the game a little late here, but I do appreciate the advice. I’m feeling a little lost, however. I understand completely how a blog will help a non-fiction  writer – it would prove he/she is knowledgeable in that field, has interesting things to say about the topic, and can maintain an audience. But what about fiction writers? I’m not even sure what the topic/aim/point of a blog would be for me. Maybe I’m just jaded because the only blogs that have ever interested me are humor ones like Cake Wrecks, or because I’ve seen far too many blogs that amount to “My cat just puked in my shoes LOL”… But I just don’t understand what an unknown, aspiring fiction writer would write about in a blog that would create a platform for later publishing.

  • http://www.danerickson.net/ Dan Erickson

    I agree that writers need to build platforms.  I spent most of my spring and summer putting 3-5 hours per day working on my platform for my first book “A Train Called Forgiveness.”  Even after spending that much time, there are still dozens of things I have not had the time to do.  I also do not have top-notch technical abilities for gaining more traffic to my blog, danerickson.net, and I don’t have the finances to hire those skills out.   I’m a single dad of a seven year old and traveling for lectures and book signings is near impossible for me.  On Facebook and Twitter, I felt like I was being an overbearing self-promoter even though I was probably promoting less than most.  After five months I’ve sold less than 1oo books.  My personal health and spiritual life was suffering because of the time I was putting into building a platform.  I had little time to continue writing my second, “At the Crossing of Justice and Mercy,” and now third book, “The Track to Redemption.”  Blogging became a burden instead of a joy.  Now, as a teacher, I have to go back to work in a couple of weeks.  Therefore, I have decided that my platform is going to have to be built much slower, with less intensity and stress involved.  I’m considering moving toward using more traditional methods of agents and publishing, but as your recent messenger mentioned, that can be a hard road, too.  

    However, all this said, I will continue to write, promote, sell, and even give books away if I have to.  Why?  Because I believe my message about childhood abuse, religious abuse, forgiveness, mercy, and redemption is a healing message and I’ve already received feedback from several individuals how my book has helped them in their own journey in forgiving others.

    So from my perspective, creating a platform is not an easy thing to do, especially for those of us that have a plethora of other responsibilities.  I’m continuing my blog, although less frequently, and continuing my Facebook fan page for “A Train Called Forgiveness,” but I really don’t have the time to tweet repeatedly to get very little response.  I’ll just take it a day at a time and not push.  Humans push, nature and faith pull.

  • Chickwitbrains

    What if you want to write fiction? How do you use blog, Twitter, etc. to build a platform for that?

  • http://twitter.com/scgandhi Sunil Gandhi

    Keeping me inconsistent;  

    1) Topic Idea  

    Any help here? 

  • Ash Wakeman

    I don’t get how, if you work a full time job unrelated to writing and have other responsibilities, you are supposed to find time to not only write your book or short stories collection or whatever, but ALSO blog regularly enough to maintain a strong readership. Really. Knowing this makes getting published all the more daunting. I have been working regularly on pieces that I expected to submit to publications, but I seriously do not have time to completely maintain and bolster my blog as well.

    Anyone else with this frustration?