How Important Is an Author’s Platform?

Publishers Weekly just published its list of the bestselling books of 2008. John Grisham’s Appeal earned the #1 slot for hardcover fiction. Randy Pausch’s The Last Lecture [affiliate link] took the top slot in hardcover non-fiction.

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/craftvision, Image #5620177

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/craftvision

Referring to the nonfiction bestsellers, the magazine noted:

Of course, the power of television and celebrity was obvious: of the top 15 authors, seven have prominent regular media exposure: [Rick] Warren, Bill O’Reilly, Barbara Walters, Ina Garten, Jon and Kate Grosselin, Chelsea Handler and Maria Shriver. Together the media sold a remarkable 4,800,000 books.”

This demonstrates the power and importance of a platform, something publishers supposedly insist on in signing new authors. However, I personally think “platform” is overrated. It is worth noting that eight of the top 15 authors don’t have media platforms.

Sure, as a publisher, I would like to have a great book from an author with a giant platform. But you rarely get both.

I’ve seen plenty of big-name authors fall flat on their face. And I have eaten my share of unrecouped royalty advances from these under-performing titles. Media exposure does not always result in a bestselling book. Too often I have seen publishers rely on the platform and not pay enough attention to the quality of the product. This is a recipe for disaster.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in the power of a great concept and great writing. This is why books like Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller, Same Kind of Different as Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore, and Wild at Heart by John Eldredge [affiliate links] all did so amazingly well—and are still selling in big numbers. None of these authors came to us with media platforms. Yet their books were enormously successful.

This is why I believe would-be authors would do well to focus on those aspects of the publishing process they can control. That begins with writing the best manuscript possible. If the author doesn’t do that, then the size of the media platform is irrelevant.

Question: What other books succeeded without the benefit of the author having a built-in media platform?
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  • http://wwwyourgreatestfan.com Tim DeTellis

    The Five Love Languages was a book from an author without large platform. It seems books with a strong message have a sustaining power and sell overtime. Maybe that’s the difference between a book with a timeless message and a book based on a fade.

  • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

    I think of The Shack when I think of success without much of an initial platform. I'm sure there are many others but then "success" becomes a question of what is the measurement of success? Is success appearing on the NY Times list or selling a solid # of copies ongoing, increasing in reach and impact + making the publisher a profit? Getting on the NY Times list is overrated in my opinion. It can be manipulated.

    I like authors with good books who are willing to work to build their platform not because they are trying to build their platform necessarily but because they have something they want to say and are passionate enough about it that they will stop at nothing to get it out there. Those who have a story to tell or cause to champion via a good book. Too many authors or want to be authors get into the game thinking of money before mission.

    • http://generatornetwork.com Mike Rapp

      Very well said, Daniel!

  • http://DavidFoster.tv David Foster

    Thanks for your insight. It’s is schocking, refreshing, and encouraging to read.

  • http://sharonlavy.blogspot.com/ Sharon A. Lavy

    Encouraging words. Thanks.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I think the NY Times lists are over-rated, too. I would measure success in terms of net copies sold. Obviously, from the publisher's point-of-view, this has to be a number sufficient to make a profit—hopefully more.

  • http://lynnrush.wordpress.com/ LynnRush

    Refreshing post. This is an opinion I've not heard yet. Usually it's all about platform…maybe not so much for fiction, but having some sort of platform nonetheless.

    I first thought of Shack as well. Kind of took us all by surprise, huh? I think willingness and motivation along with a well written manuscript is key as well! It's all in God's hands anyway, we just have to use the tools he's given us.

    Thanks for the post.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    And certainly there are numerous things that authors can do to build their platform, especially with an online presence. It's not really either/or. It's just that the quality of the book has to be the first order of business. Thanks.

  • http://true-small-caps.blogspot.com Derek

    LOL … when I saw the question du jour, I immediately thought of THE SHACK. Then I discovered Daniel and Lynn had beaten me to it. Not only did the author of THE SHACK have no platform, it was also a badly written book. What it did have going for it was (1) a message that touches people and (2) an author who was passionate and energetic.

  • http://www.audrakrell.com Audra Krell

    John Grisham sold his first book out of the trunk of his car, I believe it was "A Time to Kill". Then suddenly he had a platform and now he's got the number one book of 2008.
    This post is great news for me, the aspiring, new freelance writer. It's like the old adage, you have to have experience to get a job. But how do you get experience if no one will give you a job?

  • Michael

    Dave Ramsey. TMMO has been out 8 years and still selling well. Of course, he works harder than the average author too. As of this comment it 115 overall on Amazon. That's not too bad for an 8 year old book.

  • http://www.teawithtiffany.com Tea with Tiffany

    Loved this post.

    At the beginning of this year, I pulled back from my pursuit of writing a book because of this whole platform idea. I couldn't take another step. I hit the wall and said enough. The funny thing is I am still writing. Not freelance right now, but writing on my blog even more than before. I still love words. God continues to grant me opportunities to share my words. I thrive when I am encouraging others.

    And who knows, someday I may be ready to jump in again. Until then, I pray God does a work in me as I grow closer to Him and write from my heart and not for hire. Because out of knowing God intimately, I will have something to say.

  • http://blog.sabaifitness.com/ William Haynes

    Tony Robbins talks about 6 Human Needs, several of which are contrasting. Two of the contrasting needs are Certainty and Variety. Authors with an established platform meet our need for certainty. We know what to expect and don't tend to like it if they vary from the past too much. New authors meet our need for variety and change. My belief is that authors with a platform and those without an established platform both have equal significance in the market. The big difference is the numbers… there's a lot more without a platform than those with and I expect that's why the one's with a platform are given so much more weight and focus.

  • http://www.parablesofaprodigalworld.com Raffi Shahinian

    Mr. Hyatt:

    You may very well be the only person in publishing saying this at the moment. My agent and I have been shopping a NF manuscript endorsed by N.T. Wright (who called it "a remarkable book"), and the standard response, including 2 separate editors from Nelson, has been: wonderful, amazing, but in today's market, platform is everything. Some prominent agent/bloggers have voiced similar sentiments (e.g., here).

    Do you feel you're in the minority regarding this opinion?

    Grace and Peace,
    Raffi

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    And Dave also now has an ENORMOUS platform, both on radio and TV. However, his first book was self-published before he really had a platform. No one thought it would work. Now he gets the last laugh!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I think lot of editors tell agents and authors that it is all about the platform, because they are unwilling to tell them their book idea or manuscript is weak. If an editor gets a great manuscript and is passionate about it, he figures out the rest. That's how the books I mentioned in my post found their way into print. It certainly wasn't because of the platform.

    • Raffi Shahinian

      Ah, yes, a passionate editor….Boy, how I miss Joey Paul

      • http://www.twitter.com/danieldecker Daniel Decker

        I’d like to add a point to this. I don’t think Michael is saying it’s an either or scenario but more so that good, quality books, should be more of the focus than the platform alone. HOWEVER… if you are an author who does not have a platform but has a great message, you need to be building your platform so that your message has a greater opportunity to be heard. The comment about publishers looking for authors with platforms is in part true, not just a dodge by lit agents. The selection process has dwindled as publishers tighten their belts and try to focus on good books with a platform rather than just one or the other. For a publisher their ideal scenario is a good book with a solid platform but they will take a chance on a solid book from an author with no platform, just harder to make that happen so lit agents are less likely to pursue it. My opinion.

        • http://generatornetwork.com/blog Mike Rapp

          Excellent post, Daniel. Too many times artist and authors want the book company to provide the platform. Publishers are obviously far more interested in any deal that comes with a built-in marketing angle that they neither have to fund nor execute. (Of course, as Mike implies, these big platform-based deals are usually front-loaded with advance money, so the risk is often greater for the publisher.)

          Two well-known artists have become quite famous for developing their own platform (fan base) before ever seeking a record deal: John Legend and Dave Matthews. Both then dictated the terms of their deal, and had the cash to fund and control most of their marketing.

  • http://www.springswriters.blogspot.com Scoti Domeij

    Thank you for this encouraging post. It offers a sliver of hope to writers working diligently to break into publishing. As the director of a writing group, I hear writers wanting to give up because the pressure to build a platform disheartens them. All they want to do is pursue the passion God put in their hearts to write. The business part of writing overwhelms and irritates them. Building a platform is an incredible amount of work. Many writers don't know how or where to start. From getting bookings on radio shows to writing a press release, tip sheets or website copy, it’s a whole new writing exercise they need to master. I wrote an article “23 Planks to Build Your Writer’s Platform” at http://springswriters.blogspot.com/2009/03/buildi… that’s a platform checklist, how-to, and refers writers to books, articles and experts on platform building. And you are one of the experts I refer readers to, plus I plugged your blogger book review program and one of your authors.

  • http://www.bethjones.org beth

    whew! encouraging stuff…thanks for helping the little people. i love finding books or authors that actually have something to say…regardless of their platform. words are containers and it's nice to read words that contain something touched by God – something meaty, anointed, refreshing, life-changing, instructive – rather than the abundance of human fluff. it's great when God-called authors don't get lost in the crowd. i wonder if today's standards were in place back-in-the-day, would philemon have ever been published? jude? maybe not…hope more publishers take your approach…i'm just saying…

  • http://www.sharonball.com Sharon Ball

    What a relief it was to read your take on the emphasis placed on writers to have a platform. With most publishers pushing writers to build a platform, it's easy to focus on construction rather than writing. With your positive perspective, I'll go back to writing the best novel I can, and maintain my focus on stringing words together that I hope capture the heart.

  • Teri Smitih

    What a great encouragement to new writers! We need to direct more folks to this blog!

  • http://www.marlataviano.com Marla Taviano

    I'm with everybody else. This is super-encouraging.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    Yes, I totally agree with this. Authors can—and should—build a platform. It is not either/or. But it starts with the right product. This is something the author has 100% control over.

  • Colleen Coble

    What a refreshing comment to hear, Mike! I think it's even more true in fiction. It's all about word of mouth from a great story. Authors do the best they can with the online presence, but in the end, it's the story. A great story will trump weak writing too. There have been plenty of times I've shaken my head and thought, What made this book sell. And it's always story.

    You are so right about Same Kind Of Different As Me! I read it on the plane coming home from Dallas. I couldn't put it down. Inspiring!

  • http://timothyfish.blogspot.com Timothy Fish

    I see three things as being important for a book to sell, an author’s Expertise in the subject, public Recognition of that Expertise, and public Interest in the subject. (http://timothyfish.blogspot.com/2009/03/authors-p… When big name authors fail, I think it is either a case where people don’t expect them to know anything about their chosen subject, they have failed to demonstrate their expertise, or people don’t care about the subject.

  • http://cherylbarker.blogspot.com/ Cheryl Barker

    This sure helps put the platform issue in perspective and encourages hopeful authors like me not to neglect actual writing time while trying to build a platform. Wonderful encouragement — and hope! Thanks so much.

  • http://determined2.com PennySue

    Good information. To me being a good author, establishing the contents for a good book with a built up platform makes for a hope for a successful book.

    Like Colleen said its all about word of mouth, if the book is good reading the word will get around.

    More on writing a book can be found at Add value to social networking at http://determined2.com where members can more
    effectively work on lifestyle and resolutions.

    To be a successful writer it takes lots of dedication. I was amazed to find out what all it takes to write a book. Its just now setting down with a pen and paper, or a laptop pecking away, there is more details that has to be considered before even beginning to write.

  • http://downwritehonest.com Benji Zimmerman

    Josh McDowell. I think he has more books translated into other languages than any other author other than the Bible and Qur'an. Sure he has had a radio show and been on TV, but he has quietly sold millions and millions of just one book (More Than a Carpenter) let alone his 125+ other titles.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/mjrapp mjrapp

    On Rick Warren, I was privileged to work on the initial marketing launch campaign for The Purpose-Driven Life with Greg Stielstra at Zondervan. Folks forget that Warren's "platform" came from a book he had written over a decade earlier called The Purpose-Driven Church — which was released in 1973 and became a best-seller when Warren had no platform whatsoever.

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/mjrapp mjrapp

    On Rick Warren, I was privileged to work on the initial marketing launch campaign for The Purpose-Driven Life with Greg Stielstra at Zondervan. Folks forget that Warren's "platform" came from a book he had written in 1973 called The Purpose-Driven Church — which became a best-seller when Warren had no platform whatsoever.

  • http://www.startawildfire.com Rob Eagar

    Michael, great post today. However, I think defining an author's platform primarily by "media" presence is too narrow of a perspective. Several of the authors that I coach are quickly growing their platforms through high-traffic blogs, websites, consistent speaking engagements, newsletters, social networking, etc. Radio and TV exposure is great, but having your own show is unrealistic for most authors. Let's not forget that there are many ways outside of media for authors at all levels to grow a platform.

    For example, at the poorly-attended Christian Book Expo last weekend, my client, Lysa TerKeurst, was one of the few authors to have a constant line of people at her hour-long book-signing. Meanwhile, other best-selling authors were seen sitting at their booths with hardly anyone asking for an autograph. Lysa attributed her success to the power of her blog and email devotional that reaches thousands of women each day.

    Authors have more ways to build a platform than ever before. But, most of them limit their perspective too much and miss out on the full range of possibilities.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

      Rob, I couldn't agree more. The very definition of "platform" is changing. So is marketing for that matter. Best.

  • http://www.kimmirich.wordpress.com kimmi

    Great subject, Michael. Platform does seem to be the key to many in the publishing world along with strong marketability. This comes from my own experience – feelings with my manuscript to publication journey.

    Unbelievably, I assumed I had to have platform before publication. Scratch that, I knew my obstacles –knew platform would be very important during the time I sought publication. But what I needed, aside from good writing (which I hope it is) was to tap into my book’s premise and become creative with nurturing and meticulously building a platform along the way.

    It was not easy, but then, neither was the whole writing journey; however I strongly feel I have succeeded with gaining platform. And it grows larger every day. I don’t twitter, I don’t facebook, but I have gained an audience. My book made top headlines with a newspaper last week that has a paper and on line reach of over four million. This of course, meant sells to the publisher. I continue to work hard — build my platform and I’m shooting for four billion.
    : D

  • http://cba-ramblings.blogspot.com Rachelle

    I am going to expand on this in a future blog post, but… while I agree that it isn't all about platform, and it also isn't an either/or proposition, I think writers are going to get the wrong idea here and start thinking platform only means "media." It doesn't. Platform also means credentials, experience in the topic, public speaking, writing credits such as magazine articles, etc. There are plenty of non-fiction topics that don't require a big MEDIA platform to sell well, but DO require some kind of credentials and/or solid experience in the topic being written about.

    For example, publishers are saying no to most parenting books written by people who are simply good writers who have been parents themselves. They want some kind of "professional" like a child development expert or even a nanny or an extraordinary parent of ten or more children.

    • http://www.kimmirich.wordpress.com kimmi

      I agree, Rachel. It is not all about media. But this does help. A lot. As well, educating yourself, others and becoming a better speaker on your topic and seeking creative ways to promote your book, thus contributing — building your platform.

  • Rachelle

    I agree with you, Mike, that it's not all about the platform, which is why I've signed quite a few clients who are amazing writers and have terrific books but no platform. Our agency has sold quite a few in this category. However, just as often, we hear, "Great book, not enough platform, sorry."

    This is a difficult subject to pin down. There are countless variables, and every situation is different. I want to encourage writers that if they are writing on a non-fiction topic, they need to relentlessly ask themselves, "Why would someone buy a book on this topic written by ME as opposed to someone else? Am I doing everything I can to become the expert? Am I doing everything I can to begin reaching my audience with my message?"

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/michaelhyatt Michael Hyatt

    I think you are making an important distinction, Rachelle. I agree with it. I also think it's never been easier to build a media platform that matters. It is not that difficult to build a following via a blog or Twitter. You don't have to buy tons of radio or TV team. However, you do have to have something insightful and relevant to say. The same is true in books. Thanks!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Beaconhillnw Jim

    clive cussler ranked top of 300k+

  • http://www.blomerus.org Marysol

    As a peon reader & buyer of books, may I add my two cents: I often don't buy a book by an "over platformed" author. I prefer content by a no-name author if the material is good.

  • Jim Ramsbottom

    I'm new to Christian publishing but old to the motion picture industry and even older to Christendom. All three have similar emphases on the priority of the story, best espoused by Shakespeare, "The play's the thing" – Jesus, "Seek first the kingdom (message and Messenger)… and all these things will be added unto you" – and SIr Richard Attenborough, "There's nothing more imporant in the movies than the screenplay." The steak remains long after the sizzle fizzles.

    Certainly a platform is helpful but I'll take the radically inspired new-timer to the confident and cozy veteran. Fire over formula.

    I am so glad that there are those around who still believe in the awesome power of the story and in the God's ability to create word of mouth, open new and innovative marketing methods, and move men the way mere men cold never think to market.

  • http://www.suedent.blogspot.com Sue Dent

    "This is why I believe would-be authors would do well to focus on those aspects of the publishing process they can control. That begins with writing the best manuscript possible."

    As an author who did focus on writing the best manuscript possible and even went a step further to have that MS professionally edited before submitting, I can agree whole-heartedly with the above statement. Sure the edit cost me my first born but that was the last edit I had to pay for. I was picked up by a small publisher and published by a growing mid-range publisher with my sequel.

    No. You don't have to work that hard on your MS but you better know the other guy sure is.

    And I hardly agree with whoever it was that said The Shack was badly written. Everyone will have their opinion on that. Seems like majority rules here though. So many just can't stand it when a self-published book does what The Shack has done. And then to have Hatchette Books help Mr. Young get into distribution with Ingram/Spring Arbor so he could get in Christian Bookstores. Gotta love it! I know I do.

  • http://www.christinakatz.com/ Christina Katz

    I think Mr. Hyatt makes a mistake by thinking that an emphasis on platform means a de-emphasis on quality writing. Quality writing is always primary for writers, whether aspiring to publication or already well-known. In fact, I would go further and say that all writers must develop four skills in order to succeed in today's evolving marketplace. Those skills are: writing well, selling your words, professional development and platform building.

    I've written a book on platform development but I never said that platform was more important than any of these other three skills. I've been teaching writers for seven years and I can tell you that most of the teaching emphasis is on craft, which leaves first time authors in a terrible position when it comes time to market their books and promote themselves.

    Is craft important? Of course, it is. Always has been always will be. And I can't imagine anyone asserting that craft doesn't matter. But as little as a year ago, not enough people were talking about the importance of platform…and now they are. And I don't see how this can be anything but a good thing.

    Christina Katz
    Author of Get Known Before the Book Deal, Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow An Author Platform from Writer's Digest Books

  • http://www.intensedebate.com/people/davidpleach davidpleach

    Mike, I'm not sure the word "platform" is as strong an idea today (though I know it's been around publishing for decades) as is Seth Godin's "tribe." Godin demonstrates that a large tribe can make some huge things happen, including move a book.

    It seems to me the better questions to be asking are: How large is the author's tribe? How loyal or even rabid are they? Can they be motivated to scoop up whatever he/she is selling? How do you motivate this tribe?

    And perhaps the most important question for today's marketers and publicists: What can we do to enlarge and energize the author's tribe? If we can help the author expand his or her tribe, book sales will follow.

    It's probably worth noting the huge difference between an author who makes his or her living by writing and an "author" who has a day job doing something else–for whom a book is an extension of their larger field of concentration. They build tribes in very different ways.

  • http://www.amyeslater.com Amy Slater

    I was just thinking about this the other day. Mostly, I was feeling very discouraged. It seems one must have a platform before getting published. Your post is a huge encouragement to me to keep working hard, keep writing, keep practicing…

    "This is why I believe would-be authors would do well to focus on those aspects of the publishing process they can control. That begins with writing the best manuscript possible. If the author doesn’t do that, then the size of the media platform is irrelevant."

    These are words to chew on!

  • davidcalves

    Frank Peretti? Who had ever heard of him before "This Present Darkness?"

    In the early or mid-seventies, Kenneth Tyndale's "Living Bible" found no publisher willing to take a chance. If my memory serves me correctly, he shopped that manuscript around to 5 or 6 publishers. He finally had to become his own publisher. That's why to this day Tyndale Publishers stays opened to writers that can't find a publisher.

    Why would any author–who writes an important book, who works hard to get it into the hands of readers, and who develops some sort of platform on his/her own–want to share that with a publisher whose "platform" policy makes it clear that they are unwilling to invest or risk anything, with that author? Who needs fair-weather friends? I do not fully understand publishing, but common sense begs the question: what use is a publisher to an already popular and successful author? All she needs at that point is a reprographics company who can keep up with demand.

    Lottery winners are smart not to trust new found friends. They do best to trust their instincts and the loyal friends who were with them from the start.

    The Christian writer and publisher must remain open to other considerations that secular publishers need not consider–God's will for effective ministry and for building the body of Christ. We will be held responsible for more than the bottom line. How much of our "business" is sensitive to the needs of ministry and guidance of the Holy Spirit? God uses the little known and despised things to confound the wise. He often raises up the least likely. We look on the outside. He looks on the inside. He purposely counters our too often worldly perspectives. Therefore, if we don't want to miss what He is doing, we need to stay sensitive to his leading, as well as to our formulas for success. He may choose to bypass them (as in The Shack and many other titles that surprised those who had their eyes on the bottom line).

    Fortunately for us, many of the greatest authors in literature had publishers that knew that writers write and publishers market–its a partnership. The great publishing houses became such because they knew that first books were investments. Author and publisher needed each other. They took chances together in order to impact their world, because they believed in the message. And each had his own responsibilities and expertise. They were co-workers.

    An increasing number of today's publishers appear to want a guaranteed return on someone else's investment. Though some know better and continue to believe in important books.

    My guess is that if the current publishing trend continues, more and more authors will find alternate ways to publish and use the internet to find an audience. After all, word of mouth has always been and will continue to be the most effective form of advertising. Couple that with exploding internet populations. We have not yet seen the full potential of the internet in marketing.

  • http://www.rachelheldevans.com Rachel H. Evans

    I'm with Rachelle on this, not only because she's my agent, but because I think she's right – it's not an either/or thing. Writers shouldn't get a pass from working on platform because they have a strong idea or show promising talent. Nor should folks with a platform get a pass from writing a good book because they are famous…although this has been known to happen from time to time. :-)

    Mike, I suspect that what you're getting at is Seth Godin's "purple cow" concept. You've got to have a strong strong idea. Then you've got to get the message out. http://www.sethgodin.com/purple/

    The great thing about living in the Information Age is that the very best "purple cows" can break out of the pen and romp around – with or without an official platform!

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  • http://www.adesignsovast.com Lindsey

    This is reassuring – as an aspiring author it's sometimes daunting to feel that the platform trumps all (even good writing). Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/KarynBrownlee @KarynBrownlee

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. It is encouraging to little fish like me.

  • Calin

    First books coming to my mind is Good to Great or Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Not living in USA I am not 100% sure the authors did not have a strong platform as TV coverage, but I guessed Internet would have helped me to track back their platform if there was any.

  • http://twitter.com/katdish @katdish

    Good advice. Write the best book you can. The writing must come first. Building a great platform won't give you much staying power if the writing is weak. The best case scenario (IMO) is to not go it alone. Find an advocate who believes in your work and is willing to help you with the aspects of this business that don't come naturally to you, but are almost second nature to them.
    My recent post Fishing for Answers (by Billy Coffey)

  • http://www.kellylangston.com Kelly Langston

    Another thank you from me. Regarding the post, sometimes I get frustrated with all of the hype to establish a platform and "get my name out there." (This opinion comes from someone whose career is based on marketing!) But the truth is, I don't want readers to remember me…I'd rather leave them with a message that they can't get out of their heads. A message that, with God's help – will change their life for the better. I write to fill a need that I can personally connect with in some intense way: What is God taking me through, what am I learning and does anyone else deal with this need? If so, write! I still see so many needs that remain unfulfilled in terms of book topics. The topics are out there! My first publishing deal came from pouring out my heart and soul about my son's autism in blog posts. Parents connected with those posts because they were hurting like me, seaching for encouragement and answers that God was ready to provide. God opened the doors, I didn't, nor did a platform. And strangely, that's the only way I want it.

  • http://www.moonboatcafe.com Cassandra Frear

    Very sensible thoughts here. Readers won't pay money to buy books that don't engage them. At least, they won't buy very many of them and they certainly won't recommend them to their friends. Books that are well crafted, that inspire and enrich, that fire the imagination will grow in their influence over time and continue to sell.

    It's not about the next dollar, after all. It's about vision and craft and excellence in both. I like this. I like it very much.

  • http://www.marydemuth.com Mary DeMuth

    Great reminder about writing a book that resonates. The best, most successful books deal with a universal need. And they best sell by word of mouth. It's hard to orchestrate that, though. Which is why media is helpful. It elevates the possibility that a book will have more exposure, thus increasing word of mouth, IF IT IS A WORTHY BOOK.

  • Lana Vaughan

    No platform but working on the content that will make a difference.

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  • Nicole

    This is the same book I thought of.

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  • http://willfjohnston.com Will Johnston

    If I’m not mistaken, Rick Warren didn’t have a significant media platform before writing Purpose Driven Life. He had a large congregation, which I’m sure bought books, but I doubt he was all that popular until his book became popular.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Actually, he had a HUGE platform through Pastors.com. He had also written the Purpose Driven Church, which sold in excess of 500,000 copies.

      • http://willfjohnston.com Will Johnston

        Ha, shows what I know :)

  • http://twitter.com/joesheehan Joe Sheehan

    I believe that true success for an author can come from both the content and platform – success with one does not make the other irrelevant. Paul Graham is a great tech writer whose essays are very well read (http://www.paulgraham.com/) no matter how simple his platform is. Some writers will use ever aspect that their particular platform allows. But no matter what, an author is only as good as their writing is.

  • http://www.BrandieLagarde.com Brandie Lagarde

    Love this post! I think building a platform is also being in the right place at the right time for someone to notice you. My self-published book came out right before Christmas and I have been lucky to been recently asked to write a novilization for a script that Universal is very interested in making into two movies, so two books. I live near Anne Rice and when the scriptwriters were turned down by her, because she said she now only writes what God directs her to write, they asked me. I have been slowly trying to build a platform and I found myself on the finalists list for UP Authors first chapter contest, so good writing is a must. It is just nice to know that someone of your standing in the business is saying these great words of encouragement!

  • http://www.allgroanup.com Paul Angone

    Ah yes, which comes first the chicken or the book.

    Not sure too be honest.

    I think Mr. Hyatt you’re right if you have a publisher still willing to risk and have the courage to not only go with their gut but also put some money behind it. And as the economy tanked, publishers guts seemed to be replaced with Top Ramen and Strawberry Jello.

    Now there’s still the Thomas Nelson’s out there taking those risks…but…how many Blue Like Jazz’s have been passed up in the meantime…

  • http://successbeginstoday.org/wordpress John Richardson

    Malcolm Gladwell seems to have the word of mouth concept down. I’ve heard more about his books from others than any other publications on the market. I always look forward to his amazing way of looking at things. Great writing (and thinking) sell very well.

  • http://www.nancyjcommunications.blogspot.com Nanc

    Only two words to comment. Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    I am guessing probably the author who has sold the most without much of any platform is William Young — The Shack.  I love this post because it gives us aspiring authors who have a small platform a tinsy bit of hope.  

  • Mike Waggoner

    Wow. With all due respect, one blog you posted recently sang the praises of an author establishing a “platform” and now this one says a “platform” is not all that important. As an aspiring writer, and having just self-published a book within that past 3 months, I am confused. Which is it…important or not important?
    I also have the utmost confidence in my book and think it would do quite well if I had the cash to back me with PR. By word of mouth and Facebook as well as emails, I have sold about 12 copies of the eBook and about 40 copies of the print edition. I could only imagine how many lives could be touched by what I wrote if I had a better platform…or, in light of this blog post, would they really? 

    • Eric von Mizener

      It’s also how hard you work it, Mike. I self-pubbed a pair of poetry books back in the 90’s and sold nearly 300 copies. It was just shear hard work (and finding myself at up to six poetry readings a week). My platform may have been nonexistent, but I got myself in front of the right audience.

  • Glede Kabongo

    Thank you for writing this article. The publishing industry does a pretty good job of scaring new authors, so much so that even if the writing is stellar, we get worried because we’ve been bombarded with the message that we need a platform.  

  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    It’s good to be encouraged to focus on something other than building a platform all of the time. Maybe things have changed a little bit in the last two years since this was post, but still good advice.

  • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

    So if you don’t have a platform you better have incredible content, but if you have good content it’s best to have a platform and be ready to market the book?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      In my opinion, you should have both. Most things in life are not either/or.

      • http://byrdmouse.com Jonathan

        Having both takes the risk out. Otherwise it’s like walking in and plunking down everything you have on one number and not watching the spin of the wheel-you get paid 36:1, but only if you win and the odds are not in your favor.

  • http://findinggodsfingerprints.wordpress.com/ EricaMcNeal

    Just about to submit my final galley for Good Grief! to WestBow… appreciate this post Mike!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com Barry Hill

      Erica,
      Congratulations! That’s amazing.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Awesome, Erica. Congratulations!

    • http://www.jmlalonde.com Joe Lalonde

      Congrats Erica!

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      Congrats, Erica! Quite an accomplishment!

  • Kennisha Hill

    “Heaven is for real.” I don’t remember seeing much media publicity about it and the little boy certainly wasn’t a celebrity. His story was powerful and encouraging and it was written incredibly well!

    Kennisha

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yep, it was definitely an exception—one in a million.

  • http://www.philippknoll.com/ Philipp Knoll

    This is a very interesting thought and my mind was circling around something similar. Do modern authors seek fast / overnight (even when I acknowledge that there normally have been month spent prior to publishing) too much. Do authors turn to entrepreneurs building a product with an exit strategy already in mind?

    I strongly believe that a platform is necessary to take things to an even higher level. Nothing promotes you stronger than a loyal fan base promoting voluntarily. But, of course, you must not underestimate a community. They are not stupid and well aware of their own reputation. Only a quality product will be picked up and be promoted.

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  • http://www.insearchofthecity.com/ Joshua Lawson

    It’s an obvious point when you think about it: What good is a platform thousands of readers strong when the content isn’t remarkeable? All the marketing and networking in the world can’t hide the fact that the product, whatever it is, is less than stellar. Quality is what counts above all else.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Yep, I couldn’t agree more. The first 20% of my book platform is about this very fact.
      BUT, it’s not either or. A great product without a platform will just languish in obscurity. It really takes both today.
      Thanks for commenting.

      • http://www.insearchofthecity.com/ Joshua Lawson

        So it seems. I recently finished Platform, by the way. Great job and thanks for making it available!

    • http://theordainedbarista.com/ Barry Hill

      Joshua,
      Great point! Michael always says that stellar content is still king but Platform is queen! Love that!

  • http://KellyLevatino.com/ Kelly Levatino

    One Thousand Gifts. Holy moly, Voskamp wrote a great one while living on a farm and homeschooling 6 kids… no platform, just an amazing story/concept that blew up the NYT for over a year!