Three Reasons Why Authors Must Develop Their Own Platforms

In order for authors to be successful in today’s publishing environment, they need two things: a compelling product and a significant platform. Many authors are under the mistaken notion that if they just write a great book that is sufficient. It’s not.

A DIver Standing on a Platform - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Graffizone, Image #1828518

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/Graffizone

I received an email message a few days ago from an aspiring author. It is typical of what I hear on a weekly basis. She wrote,

Two respected agents have told me they loved my book and proposal and are willing to represent it, but not until I have social media followers numbering in the thousands. I find this bewildering: Doesn’t a good book stand on its own anymore? Are writers now doomed to spend the bulk of our workdays trawling for blog subscribers?

The answer to the first question is, “no.” A good book does not stand on its own. It is foundational, but it is not enough. In fact, it hasn’t been enough for at least two decades.

As I often tell authors, “Writing a great book is half the job. The other half is promoting it.” This is true now more than ever. Why? Three reasons:

  1. Competition has never been greater. There are more books available now than ever before in history. According to Google’s research, nearly 130 million books have been published in all of modern history.

    Bowker, the service that assigns ISBN numbers to books, reports that more than 1 million new books were published in 2009 in the U.S. alone. While the number of books released by traditional publishers remained flat (about 288,000 titles in 2009), the number of self-published titles rose from 2008 by 181% to 765,000 titles. The numbers for 2010 have yet to be released. I am confident, however, the number will be even larger.

  2. People are more distracted than ever. It’s not just that we have more books available. We have more of every kind of media available. More movies. More television channels. More radio stations, podcasts, and the Sirius satellite radio network. More news sites, blogs, and, of course, Facebook, and Twitter. And then, of course, we have the whole phenomenon of Angry Birds, FarmVille, and other games.

    In other words, people’s attention is a finite resource. Authors are not only competing against other books on their topic and genre, they are also competing against every other media that wants a slice of their prospective reader’s attention.

  3. The publishing industry is stuck in an old model. I hate to admit this, because it is my industry. But most publishers are still focused on trying to find an audience for each new title rather than helping their authors build an enduring platform. Seth Godin was the first to get my attention on this, primarily through his book Tribes, which I highly recommend.

    But as an author, I wouldn’t assume that publishers will suddenly change and begin helping you build your platform. You must take responsibility for this yourself. If you can get help from your publisher, great. But in the meantime, re-calibrate your expectations. No one cares about your platform more than you. You must, therefore, carefully build it and nurture it. Done right, it will be an asset that will generate income for years to come.

The bottom line is that the time to build a platform is before you need it. Once you begin shopping a book proposal or once your book is published, it is too late. The good news is that it has never been easier. More on that later.

Question: What are you doing to actively build your platform? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

    I was told this very thing by a major publisher about the Bible study I wrote and self-published. “You have great content, but you have no name recognition.”

    That gave me cause to pause and really examine my goals. As I watch big name Bible study teachers, I see so much idol worship (yes, I said idol worship) being directed toward them. It is distasteful to me and I would be horrified to think anyone put me on a pedestal (not that anyone would). All that to say, I’m not sure I WANT name recognition. I really just want to POINT others to Jesus through my writing and speaking. It the Lord chooses to increase my name recognition, I will bend my knee to it, but if not, I’m happy walking through the doors He opens.

    With that said, I try to offer readers things that will speak into their lives and urge them to press into Jesus with greater intensity. If that builds my platform, then it is the Lord working through the ministry He has assigned to me.

    • Timothy Fish

      Leah,

      You make a very good point. I believe there is a lot of idol worship in Christianity today. People choose their favorite preacher based on how big his teeth are instead of paying attention to how he divides the word of truth.

      That being said, I can see where it would be difficult for a major publisher to be interested in a Bible study that doesn’t come from one of those idols. People who purchase Bible studies want to know that they can trust what is said about the scriptures. Major publishers have a very broad doctrinal statement (if any at all), so people realize that two authors from the same publisher could say two very different things.

      • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

        Mr. Fish,

        I just know that the Lord has snatched me up by the hair of my head so many times over pride that I never want to force Him to do it again. I fear that if I did have even a modicum of name recognition it would go to my head so fast that it would be just ugly. Pride is so insidious and the worst of it is when it happens to those of us in ministry. Lord, have mercy. I don’t want to get hung up on me instead of Jesus.

        • Joe Schmitter

          Leah,

          You’re right to be wary of being prideful. Those appetites that we struggle with when we have little influence will OWN us when we are more powerful IF we don’t learn to control them.

          At the same time, don’t fall into the trap of believing the Lord can’t change you & that you try to control them by yourself. If the Lord has called you to write Bible studies, then do it with ALL your heart & soul. BE the person you were created to be. Build a solid core of trusted friends/spiritual mentors who will help keep you in line. And always examine your motivations. Jesus has redeemed us. We are called to go and take territory for God. Don’t be shy about your calling! Go for it!

        • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

          Leah, I agree wholeheartedly. I had the same problem when I was Lifestyles Editor of my local paper. I was so grateful God called it to my attention and then helped me to realize what I was doing. Even though I was dedicating each day just to Him and asking Him to guide my writing, I still fell into the pride trap. It is so easy to get tripped up by that live wire.

          • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

            It’s tue Gina when you say that pride and self boasting prevent us from heeding to His voice and guidance.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        True Timothy! Several times I have experienced myself two authors from the same publisher saying two very different things.

  • Timothy Fish

    I’m not sold on this platform thing, especially this part about “it’s never been easier.” The thing I find interesting is that the people who keep saying that it has never been easier are literary agents and publishers who in fact do have thousands of blog followers, but when we look at who is following them, we find that their platform is made up of the thousands of people who are hoping to sell a book.

    I believe there is still great value in pushing the individual book instead of looking for a tribe. With sites like Amazon.com, if I purchase one book, the site is likely to suggest that I consider another book that is by another author on the same subject. And I just might buy it because I’m more interested in the subject than I am in the author. The same is true with fiction. There are some plots that resonate with me more than others. I may not want to read more books by the same author, but I might want to read books by other authors with the same plot.

    • http://twitter.com/RosalieMarsh Rosalie Marsh.Author

      It ‘has never been easier’ in relation to digital publishing on Amazon although a bit daunting initially. However the writing is the easy part. The marketing aspect is essential and social media plays a large part in getting you and your product known.
      As regards reading the same author regardless. That does not always work. I recently read a book from an international long standing author (for the name) and found a load of drivel and not the standard in earlier years. Or perhaps my tastes have changed?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Perhaps I should clarify: It is not easy, but it is easier. Twenty years ago, you have to pay big money to get the word out. You had to have a radio show, a TV show, or a newspaper column—or hire someone who could get you on one. Now with blogs and social media, you have a chance of reaching your core audience directly. Guys like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tim Ferriss, and Seth Godin are good examples of this.

      • Timothy Fish

        Mike,

        I see your point, but I can’t help but think that we’re spending just as much in terms of resources today as we did twenty years ago, but today they are spread farther and used more inefficiently. Most of the authors I know have a blog. We’re all doing all trying to stand out from the crowd. But the fact is that most of the authors I know, even some of those who are fairly well known have fewer than 200 people who follow their blog. And that’s just what the stats say. Who can guess how many actually read their blogs on a daily basis. It is probably less than that. So there are thousands of us who are spending hours of our time writing posts for 25 to 50 people, most of whom aren’t interested in buying a book. If the point is to build a platform, it seems like a whole lot of people are wasting a lot of energy doing something that will never produce a platform.

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          What is the alternative?

          • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

            That’s my question to you, Michael. This sounds to me like a Catch-22 situation.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I don’t think there is an alternative. If you are waiting on someone else to make it happen, you’re probably in for a disappointment. In my opinion, the best publishing relationships happen when the publisher and the author leverage their platforms to create something bigger than either of them could do on their own.

          • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

            There is an alternative Mike. It’s to live under the idea that his platform thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, not invest in building it and thus never have it. :) For most of the authors I work with, that alternative isn’t satisfactory.

            As I read this comment stream I couldn’t help but think about being poor vs rich. There are some who are poor who look at the rich and say, “Oh, well it’s easier for them because they have it all. It’s not fair and I can’t make it because I don’t have the same resources they do.” They don’t realize most of those who have it took YEARS to obtain it with lots of defeats along the way.

            Then there are others who are poor who say, “I want to have more so I will work hard, do whatever it takes, and keep fighting my way up.” They find a way.

            I think it’s obvious to know who has a better chance of succeeding.

            The industry is not perfect. Some great books never get the attention they deserve. Some horrible books, with great marketing, get more attention than they deserve. It’s just how it is but the platform is what sets things apart (in most cases). On the other hand, books like “Heaven is For Real” can take off without much of a platform because the story was compelling enough to do so and the platform built itself by word of mouth more than anything.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            Thanks for this perspective, Daniel. I think you are spot-on.

        • http://www.bradandlindsey.com Brad Bridges

          Tim, I think you are asking some helpful questions (ie the best ideas are always questioned). With all due respect to your powerful questions, I’m not sure I could completely agree that writing posts for 25-50 people is a waste of time. If the only goal is book publication, then perhaps you are right on. However, there are many other benefits to blogging that lie outside of the book deal (ie creative outlet, impact on small segment of society, contribution to society in general, organizational content, email marketing content of which I’m sure you are aware already).

          One other point is that just as there are thousands of bloggers who write and never make it to the publisher, I believe there were equally as many writers in the past who used paper or typewriters and never made it to the publisher. The difference today being that even though they weren’t able to publish that content in a book, they still can publish publicly online and make more impact that a pile of dusty papers in a box on top of their oak desk. I’d like to see more bloggers creating helpful and useful content (ie good bloggers will end up publishing, just as good pen and paper writers will likely end up publishing….its just different mediums with tremendously differences in terms of accessibility to the market. 

          Regarding subscribers, although having 164K subscribers can demonstrate a significant platform and reach in society, there are also other useful metrics. For example, there are a couple new sites I visit regularly but never subscribe to them. The page views I create by reading their material surely counts are part of their impact/reach/audience although I contribute nothing in terms of subscribers. 

          What ideas do you have for how the thousands of bloggers with 25-50 subscribers each could leverage one another’s platform/audience? 

      • http://www.facebook.com/lindylou.abbott Lindy Abbott

        Pete Wilson is a great example. I love reading his blog and finding out what is going on in his church/life because he is so authentic!

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Yes, he is the real deal.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I agree with what you’re saying. I’m relatively new at blogging, and I’m finding that it really takes a lot of work, too.

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        And a lot of consistency. I am new at blogging as well, and I am finding that there is a lot more to it, to make it good and to get people connected with it, than what I understood before I started the process.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          Definitely!

    • http://www.facebook.com/lindylou.abbott Lindy Abbott

      Timothy, All we have to do is to be true to who we are and obedient to God. He is quite big enough to take care of everything and to tell us what He wants us to do. While we should be involved in our field (writing) we don’t need to lift ourselves up. As we go down on our knees lifting God up, He promises to lift us up when He desires.

      • http://www.creativetypespress.com/ Mrs. Hill

        Lindy, so true. I depend on Him and what He does in my life and don’t worry about the rest.

  • http://twitter.com/iwritereadrate iWriteReadRate.com

    Hi Michael. Great article, I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s absolutely key for writers/aspiring authors to develop their own fan base and following to get their personality and ideas out into the world. In a lot of ways this has never been easier, but as you say competition has never been greater.

    The great opportunity out there for aspiring authors is that the Internet enables global distribution, which previously was impossible except through the major publishers. It goes without saying (almost) that the traditional industry are going to want (more & more) proof of the market for Indie work, and platforms like ours and social network in general are really useful tools in any writers toolbox to prove this.

    I personally think that most well written work will find an enthusiastic audience out there, it’s just a matter of reaching that particular niche. In the new world, a writer may not need to sell millions of copies (not with the vastly increased commissions available through Indie Publishing), and what becomes ‘successful’ will hopefully become more democratic through using Indie Publishing platforms.

    Thanks – enjoyed reading it.

    Adam
    http://www.iWriteReadRate.com

  • http://twitter.com/RosalieMarsh Rosalie Marsh.Author

    I find the stats. on self-publishing interesting. After all if your book is not out there no-one is going to buy it at all. In the present economic climate it is understandable that traditional publishers are seeking a fairly guaranteed captive audience before signing up an author. But is this fair to the author?
    Self-publishing is losing its stigma – if done properly. As an author my goals for my travel books are to inspire others to take the plunge and push back the boundaries as we did on our Gold Wing motorbike in middle-age for exmple. For my personal development books currently under production, my goal is to encourage all to achieve their potential as a person as well as professionally. Therefore, in common with the two comments below, I wish people to want the content and gain something from it, although would be nice if they bought for my name!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think it is so much about buying it because of your name, but because for that audience you have become a trusted authority or advisor. That’s really what building a platform is about.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Rosalie, I don’t think it’s so much about the name of the author but of the trust you have built up with your audience. If I see your book in the bookstore but have no idea who you are, I’m less likely to purchase the book. However, if I have followed you, read a couple of articles you posted, heard about you from other trusted people, I’m much more likely to pick up your book.

      I think by building up an audience, you get people to want the content you provide because they feel they’ll gain from it.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        This is exactly right, Joe.

  • http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/ Jody Hedlund

    Hi Michael,

    I don’t see you differentiating between fiction and non-fiction authors in your post. Wouldn’t you say that platform-building is less imperative for debut fiction writers? That while it’s good, it’s not as critical in clinching a book deal (if it even plays a factor at all)? When I signed with my publisher, they didn’t really give my platform all that much consideration (and it was quite small at the time). Do you think that’s changing for fiction-writers?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I think it is less important for fiction writers. That’s where I think a publisher is more likely to have an existing platform that they can plug you into.

      • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

        I’ve been a member of Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for five years now. (I read at least a book a week, sometimes more.) Established publishing houses are not consistent in quality fiction anymore. I remember when paperbacks cost 50 cents, and I’d spend most of my allowance on books. My mom could trust that whatever I bought would not be pornographic, but today, that isn’t the case at all. Christian fiction is trustworthy in that respect, however there are some truly “edgy” books out there.

        This is why avid readers want to know who the author is before they buy a book. There is no sure fire way to find a truly gifted author, one that I want to spend hard-earned money on.

        The huge problem is coming up with something completely fresh for blogs, Facebook, Shoutlife.com, plus writing my columns for Everyday Christian.com and Studylight.org, while writing and editing my new book. However, I realize establishing a good following on those sites is imperative to a good marketing plan. Twitter is good for peaking the interest of others and drawing them to my blog.

      • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

        I’m not so sure. I watch authors like Ted Dekker and others. I see them doing tons of promotions, way more than a lot of non-fiction authors. It seems to me that fiction may be a harder genre to sell sometimes, because if you write a story that isn’t as good as some of your others, people jump out of your following. With non-fiction, if I disagree, I still realize that it’s quality content.

        • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

          Interesting point. If it is non-fiction, I am looking for nuggets of truth and will stick with a book to see it through – not wanting to miss anything – even if the writing is not superb or story-line is a little weak. With a fiction book, if the story is not quickly compelling, it is much easier for me to leave the book and not feel like I am going to miss out.

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            Exactly!

          • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

            With a non-fiction, I may or may not stick through it to the end. It depends upon the theology in the work. If it is closely biblical and something I haven’t studied or thought about, I’ll read every word because it is thought provoking. However, it is truly scary to purchase an unknown author’s work because nowadays, it is so hard to actually believe the back cover blurbs.

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            I do end up being pretty careful/particular with the non-fiction books that I read. Every book that I have bought recently has been either from a known author and/or recommended by trusted friends. As well, I usually end up reading many reviews of the book to get an idea of what’s inside before I purchase a book.

          • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

            Steven, I understand! I have a problem of throwing out the baby with the bath water. If a statement or premise in a book is contrary to Biblical principles, I have a tendency to toss the whole thing. I’ve been working on that because no one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Why toss 299 excellent study because one page has a mistake (I’m not talking typos, just a theological misstep.)

        • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

          I agree, Jeff. The problem I see with established authors (not Ted Dekker, but some with 3 or 4 published works) is they get lazy, or they have to get books out too fast to make the storyline flow superbly.

          • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

            Ted Dekker seems to be a master at promoting his stuff. And his work is quality! But there are several others that I could point to who do exactly as you’ve said: they push the books out too fast and compromise on quality writing.

      • http://mirrorsandwindowsnow.blogspot.com/ Alicha McHugh

        Thank you, Jody, for asking and giving great encouragement in this area. Thank you, Michael, for clarifying. I wrote the following before I read this, so I’ll just post it here for anyone else in the same boat.

        ~~~Disturbing post today, Michael…disturbing like a convicting sermon is disturbing. :) ~~~~

        My MS is in the hands of several major publishers and a couple of small ones, but I feel rather like a nervous second grader rooting around in her book bag while the teacher stands over, watching ~ alternatively trying not to laugh or scream at me. I know my homework’s not in there, but I keep up the pretense of struggling to find it because, for as long as my teacher allows the “game” to continue, I can “enjoy” the time before the trouble begins.

        This weekend I had the second largest audience on my blog post “My Daughter’s Eyes”. There were between 27-30 page views. The largest audience came on the post about meeting my biological father for the first time…it didn’t reach 100 page views. Now, while I’m absolutely positive that hundreds of thousands will rush to read my book (every author should have this firm belief in their story…if they don’t, they don’t need to be marketing it yet), I’m thrilled there are that many friends taking the time to read my occasional, private musings.

        Part of me wants to believe you are mostly, only, probably just taking to non-fiction writers. But OH that other part of me feels the whole publishing industry staring down while I punch keys and make a great show of looking for a platform…that I know is not there. Am I “in trouble” ?

        Thanks for the kick-off to the week, Michael. Looking forward to your “More on that later.”

        (BTW~ have passed along the “How your next speech…” link to three family members, all in public speaking fields. One is the speech writer for a division of HP’s Executive CEO. She seemed excited to read it/watch it!)

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Thanks, Alicha. I appreciate you passing along my other post.

    • Joe Lalonde

      I follow one fiction author, Ted Dekker, on Facebook and he seems to be doing things right. He engages the audience, builds up interest in his latest books, and provides some great content. It builds a lot of interest for me to pick up his books due to this.

      I think it can be a great help for fiction authors to build a community. It helps spread the word of your work, grabs the attention of potential customers, and makes the customers feel connected to the author.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Yes, I agree. I think Ted is using social media in an excellent way. So are Colleen Coble and Mary DeMuth.

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Yes, I agree. I think Ted is using social media in an excellent way. So are Colleen Coble and Mary DeMuth.

    • Joe Lalonde

      I follow one fiction author, Ted Dekker, on Facebook and he seems to be doing things right. He engages the audience, builds up interest in his latest books, and provides some great content. It builds a lot of interest for me to pick up his books due to this.

      I think it can be a great help for fiction authors to build a community. It helps spread the word of your work, grabs the attention of potential customers, and makes the customers feel connected to the author.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    Great post.

    Invaluable advice for authors starting out.

    • http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com womenlivingwell

      It is true that a platform is easier now than ever. I started blogging without realizing I was building a tribe or platform. It was a fun hobby where my heart overflowed and I got feedback from like minded women.

      Then when a Rachael Ray producer called- I realized – oh my – I might be on to something. Recently, I’ve been retweeted by some women in big circles -a Hollywood actress who is a household name, the wife of a Nashville hit singer – who is a household name also. Their following numbers are large…and it makes me realize that just working hard at daily putting out my thoughts – if done well – can be found by other like minded women anywhere on the globe and they’ll spread the word and do some marketing for you just by their retweets!

      But I first must labor hard – waking early tap tap tap, tweeting, facebooking, staying up late tap tap tap. Faithfully daily answering comments and emails – and in its own time I have begun to see that my little blog can make a difference in others lives – and that is fulfilling!
      Courtney

      • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

        Great example, Courtney. You are doing important work. Keep it up!

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

        You bring up a good point, Courtney. It takes time and effort to build a tribe. So many people that I know put up a blog or Facebook page but don’t have the time for follow through. Keep up the great work. Your labor is paying off!

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        It makes a great difference when you say – “faithfully daily answering comments and emails. ” It really matters when one is intentional in building his platform.

        • http://www.DonnaPeruginiChildrensAuthor.com DonnaPerugini

          I agree, Uma, regarding intentional platform building.

          Bloggers have put out the question, “Should I comment on another’s blog when they’ve commented on mine?” My answer would be a resounding, “Yes!” They could become part of your tribe by doing so.

          Add to that leaving relevant comments on posts of your target audience. They might also become part of your tribe by doing so. Your writing voice (in the comments you leave) might even bring them over to your blog.

          Answering the comments left on your blog is a must. A blogger who ignores their reader’s comments seems aloof and uncaring.

          • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

            The consistency in following through can be tough to do – it can be very time-consuming. But, I have seen it make a lot of difference. Essentially, this is a new form of networking.

          • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

            I agree, though I can’t respond to every comment. I think it is like hosting a dinner party. I am there to facilitate the conversation but not dominate it. If I disappear after my guests arrive, they will think it is strange. Likewise, if I feel the need to comment on every comment, that feels unnatural, too.

            Instead, I read each comment and then say something if I think I can add additional value—just like a real-world conversation. Thanks.

          • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

            There are a lot of women in the South that should take this to heart … :)

          • Shari

            Gina, this made me chuckle. I miss Alabama with all my heart but honestly, Richmond is so much less pressure!

  • http://www.marketinginprogress.com Brett Duncan

    So, if the author is responsible for bringing the good book AND the audience to the table, what service is the publisher providing? Michael, I’m sure you’ve covered this several times in your blog, but it really does make one stop and wonder “Why do I need a publisher?” after hearing everything required by a publisher as a prerequisite.

    Also, I’m wondering if many publishers are adding sister companies, or at least services, to help authors create/nurture their platforms.

    bd
    @bdunc1

    • http://www.leahadams.org Leah Adams

      Brett,

      A sister company to a major publisher is who I self-published my Bible study through. I chose this particular company because of their relationship to the big company who is a major player in the Bible study market. It was a reasonable way to get my study in print and on my book table at my speaking engagements. It worked well for me, although the cost is nothing to sneeze at.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      That is an excellent question and one that authors should be asking. All I can say is that at Thomas Nelson, we are in the midst of this shift. We have distribution assets and media access that authors don’t typically have. We are trying to leverage those on behalf of our authors, but, more importantly, find new ways to help them build their tribes.

  • http://twitter.com/PoconoPlateau Pocono Plateau Camp

    Michael, this is dead on. I think a lot of people forget that the market is not only glutted with a million books from the US in a year, but books are no longer the central media form for connecting with a deepening process of information intake. Folks are looking elsewhere for cognitive nourishment. Finding the streams people are watering at is critical in getting your material to the right folks. Thanks for your thought provoking work. tjm+

  • http://www.confessionsofalegalist.com Jeremy@confessionsofalegalist

    There are some examples of this out there. There are people who started first with a blog or social media concept that they turned into a book. Two that come to mind are Anne Jackson and Jon Acuff.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, two excellent examples.

  • Shari

    Great post. In response to the post and some of the comments already posted, I don’t think a platform must be about ME as much as what the Lord is putting on my heart to write/publish/produce. He has given me my circumstances and they are particular to me. A very wise group of inner-circle friends recently said to me, “When are you going to write and teach again? The Lord has given you very hard things. They are things we wouldn’t choose and I’m sure you wouldn’t have chosen either. But you now have a special platform from which to talk about the Lord and what he has done.” I have waited, prepared, and prayed. I have a date and “launch” in mind but in the meantime, I am watching for where God is leading. Sure enough, just last week, someone stopped and asked me to teach an upcoming session. I’m excited to see what God will do. The platform is his; talking about it is up to me.

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

    I went into my local Barnes and Noble last week and I was surprised what I found. The emphasis of the store had completely changed. Front and center was the Nook, their version of an electronic book reader. The rest of the store looked like a toy store, with flashy boxes, games, and all sorts of promotions.

    I actually came away overwhelmed. There was too much visual stimulation and not enough substance. Personally I don’t know how you would compete with all the noise. Writing a good book is certainly not enough. It would be totally lost on a lowly bookshelf.

    To get displayed in the front of this store would certainly take a popular platform, a niche subject, and a lot of luck. It would take branding, boxing, and lots of color just to be recognized.

    The funny thing was, I didn’t see any of the books I was interested in displayed at all. I had to dig through the shelves and only a few of the new books I wanted to see where there at all.

    I left the store without buying anything. The model had changed, and it felt broken… very broken.

    I went home and ordered Nancy Duarte’s two books online. She has built a tribe, and you shared it with all your readers here. I wanted to see her books before buying, but the noise kept them from the limelight. As I clicked the button on Amazon, it felt good. The reviews of her books were overwhelmingly positive, and I didn’t have a 100 different distractions.

    I totally agree with you, Michael. People have to build a platform. They need at least a thousand trusted fans. I would never had known about Resonate or Slide:ology if she had not put the word out. I certainly wouldn’t have found them at Barnes & Noble.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, John. As a publisher myself, this is discouraging to hear. Thankfully, our sales are growing. However, I think it is because we are refusing to dwell in the past and embracing the new realities. Authors must do the same.

      • http://heartpress.com Heart Press

        Seth Godin has mentioned how traditional bookstores will become more like gift shops. I’ve certainly taken note how everything points in this direction. Sad.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I’ve noticed the same thing in several larger chain bookstores. It’s really disheartening. I love bookstores, they’re kind of like a second home for me… But to see them change their marketing seems to be counter-productive, at least in the long run.

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

        I wrote a blog post about this today. Anytime a retailer changes their core
        business it usually means trouble. I’m like you Jeff, I really like
        bookstores. I’m not so sure about this B and N hybrid toy store…

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          I read your post this morning. Good stuff.

        • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

          For this very reason, John, I quit going to big chain book stores. It was such a distressing thing for me because I love the feel of books, the smell of pages, to be able to read snatches of passages to decide if this is the book for me. Now I only visit Christian book stores and those only about once a year.

          • Shari

            Don’t forget your public library. Lots of librarians like me work very hard reading/reviewing and organizing them in a way that makes them easily accessible without being overwhelming. I might add that my Librarian View of self-publishing is quite different than my Personal View, too.

          • http://refreshmentrefuge.blogspot.com Gina Burgess

            Shari, this is exactly why I love my public library so much. I wish I had more time to visit there.

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      I am with you John. I have had similar experiences of online shopping more pleasurable than physical shopping.

    • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

      Amazon has really become my defacto book store. Even though it can be fun to go to a physical store and experience the atmosphere, I actually learn more about the books from online information. I have come to rely on publisher and editor descriptions posted through Amazon and the reader reviews. Plus, I don’t feel rushed. When I am in a store, I always feel like I have a limited amount of time.

  • http://twitter.com/kpalmer71 Kerry Palmer

    Great post! This just goes to show the importance of establishing an online presence and of being consistent with it. To me, the biggest hurdle is developing the discipline to roll out quality content frequently. Write, write, write!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, this is the biggest challenge for all of us!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      roll out quality content frequently!!! It’s a herculean task indeed…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Levent-Islek/100001771607743 Levent Islek

    My book name is , “The Break Inside Me”
    Levent Islek.
    Email: (tani.beni@hotmail.com

  • http://LookingForPurpose.com Dylan Dodson

    I am currently self-publishing my first book and found these things out while looking for a publisher. Perhaps self-publishing can be viewed as another way of building a platform before writing something really substantive.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think that is true, but it can also be a good end-game for certain kinds of authors.

  • http://twitter.com/doughibbard Doug Hibbard

    Platform?

    I’m striving to be faithful in the work I’ve got, as a small-town pastor, while also blogging in hopes of building a base of readers. I’m also writing for a group blog, and trying to convince a few folks to throw in for another group blogging project in ministry/Biblical subjects. Hopefully this will start the baseline.

    I haven’t thought of it as building a platform, but as the current goal: be effective in short writing, freely published and distributed. Then, see if I can produce something worth paying for, but if I can’t (I’m not sure I can think longer than about 800 words at this point!), so be it—not quite committed enough to writing to starve if I can’t write for a living.

  • http://twitter.com/dhatfield danielle hatfield

    Just had this same discussion with a well know local author last week. Owning your own voice online is vital to the long term success of your personal brand. The rules have changed in the publishing industry and they expect you to bring your own tribe.

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      I concur with you Danielle. The fact of the matter is we need to be intentional and conscious in building our platform.

  • Anonymous

    I am working on building a tribe with where I am at now. I am trying to connect rather than just communicate with those in my church and I am following and friending those with the same passions on FB and Twitter. Lastly, I am reading, reading, reading on this subject to grow in this area.

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Just go on Kccupp. You will win in the long run with consistency and discipline.

  • Jeff

    If the publisher likes the book, what is the big deal about them publishing it? Is there a big upfront cost they have to endure or something? What difference does it make if they like the material? The person is going to self publish it anyway. Wouldn’t the publisher want to make some money off of them?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Traditional publishing is a business. It requires investment, specifically in royalty advances, inventory, and account receivables. As a result, we can’t publish everything. We publish those books that are (a) consistent with our mission as a publisher and (b) believe will be a commercial success.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Publishing industry too needs commercial success to survive like any other industry.

      • Rick Carr

        Personally, I’m not interested in royalty advances. I have a book I believe in, a message that needs to be shared. I’d just like to get the book out in the market. I’ll take whatever royalties I earn as it sells. And I’m willing to work as hard as necessary to build a platform – blogging, tweeting, speaking engagements….

        This whole thread really has me thinking about what it will take to get my message out. I see glimmers of
        hope in comments about the number of page views some people have had on their blogs. At
        the same time, it almost seems overwhelming to blog, tweet, and
        facebook, etc enough to get a strong following.

        Kip Jordan, former editor for Word
        Books encouraged me to get my book published years ago, but to find a small
        publisher that would put more effort behind it. As a virtual unknown the
        most I could hope for from a major publisher, he said, was just a
        listing in a catalog. After a bout with cancer a couple of years ago,
        getting published suddenly moved way up on my bucket list. Now, I can’t seem to get the attention of any publisher other than subsidy publishers, even after getting listed by Writer’s Edge.

        Dylan’s comment about building a platform before writing something really substantive is almost scary. I believe in the book I’ve written. It’s
        important. It needs to be communicated. I have some ideas for other
        possible books or articles, but this book is where my heart is. It’s
        what I need to be sharing. There isn’t an opportunity to build a
        platform “before writing something really substantive.”

    • http://heartpress.com Heart Press

      Editing, Cover, Typesetting, Printing, Shipping, Warehousing, Returns, and on and on… most self published books miss something in the translation from idea to product. Then, there’s the even more challenging sales aspects.

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Clark! As you say, it really a complicated scenario today.

  • http://twitter.com/MacKinnonChris Chris MacKinnon

    I started thinking about this recently when I read a post about the work involved in creating a platform and marketing. I’m only 7 months into my current pastorate, and there’s a lot of work to do on that front. Though I’ve been writing for years, I feel like I have to put all of the “extras” on the back burner to focus on what I have to be doing instead of what I’d like to be doing. At the same time, I have to be content with the fact that I probably won’t be “discovered.” (But I guess I am helping to build the platform.)

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      “To focus on what you have to be doing instead of what you would like to be doing” — That’s a big deal Chris

  • David Wardrop1

    I am in process of finishing my first book. the platform is my passion to “be the church” to live out this life of Christ in you, you are what people read. I teach in ministry at local level and bring discussion and opportunities to those I lead, but how do I build a platform audience? I am new at this arena. Need your assistance.
    with much appreciation, Lisa

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Did through my Social Media archives and start with a blog. Everything else radiates form there. Thanks.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FJRLITL5IEFHDDFURAESLXOOZ4 Jim Whitaker

    Interesting insight into the world of publishing. It is interesting that a book does not stand on its own anymore. I would not be surprised to find out that a number of authors are shocked and surprised by this. Although with the today’s world being one where more and more books can be published, with digital formats making it easier to publish as well as companies who are springing up to help people self-publish, it is no surprise that it is not just the book that has to be successful. I completely understand the multi-marketing aspect of life. With social media growing and different types popping up all the time. It is hard to really reach people unless you are truly involved and active in all the different ways of media. That can be daunting for someone, especially if they don’t have help to do it. Building a platform is obviously a difficult task and might be one that you could explore in more depth on another post. Thanks for the insight.

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Jim! It’s true when you say — “Building a platform is obviously a difficult task”. It will surely take time and lot of effort and longevity from our end.

  • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

    “No one cares about your platform more than you. You must, therefore, carefully build it and nurture it. Done right, it will be an asset that will generate income for years to come.”

    I love the notion that building an online platform or presence is building an asset. How much more powerful will it be to be able to point someone to a body of work online than just handing a one to two page resume with a proper cover letter?

    To build mine, I’m writing as often as I can and trying to build some relationships. The time element is incredibly difficult sometimes–especially if you’re working on a platform that isn’t directly related to what you do 8am-5:30pm everyday. I need to spend more time working on that platform (my industry blog) because even if it’s not building toward publishing, it’s building an encyclopedia of information I can point clients and future clients to.

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I’m in the same boat, Brett. And with a full time job, it’s sometimes hard to find the time to write, read and still get all of my normal stuff done.

      • http://stevencribbs.com Steven Cribbs

        Agreed!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Yes Brett! It takes creativity and innovative approach from us in tacking this time constraint.

  • Anonymous

    I worry that my lack of focus and diligence are doing more harm than good. I am definitely not spending enough time and effort on building (defining & nurturing) a platform. I’m not even sure I could tell you what my platform is! I’m actively editing/revising my first novel. My second novel awaits the same processing efforts. My third novel is brewing in the back of my mind. Meanwhile my blogs (yes, there are 3.5 of them!) are languishing. It seems regrouping and focusing on platform development should become a priority.

    • http://brettcohrs.com Brett

      Focus is so hard! I know it’s good to have a plan and schedule, but when I have a bunch of projects going on, something’s gotta give. In my world, unfortunately, it ends up being the thing that might be most productive in the long run (because it’s typically the most taxing).

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I would also recommend focusing on one blog. That’s more than enough to keep up with and gives you a singular focus—at least from a platform perspective.

      • http://heartpress.com Heart Press

        Michael is absolutely right on with this point. Laser focus your content in one place; Google will eventually reward your efforts.

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Agrred FGHart! Often putting first thing first is a difficult proposition.

  • http://twitter.com/JenniferLynKing Jennifer King

    Thank you, Michael, for this post. It is always informative to hear the advice to writers firsthand, especially during the giant flux in the industry right now.

    I think it is difficult to develop a platform, but the best advice on the matter has always been —
    1) engage in social media as a connection to others (not a “selling tool”), and
    2) write about (blog about) what you love.

    I agree with both of those ideas. Soon, after moving toward a platform with those 2 ideas in hand, building a platform becomes more of a fun and natural extension of the day.

    • TNeal

      On point 1, I’ve heard the term “adding value” in relation to blogging. How can I add value to my readership? On this point, I think Michael excels. His writing adds value to my life, and I desire to follow his example.

      On point 2, you are so right. And I think the advice to develop writing habits before you blog helps. In doing that, I’m finding where my passion lies. With that discovery, I draw nearer to launching a blog and writing about what I love.

      Thank you for sharing your wise counsel.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree with both of these points. Thanks!

    • Joe Lalonde

      Your two points of advice are spot on.

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Agreed Jennifer! When we are authentic and not phony, we will really make a difference.

  • http://findinggodsfingerprints.wordpress.com/ Erica McNeal

    Thanks for the great insight! This is the only reason I started blogging, thanks to an article you wrote a couple months ago. Will look forward to reading more of your thoughts on building your platform. I’m having a great time blogging, although it has been a little distraction from editing!! =)

  • MaAnna

    Interesting post and comments. I chose a hybrid publisher for my first book. I was responsible for creating my own platform, but being with a publisher helped get my book featured in Publishers Weekly. Even though I began a crash course in online marketing prior to the book publishing, it took nearly a year before it really clicked with me how to do it well. That included making the most of riding the coat tails of a related news story that resulted in a second lecture tour and a considerable bump in sales.

    Developing a marketing mindset has completely changed the way I write books and develop an audience for them prior to publication. I’ve seen several of my author buddies hit high on Amazon rankings in the first week of sales by using these same methods.

    I know that many authors write books for the novelty of seeing their name in print, or to give a tangible medium to share their passion. And if that and selling a couple hundred books is enough, then there is no need to spend a lot of time developing a platform. However, if the desire is to earn a living as a professional writer, then cultivating and nurturing an audience is key to becoming established. After that, the books nearly sell themselves.

  • TNeal

    My honest initial thought about platform? That sucks.

    But this isn’t my first exposure to the reality of platforms. I’m reading Terry Whalin’s “Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams” currently and he comes back to that theme throughout the book. The same has been said by other editor and agent friends.

    Your info on starting a blog helped a lot. I’m building momentum in that arena.

    As for current visibility, I update on my Facebook account about my writing world. I’m often a guest speaker in area churches and many who hear me also know I write. I’ve often been asked, “What’s your book about?” “Where can I get your book?” “When’s your book coming out?”

    I’m also following the advice of getting articles in print. I’ve done that for the first time in the past year and hope to increase my visibility in smaller venues.

    One last thing I’m doing. I’m writing, writing, writing. I target fiction and am working on my second manuscript but I also explore nonfiction avenues as well. I just love telling a good story.

  • http://joshuamhood.com Josh Hood

    Mike: I know there is no “magic number,” but how big does your platform have to be to get the attention of an agent or publisher (number of Twitter, Facebook, blog subscribers, etc)?

    • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

      I’d be interested to know some general guidelines in this area as well. Great question, Josh!

    • http://heartpress.com Heart Press

      It’s not so much a magic number; it is the focused passion they bring. Personally, I’d rather see someone have 100 visibly “would go to the mat” for you fans, than 40,000 random “followers”.

      For instance, how many do you have that will pre-order the book, write an honest review on Amazon and then have the vocal passion to pass it along to 10 others….??

      This book has sold millions and there are 493 Amazon reviews: http://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Real-Little-Astounding-Story/dp/0849946158/ Josh, think about those numbers for a moment and you’ll see what I mean.

      Any author with the ability to bring in quality reviews that are then passed along is on the right path. To a small press like mine, dedication to the craft *and* determination to create a Tribe is a win. Wanting a big pay day from a single book isn’t. -Steve

      • TNeal

        Steve,

        Your statement along with Michael’s earlier one in relation to numbers helps me develop a stronger strategy and to realize my already-in-place platform as a former pastor and missionary. I’ve got people in Texas, Georgia, and Wisconsin who are readers interested in where I am and what I write. The numbers can’t be analyzed through the Internet or Googled but they exist. A hundred go-to-the-mat followers?

        Perhaps but only if I’m ready to do the roadwork. Your comments are truly helpful and elicit some exciting possibilities.

        Thanks–Tom

        • http://heartpress.com Heart Press

          Tom, just remember, interest does not equal passion. You want folks begging you to create it; i.e., your very best customers. -Steve

  • Diana Raab

    I am on Facebook, Twitter and I have google alerts for subject which interest me and try to respond to blogs related to my own.

    BTW, come visit my blog, http://www.dianaraab.com/blog. It’s called, “Literary Musings.”

    Have a nice day.
    Diana Raab

  • Anonymous

    No one ever said publishing was easy or a walk in the park. I wrote a post about 7 publishing myths here: http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/2011/03/7-myths-about-publishing.html

    One of the great things about platform building is it shows publishers who is serious about publishing and who is laissez-faire.

    I consider myself an author first. My words are the most important part of me, and I write books in such a way that each one (hopefully!) is better than the last. But I spend nearly an equal amount of time in promotion.

    This is something I didn’t know when I started out in 2004. I thought I’d write my “staggering work of genius” then watch the fame and money flow in. Hahahahahaha. No, it’s a lot of hard work. And it reminds me of when we raised support to be church planters in France. A lot of dead ends. A lot of disappointment. A lot of tenacity. But eventually we made it there.

    So don’t give up. Don’t despair. Do what’s in front of you. Connect in a way that is natural to you.

  • Patlayton

    This is another great discussion Michael.
    I published my first Bible Study with a major publisher 3 years ago.
    My publisher has been wonderful at helping me get a tough subject in front of women by piggybacking the marketing of my book with some of their heavy hitters. That has been an honor.
    I have been surprised to learn”platform building” was a task I would have to tackle pretty much on my own. I immediately started speaking and teaching that study everywhere I could, to anyone who would listen, practically paying THEM for the chance.
    I now have over 1,000 new study leaders who are now paying ME to come and speak at larger events. WhooHoo!
    Fortunately, I love people and communicating God’s Word any way I can, so the twitter, facebook and blog stuff is natural and fun for me.
    My greatest challenge is organizing MY TIME well enough to be out there more consistently and to keep writing. After having led a local ministry for over 20 years, the speaking/travel that I have been doing has thrown my life into a whole new spin. Fun but frazzled at times.
    It is all truly a blessing to me so I don’t think of social media as a “Must Do” I think of it as a “Get to Do”. Just another way to connect.
    Thanks for the great conversation and thanks for loving social media.
    Happy Monday.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks for sharing this success story. Nothing is more inspiring to me than watching someone else start from nothing and build an audience!

  • http://www.jdeddins.com JD Eddins

    My blog has been the main source of trying to build a platform. I think it would be awhile before I ever wrote a book, but I would like to start speaking again, especially at youth retreats or doing parenting and marriage seminars. Those opportunities came more naturally when I was working in paid ministry because of the title in front of my name. Now I am having to find others means of getting the word out.

  • Kevin Troupe

    I am coming at this discussion from another angle. I have been blogging about our journey of raising a special needs child ( lessonsfrommatthew.com ) and have a following nearing the “thousands” you mentioned. The blog is from an inspirational, encouraging point of view and I have been building speaking opportunities around the content with the goal of encouraging other families like our own. I have many of my readers who have asked to offer the blog entries in a book form. I never thought about it until I read how Seth Godin had done this “blog-to-book” concept with success. I just don’t know where to start on the publishing trail…self publish? Publisher?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      You will need to start by doing some research. You basically have three options: do-it-yourself, assisted publishing (which most people refer to as self-publishing or by the pejorative “vanity publishing”) or traditional publishing. All can be valid, depending on your goals and resources. I plan to write a blog post on this soon. Thanks.

    • Joe Lalonde

      Kevin, congratulations on grabbing a large following! I hope you’ll get the attention you need to snag that book deal.

    • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

      Due to Michael’s encouragement through this blog, I wrote my book as blog posts and will release my self-published book within a month or so. I did my homework and chose a company that was recognized by Writer’s Digest. So far, I am quite pleased with the results.

  • Wildstx

    Michael ,

    Great insight as always. What is really daunting to me is the idea of needing to build one’s tribe to thousands before a publisher will consider your work. I have developed a platform through the assistance of an on-line course I took through FreelanceWritingCourses.com as well as a basic marketing strategy. As a result, I have seen my tribe grow but no where near the thousands. Last week I submitted a requested proposal to an editor on a teaching devotional. We’ll see where that goes.

    I believe that I am answering God’s call on my life to write although I am not certain of the purpose. But I have decided I don’t need to know. My job is to be obedient and to do all that I can to make the words available. If He has someone He wants to read them, He will lead them to it. I seek to learn about the business and to improve my writing skills but ultimately I am but a tool in the Master’s hand.

    Thank you for continuing to share your insight and knowledge with us. I have learned much from your blog.

    Ann

    http://www.walkingthewildpath.blogspot.com

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think the sheer number of followers can be over-rated. If you have a small but engaged community, that’s what you need to emphasize in your proposal. If even 1,000 people are behind you, they can make a huge difference in getting the word out.

      • TNeal

        This reminds me of the conversation between Abraham and the Lord. “If only twenty…” “If only ten…” Just read that this morning.

        Michael, a thousand seems like a manageable number.

  • Curtis

    Michael,

    I’ve heard you comment on this before and I think it is starting to finally sink in :)
    Where I think I get stuck is in trying to sort out how to build the platform…the audience if you will…without giving away the goods. It almost feels like I would have to have enough “stuff” for two good books in order to write one. The first book’s worth of material going towards building the platform and the second going into the actual book.
    Any thoughts on how to navigate that?

    Thanks,
    Curtis

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Personally, I give it away. People will still want it in a book form. For example, I am not contemplating writing a book on how to build a platform. Most of what I will say, I’ve said here on my blog. But most people don’t want to dig through the archives and put it all together. Besides, I will update everything and expand it. It is a different kind of product.

      Think of the music world. You buy a song or a record and you still by a ticket to go hear them live. Two slightly different products.

  • Joe Lalonde

    Thanks for another great article! I really see this in the materials I read. I’ve recently started following some blogs and resources and am starting to trust them. When they recommend a book, I take a longer look at what they’re promoting.

    Without recommendations, I think I would be lost in the flood of books that are coming out now.

  • Helen Lee

    It can absolutely be daunting as an author to realize that you not only have to write a great book, but you have to promote it, too. But on the flip side, you can think of this as an opportunity if you are an author. We have so much more opportunity to influence the promotion and the life cycle of our book, whereas before we had to entirely rely on the publisher to do the marketing, and if they did not have the resources or the funds, then the reach of our books would be limited. But now, authors have much more control and impact on the marketing process. It’s tough to do, but I think it’s also good news for the author in the long run.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree, Helen. Authors don’t have to be at the total mercy of the publisher—or even retailers—to be successful. They can drive demand for their book.

  • http://www.eliznewton.com Elizabeth Newton

    Thanks for an interesting blog and post. It used to be that the ultimate goal for most authors was a traditionally published hardcover book. Is this still the case, do you think? Looking ahead, do you think this will change?

  • http://www.eliznewton.com Elizabeth Newton

    Thanks for an interesting blog and post. It used to be that the ultimate goal for most authors was a traditionally published hardcover book. Is this still the case, do you think? Looking ahead, do you think this will change?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think authors’ goals are as varied as there are authors. For some, yes. Their goal is a hardcover book published by a traditional publishing house. However, if your goal is simply to get your message out to as many people as possible, there are other options. I think it is important to define your goal and then evaluate the varies strategies for getting there.

      • Flowingwaters1

        Now this is interesting. So you believe that a self-published author can actually gain the kind of distribution on their own without a traditional publisher? Won’t that require them to have a gigantic following? Most self published authors only sell a few hundred copies, no? I thought distribution to as many as possible was only really possible through traditional publishing?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          I don’t know of any authors who have attained a massive audience for a self-published book. But, honestly, only a handful—less than 1%—of all traditionally published books never reach a massive audience. Distribution doesn’t equal demand. Regardless of how you publish, you are going to have to create demand for the book.

  • Jennifer

    This is something that I struggle with and really appreciate Leah’s comments. Where’s the motive? What’s my goal? To reach people for Christ or to have a name that masses of people follow.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think the Enemy can really can you hung up on this by being too introspective. I’m not saying we shouldn’t examine them, but we can second-guess ourselves into ineffectiveness if we are not careful.

      • Patlayton

        I agree with this and have found that the enemy uses our fear of success as slyly as he uses our fear of failure!
        After all, he has one goal…Steal, Kill, DESTROY..one way or another.
        Whatever holds you captive, works for him.

        • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

          Agreed. And these are not always easy things to identify in our lives.

    • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

      Jennifer, in order to reach people for Christ, my name has to be known. I remember this when I think about my position–I am a door opener. Yes, I know how to unlock and open the door for people to enter the building of God’s absolute love. However, I do not want those people congregating around me, so I work to create motivation to move them towards their own prayer closets–I want my readers to fully experience the power of God’s love. So, I look at circumstances this way: the more successful I am, the more they will find encouragement to seek God for the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom that only He can give.

    • Flowingwaters1

      Ohhh I relate to this!!! But don’t you need both? To reach masses you need a name that people follow? Or do I have this all wrong? If you keep giving it all to Jesus and praying for humility, then nothing can go wrong.

  • Barry

    If everyone’s platform is different then I suppose its “art” and we all have to find our way fumbling in the dark. But if there is a science to building that platform (step 1, step 2, step 3), then if you would share with us the systematic steps we must take to build the platform, THAT would be really valuable. In fact, a “Here’s exactly how you build the tribe from the ground up” is a workshop you and Seth should put on. We’d all pay to come.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I am actually working on a book on this very subject. I want a book that I can hand to anyone wanting to build a platform and it will tell them exactly what to do and in what sequence. Stay tuned!

  • Karl Mealor

    I’m looking forward to your future information on how to build a platform. (That term is a little fuzzy to me.)

  • http://www.fbcgallatin.org Larry Yarborough, Jr.

    I wonder if you could use a social media platform with a strong following to post pages of your book at regular intervals, watch it’s hits, evaluate feedback and then approach a publisher with those details?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think the typical publisher will need that much detail. All he needs to know is that you have an audience for your content. The size of that audience (unique visitors or page views can help.)

  • Fitz Neal

    Mike,

    I totally agree with this post. Platforms are key. Authors must have one, or create one. But what do you, as a publisher, do with the inevitable failures of publishers to find a great book that takes off without a platform, such as “The Shack.” ? Quite frankly, the big publishers missed that one. There was NO platform. By the time it did have platform, it was too late to sign the author. Are you willing to miss a few 7 mil sellers? Aren’t these the life blood of the business now? This is not criticism, it is a question: how do you find those gems that ARE out there with no platform?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think it truly the exception. There have always been those. As publishers we will continue to miss opportunities. That’s just the nature of having finite resources. We can’t evaluate everything.

      But the good news for authors is that they don’t have to leave this totally to chance. They can take control. They can’t guarantee success, even with a platform, but they can increase the probability of success.

      Thanks.

  • http://www.jillkemerer.com Jill Kemerer

    My husband and I discuss this often. I’m surprised at how many aspiring authors I talk to don’t believe a platform before getting published is necessary. Also, many don’t realize how long it takes to build even a small, solid platform. Aspiring writers need to start early!

  • Kmortimer

    I’m not currently writing a book, as I’m an agent, but I have a few nonfiction ideas rattlin’ away in the often-empty space between my ears. So, I’ve been building my platform thru networking.

    I talk to strangers. Meaning, if I’m shopping in the same book aisle as someone in B&N, I strike up a conversation. If I’m waiting in some heinous line somewhere, instead of grumbling [under my breath, of course], I use my time to find out what the person next to me does for a living. If I have a friend who may know someone who might be helpful for me to know, I ask for an intro. This is how I got interviewed in this month’s issue of Writer’s Digest Magazine for their “Ask the Pro” column. [At bookstores now, so, please, pick up a copy!]

    I’m not suggesting talking to strangers in a dark alley, or “using” your friends. Hopefully, you have enough sense to know whom to talk to, and under what circumstances. I’m simple saying, use your mouth for a good cause–and the Lord knows, mine is big enough to snag a Killer Whale at 100 yards….

    Kelly Mortimer
    The X-treme Agent

    • TNeal

      I can say Kelly splashed cold reality water all over me a few years ago and she challenged me by her persistence and her hard work. I didn’t understand how tough the publishing world was at the time. I now know why she kept sending back my opening chapter with plenty of red.

      Getting published does not seem to be for the faint of heart.

      Thanks, Kelly, and good to see you in the loop–Tom

  • http://twitter.com/SWMackey Steve Mackey

    The issue at hand is one of commitment. The author who thinks they have the “quick hit” hasn’t shown commitment to the business of selling their book – only to writing it. I believe that if an author is committed to publishing a book (and selling it – which is the hard part), then they’ll read, listen and do. I know someone who’s had a great book idea for 20 months. They have not pitched the book because they have not completed the back work to make a strong proposal.

    Don’t get fooled by Seth. He’s been in this game 30 years, he has an enormous following (did I mention his tribe was built over 30 years?). I’m a huge fan, but I’m also realistic. In 30 years, I can only hope to be a Seth Godin. It starts today. It’s simple, but not easy. You can do it… OR talk about how the publishing world is against you – it’s your choice.

    Those I follow to learn from: Mary Demuth, Michael Hyatt, Seth Godin, John Maxwell, several staff members from Thomas Nelson, Maurilio Amorim – all have blogs, are on twitter, share generously and spread great ideas. Good luck, and remember the book world is a business world – accept it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is the part most authors don’t get: that publishing is a business. Yes, I am in it for reasons that transcend business (like changing people’s lives). However, if it doesn’t succeed as a business, I won’t have that opportunity. Authors have to grasp this, too.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • http://twitter.com/NewEnglandHiker Roy Wallen

    The need for a platform presence isn’t limited to authors. In addition to authors who need to develop a public platform to promote their books, these same rules apply to people with whom I have recently crossed paths who are job seekers, medical professionals, hobbyists, and readers. The preponderance of sites in the form of firstnamelastname-dot-com bear this out – my fledgling, not-yet-public effort is one more example. As always, thanks for still more helpful content that can be applied outside the publishing world.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I agree. In fact, the working title for my book is Platform: What It Is, Why You Need It, and How to Build It. It then has this copy line: “A Step-by-Step Guide for Anyone with Something to Say or Sell.”

  • http://www.jeffrandleman.com Jeff Randleman

    I agree. This is one on my stated blogging goals: To start building a name for myself because of my content. That way, when I finish my first book, I will have a head start on the promotion side of things.

    Due to the time restraints caused by my ministry duties, this is taking me longer than I’d like, but I keep plugging away at it.

    Thanks for the information

  • http://www.annamaquino.com Anna Aquino

    I write both fiction and nonfiction. However publishing has been a different story. Like most newbie writers I had this concept that I would write my first book and it would be like Moses at the Red Sea. The waters would part for me. After 10 years of trying. I finally have my first full length Biblical teaching book coming out next year. I find that this is very much in the industry and thank you very much for writing this article. I’m telling people these kinds of things all the time. It’s not just about the book anymore. It comes down to your selling potential. As a believer, and guest minister I am too cautious about all the self promoting I think that is expected. However I have come to the point where I have to realize that it’s not me that I’m promoting but God whose working through me. When it becomes all about me that’s when I’m off. But even Paul said in the New Testament to follow me as I follow Christ. My imperfections are many, and if anyone has learned anything my ever listening to me, or reading my books may they keep in mind that it’s God in me and it’s not me.

    • TNeal

      Anna,

      As a former missionary, I had to speak and raise support in order to be in the field. My wife and I, like most missionaries, hated raising support. We just wanted to get back to Russia.

      I think two things would have helped in the process to make it a better experience. First, we would have remembered the thought you shared here. We weren’t promoting us or our work. We were simply sharing what the Lord was doing in, around, and through us.

      The second thing, and this did eventually happen, we needed to recognize we were only a part of the whole. We worked in the field but others had their part too. Even in the publishing world, we labor together with others. It’s not just about me as a writer. I have a lot of people who make a book in the book store or on Amazon happen.

      Of course, that’s future tense.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  • Mary Sanford

    Type your comment here.I am a new author also and had no idea about the process,all I knew is that God gave me a gift and I pursued it,cautiously but self published this year.Thank God for my local church and it’s members,I have been blessed to have someone build me a website,and help me with a news blast,my daughter forced me to get on facebook a few years ago.God promised to give us people for our lives and He has done that for me.I had an interveiwed on our local TBN station and from that a radio interveiw and so little by little doors are opening and I have told the Lord,every door He opens I will walk through.So I can ecourage others (like God told Moses)use what’s in your hand and don’t give up.I am thankful for the information that I am learning through Michael’s blogs.

  • http://www.kathink.blogspot.com Kathleen T. Jaeger

    “people’s attention is a finite resource. Authors are not only competing against other books on their topic and genre, they are also competing against every other media that wants a slice of their prospective reader’s attention.” This is an excellent point! How true.

  • http://www.DonnaPeruginiChildrensAuthor.com DonnaPerugini

    I’ve been working on my platform over a year now. My four children’s books were re-issued in Oct. 2010 (previously published from 1983-1987 through Harrison House selling 100,000 of the books). My greatest effort is reaching my target group.

    The startup of my blog and website were extremely intense as I had to begin to understand publishing ins and outs, geek-speak, blogging ins and outs, social networking, etc….all at once! I didn’t know if I’d ever understand any of it.

    Then one day it clicked. Instead of backing off, I then needed to put in to action ways to market my books. That brought up book trailers, free curriculum that goes with each book, songs written for each book, book tours, book reviewers, conferences, e-book assessment, book giveaways and contests.

    I’d love to have a literary agent but have put that as another step to take after the conference I’m attending in May 2010. During the conference I have appointments with a magazine editor, a publisher’s rep and will need to be able to ‘pitch perfectly’ when opportunity presents itself.

    Being an author in the eighties was much easier. The problem was, I saw the sales go down and had no idea what to do to keep the books selling. I’m glad I know as much as I do now, but the effort is tremendous all the time.

  • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

    It’s true in today’s competitive world to succeed as authors. (Where supply is very high and demand is only finite.) So, it needs quality content and some platform too.

    To begin with one needs to do his homework well. Success will not be an overnight affair. It takes hard work and substantial time to build a platform. I think every aspiring author must earn the right to be heard through consistency and longevity.

  • http://twitter.com/colleencoble Colleen Coble

    I think the word platform can be intimidating to authors. We hear that and think it is some kind of big speaking gig. Really, it’s just connecting with your readers. I love Twitter and Facebook for that. You connect with readers who tell others about your books who tell others about your books who. . . Well, you get the idea.

    It’s a little trickier with fiction. Often non fiction authors are talking about a particular subject that appeals to a specific audience. With fiction we are connecting to readers who like our type of story. Amish readers aren’t going to necessarily like my books that have mystery in them. So you find your core of readers and begin to expand on it. It doesn’t happen overnight, but you keep plugging away and working on craft. One thing I’ve done that has worked for me is to send out a welcome letter when someone signs up for my newsletter. I enclose signed bookplates (it encourages them to actually BUY a book if they’ve only read one from the library) and several bookmarks so they can pass one along to a friend. And of course there is Twitter and Facebook as well as the blog and website.

    Another thing you can do (this takes more time though) is comment on other blogs that talk about your book or about a subject covered in your book. For example, my Mercy Falls series is set in a lighthouse in Northern California. So I could look for blogs dealing with lighthouses and chat with people there.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      These are great suggestions, Colleen. Thanks for dropping by!

    • TNeal

      Colleen,

      Thank you for your sound advice.

      As to “…you tell…who tells…” I’m reminded of the movie “Babe.” My family and I were out of the country when that movie hit the theaters so we missed all the advertising that accompanies a new-movie launch. On top of that, the premise of a talking pig didn’t seem very promising or interesting.

      But I kept hearing, “You should see ‘Babe.’” After enough friends commented, my wife, son, and I ended up in a theater to see a movie I didn’t see advertised and couldn’t understand the interest. I loved it. Then I started telling people, “You should see…”

      Someone mentioned “The Shack” in an earlier comment. I think it demonstrates the power of word of mouth. Our task as authors doesn’t stop with finishing the manuscript. It includes planting those initial seeds in people who will be our best advertisement.

      Thanks for your concrete examples and practical suggestions in building a following.

  • http://alyssaavant.com/blog Alyssa Avant

    My question is . . . how many thousand followers are we talking? I’m an avid social media marketer and curious.

  • http://twitter.com/LazyChristian R.A. Snyder

    I’m trying to social network like CRAZY before I start shopping my book around, but it’s a full time job! I see now why companies hire people just to do social networking.

    • http://www.DonnaPeruginiChildrensAuthor.com DonnaPerugini

      R.A., you start to see where you fit in personality-wise with social media. You might do better in Facebook than Twitter, so your emphasis will be FB. Having a ‘presence’ on the different social media networks is advantageous. Trying to do all social media with the same level of attentiveness is futile. Excel where you are comfortable!

      • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

        Amen to that Donna!

  • http://twitter.com/timmyhpchen Timothy Hung-Po Chen

    “Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me”..Psalm 25:5-6

  • Cassandra Frear

    This is true. Even if it does make me grind my teeth a little.

  • Guest

    Michael, wonderful insight! Thank you!!
    The Seth Godin link is broken:
    http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/title=%22Seth%E2%80%99s

  • http://blog.ashleypichea.com Ashley Pichea

    When I first set out to be “a published author,” I spent some time reading Rachelle Gardner’s blog. She was very open about the fact that in order to get published in today’s publishing world, a platform is key. I decided to go about building my platform (blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc.) before ever sitting down to write. My online audience is a huge inspiration in the direction of my writing, and I want to be relevant to them!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      True ashley! Online audience bring great motivation to our creative work and it has ripple effect too.

  • http://www.thehahnhuntinglodge.com Nikole Hahn

    I remember reading something from Books n Such that an agent there received this great book proposal, but that the couple who wrote the book had no online presence. The agent wrote she had to reject it because she knew publishers would reject it.

  • http://www.cendrinemarrouat.com Cendrine Marrouat

    Hello Michael:

    Thank you for an enlightening post! It is true from beginning to finish. I am a self-published author and have been advising independent artists for years. I tell them the same things. You cannot achieve success if you rely on the quality of your product alone. You need to build a good platform with a solid circle of supporters.

    Brand visibility is crucial, and many authors are totally under the wrong impression that talent is worth something these days. If you have nothing to support it, you will definitely blow hot air for a LONG time.

    Thank you for the post once again!

    Cendrine

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Agreed Cendrine!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Agreed Cendrine!

  • David & Lisa Frisbie

    Thanks for telling this truth: Authors (especially aspiring and new) need to hear it. Most sales come from two places 1) speaking engagements, classes taught, book-signing events and etc., and 2) on-line booksellers. It took us a while to realize that “shelf space” was pretty much a non-issue. We’re always delighted when stores stock our books — we are grateful — but volume sales occur when we travel and speak, and also via internet marketing. That’s where our mortgage payment comes from. And gas money. And future book contracts.

  • Steve Barkley

    In your interview with Todd Burpo he did not strike me as the self-promoting, platform-building type. Is he an exception, or does this offer hope to others? I honestly do not know how much of a following he had before being published or how much effort he put into it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      He is definitely an exception. As far as I know, he didn’t have any following, other than is small church.

      You can always find exceptions, but I would rather build my life and career on what successful people have in common. Just my two cents.

  • Crystal Jigsaw

    I have recently published my book and am working almost full time to promote it. Loyalty online goes a long way!

  • Marybeth Whalen

    One thing I will add to the discussion about platform building is that I have found that your readers can see right through you if you’re just there for the sole purpose of building a platform. If you’re actually engaged and caring and providing info for them because you desire to help them, then you will build a loyal following. I didn’t begin my blog nearly 6 years ago to build a platform. I began it because I really enjoyed sharing my stories with other people. And I still do. If that joy doesn’t infiltrate my posts, I think my regular readers will go elsewhere. Now that I am publishing beyond the blog, I still make the blog (and those readers) a priority. When my first novel came out, I saw the huge support system they became– not because they were part of my platform but because they feel like friends. All of this to say, blog and tweet and Facebook and all of it– for the right reasons. Yes to build a platform but also because you sincerely care about the people you are trying to reach. They do know the difference and they won’t feel manipulated if they see your heart.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I agree. You can only win by being generous. I have written about this before.

  • http://twitter.com/Belinda_Pollard Belinda Pollard

    I advise the authors I work with to start building their platform as early as possible. And I’m currently reworking for self-publication a book of mine that was published in the UK in2001, so I’m trying to build my own platform too. I think the biggest single change is that publishers used to help a good writer build their platform, but now publishers are stretched so thin by the “brave new world” of books that they can no longer afford to do so. If you wanna write, start tweeting as well. Now. From what I’ve seen it’s not really about being an “expert”, it’s about being trusted and authentic.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yep. I agree.

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

    I agree with this article 100%. I experienced the same blunt reality of platform and audience “We love your book Paul, our test market readers in your target audience love it, tone, style, voice, check, check, check…BUT we can’t take a risk on a new author…” (Cue the violins and the lonely walk, on a pier, in the fog).

    BUT now we have our own BUTs ( in more ways than one). Mr. Hyatt is right. It is the most exciting time in the history of the publishing world to be turned down! Because like the 11th grade Prom Queen who laughed in your face in the middle of the cafeteria – honestly you might be better off. Sure it would’ve been nice to have that BIG NAME PUBLISHED BOOK around your arm at the football game, but now we have the opportunity to create, dream, innovate in ways never imagined before. There is such a pool of talented people looking to collaborate for a fraction of the cost that you can design, edit, write, with the best of them and put out there a sweet book that will make you the talk of your 20 year reunion when the Prom Queen shows up sporting an extra 250 pounds.

    We can chose to go down the bitter road of defeat. Or the freeing road of What can I dream and do right now that no one else can!

    I chose the second and have created a collaborative website geared right towards my target audience that I consider a bigger accomplishment than the book itself.

    No BUT’s (pun intneded) about it, this road is not easy, but it is so dang good!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Many will agree when you say – “We can chose to go down the bitter road of defeat. Or the freeing road of What can I dream and do right now that no one else can!” We can always make a choice.

  • realist

    Oh, bullshit. This is so NOT true. One tiny example: Last year’s Pullitzer Prize winning novel, The Tinkers by Paul Harding. Many many more.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t mind you disagreeing with me; that’s why I didn’t just delete your comment. However, profanity is not allowed. She my comments policy.

      I don’t doubt that you can find exceptions. I can think of several myself. But what works at the top of the bestseller lists doesn’t work for the 99.9% of authors who will never have that honor.

  • http://blog.cyberquill.com Cyberquill

    I use a colorful avatar because I figure it may draw more people to my platform than a less colorful one.

  • www.therextras.com

    Oh.dear. The minimum numbers for followers quoted here are killing me. Killing.me.

    Barbara

  • http://www.godsabsolutelove.com Patricia Zell

    Michael, the best thing I have done concerning my book was finding this blog and paying attention to what you have been sharing. You are a real blessing! (Oh, and my blog’s unique vistors this week came in at 450–my readership is growing!) :-)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Congratulations, Patricia. This is a great result!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Congratulations Patricia! Keep going.

  • Peter Turner

    Hi Michael:

    Thanks for the post. I think “platform” and the issues surrounding that notion is the defining dynamic for any writer or content creater who wants to be read and compensated (financially and otherwise). I do, however, think it’s ironic how after all these years of publishers asking would-be authors “where’s your platform” (i.e. who’s going to read you)–self-publishing vehicles are offering a different question: “Do I really need a traditional publisher if they expect me to provide the platform.” One of the few core remaining values that a publisher can provide an author is an audience of readers potentially interested in what the author writes. What Amazon gave Seth Godin was use of their customer data.

    Peter Turner

  • Joe Breunig

    Another great article! Publishers are in business to do primarily one thing – publish titles as you’ve pointed out; some are slowly taking steps to add some marketing options – usually for a fee. For example, my publisher added an author’s page to their website on my behalf. I know, for I discovered it by accident.

    Today’s self-published authors need to understand the not only the basics of Maketing 101, but need to be plugged into the various social networking sites and other websites target for their title’s genre. An author has no credibility promoting their own titles – can you spell b-i-a-s? However, customer reviews and feedback and peer-to-peer marketing from satisfied readers can help to bolster sales, but not guarantee them.

    –Joe Breunig
    Author/poet, Reaching Towards His Unbounded Glory

  • http://www.johngallagherblog.com John Gallagher

    Workin, with my coach, Raymond Gleason!! What a challenge. We have been working on it for a couple months now. Thanks

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Raymond is a great guy!

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Yup! It’s always a challenge John

  • http://www.inteliwise.com VirtualAgent

    Whoa, I wasn’t aware that there are existing demands of social networking followers et all, before a deal can be made for book publishing. I guess, I’m on the minority that would seem indifferrent to such mob mentality, or in away averse to that kind of methodology. It’s such a shame that the world doesn’t work out that way.

  • http://honeycombadventures.com Janice D. Green

    I have had blogs and web pages in the past. Through the encouragement of Laura Christianson (Blogging Bistro) I just consolidated them into one blog with a short list of categories – basically the themes of the earlier blogs. I’m posting more often on my new blog. I’m also active on Facebook. I’m also developing a second market that will complement my Bible storybooks, and that is unique to my books.
    http://honeycombadventures.com

  • http://sarcasticxtian.com/ Scott Smith

    I love writing. I have aspirations. I have written a lot of content, but not enough to form a cohesive book yet. I had begun blogging last year as an outlet for my opinions, but very quickly I realized it also served as an outlet for writing. (Duh!)

    So, between my several Twitter accounts, my blog, Facebook and scads of other networks, I’m somewhere in the 20,000 range of followers. How many of them actively follow me? Now, that is another question entirely!

    For now though, I’m happy blogging. Maybe some of the posts I write can even be repurposed down the road.

    Thanks for the post. Love your blog!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, 20,000 is a lot!

  • http://joeandancy.com Joe Abraham

    I think this post is timely for me. My wife and I are seriously thinking about and have started working on a book project. And your wise insights are truly helpful to guide us in our endeavor. Thanks Michael.

    • http://uma-maheswaran.blogspot.com/ Uma Maheswaran S

      Go on Joe! My best wishes for your endeavor.

      • http://joeandancy.com Joe Abraham

        Thanks Uma for your encouragement! That’s worth receiving!

  • http://www.transformationalleadershiphq.com Mighty

    I’ve been working on a book project for the past four months already. While I have not formally submitted it to a publisher yet, I’m working on it with a goal of tying it up with my blog and my social networks. great advice Michael! :)

  • Pingback: World Spinner

  • Anonymous

    I’m learning a lot about this and more in Guerrilla Marketing for Writers that a friend gave me. It’s like opening a new business. We have to do the work. We can’t expect everyone to do it for us. My book is my baby, and I’m willing to go the distance to nurture it, and watch it grow.

  • Paul Darilek

    I would be curious to gain an idea in numeric terms what publishers see as a “good platform”?

    Say, 5k facebook followers, 4k twitter followers, an e-mail list of 20,000 (of warm leads–people who’ve given to the cause your non-fiction book supports–is that seen as a good platform? Really good? Sorta good? Not good?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think that is very respectable.

      • Paul Darilek

        I’m so impressed with your responsiveness on your blog. When I buy Rob Bell’s book tomorrow I’ll send them letter: “Dear Harper One, Michael Hyatt sent me.”

  • http://joyjoyg.com/ Joy Groblebe

    I’m doing just what you’re talking about…build a platform before you need one. In my current job I work for authors and speakers in the background…but someday, when my kids are grown, I look forward to being the speaker. So, I started blogging awhile ago and am staying involved in social media (FB, twitter). You never know what might happen in the future. So, if God ends up putting me in a position to speak to people, I’ll already have my platform in place. Thanks Michael for the great post!

  • http://twitter.com/ChrisVonada chris vonada

    Michael,

    I’m branding, branding, branding! Connecting with the local media and guest blogging more to help build an audience, trying to keep my exposure on the mark and informative, serving others, and really focused on this like a start-up business. Learning as I go.

    I really like WestBow Press, very useful and helpful!

    Thank you again for your excellent, on-target advice… sometimes it seems like I go to read your blog and you’ve already read my mind for the day. I guess that would be our Heavenly Father at work :)

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Chris. I appreciate your kind words.

  • Epic Writer

    It’s interesting that aspiring authors find this concept foreign. Everything else in the world changes rapidly–shouldn’t publishing? I agree that a platform is in order. I think most would realize how this can be done via a nonfiction approach. But what about the fiction writer?

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  • http://www.thesuspensezone.com Susan Sleeman

    Thanks for sharing this message, Michael. I can speak from experience that a platform not only helps in the sales of your books, but if you’re unpublished, it helps gain an editors attention as well. I started a book review website (www.thesuspensezone.com) dedicated to my genre, Christian suspense, before I was published and have thousands of people on my mailing list now. Plus I have made invaluable contacts with other writers in this genre and with publishers as well. The site does take time, but I look at it as a way to not only promote my work, but the genre itself, which is good for all of us.

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  • http://twitter.com/adrianwarnock Adrian Warnock

    Great post. Couple of things. One is that blogging etc helps one learn how to write. If you cant do a blog you will never write a book. 2nd is do you think we all need comments on our blogs?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, I agree. Blogging teaches you to write.

      I personally do encourage community. Your readers want to engage with you. The more you do it, the more loyal they become. Thanks.

  • http://www.rainyofthedark.com/2011/01/how-to-improve-your-platform-in-just-minutes-a-week/ Rainy

    Thanks for the great post!

    Another thing authors should be aware of: building a platform is more than providing a notification of the next publication. The trick is to figure out what you know, how to share it, and still reach your target audience–all in one swipe.

    //R

  • http://www.idoinspire.com Jody Urquhart

    I get followers from my blog and when I speak
    I have an email newsletter to keep in touch
    I also stay on top of blogs I like…. Like this one to contribute to the conversattion

  • Gretchen

    This is all very eye-opening to me, a wanna-be-published author! My question is this: Since my book (which is currently in the end-editing stages) is geared to a YA audience… how can a blog (read, most likely, by adults) show a publisher anything about a YA audience’s apeal to my writing?

    Thanks for your time!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      The blog should be geared toward the audience making the purchase. Often YA book are bought by parents, so if you have a blog that reaches them, that qualifies as a platform.

      • Gretchen

        Ok, thanks so much! I firmly believe that any YA book worth reading as a kid is still worth reading as an adult…so, truly, I write for YA…on up! So your answer makes sense and is also a comfort! THANKS!

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  • http://www.joeyo.org Joey O’Connor

    Michael, your post is spot-on. Take it from someone working on rebuilding an “old school” platform.

    After writing 19 books with 2 Christian publishers, four years ago I turned off my website because I was focused on building an arts and media non-profit ministry.

    Now that everything has gone digital the past two years, I am ramping everything up again “to rebuild” my platform.

    First with regular blogging. (This I resisted for a long time…my blog is now my writing palette for my non-fiction, fiction, and screenplay works.)

    Second, by acquiring the rights of my books and converting them to digital ebooks (not cheap!)

    Third, by going for the “long tail.” Once books are digital, they’re digital for life!

    Last, by creating an online community that encourages and inspires artists and Christ-followers from all walks of life.

    Many thanks to the MH Blog…I check in regularly and I’m learning so much.

    Standard theme included!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Joey. This is a great story. Best to you!

  • http://www.pamhalter.info Pam Halter

    I’m a children’s book author. But I’m venturing into nonfiction and have learned I need a platform. I will be writing about being the parent of a special needs child, which means (obviously) I am a parent of a special needs child. Which means I can’t go running all over speaking to the masses. So, I’m planning to start a blog to see what kind of feedback I get.

    I do have a question about the title of the blog. Should it be the same title as my working title for the book? My working title is “Shut Up, It’s Not A Blessing” with the subtitle, “The Trials and Triumphs of Parenting a Special Needs Child.” I want it to be a real, raw look at what it’s really like – not the sugar coated thoughts and sentiments I typically get from people who don’t have a special needs child. I want to talk about the things we think but are afraid to say out loud. And I want to give hope and encouragement, because God has often said to me, “Shut Up, It IS a Blessing!” No, the situation is not a blessing, but there are blesssings in and around it.

    Thanks!
    pam

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I think your blog should be broader than that one topic. That book will come and go, but you want to have an enduring platform that you can use to support your other projects.

      • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

        Great advice.

  • http://www.themessage2.us Steven Zachary

    Thank you Michael for your insightful words.

    I received the same message from a number of people. I wrote a bok about the finances from a Biblical perspective using my experience as a finance and bankruptcy attorney and a minister. Timely book but I was told that until I have 25k in followers then the book will pretty much sit on the shelf.

    I wrote on my blog, a sermon message “If.” I am keeping faith that if this book is the will of God then He will make sure those who need to hear this message will hear it. “If” I have faith the size of a mustard seed, then I will move this mountain out of my way.

  • Daniel

    Wondering if anyone can help me. I self-published through Westbow. When I attempt to order my own with my “author discount” I am connected to another company and quoted a price @ 30% higher than I can obtain the same through Amazon. Attempts to gain explanation from Westbow have yielded no results. Trying to someone I can speak with. Suggestions?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, you can email me at mhyatt at thomasnelson dot com. I’ll get you in touch with the right people.

  • DCD

    As Lewis said, “It is through price that the devil became the devil.”

  • Charles Specht

    Mr. Hyatt,
    How many followers is considered a “good” or “stable” platform? What is the magic number that literary agents are looking for?
    Thank you,
    Charles Specht

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      I don’t think there is a set number. The main thing is to have a loyal following of ENGAGED followers. I think a good starting goal would be 10,000 unique visitors a month on your blog and 5,000 Twitter followers or Facebook friends/fans.

      • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

        This gives me hope! I just opened my blog to the public about 7 months ago and my traffic has increased every month on an average of 40%.

        • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

          Christin, I took a look at your site, and I think it’s great! I’m going to send the link to my wife; she’s always looking for good sites for mothers.

          • http://joyfulmothering.net Christin

            Oh, thank you very much! :) I appreciate that!

            Joy In Him,
            Christin
            Blog: Joyful Mothering ~ Faith. Laughter. Life.
            Twitter: @christinwrites

  • http://www.nebulousblood.com Brandon Gardner

    Thank you Michael for this great advice. I am just starting out as a self published author, and I have been doing lots of research on building an author platform. Your blog provides excellent information on the world of publishing. I’m taking my time to look over your articles, and I look forward to learning more.

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  • http://twitter.com/21tigermike Michael A. Robson

    Yeah, I love love love this post. And you know what? That’s what I love about the technology that we have at our disposal. You can do anything you want, and with a few online tools you can build your own fanbase. Slowly but surely, it can be done.

    And you hold all the keys. You hold the message, you design the website, the branding, and you pick the price (if you want to sell books, or collect ad revenue). You can use your website (as many do) to promote your services (like guest speaker, translator, interpreter, etc). You can be a comedian and promote your one liners on Twitter. It can be done, and it’s exciting.

    And the dinosaurs are freaking out about it.

  • http://www.SheBuildsEmpires.com Priorityclients

    Thank you @MichaelHyatt! I have many authors as clients who just want to focus on the book and think it’s enough! It’s been very frustrating to share with them that it doesn’t matter WHAT they do today – what book they right – what product they create – what speaking engagement they want to land – you HAVE to be present online if you want to get your message out there. And you look so much more attractive to publishers and the world when they can see that you already have a following…it’s like you’ve PRE-PROVEN yourself! I’m going to send this link on to my clients!

  • boomerpaw

    Michael: I just discovered your site and will be checking back regularly. One thing that caught my eye is the “click here” plugin in the upper right corner. So two questions: Is this a wordpress site? and is that “click here” an available plugin?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      Yes, this is a WordPress site. The plugin is called Page Peel. There are a lot of different ones out there.

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  • http://crpurdon.wordpress.com/ Carl Purdon

    I, too, have long thought the key to breaking through was writing the next great novel. A few days ago I joined Twitter and started reading advice from people such as yourself. My eyes are open now. I’ve been blogging for a while (spotty, pitiful blogging) but am now in the process of aquiring my own domain name and putting together a web site. There really is much more to writing that … writing.

    • http://crpurdon.wordpress.com/ Carl Purdon

      I need to work on my proofreading, too (should have been “writing than … writing”.

  • Chuck Huckaby

    I wonder how this would be applicable to support raising for missionaries and non profits. We tend to think in terms of “social media” but I’d have to believe that traditional media like radio would have to help too. Like some, I am afraid of promoting myself as something I’m not. It’s still a helpful concept.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      We have raised a lot of money through social money—I mean tens of thousands. It is amazing, how easy it is for people to contribute small amounts of money and how quickly it adds up.

      • Chuck Huckaby

        I’m sure that’s possible for a widely publicized topic… like Japan relief now. I wonder how you’d do it for a small niche ministry?

        • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

          Actually, I don’t think it is the size of the project or the public’s awareness about it. Most of the ones I have been involved in were small, local ministries. I think it has more to do with the size of the platform and the participants’ social authority with their audience.

  • Bob Stogner

    I am helping my daughter promote her new book, “The Unfading.” She truly is an excellent writer, but not at all into the “promoting” part. I am beginning to learn. A workshop leader on marketing new fiction said a new author needs 100 reviews on the internet. I am working on it. Our local newspaper has a group of writers called the “Teens & Twenties.” A high school freshman wrote the best, most knowledgeable and well written review so far! And it was published free in the local paper. There is a great deal to learn, but I think the effort is paying off.

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  • Haunted22

    I doubt that Stieg Larsson is blogging very much, and I don’t believe Rowling did it either. A lot of the bestselling authors you see regularly on the charts don’t overly devote much time to it; there are exceptions, of course. The fact is…no one knows why a book catches fire and burns up the lists. It either happens or it doesn’t, and I don’t believe ‘social media’ has much to do with it. Sorry…just my opinion

  • http://twitter.com/BobEwoldt Robert Ewoldt

    I’m building my brand around my website, brevis.me. My wife and I started the blog together, and now she’s splitting off to develop her own blog, and I’m refining the brand of brevis. I don’t know whether this will turn me into an author someday, but it’s definitely gotten me into the habit of writing.

  • darrell brown

    Wow!!! What honesty and insight. I appreciate this one more than you’ll ever know! Thanks for another wonderful post!

  • http://suburbiauncovered.com/ Matt Powell

    I find this truth very conflicting.  I do understand it has obvious benefits for publishing houses.  Also, I understand that it does make the author better through honing his craft as a writer and marketer with these social media tools.  However, I can’t help but wonder how many great writings are getting passed up because someone hasn’t created a “following.”  It takes an enormous amount of time to create a following and one could easily argue that the best writers are writing or improving upon their publishable works.

    All this to say, it is conflicting… as is true with so many things these days… I can’t help but wonder if our leverage of this technology is greater than the potholes it creates.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, this is great to know…I hope to publish in my future and it helps to know what some of the avoidable pitfalls are. I’m very interested in this topic.

  • http://www.kristievosper.com Kristie Vosper

    Thank you for this great post. Last year instead of being stingy about how many Facebook friends I allowed into my world, I started to see all of the various ministry connections I’ve made at several churches as my tribe. I am super grateful for Facebook’s new settings that allow you to limit who sees your status updates…this makes my introverted self a little less claustrophobic. I know that much of my blog traffic is rooted in my Facebook posts.

    When it comes to Twitter, I’m a little hesitant to build a huge network because I simply don’t want to read chatter from thousands of people. I want to read a few. I know that there are “lists” which I have under utilized…well let’s be honest…haven’t used at all. 

    I remember in your 2009 post on Twitter you shared my feelings about not following everyone who follows you, though I notice you’ve perhaps changed this since you follow several thousand people now. I’m curious if you have already posted thoughts in this regard, or as you earlier alluded, perhaps you are going to soon. I am willing to shift my thinking if it would help in my growth as a writer and in building my platform. 

    Thanks for always sharing such valuable work. Your blog could really be a graduate study program…:)

    • http://www.kristievosper.com Kristie Vosper

      Update: I jumped in. I made a list of all my “daily reads” and then started adding people. I’ve gained some followers already. I’m going to give myself a goal of 100 new followers a month.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lindylou.abbott Lindy Abbott

    joining web women’s groups and being active. writing blogs regularly. living life intentionally so I always have new ideas. reading as many books as possible and writing reviews. encouraging other writers by reading their blogs and making comments. 

  • http://CindyRatzlaff.com Cindy Ratzlaff

    Spot on advice, Michael.  I heard a publicist at BookExpo say that she won’t take on clients who haven’t yet built a significant Facebook and Twitter following.  Social media amplifies traditional marketing efforts and in a time of reduced marketing and pr budgets, social media is an essential tool that the author must bring to the promotional table.

  • writercynt

    I am a new writer and just read the article on creating a platform….help!  I’m not actually sure I know what or how to do that.

  • Lisa C

    I don’t believe you need to build relationships with every potential reader before being published but you should build it with influencers in the topic for what you are writing… I am the founder of one of the largest ministries for those with chronic illness and we are an affiliate of Joni and Friends. I have always self published the books through my ministry ( and we have made gobs more $ for the ministry this way–I donate all profits to the ministry)
    There are many people who write books on chronic illness/Christian viewpoint and the first time I ever hear from them is when they want me to sell the book or at least review it. I have never heard their name, they are not part of our 3000-person social network, they are not a friend on fB, etc. I don’t know anything about them, their view on healing, etc and so am more reluctant to spend the time trying to discover everything about them.
    When writing a book on a topic, get to know influencers, hang out in their circles, send them content for their site if they allow it, ask their opinion on your topic, even a quote/endorsement perhaps. If they are the founder/director of a ministry they may open doors for you, but if you have been hiding out to get the writing done, and now are going to try to sell it, it may be too late.
    FYI, I am working on a book for Christian moms with illness and just this week set up a fb page to get people’s stories, feedback, etc. Am creating a buzz in the readers while just starting to write the book and introducing myself to large groups of moms with illness waaaay before I will be asking for any favors. and my book will be much richer in content because of everyone’s input!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com Michael Hyatt

      This is great advice. Thanks.

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  • http://juliesunne.com/ Julie Sunne

    As a “moderately technophobic” aspiring author, my son convinced me begin blogging nearly 8 months ago as a way to reach out with a message I felt compelled to share. Facebook was a logical next step. Now I also have Twitter and Pinterest accounts and am debating about Google-plus. You, Michael, and many others have convinced me a social media platform is essential if I desire to be a published author. Although not growing as fast as I would like, I am building my following by being honest, authentic, and prompt and writing solid content regularly.
    My biggest problems are the learning curve and managing my time on social media. Thanks for sharing your expertise in the publishing industry. You are a blessing to many.

  • http://twitter.com/BruceMunnings Bruce Munnings

    Hello Michael.  

    I found this blog particularly interesting as a friend of mine, also Michael, is in the process of trying to get his photography book out there and finding the process rather frustrating.  

    I was amazed at how easy it was to share this blog with him on Facebook and hopefully encourage him in the process.  Thank you again for an excellent article.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mel.menzies Mel Menzies

    Despite having been a traditionally published author for years, I self-published a book a while ago and have been building a platform ever since.  Yet I read, recently, that agent Rachelle Gardner tells novelists not to brand themselves.   How do you explain this?
    http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/10/novelists-stop-trying-to-brand-yourself/

  • Colleen D.C. Marquez

    I’m using Kickstarter to help me presell copies of my first children’s story, A Gift for Little Tree – a parable about apples, adoption and love. My plan is to use the funding to help pay my amazing illustrator, and get the buzz going even before the book is printed. In just 3 days I am already 12% funded!

    I do community outreach in the adoption community for the largest US adoption agency, so my book will be a terrific outreach tool in my presentations.

    I’m using my contact and groups within LinkedIn, created a special Facebook group for the book, am starting to use Twitter, instagram, and Pinterest, too.

  • http://www.SmallGroupChurches.com/ Andrew Mason

    Next Article: Why those with a Platform must become an Author :)

  • Melinda Todd

    I’m working on it! And I’m getting there slowly with numbers. It will come. I’m still learning and I expect to continue to do so. Baby steps!

  • Andrew Dean Sargent

    The TRIBES link above takes me to a strange place.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Where did it take you? I just tried it, and it goes straight to the Amazon detail page for the book. Thanks.

  • Judith Briles

    Building a Platform involves 3 key elements in the beginning–the Vision for the book and the author; the passion the author brings to the creation and support; and the commitment–time, energy and money. When they are in play, the people will come … but, and it’s a huge but, the author has to, no, must engage in GOYA factor–get off your ass–or the GOHA Factor…get off his/her ass. None of this happens by being on the sidelines and passive … it’s work, work, work. And it does work.

  • Tom

    This is a great post. So true. I would not say that building a platform is necessarily easy, but it’s certainly EASIER than it once was. It takes time, determination, and the ability to generate quality content. I think most authors (and people in general) quit way too early in the platform building process. You (Mike Hyatt) are an example of someone who kept plodding away over many years. I’m sure in the early days, what you did was not spectacularly successful – as it is today. My advice to authors (particularly self-published authors) is to look at this as a marathon and not a sprint.

  • Lovemore Nyatsine

    I agree Michael on the need to build a platform. I would add that its a combination of CONTENT + PLATFORM. Social media is a big game changer in building a platform as an author. Once you have content, you can use a strategy to ‘engage’ through social media to get your message out. If you have great content – and a good copy writing skills its easy to grab attention through blogging, tweeting and other social networks.

  • Brigitte Cobb

    I couldn’t agree more. I wrote a great book, got it published by a well-known publisher but really struggling with sales. I’m now focusing on building my platform.