What’s your platform?

As a result of a teleseminar I gave yesterday, my calendar has been full of strategy calls with people who want to write or market a book and need questions answered or help. (If you want to book such a free call with me, click here.)

I’ve been amazed how many of the people I’ve spoken with have a well-established platform for marketing their book and other products. What’s a platform? It is a collection of ways in which you already have contact with a significant audience–frequent presentations; a newsletter; on-line or newspaper or magazine columns; and so on. If you contact a literary agent or a publisher, they are sure to ask about your platform. Do you have one? What is it?

A solid and broad platform is the key to immediate volume sales of your book. One person I spoke with has a continuous stream of corporate presentations on the very topic about which he is writing. I pointed out to him that most of his corporate clients are likely to want a copy of his book for each member of the audience; this could double his revenue from a single engagement! He agreed.

If you already have an established platform, think how you might take advantage of it to promote your book. If you don’t yet have one, consider investing time and energy into the creation of an appropriate one; it will both greatly increase the volume of your book sales, and enhance your market presence for your professional services.

Arielle Ford says in the Huffington Post:

“I don’t buy authors, I don’t buy books, I buy platforms.” – #1 Self-Help Publisher in the world

One of the biggest mistakes authors make is thinking that they have to first write a book or the book proposal and then go out and look for a publisher. In reality, the biggest thing you need to do before you approach a publisher is to build your platform.

You want to be able to say to any publisher, “I have 3,000 names in my e-mail database. I’ve have been a guest speaker on 10 radio shows. I have done 20 paid speeches, and I am scheduled for four weekend workshops. Here is my list of upcoming speeches, the interviews I have done and my press kit.”

The reason you want to be able to tell a publisher all of this is because the only question they really have for you is, “Who is going to buy your book?” If you have something important to say and you are on to something that’s really great, you still aren’t ready to be an author until you have a platform.

Pay attention.

Lots of ways to write a book

You may think there’s only one way to write a book, even if you’ve read my free book on the subject. You name it, plan it, structure it down to the sub-chapter level, then write it.

That’s the way I teach, and it works very well. But it isn’t the only way to produce a book. Here are several others that may suit your needs:

  • Interviews. Find leaders in your niche and interview them. Tell them you’re going to transcribe the interviews and include them in a book. (Don’t forget to ask how many they want to order.)

    The interviews don’t have to  be very long. An ideal length will result in just a few pages of material.

    Pick a unifying subject for the book: “What’s the Biggest Problem in (your niche), and What Do the Experts Say about It?”

    You can conduct the interviews over the phone and record them. You can also package and market the recordings; don’t forget to get the interviewees permission. And ask them for a link to their website or a sales page for you to publicize; that’s their motivation for participating in the project.

  • Quotations. Collect a bunch of quotations (that are out of copyright) relevant to your niche. Put each on its own page. Beneath it, or on the opposite page, write your interpretation of Socrates’ wise saying to people in your field. (You can also leave room for the reader to add their own reflections.)
  • Blog. You may have already written your book: Your blog entries might be its content. In fact, FastPencil.com will let you import your blog, then rearrange and edit the entries into a book. That’s fast.
  • Photo-journal. You can use the special book-layout tools of Blurb.com to create a gorgeous book of your photos. The price per book is fairly high, depending on various factors, but might be still worth it for, say, a construction project proposal or an investment offering, a commemorative book or gift.
  • “The 47 best tips on…” Elicit tips, opinions, whatever from your readers, your Twitter followers, your Facebook friends, whatever, and compile them into a handbook. Jokes. Toasts. 6-word short stories (Hemingway’s famous one: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.”) Collect ’em. Publish ’em, with your intro, and a link to your website. You are now an opinion leader in your field.

A stroll through a bookstore or your library will inspire you with even more ideas.


If you want your book to be read, and to do good for people, an excellent approach is to focus on a particular pain that your audience is experiencing. Of course, this means you must have a specific audience in mind when you are writing. And that’s worth at least a paragraph or two right here.

You want to write a book. You have things to say, things you want people to know. Things you want people to know about you. Who are these people? Before you answer, let me give you a hint: It’s not “everybody.”

There are very few things that are truly of interest to everybody. And if you write so as to offer something for every conceivable reader, you’ll find that nobody wants to read what you’ve written–because too little of it pertains to them, to their life, to their interests.

You must have an audience in mind when you are writing–and you must characterize them to yourself, so that you are writing to a single person who represents you audience. Without that model, it will be very hard for you to write in a way that is meaningful and interesting. “Meaning” is a very local matter; shared meaning is usually confined to groups with shared interests.

Once you’ve identified your audience, you want to address issues of immediate concern; in other words, pain points. When you write things that are generally interesting or funny, you’ll capture readers who have a bit of time on their hands, and are looking for something with which to occupy themselves. But when you write about someone’s pain, you have your reader’s full attention. They are looking for ways to abate their pain, and if you have a product, a service, or an approach that will help them, they are yours. “The Fun I had Driving Coast to Coast”–maybe dentist waiting-room reading. “How to Stop Lower Back Pain in 24 Hours or Less”–“Gimme!” says any sufferer.

So ask yourself: What’s the purpose of your book? Do you want to entertain your reader, or move them to action? If the latter, get very clear on who your ideal reader is, and address a point of pain for them.


A newborn macaque imitates tongue protrusion
Image via Wikipedia

Sex! Greed! Pathos! Pain! Does the word “passion” evoke these for you? They are what literary people think of.

When I think “passion” in the context of non-fiction books, I think of things people really, really care about. Things with which they are deeply involved. Things that they can talk about for hours on end. Things they believe are basically good, even if they are frivolous.

Both are powerful. (Maybe because of mirror neurons.) We echo the feelings represented by the words, and that gets our juices flowing.

I’ve heard it said that the reason bad news dominates newspapers is so that people’s adrenalin will be pumping when they see the ads, so that they’ll have an emotional reaction. And it doesn’t much matter if the reaction is positive or negative; it’s just that strong negative reactions are easier to generate. So that’s why “if it bleeds, it leads.”

When you are writing your book, ignore Sgt. Joe Friday, of the old “Dragnet” tv series, who famously said, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Your facts need to be dressed in story, something to help your reader identify with what you are saying. Without story and passion, what you write will not hold anyone’s interest.

On the other hand, gratuitous references to body parts or fluids will not accomplish that for most audiences; they will evoke disgust, even revulsion. The passion you convey should relate to the reader’s pain, the thing they want to resolve. Now. If you can, in the well-known advice of copywriters, tap into the conversation that is already taking place in the reader’s head, you have a much better chance of communicating your message to them.

And that’s why you are writing a book, isn’t it? To say something to someone. So use passion, but be civil. You can do it.

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What to write when you are pressed for time

If you follow the method I describe in my free book, “The Simple Secret To Writing A Non-Fiction Book In 30 Days, At 1 Hour A Day!” (click on the link at the top of the blog to get it), you’ll create the detailed structure of your book before writing andy of it, down to the level of subchapters.

A subchapter is only 300-600 words long. So if you find yourself with just a few minutes, you can pick one and ZipWrite it (also described in the book), without having to think much or plan. You just write. And it fits in the overall structure.

So here I am at a conference I host with my friend Brad Holtz each year (www.cofes.com). It’s the end of the first day, and I am zonked–and I haven’t written my blog entry for today. What’s a committed blogger to do?

What I am doing is writing about this pressing situation in hopes that my reader–that’s you–will find a lesson in it that will serve them in their book-writing efforts.

Now, you can’t structure a blog the way you do a book. It doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and end; it’s kind of a journal, ongoing. But you can always write about what’s going on just now. And because this is simply what’s happening in my life at the moment, it “fits,” at least in the sense of being part of a coherent chronology.

Is it helpful? Useful? Comment below and let me know. (By the way, if it’s not clear where to comment, click on the name of the blog post to go to its page. There the “Reply” box is clearly in evidence.)

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