I knew the dreaded discussion was coming, but I decided to go ahead with our meeting. After coaching the pastor on his manuscript and book proposal, the time had come to represent my author to a literary agent.

The names have been changed to protect the guilty…

“George,” I began after our pleasantries. “I’ve been working with an author on a manuscript that’s really good—kind of a John Eldredge for millennials.”

George wrinkled his eyebrows and crossed his arms. I held my breath.

“Tell me about his [DELETED].”

“Well,” I answered. “He pastors a church of a thousand people. Before that, he was the campus pastor at a large Christian school. He’s well-connected. Did I mention that he’s also an artist and can provide illustrations in the book?”

Unimpressed, George shot back, “Does he have a [DELETED] or a [DELETED]?”

You can probably guess the direction our conversation went. Neither he nor his coterie of agents decided to represent the author, who never published his manuscript, despite the quality of the writing and the depth of material.

Many well-written, well-thought-out manuscripts go the way of all flesh because of one dreaded word.

Take A Deep Breath… Platform.

There, I said it.

My definition of “platform” is the body of people who find you credible and will purchase your book. You could say that your platform is your fan base.

Now, I’m not going to complain about traditional publishing’s insistence on a sizable platform before signing an author—although I could. Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you have something to say.

The reality is, you need a platform to sell books, whether you get picked up by a publisher or not. It’s the secret sauce of every successful author.

We’re moving into the grilling season. When grilling a burger, the secret sauce separates a GOOD burger from a GREAT burger. In the same way, a solid platform separates a SKILLED author from a SUCCESSFUL author.

It’s Never To Early To Start

Here’s another dose of reality: if you wait to build your platform until after you’ve published your book, it’s too late. You need to build your platform while you’re writing your book. Like, RIGHT NOW.

That’s why Illumify’s tagline is Write. Market. Publish. Sell! Most authors assume it’s Write. Publish. Market. Sell!

The last dose of reality: In the good old days, writers could just focus on writing. No more. Even traditional publishers (HarperCollins, Penguin, etc) rely on authors to promote themselves.

So where do you start?

If you’re a nonfiction author, here are a few essential tips to building your platform:

Be shameless about plugging your book. People won’t find it on their own. If you’re uncomfortable about making a big deal about yourself…get over it. Your book is more about your message than you.

Launch a Facebook page if you’re one of the handful of people who haven’t already. Then click on “About” and complete your profile. After that, create a Facebook Fan Page for your book—and make sure you incorporate your book cover into the heading. Click here for tips on setting it up.

Finally, “Friend” everyone you remotely know or want to know on Facebook and then invite them to “like” your book.

Create a blog—and narrow the focus to the subject matter of your book. This establishes you as an authority on the topic while building your fan base. WordPress blog software is fairly easy to navigate.

You can set up a free blog on WordPress.org, which I’ve done. Free is always nice, but it limits your options. WordPress.com, however, offers many more options. Click here to learn more about starting a blog through WordPress.com. This link will help you choose a theme. If you need a recommendation hiring someone to build your website, please let me know.

Now that you have a Facebook page and a blog, link them together. That way, every post you write will show up on your Facebook or Fan page. Here’s a video that shows you how to do it.

And Now, The Tasty Ingredients…

You need to write a post at least three times a week to build your following. Years ago, I posted six times a week for six months and registered well over 150,000 hits. Seriously.

And what do you write about? Your book, of course. If you’ve already written most or all of your manuscript, use snippets of around 300 words for your posts.

If you haven’t written your manuscript, your blog can serve as a platform for your discoveries, ponderings and insights. Countless blogs have served as the basis for a book.

To make the best use of your blog, build a community of fans around your posts. You do this by inviting comments from your readers and then interacting with them.

Obviously, I’ve just skimmed the surface on this topic. Future posts will delve deeper.

Another Way To Spell P-L-A-T-F-O-R-M

The long and short of this is, platform-building can also be spelled W-O-R-K.

Don’t let this article deter you from forging ahead. Many of our Illumify publishing packages include promotion that builds momentum for your book.We can get the ball rolling—then you can keep it going.

In the next week or two, we’ll give you some tips on how fiction authors can build their platform as well.

If you’d like to brainstorm ideas of how to publish and promote your book, feel free to schedule a time to chat.

Happy writing!

Michael J. KlassenMichael J. Klassen
President, Illumify Media Global
Write. Market. Publish. SELL!