The following is the outline I used to record this episode. It is not the episode itself! I encourage you to listen to the episode if you can.
Why Publishers Care About Platform:
- Michael Hyatt popularized the term when he started blogging about it about 10 years ago. He also wrote a book about it (Affiliate Link) in 2012.
- Platform is seen as an indication that books will sell.
- Authors without platforms often fail to sell many books, especially in nonfiction.
- Hyatt used his understanding of platform to acquire many of the top authors and grow Thomas Nelson even bigger as the #1 Christian publishing company.
“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”
The Big Short
The Problem with Platform
Platform is gameable by savvy authors.
Ways authors game the numbers:
- “Follow me on Twitter and I will follow you back.”
- Buying fake followers.
- Using the follower churn method.
- Many other ways I won’t go into here.
Platform focuses too much on social media metrics (Facebook Likes, Instagram Followers, Twitter Followers, etc.).
Platform fails to account for engagement and passion. Engagement is difficult to measure without expensive tools, and engagement does not always translate into sales.
Platform fails to take into account the number one reason why books sell: word of mouth.
It fails to take into account the author’s influence with influential people.
The More Useful Goal: Resonance
Resonance is a musical term. A note can resonate in a room and make the whole room vibrate to the tone of that note. It is why some tones can break a wine glass while others can’t at the same volume.
In physics, it is like pushing a child on a swing. If you are in resonance with the frequency of the swing, you are pushing the child as she swings away from you. You are encouraging the swing in the direction it is already wanting to go. If you get the frequency wrong, you miss your push or you push the child off the swing.
As novelists, you have resonance when your story resonates with the story going on in someone’s heart. You are pushing them in the direction they are already going on the swing.
As nonfiction writers, you have resonance when someone says “Yes! This puts in words what I have been feeling recently!”
- Resonance is why this blog post went viral. People were already frustrated with courtship and after they read the post they shared it.
I will be using the word zeitgeist a lot in this episode and I thought it would be good to define it quickly.
Zeitgeist: “the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era”
I think the word “zeitgeist” sounds pretentious, but I can’t think of a better word. So please forgive me for using it.
Three Kinds of Authors
Type 1: Without resonance.
Most writers fall into this category, especially the ones with few sales.
- out of tune with the music around them.
- out of sync with the zeitgeist.
- pushing and there is no swing in front of them to push.
Type 2: With Resonance
- the authors who regularly write bestsellers.
- “in tune” with the music around them.
- in sync with the zeitgeist.
- pushing the swing in the direction it is already going.
Type 3: Make Their Own Resonance
This type is very hard to predict ahead of time!
- are often the unknown authors who come out of nowhere and write runaway surprise bestselling books.
- change the zeitgeist. This is almost impossible to do. Some years, no author pulls it off.
- cause the people around them to change their tune.
- push the swing right before it is about to change directions.
How to Find Your Resonance
Resonance is about three things.
1) Resonance is about timing.
- Culture changes over time.
- Too early, and you are out of step with the Zeitgeist. You are pushing the girl off the swing.
- Too late, and you are cliche. You are pushing after the swing has already out of reach.
- This is why it is so important to read the books in your genre.
2) Resonance is about audience.
Each community vibrates at its own frequency. Saying your book is “for everyone” is like standing at a bank of swings trying to push all the swings at the same time. You have to watch the motion of a specific swing in order to push at the right time.
You can’t resonate with every community. Being in sync with one community will put you out of sync with others. Women in nursing homes and men on basketball teams don’t read the same books. You need to know who your book is not for. That way, you don’t need to worry if they are unhappy about your book.
You need to join the community you want to reach. If they won’t accept you, you won’t be able to find resonance with them. If you hate science fiction and want to write a book to “fix” it, you will fail.
This is what is wrong with The Last Jedi. It wasn’t made by fans of Star Wars. They tried to “fix” something millions of people didn’t think was broken. Making Luke Skywalker a coward, the rebellion incompetent, and Rey a nobody was the “fix” that alienated millions of fans.
Sometimes you need to prepare the audience for your message. This is what John the Baptist did for Jesus.
3) Resonance is about listening.
- You need to be able to hear the music around you to be in tune with it. You need to watch the swings. You get the idea.
- As novelists, this means watching the movies that your target readers watch. You also need to read the novels they read.
- As nonfiction writers, this means finding where the conversation about your topic is taking place and joining that conversation. Depending on your topic this may be blogs, podcasts, Reddit, Facebook groups, etc.
- Look for the questions people are asking about your topic.
- Blog about your topic and watch your analytics carefully to see what is resonating.
- Resonance is so much more than how many people follow you on Social Media.
- Platform can be a sign of resonance, but it is not how you make resonance happen. Resonance is the horse. Platform is the cart the horse drags. Don’t put the cart in front of the horse.
- If you want to write books people want to read, you need to write the kind of books that already people want to read.
- The key to resonance is to reach beyond yourself. Authors who write from a selfish place rarely have the vision to see how the swing is moving.
Sponsor: Christian Writers Institute
This course is a one hour webinar with Thomas Umstattd, Mary DeMuth, and Michael Hyatt about Hyatt’s (new at the time) book Platform. Save 10% with coupon code “podcast”
Thomas Umstattd’s Mastermind Groups
Do you want help and encouragement in your writing career? I have started two mastermind groups, for published and prepublished authors.
These groups meet monthly with me via video call where each mastermind checks in, shares their progress, challenges, and goals. Each mastermind also gets a chance to pick my brain and get encouragement from the other masterminds. You can learn more here.
Space is limited and there is a waitlist if the group you want to join has already filled.