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October 2012

Reporter: Michael Ehret

Michael EhretMichael Ehret is the editor of ACFW Journal, the member magazine for American Christian Fiction Writers, and is a freelance editor at Writing On The Fine Previously, he worked as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star, was a senior editor for Everence Financial in Goshen IN, and the editor-in-chief for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

September 21 | Keynote Address

Michael Hyatt“All the world’s a stage” from William Shakespeare has never been more true than it is today—especially when you have something important to communicate, according to Michael Hyatt.

Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson and author of Platform: Get Noticed In A Noisy World, in his second keynote address at the ACFW Conference, noted there are 168 million blogs. According to Bowker, 347,000 new books are published each year in the United States—just from traditional publishers. Amazon has 27 million titles in their database.

“It’s an incredibly noisy world,” Hyatt said. “If you’re going to succeed, you need to have a platform.”

While a platform is still a thing you stand so you can be seen and heard, today’s platforms are made of people, he said. “They are your followers, your fans, your customers, your prospects, your readers. That is what makes up your platform.”

All good things start small, Hyatt said, before he shared his own experience at creating a platform. In 2004, he started blogging and started out with a handful of people. From 2004 to 2007, the amount of his followers doubled each year. In 2008, the number was 20,000 readers a year. In 2009, 43,000; 2010, 59,000; 2011, 183,000.

“Don’t be discouraged if you’re not seeing a lot of traction,” Hyatt said. “So many people quit right before it gets interesting. The race goes to those who can hang in there and be consistent. You must be willing to persevere.”

Hyatt said authors can grow a powerful personal platform in five steps.

Step 1: Start with Wow

Platform Book Cover“This really starts with a great product,” Hyatt said. “This is the challenge if you decide to go the self-publishing route. You cannot afford to let the quality slip. You must get in touch with a great editor. You can’t afford to compromise on this point.”

They key to Wow, he said, is to consistently exceed your reader’s expectations. “You’ve got to be able to under promise and over deliver. People expect value.”

But, at some point you must ship. Perfection is the mother of procrastination. It’s hard to send that manuscript. It’s hard to hit publish on your blog. “But you have to take the next step—you have to move forward.”

Step 2: Prepare to launch

Launching is not a one-time event, Hyatt said. It takes preparation and the mindset that you will own the outcome—the responsibility is yours. “We live in a culture where people are more inclined to blame others…it’s everyone else’s fault,” he said. “You can’t afford to do that if you’re going to be successful.”

He encouraged authors to meet their chief marketing officer—by looking in the mirror. “Until you’re ready to take that step and assume that mantle, you’re not ready for success. … If you’re not committed to it, how can you expect anyone else to get behind it?”

Step 3: Build your home base

Hyatt said his home base is his blog. It’s a piece of digital real estate he owns and controls. “The other social media services (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.) are embassies. You don’t own or control them, but you have credentials to be in that foreign country and represent yourself.”

Step 4: Expand your reach

Many authors are uncomfortable with marketing, he said. But the kind of marketing they’re afraid of is dead or dying. “You don’t have to be a slick salesperson to market you own product,” Hyatt said. “Marketing is just sharing. Be generous. Be willing to offer people snippets from your novel, your advice, whatever they ask for.”

Whatever it takes, he said, you have to get out there in the marketplace.

Step 5: Engage your tribe

First he defined a tribe as “a group of people who share your passion, have a way to communicate with each other, and are willing to follow your leadership.” But it’s not a monologue, but a dialogue.

“So many today use social media like a broadcast channel,” Hyatt said. “They don’t use it to engage their customers. The best authors, the ones winning online, engage their customers.

“Engaging with your tribe is like hosting a dinner party. If you invite people to your house for dinner it would be weird if you didn’t show up.”

But, he said, it would also be strange if the host had to comment on everything any of the guests shared. “Guide the conversation,” he said, “but don’t monopolize the conversation. When your tribe is engaging with each other and helping each other, that’s when it’s working.”

He encouraged authors to make a lot more social media deposits that withdrawals. “Be helpful more than you ask for help.”

When building a platform, the most important thing is to take that first step, Hyatt said. “God doesn’t usually reveal the whole path at once. I usually have enough clarity for the next step—and that’s all I need.”

In conclusion, he said we are all here for a reason: “People are counting on you to fulfill the purpose for which God called you. Will you do it?”

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