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Powerful Nonfiction Author Case Study: How to Build Your Platform Quickly and Effectively

I invited Dana Manciagli to contribute a case study because she has set a tremendous example for authors on how focus, dedication, and hard work can lead to building an author platform very quickly. Enjoy this interview (and plan to take a lot of notes)!

Author Name: Dana Manciagli

Book Title: Cut the Crap, ™ Get a Job! A New Job Search Process for a New Era








You made a big career change earlier this year. What was your previous career and how did you decide to make the leap into coaching, speaking and writing?

After 30 years in sales and marketing roles for great companies, I left a high-powered job at Microsoft in March, 2013, just seven months ago at the time of this writing! I made the decision based on a number of stars aligning at the same time:

  • My children both got jobs (off mom’s payroll!) after college.
  • I earned a two-month sabbatical from work, which gave me time to think about my next “chapter.”
  • My twin sister, Tracy, had a recurrence of breast cancer, a reminder of how short life is.
  • During my sabbatical, I wrote the book that I have always said I was going to write and that motivated me to build a business. My passion to “live my legacy versus leaving my legacy” dominated my thinking and I just couldn’t go back to my job.

Build an Author Platform Quickly - Case Study with Dana ManciagliHow long did you spend planning your new career launch and what did you do to prepare?

Since it was such a sudden decision, I only planned it for about two months. I wrote a business plan and developed a “list of lists.” There was so much to do that I needed a list of the categories, and then each category had a list. Examples:  Website, book publishing, social media, publicity, blogging, photography, and so many more.

I think one big thing that sets you apart is that you have always had a vision and an intention to “go big.” Can you share a bit about your approach and what going big means to you?

Yes, I think my work in big corporation sales and marketing helped me “go big.” It was important to have a business plan that spelled out how I was going to make money. My best tool: a calculator. How many clients multiplied by what rate? How many speeches times what rate?  In my spreadsheet by month, I needed to allow for a high investment up front and a long ramp time before realizing the revenue I aspired to. In summary, “going big” meant (and still means!) investing enough in the right activities in order to realize the revenue I was planning on. It means questioning every decision and asking myself “how will this lead to results?”

How long did it take you to write your book and what was your process for getting it done?

It took me close to 200 hours, about 24 days at 8 hours per day. Basically, it was a full-time job for a full month. My process was to go in order by chapter, not pause to edit, and just “get it all out.” Editing came later.

What helped me was to develop a “framework” for each chapter. Every chapter flows in the same order: articulate the challenge, then provide a solution, then tricks, mistakes, excuses, and a close with homework assignments. That way, I knew when I was finished with a chapter and the blank page of the next chapter wasn’t quite as daunting.

You write a fantastic column for the Business Journals. How did that come to fruition?

I started by putting myself in my target audience’s shoes. Where do job seekers go for information, both online and in print? What is the quality of the information those publications are providing? Naturally, there are many resources online so I needed a unique strategy to stand out in that crowded market. However, when I read my local Business Journal (paper version or online), it was quite sparse as it related to jobs. Yes, it offered a jobs board that listed jobs in my city, but no real insights to help people be successful in their job search.

So I wrote a proposal to the Business Journals! And, instead of starting with just my local Business Journal, I submitted my proposal directly to the national headquarters that oversees the editorial direction of the business journals in 43 cities nationwide. It was quite lengthy and I followed up with a conference call and we started the Career Mojo column on May 15.

You also hired a publicist, which can be a substantial investment for an author. What benefits have you found from working with a publicist?

As an author, speaker and consultant, it is critical that I am perceived as an expert, especially since I changed fields. Therefore, I chose to invest in a professional who helped me on so many levels: building a media kit, preparing for interviews, securing print and radio spots, and much more. As a result, my media presence has been tremendous for the short time I have been doing public relations. You can scroll through all here.

I’m now shifting into a new public relations chapter, aiming for more local TV and, ultimately, national TV. On my own, both HARO and Profnet ($99.00/month) have been great sources of articles for me to pitch, too.

Your website is very well thought-out and comprehensive. What are some of the strategies you use to make sure it stands out and is updated often?

First, I went to websites of many other speakers, authors, and consultants. I cut and pasted things I liked into an online notebook (Microsoft OneNote that comes with Office). This helped me organize what I wanted the web designer to do. As a result, I was able to give clear direction to my web designer in a document that we could check progress against.

Strategy #1:  Build something that I could update without having to call a web designer every time. However, I didn’t want to learn code. So I tasked my webmaster to design it to be self-maintained up front. For example, when I have a new article published or get a new media mention, I can upload the link and image myself!

Strategy #2: Collect names for my newsletter and build a customer base. I wanted my webmaster to ensure that the experience would be visible and easy. I had six on my mailing list on April 1 and I now have 2,386, to date!

Strategy #3: Appeal to both consumers (job-seekers, individuals) and businesses (speaker buyers, corporations) with compelling, easy-to-digest messages.

As a result, my first website draft was quite close to something I liked!

What other experts have you hired to help with your journey?

Other than my publicist, web designer, book publisher (Authority Publishing):

  • Social Media Marketing Management: Stephanie Chandler and her team set up all of my accounts, integrated them, assessed my goals, and put me on a program for success.  I write all content and they populate, manage my tweets, integrate all technologies to maximize the impact, and more. For blogs, I write and post to “drafts” on my website and Stephanie’s team schedules them out. Results? I wrote my first tweet in November 2012 and I now have 1,565 tweets shared with 15,381 Twitter followers. I have over 25,000 followers across all of my social media platforms.
  • Editor: I love to write AND it’s very freeing to just write, send the content to my editor, Gail Nickel-Kailing, and know that the content and the grammar make sense. It’s much more than commas that makes for great editing.
  • Bookkeeper: I do not like the financial “stuff” but, fortunately, bookkeepers do! Don’t wait until you think you are “big enough”…do it right up front to track expenses, income, and much more.
  • Legal: I used for trademarks, setting up the LLC, copyrights, and more.
  • Graphic Designers: Various, some of which are overseas, some domestic, depending on the job.

Do you have any favorite tools or resources that you rely on?

  • For the author side of my business, I recently started my presence on GoodReads and highly recommend that to all authors, too.
  • As a way better alternative to Google Alerts, I have switched to Mention.Net to get “clippings” of any mentions about me, my book title, my keywords, and to find “call for speakers.”
  • I use Constant Contact for my newsletters and mailing list management.
  • I love Tweetdeck to manage my tweets, interact with my followers, and learn so much.
  • For small design jobs (and some big ones!), I’ve saved tons of dollars by using and

What advice do you have for authors who are working on doing what you’ve done?

Oh, I could write a book on advice for first-time authors, solopreneurs and more, but here are my key recommendations:


    • Be self-aware. Know these three things about yourself: Things you like to do, things you don’t like to do, and “I don’t know.” For example, I thought I might need to get a ghost-writer but it turned out I love to write!
    • Communicate your strengths and weaknesses to your consultants and support team so they are aware.

On the business aspects like book marketing, public relations, speaking and more, forget what you think you know and get current!


  • I attended multiple webinars and continue to learn on a regular basis. There is an amazing amount of FREE information to teach you how to do virtually anything.
  • Read about and follow others in your space, introduce yourself to them, and honor their work, as well.
  • When you are in “learning mode,” turn off all other tasks, take notes, and execute on what you learn!
  • A must-do is to attend the Non-Fiction Writers


  • Starting a business is not cheap.
  • Follow the money: How do you plan to make money and what is the road to get from here to there? Invest on that road.
  • You will be “lured” into believing you need to do all kinds of other things. If you feel compelled to try something like Twitter advertising or Facebook advertising, then try it for a short time and see if you are getting results that merit the investment.
  • Hold your consultants accountable for giving you reports on their efforts and your results. Be your best advocate: when you reach a day that you are not sure you are realizing the value, call them and have an honest conversation.


  • This is my #1 piece of advice. Don’t just talk the talk then allow weeks to go by before you execute.
  • Get disciplined about your time management. Block every hour of your day with tasks that you need to accomplish. Be sure you are doing the things you don’t like doing. For me, my bookkeeping is my least favorite. You can set reoccurring activities and appointments on your calendar for things like writing your newsletters.
  • Leverage what other people are doing in the industry! Ask peers for examples of what they have done, go to other websites, and download other materials. Then study, modify, rewrite, and make it yours.

Build an Author Platform Quickly - Case Study with Dana ManciagliWhat’s next for you?

I’m so excited! I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t work. I thought some things would be easier than they are; however, other things provided better results than I anticipated.

So, the next six months look like this:  Securing corporate sponsorships, offering my services to more businesses rather than consumers, writing my second book: Cut the Crap, Network for Success!, building an app, and more!

Where should our readers go to buy your book?

All my book formats – electronic and print – are here: 

Dana, thank you very much for taking the time to share your journey with us!

One Response to Powerful Nonfiction Author Case Study: How to Build Your Platform Quickly and Effectively

  1. I found this advice helpful.

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