Life Hands You A Platform

Every writer’s conference or gathering includes at least one presentation about developing or maintaining an author-marketing platform.

Social Media, public speaking, blogging, newsletters…everything working together to establish and support your personalized and unique author “brand.” This agency and other publishing blogs address various elements of the issue on a regular basis.

If you are having difficulty determining the direction of your author brand, you might either be thinking incorrectly about it or avoiding the obvious.

Life hands you a platform.

Often, creative people avoid the obvious and desire instead to go an entirely different direction than their experience would indicate. A simple desire to be creative can do this.  Narrowing one’s work to one general theme seems restrictive and even creatively dissatisfying.

Re-stating what has been said here and by many others, successful authors will primarily find their success by doing one type of writing…their one thing.  A significant majority of authors will write and publish less than a half-dozen books in their lifetime, so unless you are extremely successful, you have just a few opportunities to speak into your brand.

You can become so worried about being repetitive in your fourth and fifth books, you might not have a second or third.

Life gives you a platform, meaning if you look at your experiences, journey, friends, family, work, education, challenges, successes, failures, strengths, talents, weaknesses, spiritual gifts, and sins (yes, sins), you will find a core message laying there which should drive your entire writing career, no matter how many books you might write.

The mistake most writers make is thinking their brand must be so specific and narrow the joy of writing would be completely eliminated because you need to write the same book over and over.

Not true.

Branding is not limiting, it is liberating.

A brand does not repeat the same story, but the same underlying theme.  You might think life gave you just one story, but it really gave you a broader message. This broader message is what any skilled author can write about.

Companies and organizations have mission-statements or guiding principles to direct them. Authors should as well. This is the “message platform” which will form a foundation for your writing. (For more on a message platform, click here)

You don’t write Christian fiction, you write stories about people living life in relationships and how God directs them.

You don’t write devotionals or Bible studies, you focus a reader’s thoughts on the things of God and what he desires a person to know about him.

You don’t write books about effective use of money, you show how God’s principles of stewardship make the things of this world work for one’s benefit and for God’s purposes.

The “big” messages from Scripture are themes, which can be repeated and re-purposed in many books. These messages can make for elements of an excellent author mission statement and branded theme behind their writing.

God’s faithfulness

God’s limitless mercy and grace

God working everything together for good

Forgiveness and Restoration

Redeeming your past

…and many more.

Most authors who resist the idea of branding their work do so because they mistakenly establish a brand, which is too specific, missing the bigger theme, which could find its way into many books.

Finding the big-message brand for your writing should be relatively simple, if you are only open to seeing it. Your life and faith journey hand it to you on a silver platform.


20 Responses to Life Hands You A Platform

  1. Loretta Eidson March 28, 2017 at 5:41 am #

    Thank you, Dan. I struggled with branding. No, I stressed about branding. Ha! Thank you for liberating my thoughts.

  2. Katie Powner March 28, 2017 at 6:46 am #

    This is very helpful, Dan, thank you. I am able to look at my life and my experience and my interest and the stories I like the most and see a consistent, overarching theme, which I believe would be my “big message brand.” What I don’t see, however, is a consistent genre. You mentioned that a brand is actually liberating, not restrictive, so is part of that liberation the freedom to write across genres if the “big message” remains consistent?

    • Dan Balow March 28, 2017 at 7:18 am #

      The answer is different whether you write fiction vs. non-fiction. In general successful writers do one or the other.

      Fiction you need to stick to a certain core genre and maintain a consistent voice. If you decide to change genres don’t go too far. Readers won’t recognize you if your books are too different. Very, very few authors take their readers with them no matter where they go.

      Non-fiction allows a little more freedom. Authors who start with their story certainly don’t keep re-writing their personal story for subsequent books. They need to determine your core theme and come at it from various vantage points and for various audiences.

      Sometimes “liberating” can mean “having fewer creative choices” especially if a writer has so many ideas they couldn’t possibly write them all.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 28, 2017 at 6:46 am #

    Great post, Dan, and it’s o true that many people want to reach for the ministries they want rather than the nes they have been given. I’ve seen it in other writers, and in myself.

    My message platform is certainly not one that anyone would want; I get to share a stage with Randy Pausch and Kara Tippetts. They’re both dead, though, and I’m hanging on my my fingernails.

    My message is very different from theirs; Randy wrote about achieving your dreams, while dear Kara wrote about dying ind faith, leaning into God in the midst of community. How I wish I could have met them in this life!

    For me, it’s all about holding onto faith that God is real, that there is a purpose, and that each day is still worth living, limited as it is, while life becomes an action replay of Isandlwana.

    I blog about that three times a week, and some of those posts come from a place that really hurts to explore. Having to say, “Yeah, I’m incontinent” to the digital world really plays with your head.

    But it’s necessary. The hardest posts seem to touch the deepest chords; if I may, here’s an example:

    Making that message manifest in nonfiction is straightforward; it’s a bow to the traditions of Christian thinking for most of the last two thousand years. It does rather fly in the face of the prosperity gospel and ‘miracle ministries’.

    In fiction, it’s tough. The message comes from a darker place than CBA would like (or so I’ve been told), and writing a character’s own private Alamo whilst living mine is something of an ordeal.

    can understand those who would like to pick their own platform. I would certainly be happier writing about hunting butterflies while riding a unicorn. In Bali, perhaps.

    But here I am, and I’ll do the best I can with the job I’ve been given. There’s nothing noble here; it’s all about an effort to carry hope, and to be carried by faith, through a long night.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 28, 2017 at 6:47 am #

      Obviously, ‘nes’ in the second line should have been ‘ones’. Sorry.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser March 28, 2017 at 7:06 am #

      If I may add a postscript, my platform took a while to achieve its framework; it went from the rough carpentry of defiance and delusion (“I’m gonna make it, and my star WILL rise!”) through despair (“I don’t know how to DO this any more!”) to where it is now an acceptance of this as part of God’s will and the desire to do my best where I’m placed.

      It took about two years; as my physical arc became that of an artillery shell, screaming sonically through the gloaming a desperate rush of self-immolation, my faith arc rose like a rocket to the empyrean, finally free of the chains that bound me to the old life of ambition and avarice.

      It may be no coincidence that the cover of Randy Pausch’s “The Last Lecture” features, very prominently, a rocket trailing fire on its star-bound passage.

    • Dan Balow March 28, 2017 at 7:23 am #

      I have no reply to add anything to what you wrote Andrew. Well said.


  4. Carol Ashby March 28, 2017 at 7:47 am #

    Dan, I think life does hand you the basis for a platform in the sense that your personal experiences train and equip you for relating to real people in certain life situations.

    There is nothing more exhilarating that seeing a friend you care about who didn’t even have God on her/his radar begin to ask the questions about life and eternity that could lead them to Him. That’s a unifying theme in all my novels. Each one is a story of hope about human love and spiritual transformation, a story about how our faithfulness can inspire another to open his or her heart to God.

    Turning that theme into a working platform is still something I’m struggling with, but at least I’m not shooting at a moving target shrouded in mist.

  5. KT Sweet March 28, 2017 at 8:28 am #

    Incredibly helpful. Who knew it could be so simple? Thank you.

  6. Janetta March 28, 2017 at 9:17 am #

    Amazing post, Dan. And one every writer should read. For years I tried to write serious stories. It wasn’t until I (with the Lord’s prompting) that I found out I needed to write comedy. Freedom and fun all rolled into one. Thank you for your helpful words, sir.

  7. Henry Styron March 28, 2017 at 10:24 am #

    I really, really like this. Thanks, Dan. Very thought-provoking.

  8. Melissa Henderson March 28, 2017 at 1:47 pm #

    Powerful message. Thank you.

  9. Glenda March 28, 2017 at 5:17 pm #

    Determining a core theme. Hmmm. Does a trifecta count? A message of God’s faithfulness runs through my life, but so does hope and grace.

    What specific questions might one ask unbiased others to discover this?

    Many thanks for your thought-prompting posts!

    • Laura Bennet April 2, 2017 at 8:12 am #

      Hi Glenda. My son who helps people create their brand, asked me a lot of questions to help me. Here’s a few: Look at what you have written or are currently writing. What is the general theme (message) running through your writing? (Hope, healing and redemption) What thrills or inspires you? What are you passionate about? What energizes you in relation to people? (Helping people “get it” or move on to the next place in their lives. My fictional characters are stuck because of trauma and get unstuck as the book progresses. They find hope, become healed and see redemption – things change to work out the way God originally intended. This is also the story of my life so I am excited about sharing how God can do this for others. I hope that helps get you started!

  10. Peggy Booher March 28, 2017 at 6:08 pm #

    Thanks, Dan. I’m glad it can be as simple as that.

  11. Dawn Wilson March 29, 2017 at 8:16 am #

    This so encouraged me, Dan. I’m hearing differing voices. Some say a platform is crucial; others say to take action in other practical ways and let the platform develop. This is a refreshing perspective that motivates me forward.

  12. Sheri Dean Parmelee March 29, 2017 at 3:30 pm #

    Thank you for this outstanding reminder, Dan. My platform seems to be self-help- through my life as a mother, divorcee, and college professor. I have a website that deals with the first two and a blog that focuses on the third. When I step outside of my God-given platform, things get a little unproductive, but things really blossom when I am willing to be “trained up in the way I should go…..” (paraphrasing there!). Thanks for the great info!

  13. Elena Corey March 31, 2017 at 2:20 pm #

    Thank you hugely, Dan for these thoughts. Before now I’ve only considered a ‘platform’ to be a reflection of how well known a writer is. Since I attempt both non-fiction and fiction, I’ve waited until I could ‘claim’ some renown from my fiction so I’d have a ‘right’ to write the non-fiction that was closest to my heart. Your thoughts about platform are much appreciated.

    Elena Corey

  14. Laura Bennet April 2, 2017 at 8:05 am #

    Thank you for confirming this for me. This summer I spent considerable time examining my writing and my heart for people. When I established that what I write is content that helps people move forward in their lives with hope, healing and redemption through Jesus, it freed me to focus on creating content that fits that brand whether it is my blog posts, my books (fiction or non-fiction), speaking messages or my email list newsletters. I am less driven by every whim of what I “should” be writing and able to focus more on what God has created me to write.

  15. Melba June 27, 2018 at 5:02 am #

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