We’ve been here before on this blog, discussing author platforms and how to get one. It’s a never-ending process, and it has always been a requirement for authors. If you find yourself talking about author platforms and believe “Gone are the days when an author could just write,” you are not completely accurate.
Top authors from the “old days” were magazine or newspaper columnists with tens of thousands or millions of readers. Making up the author population were investigative journalists, professors at universities, think-tank scholars, experts, politicians, media celebrities, military, doctors, and business leaders.
Maybe a few came from nowhere to be a best-selling author; but compared to the total number of books published each year, it is so rare, it isn’t worth discussing. The publishing industry, a $250-billion, global industry, is built on qualified and connected authors, writing what they know.
These days, I think it is fair to say many authors do not embrace platform-building with the same level of commitment they apply to the craft involved with writing a book. For many, it is comparable to the unpleasant details one encounters when starting a business, like filling out forms, getting permits, and setting up processes
I’d like to turn the tables a bit on this issue and hope you find it challenging, coming in the form of questions to consider.
What if your platform is more important than your book?
What if the platform is your ministry, and a book is something to minister to those on it?
What if the most effective communication tool to accomplish your personal mission is your YouTube channel or podcast?
What if you reached more people each week through your platform than are reached by most books?
What if books were not an ultimate goal, but a step along the way to a much-greater goal?
Admittedly, books have a mystique about them. They are saved for years on shelves, reread, written in, dog-eared, cherished, given as gifts to friends, or recommended to others as expressions of deep and abiding friendship. They are powerful, impactful tools that can be used to change lives and start movements of God.
But what if you embraced building a platform instead of dreading it? For example:
Authors of fiction using various media to paint a picture of the themes or settings of their novels, which might give greater appreciation and illumination to readers of their books.
Authors of nonfiction using different media to look at topics from various perspectives, in a timely manner, allowing them to explore things far beyond what one or two books might.
Authors of books for children and youth creating a perspective of their work for parents or teachers.
Books are hard to write, as are platforms to develop. Consider platform-building and its care and feeding as an opportunity to create an ongoing connection to an audience, speaking into their lives every week.
Platforms and books together are tools an author uses to love God and others. A blessing, rather than a chore.
Maybe viewing everything we do as a calling isn’t such a bad way to live after all, and maybe your platform is one part of the calling.
As the tumours leave me weary,
blood and vomit take their toll,
every day I see more clearly
that my platform is my goal.
Cancer’s dance is episodic,
and is told on fits and starts;
a book on this would sound neurotic,
but told through blogging touches hearts,
and the readers do arrive,
even though my writing’s flawed,
to see how ’tis that I survive,
and that I yet am praising God.
I’m grateful that so many come,
but it’s success to reach just one.
What the enemy meant for evil, Andrew, God obviously means for good. For your good and the good of many. Your poem, your story between the lines, your emotions, your bravery – indeed, the platform the LORD has given you is a worthy goal. Never give up, my friend. We need to hear from more people like you who claim victory despite the adversity. Well done!
Praying for you, Andrew. Your sonnets are a blessing to a lot of people.
My goal through writing books of sonnets is not only to point toward God, but also to inform people that our medical system is ungodly, and whoever follows it is in for lots of trouble. I’m trying to teach people about God’s way of health, which is not by Big Pharma. I refer you to orthomolecular.org to learn how Vitamin C is curing so many problems, including cancer and viruses. I recently met a woman with cancer who’d been given 2-3 weeks to live. She went to a doctor who gave her IV’s of Vitamin C and other nutrients and is surviving as a healthy person now. Put into your body lots of what belongs there (super -nutrition) and you’ll truly be thanking God. I’ve survived four negative prognoses thanks to God’s way of health. The BIBLE is also a medical book, you know.
Intriguing thought, Dan. Methinks it calls for a serious conversation with God. It may be time for me to shift priorities.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
Oh, Andrew! Some of your sonnets make me laugh, some challenge me to think, but this one made me cry! You surely do get to the heart of a matter. What a gift you continue to give your readers/ now friends with your words! Thank you so much!
Linda, thankyou so much… this post really spoke to me, to the transition from aspiring novelist to a kind of ministry I never wanted, but would not now abandon, even if offered a restoration to health.
Wendy L Macdonald
I also feel like God’s encouraging me through this post. ☺️ He is faithful to lead us.
Virginia Sue Graham
Dan, it’s an amazing post because my writing career began out of a desire to reach out to women, especially widows. I don’t think I’ve made that clear in my proposals. Yes, platforms are part of my calling!
DAMON J GRAY
It is as though we have been looking through the wrong end of the telescope.
Wendy L Macdonald
Well said, Damon. ☺️
This. And maybe agents can prioritize growing their platform for their author clients? Dare to imagine a world where authors are afforded the luxury of focusing on craft… and the agents who are paid to sell are committed to doing the other bits. It’s not like your financial broker or real estate agent expects their clients to do their work….and yet, not the case in this industry. Makes ya think.
A number of authors pay others to work on their platform so they can focus their attention elsewhere. The point today was to suggest maybe platform development is as important as writing a book.
Those who succeed today in publishing do not consider platform development and maintenance as less important than a book. It’s all part of one effort.
It’s like inviting guests to fellowship with us, our platform is the meal, our books the dessert.
Appreciate the encouragement.
Kathy Carlton Willis
I’m jumping up and down (well on the inside anyway) from reading this article. Thanks, Dan! I’ve been saying this for years now. When I was a publicist I tried to remind clients that their books were the keys to open doors for opportunities. Platform gave them a means to living out their purpose. It wasn’t a necessary evil, it was the desired outcome as well as the preliminary prep.
Kathy Sheldon Davis
I like your comment about “desired outcome,” Kathy.
Maybe we need to use a different word. Platform gives me the image of an empty stage with the possibility of there being no audience. As my friend from Manhattan would say, “it’s about the people!”
This made me think-we write for them! We write for those who will benefit and grow from what we have to say. The better the platform the more we minister.
Wendy L Macdonald
Thank you, Dan. Your insights point to the need for a better understanding of what my platform & personal brand might offer readers. It’s a mystery to me at the moment. Add a touch of procrastination and the fear of overwhelm – a perfect confluence for avoiding the discovery & discomfort. Time for prayer & a deeper look at what I have to offer.
Wendy L Macdonald
Thank you, Dan. This is timely encouragement and confirmation as I invest even more energy on my platform.
I needed this.
Blessings – Wendy Mac 🕊️
Ron Gerry Sandison
I created a platform in the autism community and this lead to my having three traditionally published books, two with big Christian publishers. I am working on my fourth book and will have a video series for this book to promote it. I founded Spectrum Inclusion which empowers young adults with autism for employment. I have friends who are professional journalist and cannot find a publisher or literally agent. With my third book I had a publisher before my literally agent sent my manuscript out. Fox Morning Show had me as a guest on May 25th for the release of my third book. Video: https://www.fox2detroit.com/video/936912
> investigative journalists, professors at universities, think-tank scholars, experts, politicians, media celebrities, military, doctors, and business leaders.
Dan, not trying to be confrontational, but I wonder what you think their platforms were for each of these professions? All of these are highly qualified positions, but while some have obvious, built-in platforms, others I’m struggling to see the connection.
For example, as an academic, I can tell you that the job doesn’t really come with a built-in platform. Sure, I write papers, and sure those get read by hundreds, maybe thousands of readers, but these are such academic (read: niche) publications and frankly don’t translate into a direct pathway to a popular audience.
Linda Riggs Mayfield
Elliott, I, too, am an academic, and all of my publications have been in academic journals, a related education publication, and a long-running newspaper column, so I understand your frustration. I have a mini-platform in that I’m a local historian, but my local history blog only has about 900 followers, not nearly enough for a agent to consider a “substantial” platform, and that one is very specific. Those Followers will, however, be a valuable platform when I write and publish my local history book: my goal is to preserve local history, not become a national best seller, and those folks ae already interested. Since I’ve already been published so many times, the natural tendency is to resist the “real” platform reality, but that’s not getting my fiction published, so I’ve signed up for a course by Thomas Unstattd on how a writer can build a platform that agents and publishers will respect. Becoming a traditionally published author of fiction requires work that isn’t nearly as much fun as writing! 😉
Good questions. First, we need to define platform in this context. I tend to view it broader than most. It is a combination of qualifications and connections.
Qualifications come in many forms. Experience, education, training, vocation, are just some if them. Everyone is not qualified to write about anything they want.
Connections also come in many forms. Some are direct contacts (social media, lists, etc.) with possible readers of your books. But some are the connections of others. If you have an article published, you have readers, but they belong to the media where the article appeared. Contributing regularly to other “platforms” is one way to build your notoriety. Endorsements from recognized people are part of this.
The purpose of a platform is you do something to improve the sales of the book. Qualifications and connections work together to do that.
Every type of writer I mentioned have both.
Thanks, I appreciate the perspective, and will be thinking more about what you said.
This is such an in season word for me! Thank you for posting. The Lord has been dealing with me about this as I’ve worked for weeks on creating an author website and planned video strategies. I’ve found the more I embrace it the more excited I am about creating and launching a platform that can help others. You hit the nail on the head when you said maybe books are a part of the ministry platform. The idea of a bigger picture than just the writing keeps coming to my heart lately which is funny since I used to hate the idea of platform! All I wanted to do was write, but I feel a calling to more and I can’t wait.
Kristen Joy Wilks
So very interesting. Thinking about platform as ministry is thought provoking. I do know that one of the the only time I’ve actually felt called to write was when I started blogging for the small camp where we live and work. I would sure love for people to discover my books, but I know for sure that I am ministering to others when I take photos and write about the adventures of the campers here at Camas Meadows. It minsters to parents, grandparents, and eventually to the children who go home and look at photos with their family. I think that I know what you are talking about. Maybe these same people will enjoy one of my books someday, but they are for sure enjoying that little blog.
Thank you for this post. It’s just what I needed to refocus and retool. I’ve been pondering this for a few months. Perhaps, the readers and people God wants me to reach out to don’t have time to read books but do have time to read a few paragraphs that inspire and encourage. I’ve been thinking about creating a podcast as well. Thank you!
Dan, thank you for this perspective. Your comments are right on target and helpful. Thank you.
Dan, what a timely reminder! I just had this conversation with my husband. I’ve been working hard to build platform, which involves making meaningful connections and answering emails from readers. This has taken time away from writing, but it’s also the goal for my writing! I’m learning to create balance so I can continue to create hope-filled messages. Thank you for this post!
OLUSOLA SOPHIA ANYANWU
Thanks Dan. God bless you! I find this very interesting and it gives me food for thought. May God continue to help us utilse the gift He has given us as writers for His own glory and grant us the grace to use whatever platform He chooses for us to use to bless people.
Interesting perspective. Thomas Umstattd Jr. promotes website presence before publication. And under his course I’m enrolled in encourages building your own website. What comes first the chicken or the egg or in this case the platform or the book or the website. As writer of fiction it makes it complicated.
I know what my passions are but so broad not sure where to focus. So I’m brainstorming what do I have to offer potential readers of my books and what are my gifts? I could see potential for nonfiction books as well.
You’ve given me something else to think of here. If there were a platform version of Meyers-Briggs maybe I could get off this merry-go-round! Thanks
Daphne, consider Thomas Umstattd’s challenge to identify the “Timothy” for whom you write. Picturing that one person and pinpointing what that person needs from you can really help with focus.
This article reminds me that our books, our additional offerings, our platform need to revolve around building an edifying relationship with our Timothy, just as the apostle Paul did with his.
What a great reminder that our work is not about us. It is about those we serve. Thank you for this fresh approach to thinking about platform. What a gift to all of us.
Dan, I am so encouraged by your post. To know that platform building is a valuable (maybe indispensable ) tool for a writer puts me on the right track. I began building my website in 2020 to promote my children’s book. But, I found myself writing blog posts about spiritual growth, family, faith, and humor, and loving it every time. This is my ministry! Selling my book seems to be a side focus. Although, I sure would like “For the Love of Big Balooka” to be #1 in Other Children’s Religious Fiction again on Amazon, I know the progress is in the Lord’s hands. I have a FB business page, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. I also have monthly guest writers on my website. Writer’s supporting other writers in this way, multiplies the connections and promotes many other Christian voices. As they say live and learn, and I have learned that platform building connects me with some pretty wonderful people! Thank you so very much, Dan, for spurring me on to God’s work for His glory. I appreciate your seasoned insight. Blessings!
I love this. It reminds me that all my writing is a ministry.
Marsha E Young
This was an excellent, and thought provoking, post. Thank you for the insights.
I’ve been learning this lesson “Platforms and books together are tools an author uses to love God and others. A blessing, rather than a chore.” lately. Thank you for the insights you’ve shared as it’s so easy to lose perspective and think writing is so much more important than the serving we also should do on our platforms.
Ann L Coker
Thanks, especially defining platform as communication. My joy in building platform comes from connecting with readers — those who have bought our books and those who don’t know yet that they want to buy. Many emails reveal how we stay connected with readers — the already and potential.
Great post! I find myself stuck in a writing mode/rewrite/edit and reading and reviewing authors often, and then… forget about the platform. Oops. However, YouTube and podcasts – nice being asked for interviews. Sometimes I don’t even know where they come from.
I have yet to set up a YouTube… but I have interviewed authors on my blog and on every social media site out there. Being interested in other writers is as much as the platform as promoting or discussing that work in progress. It shows that one is not so self-centered that they have nothing but the me, me, me mentality.
Platforms are both awful and great. Putting aside time to do so without sacrificing the quality of one’s work is a fine balance. I am seriously working on the ‘blessing’ part. If my books do not sell – that means I am doing something quite obviously wrong.
I do not like blogs that go on forever. I have read some. Then unfollowed them. Usually the experts (they know everything). Not that I cannot glean from them, but a half hour reading a blog is like pulling teeth without Novocain.