Thursday, March 5, 2015

Prepublished writers: Why NOT to Focus on Building a Platform

From the moment I started taking this writing thing seriously, I've had this word "platform" tossed at me from all sides.

Agents say you need one in order to get a contract. Editors say having one helps them decide if you, an unpublished author, are worth the gamble. And other authors tell you how important it is too, and give you ideas using their OWN methods of platform building.

What if I told you that you needed to stop worrying so darn much about platform building?

Did your ears just perk up...or did I just make you scowl since you've spent the last five years of your writing life fretting about it?

First, let's back up a second, as I know we might not all be on the same page.  

What IS platform anyway?

The quick answer on how *I* view it is to picture standing on a stage (i.e. a platform). How many people can see you? The BIGGER the stage, the HIGHER the stage, the more of your audience you can see and reach, right?

Same with writing. Your platform is your sphere of influence. Is your platform a book you stand on? Is it a shoe box? Is it a step stool? Is it a local theater stage? Is it a Broadway Stage?

(Platform, by the way, differs from audience, as your audience is how many people are in the surrounding seats, wanting to read your particular type of writing. But that's a different blog post!)

The size of your platform, in theory, gives publishers an idea of how wide your original "net" will be cast once you're published.

We've been spoon fed ways to build one. Heck, I've probably written blogs here myself with suggestions. Blog regularly, get active on all the major social media websites, do speaking engagements, etc.

As I mentioned in my last post, I attended a local showing of IF:Gathering in February. There was SO much great information, and it really shook my spiritual life from a very dormant state it had been in.

The theme of the conference was JOSHUA, and one of the speakers said this super profound thing about platform that literally made me gasp out loud.

She was talking about Joshua in his early days. He wasn't this big, well-known person like Moses. No, he was just a helper. He was in the trenches, fighting, assisting Moses, and was definitely not super noteworthy at first. He had to put in his time, he had to learn, he had to grow. All of his experiences, including going into the promise land and being one of the two to say, "GOD CAN DO THIS, let's go!" all helped mold him into the man that, 40 years later, God called to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

What if Joshua hadn't put in the time? What if he'd complained like the others? What if he'd been so focused on being a LEADER and taking Moses' place that he hadn't let God grow him organically into the calling he was meant to have? What if he'd gotten inpatient and decided to form a revolt within the Israelites against Moses? (that last one was purely the fiction writer in me hypothesizing)

The quote from the speaker was something like this (I didn't write it down verbatim...)

God is equipping you for something great. At some point He is going to come to you, ready to bring you into your calling, but you won't be there because you're too busy out chasing after some platform.


As a writer, I almost wanted to laugh at the truth of that. How many of us, my hand raised, have spent SO much time on social media and other avenues in the pursuit of platform building instead of crazy things like, let's say, WRITING and craft learning?

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying close down your Facebook page and blog. Those things can totally be a valid part of God's prepping, equipping and calling us.

But if you are blogging just because everyone tells you that it's a great way to build a platform---yet you have no desire to blog and have no clue what to blog about---do you think that's a wise way to use your time?

Are you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumbler, LinkedIn, Google+ and spending hours a day to cultivate a following in the name of platform but wishing all the while you could just be writing?

Are you spending $$$$ you don't have to build a website--or building one yourself that looks like something my 10 year old could put together just because, well, everyone says you HAVE to have one and you don't have money to do it yourself. But you have NO clue what info to actually PUT on one since you aren't published! (no judgement on self-made websites... I've had one of those myself since 2008 and it spent many a years looking my five year old put together... it wasn't pretty!!!)

There are definite smart tips to listen to as a prepublished author. RESERVE that domain name if you can. RESERVE that Facebook/Twitter/Instagram handle.

But don't forget where you focus should be.

On letting God equip you for HIS calling. Both spiritually and in your writing.

Instead of getting so caught up in platform building, get caught up in Jesus. Spend time in the Word of God. Spend time praying for God to lead you. Spend time writing, journaling, seeking wisdom and discernment. Ask God what HE wants to do with this whole writing thing you feel Him calling you towards.

And of course, spend time WRITING the stories he lays on your heart and learning from others the craft, so you can shine bright when it is your time.

No amount of platform building could replace the value in WRITING and the value you of seeking God during this time of waiting.

Let's Chat: 

Prepublished authors: Have you started trying to build your platform? Are you having a difficult time with the concept?

Published Authors: What things did YOU do as an prepublished author that you look back that a.) thought was a huge waste of time and b.) was the BEST thing you could have done?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romanceand A Side of Faith. She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at She is represented by Sarah Freese of Wordserve Literary.


Jill Weatherholt said...

Wow, Krista, your words couldn't have come at a better time for me. I've been blogging consistently for over two years. I love the connections I've made and the encouragement from my followers. Since the holidays, I've become frustrated by the lack of time I have to write and study the craft. Working outside the home, along with family responsibilities, fills the majority of my day. I hear all of the time, "You need to have a platform in place." I've continued to pray, asking for guidance. I don't want to make the wrong decision by pulling the plug on my blog. I appreciate you addressing this issue today.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Oohhh, I LOVE this analogy, Krista!!! And I really like what Jill said in her comment about praying and asking for guidance. I truly believe God's direction will be different for each of us because we're all so...well, different.

I will say social media is so much about developing relationships, and it takes a long time to do that in person or online. So for that reason, I'm glad I've started establishing a presence. That said, I have to be really intentional to not let it hijack my time. My usual goal is 15 minutes per platform max. (I stopped blogging a couple years ago, so I don't count that in the mix.) As long as I keep to my goal, I feel like it's just the right balance. It allows me to make new friends, but I still have time to focus on the main thing--writing.

Jill Weatherholt said...

Hi Sarah, I'm curious why you stopped blogging. From where you are now, do you feel it was the right move?

kaybee said...

I have a hard time with social media for a number of reasons. I tried blogging but got no responses, made my own amateurish Web site just so people could find me, tried various other things but my heart wasn't in it, it was because people were TELLING me I had to do social media. I still have the Web site because it's better than nothing, but I'm not trying to force it any more. I chat on sites like these and am trying to build relationships for the sake of having relationships. It's got to be organic is what I say.
Kathy Bailey

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Krista, great post. You've got me thinking. Your words line up with what I've been reading elsewhere. It really is about writing first and relationships. Platform should take a lot less of our time--at least for us pre-published writers.

I've been blogging for just over two years. And I enjoy it. It's challenged me to create posts twice a week, one each week is very informal, and it's sometimes the one that gets noticed more. :) My consistent commenters are people I've never met face to face. It's been fun to meet some great people this way.

I've capped my social media presence at Facebook and Twitter. I'm on Pinterest and Instagram mostly for fun. :) Don't know how to really make them work for me professionally, and that's okay. I don't have to commit time to them right now either. :)

Krista Phillips said...

Jill, I absolutely believe that lots of prayer about your blog is the answer!

I have gone through a similar decision with my own blog over the last few years, and am still wrestling with it.

My solution, thus far, is to back off to once a week, and to give myself grace. If I get too busy or don't have something to post one week, I skip it without guilt. I KNOW that goes against ALL the conventional blog etiquette, but I feel a peace about my decision. My blog is also very personal, which also goes against conventional wisdom.

But I don't regret starting my blog at all. At the time, it was a GREAT way to network and I really enjoyed writing it! But we all have seasons in our writing life, seasons to blog and seasons to take a break. The KEY is to operate in what God has called us to do, and to spend time in prayer and trust that God will give us the answer.

Krista Phillips said...


YES YES YES!!! The relationships I've been are SO invaluable to me AND my writing, and my spiritual life as well! The writer's I've met are such an encouragement to me and challenge me to be a better version of myself, and I hope I add to their lives as well.

It is the one thing I LOVE about social media! What I don't love is the TIME suck, and I've yet to balance that well!!

I'm actually GLAD that early on in my writing life, Facebook and such was very new, and that first year I networked only a little, but still cherish those relationships I made during that time still! But if I'd been inundated like I am now with all the options, writing would NOT have been quite so easy in those early, formative years.

Krista Phillips said...

Kathy, yES! Organic relationship building is the BEST way.

It's when we go into relationship building with the idea to "build a platform" and not a relationship that we fail, I think.

But that doesn't discount the SUPER importance of relationships within the writing world and networking! I got my first writing contract because of networking!!

Krista Phillips said...

Jeanne, sounds like you're doing well!! Participating where God leads and not letting it overwhelm you.

Pinterest hurts my head. I look on it when I need something but it is definitely NOT for me in my writing world! LOL

Sarah Forgrave said...

Jill - How much time do you have? LOL

No, seriously, it goes back to that prayer thing. I had developed a nice little following with my blog, but I'm a mom of young kids. (Need I say more?) :) I found that I was pouring so much creative energy into blogging that the little time I had for writing was spent on my blog rather than my manuscripts. I got to the point where I finally went through a "season of sacrifice," where I felt God asking me to step away from writing completely for a while. (You can read more about it here:

Anyway, I found such creative release when I let the blog go, I ended up pouring my heart into a 110,000-word m/s in 2 months--something I never, ever had done before in my life! (Of course, I trimmed it way back in the editing process.) :)

Since my sabbatical, I haven't sensed an urgency to come back to the blog...yet. I post periodic updates and I do have ideas simmering for the future. But with kids still at home, the time isn't right. :)

Jill Weatherholt said...

Thank you for sharing your story, Sarah. I appreciate it.

Tori Starling said...

I am currently re-writing my manuscript and have been blogging for 3 years now. I love my blog and have brought on contributing writers in order to free up some of my writing time.

For me personally, when I spend too much time platform building, it becomes mind numbing and I lose my creative edge. My creative thoughts are focused on saying something short and clever on Twitter as opposed to fabulous sentences in my ms.

I liked the one post that was wrote a couple of months ago about platform building being like building a house one brick at a time. I've actually stopped looking at my numbers and just do a little platform building each day. My focus is now my ms and I feel much happier.

I've told myself once my ms goes to the editor, I'll have a platform building blitz. It's hard for me to focus on too many things at one time and I finally decided unless I get my book complete, my platform's not going to matter.

Carol Bruce Collett said...

Thanks for this post, Krista! Stressing over all of this other stuff can take the joy out of writing the story. I've never really understood the platform thing very well.

Krista Phillips said...


"unless I get my book complete, my platform's not going to matter. "

Yes. YEs. YES! That!

Rajdeep Paulus-Writer of Young Adult Fiction said...

Great Post! Someone told me the only platform I need to worry about building is God's :) (through great stories and solid writing) so that totally speaks to your point in writing and craft! But I'm just as guilty ... Many wasted minutes on SM but can't lie... I am a fan.Raj