You probably started this writing journey as a twinkle-eyed writer with a dream of seeing your beautiful story on the shelves. You probably invested hours, tears, prayers, and hopes in crafting a story just the way you wanted it to be, perhaps even inspired by an idea God laid on your heart. You probably realized you needed an agent, and an editor.
And then, if you're anything like most people, you probably realized something startling.
You're expected to have a platform. A significant one.
So, you started working on platform, as you were told to do. You needed numbers, numbers, numbers, so you looked for any way to get them. You got an author Facebook page, an Instagram, a blog, a Twitter account. You wrote countless reviews for other authors, and all the while, you watched that magical number of followers go up and up.
Only, there are a couple problems in this scenario.
1) Readers become statistics. Rather than living, breathing, multi-dimensional human beings who you are praying for, and ministering to, and inviting into a story, readers become a number with the goal of selling.
2) Your story becomes secondary. We all know the pull of the day-to-day, and how intentional we have to be to prioritize time for writing. Honestly, how much of that time are you spending sitting in a chair, actually writing? We will find a harvest in what we sow. We can't expect to create a beautiful story if we don't spend a significant amount of time making it a priority.
Now, believe me, I do think platform is SO valuable, and I understand why publishers want to see it. In a volatile publishing world, having an already-established community of potential readers and fellow authors to support you is invaluable, and in some ways, acts as insurance. If I were a publisher, I would absolutely want to see those numbers, because an editor is not the only one who must like a story--many other divisions at a publishing house must also believe they can sell it. I get it. I do.
But as a writer, I can also tell you this. The secret of writing is simply to tell your story, and tell it well.
And I believe there is a huge danger in an over-emphasis on platform, because it shifts our perspective from story-crafting to story sales. While the distinction may seem subtle, it's not. We ought to be building our platforms, yes, but beyond that, we ought to be learning and practicing the craft of writing simply to tell better stories... when it means sitting at a laptop with sleep-deprived circles under your eyes, and sitting at a lonely table in the library, pushing through our dry spells when we feel like giving up. These are the moments that shape us. These are the times we learn to tell our stories well.
Facebook followers will never help you write a better book. And you can't sell a book to a huge platform of followers if you never take the time to finish your draft in the first place.
So let's take a step back today, and remember that twinkle in our eyes when someone first called us "writers." Let's fall in love with our stories all over again, and let's take time to craft them well. And then let's learn to sell them. But please, remember, a platform does not define your writing. It's helpful, yes. But a large number of blog followers doesn't guarantee your book will sell well any more than a small number guarantees it will sell poorly. When the dust settles on the changes the digital age has brought to the book industry, beautiful writing will always be the biggest thing.
So let's write beautifully.
Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.