Comes and goes? How does that subject line relate to writers and the publishing industry?
Sometimes a word picture or metaphor will communicate a hard-to-understand truth, which is why this blog post relies on two.
Much of the issue that confounds so many authors–platform (or built-in audience)–can be demystified by one or both of these images.
COME TO THE TABLE
It’s offensive to the majority of us to think of collecting names or accumulating numbers. That’s not our heart. It sounds mercenary, self-serving, self-promoting, and repulsive. Platform-building seems to turn the art of storytelling into a battle for popularity, a fight many intentionally left behind with our middle school angst. “I just want to write. And be published. It grates against me to spend time picking up names for my mailing list like buying votes in an election.”
Consider, though, that a different dynamic is actually at work.
As I often encourage both fiction and nonfiction clients, building a platform is more akin to setting a table for your readers and future readers. It’s part of the comes and goes nature of finding, keeping, and tending an audience. Imagine using your newsletter, speaking events, social media interactions, podcast, blog to issue an invitation like this:
you are warmly invited
to the table.
A word feast is being prepared
for you and others like you.
I’ve studied your needs and preferences.
I’ve listened to what flavors interest you,
what tastes appeal to you,
and compared them to
the (culinary) skills I offer.
The table has been set
and I have saved a space for you.
What I’m sharing online
and in my newsletter
is the amuse-bouche,
a complimentary appetizer
to waken your tastebuds
and give a hint of the meal
that’s to come.
Feel free to invite a friend to join you
at the table.
I’ll add as many table leaves as necessary
and am happy to borrow chairs.
There’s room for everyone
who might enjoy this kind of meal,
conversation, and company.
We’ll build relationship
so you know you can trust
what I will serve.
Bring your imagination
and your appetite.
You’ll find the table
already laid with
a variety of appetizers.
I’m looking forward
to setting the main course
How does that concept change your attitude toward platform-building?
The keys to maintaining a healthy approach to platform-building includes comes (invitations to the table) and goes (our efforts to go to the people).
GO TO THE PEOPLE
The most profound message of all time could have died out in Jerusalem if it weren’t for the directive to “Go.” The disciples of Jesus had been handed life-changing news. The easy, artistic, and dramatically more comfortable approach would have been for them to hang a lovely sign by their tent or house: “Ask me about Jesus.”
Instead of that approach, Jesus in essence told them to go to where the people were. “Take the hope and peace I’ve offered to the streets, and beyond that–to the roads that lead far from home. Go.”
They did, walking roads the Romans had paved with Jewish slave labor. They used what others intended for trade (like social media) to instead carry the Gospel to those who hadn’t yet heard.
What if they hadn’t gone? What if the disciples had said, “I have a story to tell. I hope readers find me.” How far might the Gospel have spread? Think hard on this one: Would YOU have heard?
AND IN CONCLUSION
When writers have good things to say–hope-giving, encouraging, transformative storytelling or nonfiction–how many will stumble onto it accidentally? Some. Is that adequate? Is it even good ROI (return on investment) for your diligent efforts to write?
Building a platform is not–cannot be–selling our souls to buy votes for a popularity contest. On the contrary, we have words the world needs to hear. Will we fail to extend the invitation (come to the table) and merely hope that readers will hear about our project? Or will we set a long, compelling, appetizing table and be willing to leave our comfort zones to follow the directive to “Go and tell”?