“I’d love to hear from you once your platform reaches the level that traditional publishers are looking for.”
That’s so frustrating, isn’t it? You’ve crafted a great book proposal and your critique group assures you that your writing is strong. Yet, when an agent or publisher breaks the news that your platform needs to grow, well that moment feels like someone tossed a stinky wet blanket on top your rose-petal covered bed of sweet publishing dreams. Gross.
As far as many writers are concerned, platform is kissing cousin of a curse word. As I talk with authors, whether hopeful or established, I’ve noticed that attitudes toward platform-building fall into one of three categories:
- Creative Curiosity– Embracing risk, flexibility and innovation
- Cautious – Willing, but worried or skeptical about time, effort or impact
- Crushed – Feeling defeated/unable to visualize path to success
Which one of these best fits your attitude around platform-building?
Earlier this week, I asked a webinar audience to share their platform-building attitude. While a healthy segment of the group chose “creative curiosity,” a sizable number courageously admitted to “cautious” and even “crushed.”
Many see platform as a giant brick wall that they can’t climb over. However, it might be helpful to reframe that perspective. I think that publishers see platform like a tank of gas. The bigger and fuller the tank, the more mileage they can get out of the project, which means the greater likelihood of success for the author. This isn’t a guarantee, but it’s a solid indicator. Therefore, platform isn’t a curse or a barrier keeping you from your dreams. You don’t have to agree with what I’m about to say, but here it is: Platform protects your dream if you’re pursuing a traditional publisher.
Securing a healthy platform, which I define as a combination of influence and engagement, is a powerful fuel that drives the potential of your dream. Now, am I saying that traditional publishing is the only way to make your dream of authoring a book come true? Absolutely not! However, if you pursue traditional publishing, platform is a protection against your dream from starting off with a big, exciting contract signing before puttering out shortly after a lackluster launch and slow sales.
How can you hold onto a productive and positive attitude when you feel tired of or discouraged by building platform?
Let’s face it, you can work on your growing platform with a bad attitude. You can complain about writing blog posts. You can get annoyed about posting on social media. Absolutely. But the burden of a bad attitude is like going on a diet to improve your physical health and getting angry at the food you now have to eat to reach your wellness goal.
For this post, I dug out my old copy of Michael Hyatt’s best-selling book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World to see if what he wrote back 2012 is still relevant nine years and at least ten iPhone model releases and one whole pandemic later. We can pick up a few practical nuggets if we need to push our platform-building attitude back into the positive territory.
In Chapter Nine, entitled, “Think Big…Now, Bigger,” Hyatt tosses out a pithy, yet striking axiom: Before you can find your way, you must discover your why. (And every Simon Sinek fan said, “Amen.”) This is a great question to revisit, especially when your writer heart is weary or you’re feeling the sting of rejection.
Hyatt ask readers to answer four questions to solidify the “why” behind their pursuit of platform. He proposes that when you know the answer to these four questions, they “provide the intellectual and emotional power to keep going when the path becomes difficult. (And it will.)” Here are the four questions that you can think through today:
- Why is this goal (platform-building) important to you?
- What will achieving it make possible?
- What is at stake if you don’t?
- What will you have to give up in order to achieve it?
As you answer these questions for yourself, I want to close with the story of Malawian Legson Kayira, author of the best-selling book, I Will Try.
In 1958, a 16-year old Kayira left his village in East Africa with his Bible, a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress, five days of food, an ax for protection, and a blanket. His goal? He wanted to go to America to college, even though he had no money and he would have to travel almost 3,000 miles to catch a boat across the ocean. The people in his village scoffed at Kayira’s dream, but he put some shoes on his dreams and set out for America.
Eighteen months later, Kayira had traveled 1,000 miles. He’d been sick, hungry and destitute, but he didn’t give up. While working in a large city for six months, Kayira wrote Skagit Valley College in Washington State, and they wrote back offering him admission and a full scholarship. However, Kayira had no passport or the money to travel to America.
Yet, as people found out about his story, they showed up to support Kayira. Two years later, Kayira arrived in America. He attended Skagit Valley College and later taught at Cambridge University in England.
Like Kayira’s long journey, you might feel a desirable platform is 3,000 miles away, yet his story is a reminder that success is possible with a can-do mindset, why-driven perseverance, and one step at a time.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION: How do you maintain a positive attitude as you are building your platform? Do you have encouragement that you’d like to share with others?