Kate Motaung is one of those folks in the writing community who is all about encouragement, so of course I love her. Today, I’m honored to have her here to talk a bit about one of the biggest challenges writers face – finding readings. I think you’ll appreciate her wisdom. And be sure to check out the bottom of the post for a GREAT offer that Kate is sharing.
Most authors and prospective authors I know hate the thought of promoting themselves and their work in order to attract a larger audience.
However, in today’s publishing world, the vast majority of traditional publishers and literary agencies would say that the size of a prospective author’s platform—or following—is one of the top three factors they consider, if not the most important factor that influences their decision to offer a contract.
So what does this mean for writers pining after a book contract? It means if we want to be traditionally published, we have to play the game. Even if you go the self-publishing route, you’ll need people to know about your book if anyone is going to buy it.
Whether we like it or not, we have to make an effort toward platform building. It’s part of the package—and it’s becoming more and more important as time goes on.
But there’s one problem: Many of us are too afraid to share our own work.
Facing Our Fears
Whenever I interact with writers and speakers about the notion of self-promotion and building a platform, the conversation turns to one common theme: Fear. It comes in countless shapes, colors, and sizes, but it’s always there.
I’ve faced several fears while writing my own books. Fears like: Will people look at my online efforts more critically after reading this book? Will they think I’m a fraud or a hypocrite if I post something online that seems to contradict the message I’m trying to share here?
One day I asked this question on Twitter: “What is your biggest challenge/fear/roadblock/secret regarding platform building as a writer, speaker, or influencer?”
I was so surprised by the volume of responses, including:
- The fear of being misunderstood
- The fear of being rejected
- The fear of being ridiculed
- The fear of failure
- The fear of being wrongly perceived
- The fear of focusing too much on self
- The fear of getting caught up in the numbers
- The fear of not being popular enough
- The fear of not having anything new or interesting or important enough to say
- The fear of silence from the audience
- The fear of seeming self-consumed
- . . . and countless more iterations
Can you relate?
Are you terrified to put your heart out there for all to see, to expose yourself to the possibility of criticism, harsh responses, and misunderstanding?
What if you offend someone? What if a reader or listener unfriends you or stops following you on social media because of something you said or wrote?
What if you spend hours, days, weeks, or months of your life striving for a goal that never becomes reality? What if you spend money investing in coaching and training, and don’t see the results you desire?
The list goes on.
Sadly, these fears and endless “What if’s” have the potential to keep us from writing or publishing anything at all.
So what are we supposed to do?
Using Our Gifts
When my youngest son was about six years old, he asked if I would take him to the Dollar Store before Christmas so he could buy me a Christmas present with his own money.
After we entered the store, he pleaded, “Don’t watch me, Mom.” He wanted to perform his secret mission all on his own.
I complied and did my best to give him the privacy he requested, making sure I could still see the top of his head over the store displays. I saw him lingering in the kitchen utensil aisle, but turned my back as he approached the checkout and proudly gave his savings to the cashier. Mission accomplished. I had no idea what he had bought.
When Christmas morning arrived, my fidgety boy watched with a gleam in his eye as I unwrapped his gift to me.
“A flour sifter!” I exclaimed. “How did you know?” I had never owned one before.
“Well, I looked in the kitchen to see what you had, then I looked at the store to see what you didn’t have, and that’s what I picked!” my son answered.
About six weeks later, my boy came to me in the kitchen and asked, “Mom, why haven’t you been using your flour sifter?”
“Well . . .” I floundered. “I haven’t really made many recipes that needed it.”
I watched as disappointment covered my son’s face. “I’ll try to come up with something soon that I could bake,” I added hastily. He shuffled away, hunched shoulders unsatisfied.
This deflated, pint-sized image helped me realize what it looks like when I neglect to use the gifts I’ve been given.
No matter what profession you’re in or how you spend your free time, you’ve been given gifts, talents, and experiences that can benefit other people. Gifts that are meant to be used and shared.
Left in the back of a kitchen drawer, our gifts and talents are useless. They benefit no one, including ourselves.
If your gift is sitting unopened in some dusty cupboard of your heart, maybe it’s time to reach for it, open it up, and share it with those who will benefit.
When I first started trying to build a platform as a writer, it felt like an obligation to me. It felt like a duty that I had to fulfill in order to get a book contract. But one day, another writer encouraged me to change my perspective, and to see platform building as an opportunity to serve other people.
Ever since I made this shift in my mind, interacting online has become such a joy. I love finding new ways to serve my readers and offer them content that has the potential to help or encourage them.
If you’re struggling with the idea of platform building, start thinking about it as an opportunity to serve your readers.
What will benefit them? What gifts do you have to offer that they would appreciate and enjoy?
How can you offer a solution to a problem they may have?
How can your work bring them peace, joy, or an opportunity to see beauty in the world?
Instead of focus on negative “What if’s” that stem from fear, let’s be intentional about shifting the question toward a positive light: “What if my work could do good for someone else?” Use this motivation as you use your gifts and talents, then share them with the world.
*Portions of this post are excerpts from the book, Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me). Use code PLATFORM to receive $5 off your purchase of Influence (paperback or digital) from the Five Minute Friday shop. Valid through February 28th, 2019. Purchase of products that require shipping must have a U.S. mailing address. Buy the book at: http://fiveminutefriday.com/
Kate Motaung is the author of A Place to Land: A Story of Longing and Belonging, A Start-Up Guide for Online Christian Writers, and Letters to Grief, and co-author of Influence: Building a Platform that Elevates Jesus (Not Me). She is the host of Five Minute Friday, an online community that encourages and equips Christian writers, and owner of Refine Services, a company that offers writing and editing services. Kate blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.