As writers journey the road toward publication, learning both craft and business, one thing becomes painfully clear—Authors need platforms. What’s a platform, you ask? It’s a vehicle on which you let others know about your work. It includes group memberships, websites, social media and other forms of potential audiences. We are told without a platform, we are less desirable to agents and editors because if no one knows about our work, who cares how well-crafted it is.
So, as a newbie author, I plunge into social media, guest blogging and—shutter—self-promotion. Major “ick factor” in that last one. Really? Can’t someone else tell the world how wonderful my writing is ;o)? Well, not if that someone else hasn’t read it.
Then, I hear some Christian writers—particularly those focusing on the ministry of it—talk about how they have chosen NOT to market at all. If God wants their work noticed, He will bring the readers … won’t He? Being a “ministry-minded” author myself, I find it necessary to ask, “What would Jesus do?”
Let’s look at that. Would Jesus market Himself? Did He have a platform? Did He self-promote? Yes … and no.
You can imagine how the term platform came into use. It’s a stage, set above the audience, so large groups of people can see you above the crowd. Kind of like a … a big hill. Maybe, a …a “mount.” So when Jesus stood on the large incline and gave His most famous sermon, He had a purpose to it. He wanted people to hear Him. He didn’t want to waste His efforts. Think about the other places in which He chose to speak, like various synagogues and the Temple in Jerusalem. There, he knew He’d find groups of people asking about their Creator and the coming Messiah—The questions He came to answer.
Jesus didn’t stop there. He sometimes narrowed His focus to a particular group, even though he’d been chastised for doing so—tax collectors and sinners. The group He came to save. Dare I call them His “target audience.”
One of the greatest “pre-release” marketing campaigns ever to exist was the “coming attraction” of the promised Messiah. Foretold in the Old Testament, God’s chosen awaited Jesus like no other. He was bigger than Star Wars. Not only was there a buzz about the dude, but there was a buzz about the one who prepared the way. In Isaiah 40:3 (NIV), it says, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.’” In John 1:23 (NIV), John the Baptist confirms he is that voice.
Jesus even used a few attention grabbers. I mean, what would you have done if you’d seen Lazarus walk out of his tomb healthy, after having been previously immersed in the smell of his own decay? You’d pay attention. And you’d remember the man who raised him. In John 9:3 (NIV), when asked who sinned that the man was born blind, Jesus answers, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” How did the woman at the well get so many people to come see Jesus? She said he could read her life without being told who she was. And though Jesus wearied of doing miracles for unbelievers—like authors weary of marketing—God knew He needed some way to show the people the Truth of who He is.
No, I’m not suggesting we do miracles. Um … unless you can! But if God didn’t grant you that particular gift, I’m thinking a good book signing, interview or free samples might just do the trick. These are the author’s way of showing the reader who they are.
I know some of you are bristling at my description of Jesus as though He were a carnival act to draw in the best crowds. Carnival acts are about entertainment and sometimes falsehoods. That is not at all what we are talking about with Jesus … and I hope it is not what I’m talking about for you. Though a good book should be entertaining as well as enlightening, I am speaking to those who bristle at hawking their ministry.
Which brings us to the ugliest part …
This is a tricky one. Did Jesus promote Himself. Again, the answer is “yes and no.” In John 14:6 (NIV) He said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Why did He make such a bold and outrageous statement? Because it was true. However, I caution you here. Follow Jesus’ example of truth as opposed to His choice of words. Because if you are not “the way, the truth and the life” I’d suggest you not say you are. In fact, if you believe you are those things … I’m thinking you need something else altogether.
Jesus, being the incarnate of God, however, even defers to His Father. In John 7:16 (NIV) He says, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me.” What about the one who is more like us—John the Baptist? When speaking of his own position in Jesus’ ministry, he said, “the thongs of (His) sandals I am not worthy to untie.” These verses remind us of what use our gifts are to have—to glorify God. They are given BY Him to be used FOR Him. While promoting our work, it’s important to remember that. That’s not to say we can’t bask in the joy of seeing our purpose fulfilled. I mean, what greater feeling is there then to have our empty vessels filled with His presence, doing His will? There is no greater feeling. It’s just important to remember the source.
In Luke 14:8-11(NIV) Jesus tells us, when invited to a feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. He describes the humiliation of having to be reseated in a less exalted chair. But, if the lowest place is chosen, and you are moved up by the host, you will be honored.
I love this analogy! Can you feel the emotional impact of being moved?!
So how do we translate that to self-promotion of your own “holy writ.” For me, it reminds me there are those whose offering is at least as important as mine, and many whose is much more so. My goal to honor God in my writing includes drawing others, not just to my work, but the work that will touch them most at the deepest levels. Sometimes that’s not mine at all. Other times—maybe. So when I tweet about enlightening blog articles and wonderful, inspiring prose, I should include authors besides myself. I am not the end-all and be-all of the writing world. “I am, Who am” is.
The Other Question
As we look at all these things, there is another question: “Why wouldn’t you market your work?” Is the answer really, you don’t have time or energy, or that you are afraid of rejection, mockery or bad reviews? Honestly ask yourself, and be prepared to act on the answer. Because your lack of action could be more in keeping with the man in the Bible who buried his “talents” (Matthew 25:14-30).
So with all this in mind, my advice is this:
As always, seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33a). Spend time in prayer with these questions. Seek counsel in The Word. Having said that, the following is what I have found there. Don’t hide your light under a bushel (Matthew 5:15-16). God gave you gifts and he meant for them to be used (Matthew 25:14-30 see “How Jesus Said to Get More Talent”). Use them! Display them! Be straight forward, honest, respectful of other’s time and space, and give credit where credit is due.
Above all, do as He leads, and resist the urge to judge others for doing it differently, because you were not part of God’s conversation with that author.
That’s what Jesus would do.
And now for my shameless self-promotion ;o) …
Connie is a 2012 Genesis semi-finalist for Women’s Fiction. She was awarded an Honorable Mention in the Winter 2012 WOW Flash Fiction Contest for her entry, Why Not to Kiss on a Park Bench (aka. Harold and Violet). She also writes the What’s Your Story column, interviewing debut fiction authors for the My Book Therapy Ezine. Come visit her on one of her other blogs: