How to Find (and keep) Followers

I live in the world of writing and books. And we writers and speakers who want to sell our books need followers. It’s true that the key to a successful book is to:

1. Write a good book that meets a felt need
2. Know your audience
3. Find your audience (i.e., your followers)

It sounds simple, but isn’t. I suppose we writers have to get over the romantic notion of writing beautiful words in an ivory tower. Because after all, we write to connect with others, to tell our stories. It’s why we write songs, make music, create art. We are compelled to share the beauty, the pain, the laughter, the insights. To know that we are not alone.

Publishers ask a prospective author, “What is your platform?” When I set out to write, I didn’t think about platform. Platforms sound scary: Being on stage—alone, with a spotlight and faceless, nameless souls out there, waiting to hear what I have to say. A terrifying thought, because my platform seems a bit wobbly at times.

I started writing out of my own messy and inconclusive life as a young woman with hopes and dreams; out of my relationships of family—being a wife, a mother of five, looking for meaning and joy in the midst of daily, ordinary challenges. I wrote out of that. I wrote out of my own emotional and physical struggles, and how God met me there, and how He became my strength in my weakness. It’s not a dramatic platform, but it’s true, and it’s mine.

When writers are encouraged to work on his or her platform, it’s good to polish up the bio and the resume. It’s helpful to get glowing references. We work diligently at discovering the right hashtags that will launch our tweets and hopefully land more followers. (But I wonder, if everybody has to have a platform, who is listening? Do we take turns? It seems that it’s getting a bit ridiculous.)

No doubt my ambivalence about this issue of marketing and finding followers is showing through. As a publisher, I see the necessity. But as a writer, I only have a certain amount of time. If I spend most of my time chasing my followers, when do I develop my message? I can’t give anything that I don’t have. What we want are contagious followers. Followers who follow Who I’m following—and that is the Author and the Finisher of our faith, Jesus. A contagious message must be lived, distilled. We cannot give what we don’t have. All the “platform” tips in the world are nothing without the power of the Holy Spirit.

Writing can be self-consuming, and it’s easy to shut people out. I am comforted by the Apostle Paul, who has a bazillion followers! He got it right. Paul got off his platform occasionally and mixed it up with people. He wrote to the Thessalonians, “For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit… And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit.” Paul went on to say, “For neither at any time did we use flattering words…nor did we seek glory from men…But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children. So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us.”

First things first. With all the great marketing wisdom that’s out there (and yes, there is much to learn and know), we can’t be overwhelmed by the work of seeking followers. Seek first the kingdom of God. Let the message grow, organically, authentically.

And it will bear fruit.

Nancie Carmichael
Deep River Books
Author of Selah and many other books