Last February I attend the IF:Gathering in Austin, Texas. One session with Christine Caine and my entire outlook on the book I’m writing changed forever. I was done trying to build a platform, write agent query letters and tweet my way into publishing houses. I sheepishly put my book postcards back into my purse after Christine warned us wannabe authors and speakers that if we tried to build our platforms instead of letting God build them, we’d be waging a war we couldn’t win.
I thought I understood last year, but I’ve now realized something: When God builds your platform all you have to do is hold on for the ride.
You see, I’ve always been a go-getter. A type-A, ambitious pusher with a fire in her belly and stubborn streak a mile wide. I’ve dreamed big dreams and accomplished them. I’ve walked the road less traveled and benefited from the destination. (I’ve also screwed up big time and paid for it dearly, but I digress.) I’ve always thought I was too much rather than not enough. I was taught that I could do anything to which I put my mind, like most of my Gen X counterparts.
So when I spent a year with sixteen women walking through taboo topics in the modern church, naturally I thought getting the book published would be as simple as following the directions I read about in books and on author websites. Need more blog followers? One famous author and blogger–who shall remain nameless–said the key to getting more followers was to: “write epic shit.” That seemed a little contradictory, but whatever. Another said to flood Twitter with 140 characters of [basically nonsense] a hundred times a day. Yet another offered 50,000 “blog subscribers” [dummy emails subscribed to your blog] in order to fool the publishers into thinking you had a fan base for the low, low price of $499. Should I self-publish? Attend a writer’s conference? Pepper any and all agents and publishers with emails and phone calls, begging for a little time? Bug my friends and family and everyone else I’ve ever met to subscribe, comment and promote me?
It all felt a little… smarmy.
So, I stopped. I stopped trying to promote, worm my way into people’s email accounts and [a little later] shut down my blog page on Facebook. I concentrated on “writing epic shit” and let God do the rest.
A few months later, my IF friend Tracy and future friend Anna started #the4500, a Facebook group for those of us who weren’t chosen to be on Jen Hatmaker’s For The Love book launch team. 500 out of 5,000 were chosen by her publisher; we were the B team the underdogs, the second string. We were fine with that. Approximately 1,300 women came together and shot that book to the New York Times bestseller list and #1 on Amazon non-fiction. We launched Dauntless Grace Ministries, met in October for the first of many Splendid retreats and made travel mugs for ourselves.
To date, #the4500 have represented at 100% of Jen Hatmaker’s speaking events–from book signings to Women of Faith conferences–and she’s tickled pink with us. She even thanked #the4500 in her book.
So, now it’s November and we’re on the other side of the Splendid Retreat. Dauntless Grace Ministries is taking off and Jen’s book is/was a success. Now what? Is it my turn now, God? Something that Anna said to me at retreat stuck. A polygamy survivor with a finished book and agent who is shopping for a publisher, she shared with me the secret to building your platform: build others’ first.
Christine Caine flashed before my eyes from the IF:Gathering. [Say it in an Australian accent] Service is the key, girls. Do your time in the trenches. Serve where God has placed you even if that’s without a formal position or contract. And then God reiterated what He’s been telling me all along: continue.
A few days after retreat we collectively thought, what now?
Build others’ platforms. Serve them first.
We’re underway launching Ruth Wariner’s memoir, The Sound of Gravel. I just finished an advanced readers copy and, people, you’ll want to get this book. As I told Anna, “If it sucked I’d just say less, but it’s fantastic!” We’re working hard on social media to get this into as many hands as possible in January 2016. Ruth, like Anna, escaped a polygamist cult. In fact, Ruth and Anna are cousins and didn’t know each other before this book launch project. (Because, of course.) You can pre-order it here.
A few days after The Sound of Gravel launch team was founded, Tracy and Anna got the call of a lifetime. Brandon Hatmaker, Jen’s husband, was releasing his second book in September, A Mile Wide. He specifically requested The 4500 be his launch team. When I heard Brandon wanted us to launch his book, I was honored. And then the tears fell.
We get down low to raise others up.
We are fighters.
When darkness comes, we are lighters.
One of the reasons Brandon wanted US is because we were underdogs fighting to be heard. When something is important to us, we RISE. We make a way. We blaze a trail and do it TOGETHER. We lock arms and pray our way through.
We are risers. We lift up those people and projects that change the status quo of faith.
We are risers.
We rise others.
Let’s do this.
This is the song that I kept hearing over and over and over again in my head when we got the news about Brandon’s book launch request. Riser by Dierks Bentley. Turns out the writer is one of Brandon’s good friends, because, of course!
Are you striving to be heard and trying to get published? Are you flinging yourself at the public in hopes of getting a tweet retweeted by someone of influence or waiting for an Instagram post to go viral? Just stop. Work on your writing and your network.
Looking back, I was not ready to hand my book postcard to anyone at IF:Gathering. I was not ready to handle a social media platform or be vulnerable with tough subjects in public. I watched and learned from those who were, soaking up the way they responded to their readers and worked with their agents and publishers. I stopped pushing myself and started praying for others.
Nearly a year later I’m astounded at the platform God is building for me. I have literally thousands of women around the globe working with me in ministry, writing and speaking. I’ve learned how to preach and how to lead, how to gently nudge and how to pick the right battles. I’ve been invited to speak to dozens of audiences, secular and religious, something that had never happened to me in the past. I’m on an exciting leadership team that is planning great things in women’s ministry. I’m working with other women in my town to bring together (hopefully) hundreds of women for IF:Winona.
All of this because I put away my own agenda and let God continue His.
What agenda do you need to set down?