Good Writing vs. Having a Platform

I am a Christian author. I have self-published three books. 

In the five years since my first book, The Victor, came out. In that time I have learned a lot about the publishing industry and it's not what you may think. As a self-published author I have had a tendency to think of myself as a second class author. I did have several big name publishers come very close to giving me traditional contracts for my books because they liked my writing and the stories I wrote but declined to do so. The reasons cited were: haven't sold enough (5,001) copies on my own - they would only jump in after reaching that magic number in order to "get a piece of the action." Other reasons were: too many people have already read the books. One publisher who was looking at In Plain Sight, my Amish/paranormal fiction who was looking for more cutting edge fiction.  They took a vote among the acquisition team and the outcome was 50/50. In the end they were too scared to publish something so different. Very discouraging.

Getting a book published nowadays seems to have evolved into more about who you are and how big your"platform" is than writing a well-crafted story. I have a friend who is an agent who tells me that some pretty big name Christian publishers will no longer accept submissions from unknowns - no matter how good the writing is. You have to be already famous. Have a platform. I understand that the book industry is suffering on many different levels. Book stores are disappearing (LifeWay Christian Bookstores is the latest) and that it all comes down to staying in business. Therefore, many publishers only stick with their already known authors and want them to keep churning out more of the same (Amish Fiction is a biggie). Once a book makes it big, all the copycats start getting published (think Vampire and Dystopian society genres). Even their book covers look similar.


New and unknown authors, no matter how good they may write, if they don't have a platform, are not welcome. Too big of a risk. I bet if Tolkien were to submit The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings today, it would be rejected by all the publishers for the reasons cited above. He broke all the rules of book writing; his only platform was as an Oxford professor and he didn't self-promote. Oh, and new authors have to keep their word count down to 85,000 words - bigger books are too expensive to take such a risk on...unless you're already famous. 

This is why Fifty Shades of Grey got a big publishing contract and movie deal. It started out as a blog where the author, E.L. James, took the characters from Twilight and changed the story into a S&M Soft Pornography jaunt. The idiom unfortunately is very true; sex sells...even among those who self-identify as Christians. It's a sad commentary on the church today that so many Christian women bought this book and paid to see the movie. Everyone I know who read the book said it was POORLY written (same with a lot of reviews on Amazon, etc.) The movie bombed after the first weekend because word got out that it was awful. So, the author couldn't write but that didn't matter - she had a BIG blog following/platform and that is all the publisher cared about. 

I wonder how many good books we will never have the privilege to read because of how the publishing industry works nowadays? Snookie from The Jersey Shore has a better chance of getting a traditional contract than I do. What are your thoughts on this?


  1. It is very disheartening. I have started writing a novel, but will probably just write it for my own enjoyment. I do not have the time or desire to create a platform. I agree with you that many awesome stories will never be read...too bad.

  2. It is sad. I used to think if I wrote good enough and wrote something completely unique it would be accepted by a publisher. Maybe several decades ago that might have been true but not now.

  3. I have a publisher so how do I get people to actually read my ya book. When you say platform do you mean blog. My book hasn't been released yet. Do you have any suggestions. My pub an independent publisher.

  4. Ava - let's chat on Facebook. I'm easy to find: Marlayne Giron