As a young author (I think I can still say that) in the 21st century, I’m experiencing firsthand what I’ve been reading about lately in the areas of publishing and book marketing. It’s a real, discouraging, and frustrating challenge for authors today: the challenge of being heard.
I used to think (naively) that the greatest challenge for authors was getting published. Maybe there was a time when that was true, but not anymore. Especially with the rise of the self-publishing industry, the challenge is no longer getting your work out there; the challenge is getting someone to read it, getting your voice heard. As harsh as it sounds, it doesn’t matter if you have an earth-shattering message that the world needs to hear. It doesn’t matter if your prose is winsome and penetrating. It doesn’t matter if you have a unique perspective. These things don’t matter unless you can be heard. At least, that’s the popular assumption for today’s writer.
So, many have come forward to tell you just that: how to be heard. I’ve been working through Michael Hyatt’s Platform, where he focuses on building a base to communicate a critical message (along with all of the layers of marketing and business acumen that come along with it). Marketing is definitely not my thing, so I’m learning a lot. But here’s the question I don’t see being addressed by today’s entrepreneurial writer: Does God want your voice to be heard?
The question might scream speculation to today’s writer. “How do you even answer that?” they might say. “Just try to get your voice heard and see what happens.” That approach assumes two things: (1) God is basically irrelevant to your calling and success in the world and (2) your voice, by default, needs to be heard . . . just because it’s a voice. Rampant self-expression is an unbridled mantra in our culture. The question, more broadly, isn’t, “Should your voice be heard?” It’s, “Why hasn’t your voice been heard yet?”
That’s troubling on several fronts, but here are some potential dangers of this thinking, which I’ve put in question form:
- How do you know that the world hearing your voice is really a good thing? What’s your criteria for judging that in the first place?
- What if your “voice” is really just an egotistical echo, an attempt to get the world to look at you?
- Are you even conscious of what you want readers to do when they hear your voice, or are you just floating information?
These are probing questions for authors today. We need to be thinking not just about getting heard but about why we want to be heard and what we hope readers will do in response. Without having thoughtful responses to questions like these, I doubt whether being heard is really a positive thing.
I’m still working through these issues as a Christian and a writer. I’m curious to hear your thoughts as well. What should Christian authors consider before they even think about building a platform? That will be the subject of a future post.