Chip MacGregor

January 23, 2015

How My Lack of Platform Helped Me Get Published (a guest blog)


It was every hopeful author’s dream. I had just finished pitching my book idea in front of seven other hopeful authors and (more to the point) an acquisitions editor. As we all stood up to leave, he discreetly handed me his card and said “Let’s talk.” Long story short, I am now a published author.

I have, in fact, shortened the story so much as to be deceptive. When he and I talked at lunch the next day, he didn’t even look at the proposal I had spent three months perfecting. First, he wanted me to address several issues. Six grueling months later, I sent him the revised proposal. To my delight, he loved it. But he wanted me to completely rework my sample chapters, which took another five months. Finally he believed it was ready to be presented to the publication committee.

As you may know, publishers are looking for three things in a proposal: 1) a great concept, 2) great writing, and 3) a great platform. But, as my editor said, they’re willing to over look one of those three if the other two make up for it. I had no platform, so my editor kept pushing me to refine and improve my concept and writing.

There were many points in the process that I wanted to give up. Two years is a long time to spend on three chapters. But because I didn’t have a platform to fall back on, I didn’t have a choice. And now, having seen too many mediocre books from well-known personalities, I’m glad I didn’t have a platform to lean on. I know myself – if I could have gotten away with less effort, I would have.

By the way, I’ve also seen a lot of authors fall back on “I can always self-publish.” I’m NOT saying that self-publishing is necessarily an easy way out. It’s probably the harder path because you’re the only one holding yourself to a higher standard. I’m simply saying that if you view self-publishing as a back-up plan, your quality will likely suffer.

In the end, the publication committee caught my editor’s vision and decided to take a chance on an unknown author. But my point isn’t that anyone can be published if they work hard enough. There are no guarantees (even a great platform isn’t a guarantee). My point is that a lack of platform can be a blessing. It can drive us to write at the highest level we’re capable of. And that should be our goal, shouldn’t it?

What do you think? Is your lack of a platform a blessing or a curse? Is self-publishing an easy way out?


Josh Kelley is a speaker and author of Radically Normal (Harvest House). His website is

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  • Pauline Hylton says:

    I don’t agree friend. I believe in this day and age you can have gritty writing, a great concept, a weak platform and still sit on your book. That’s just my two cents…

  • Jane Gaugler Daly says:

    Lack of a platform is a speed bump along the way. Persistence and drive will get an author over the bumps across the road to publication. I used my brother-in-law’s influence to get me in front of an agent, who rejected my proposal. I used him again to get in front of an editor, who loved it and agreed to publish it. I’m under contract now, even though I have very little platform.

  • Henry McLaughlin says:

    Josh, I appreciate your comment that if we view self-publishing as a back-up plan, our quality will likely suffer. I think the discipline and effort we put into finding a traditional publisher needs to be put into any efforts to self-publish. Unfortunately, all too often it isn’t. Thanks for this reminder and this inspiring post.

    • Josh Kelley says:

      I’ve come to believe that I am not disciplined enough to self-published! My hats to those who are able to do it really well.

  • Gayla Grace says:

    Very motivating. “Anyone can be published if they work hard enough.” Enjoyed reading the path of publication this author took. Thank you for sharing.

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