In publishing circles, we frequently refer to the “launch” of a new book when it is first published, but often tend to overlook the fact that it is not an unmanned rocket controlled at the publisher/mission control. Books need a pilot.
The author must travel with the book.
I am uncertain if there ever was a time in the history of book publishing where an author didn’t need to join their book out in the world once it was released. I am sorry to tell all you introverts or homebodies, a book launch is actually a book and author event.
It’s as much about you as the book. Always been this way and always will.
Whoever came up with the mythical concept that an author could write a book and the work was finished, is about as wrong as they could be. This unrealistic view of the book publishing world should be banished to the alternate universe where the idea hatched in the first place.
Authors need to accompany their books into the world when it is published.
Figuratively, of course.
Unless you are self-publishing and the requirement becomes literal as you often physically carry your books with you and either do all the work associated with the publication or pay someone else to do it.
The completion of a manuscript is only one part of a lengthy process sandwiched between two periods of marketing, one which occurs before the book is written and the other after the book is published.
The dreaded “author platform” is the mechanism allowing an author to accompany their book into the marketplace, engaging with readers, interacting with media and shepherding their flock of books from pasture to pasture looking for additional readers.
Many authors grow frustrated when they discover they cannot simply set their little book-bird free to fly about, finding readers on its own. There is an element of truth to this, but the author must first fly with the book for a good long while until it has wings of its own.
Willingness to do the marketing work is at the center of the author platform discussion. The tension created by the perception that author platforms are shameless self-promotion, can tear at the very fabric of creative joy which goes along with writing a book.
Nevertheless, the platform requirement for traditional publishers remains, even more so for the self-published author.
Very often, when an author writes about their plans for marketing in a book proposal to an agent or publisher, they will outline the various activities and efforts they will begin after their book releases…establishing a website, blogging, social media, email marketing, speaking engagements, etc.
But author platforms are those things you do months and years before the book is written. The book rarely comes first. If it does, it needs to sit quietly on your computer hard drive until the platform is built.
Proponents of author platforms are simply encouraging you to get an early start on it, so the weight of the book launch doesn’t overwhelm you and financial risk of publishing is mitigated.
To continue with the cornucopia of metaphors today, the author platform is like preparation of the launch pad for a rocket.
Did you know there is a limit to the size of rocket which can be launched based on the size of the launch pad? The larger the rocket, the larger the launch pad needed. Small rocket, small launch pad.
Expecting a small or non-existent author platform to support a major book publication is not considered a wise use of publishing effort or investment. That’s why publishers don’t do it very often and agents reject authors for lack of platform.
Publishers (and agents) want the launch pad to be sufficient before the book arrives and ready to go when the final countdown begins.
If you want to be a professional writer and a published author of multiple successful books, you need to begin building the launch pad (author platform) years before it will be used to support the publication of the book.
It needs to be in place before, not after.
Then, when it comes time for liftoff, all the elements will be in place making for a fruitful and successful trip.
For both of you.