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.
A good post. Now how about a post on “re-launching” a book after it’s been out there for say ten years and still offers valuable content for today’s readers.
Re-launching a previously published book is a challenge. If a book has sold well (tens of thousands of copies and still selling steady) then putting a new cover on it and updating the content a little would be a good way to give it an even longer life.
If the book has not sold well and maybe not much at all in the last few years, then a new title, cover and a substantial re-write might be in order.
Readers like new things.
And then you still need the social media/reader engagement platform in place to release the new edition.
Summary: Not easy to re-launch a book.
Rebekah Love Dorris
Great analogy. That launch pad metaphor hit home. Reminds me of the “tip of the iceberg” analogy: so much happens beneath the surface you never see. The tip of the iceberg is such a small percentage of the whole thing. I’m guessing the book is the tip of the iceberg, and the preparation is the bulkhead underneath.
This really drives it home that, as a writer, sharing truth is the goal, not being published. As a wise friend (with a sizable platform) once said, “Live and learn, shine and share, love and grow, and the platform will take care of itself.”
Writing professionally’s like marriage. You’ve got the candlelit dinners and the sunset beach walks, but when your wife’s got the stomach flu you’re going to be holding her hair out of the toilet when she’s puking.
Building platform is likewise an act of grace.
And fortunately, my wife has short hair.
Forgive me if I don’t use your example in my next writer’s conference workshop. It’s right after lunch.
Yeah, Dan, I’ll give you a pass on that.
Mmmm. Us committed introverts viewing the ‘dreaded platform’ aspect may well consider publishing posthumously.
We can expect to follow where it takes us, like you said, besides the regular expected events. I’ve been a speaker for a women’s retreat because of my book, and I didn’t expect that would be the case. WM. Paul Young gets invited to speak at prisons because of The Shack. I find it interesting how it has given him an opportunity to minister in unlikely places. His story of pain has opened doors to people who are encouraged because of its message of hope and forgiveness, especially for the person in need of it. I get to meet him this week, and I want to thank him for being real. You are showing us the big picture of what’s ahead. Thank you for this
My platform is like a quick phone call. The book is is a day spent together. Both are part of a great relationship.
Ann L. Coker
I like your bird-book image. I see it. Thanks for the tips.
Excellent nuggets of wisdom for platform building. Thank you so much for sharing. I’m in the book proposal writing stage now and have learned over the years, if we’re faithful to what He’s already called us to, He is faithful to multiply our influence for the Kingdom. Keep calm, and press on with eyes wide open. He never ceases to amaze!
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D
Great metaphors, Dan. Also, great advice. Thank you from the bottom of this space-baby’s heart (I was raised in the Cape Canaveral area of Florida).
Great stuff, I agree, the best time to build your author platform was five years ago. The second best time is right now!
Very informative! What are the keys to building such a platform?
I want to write a series where readers will await the next book, as I do for series by my favorite authors.
I’d love to have a blog or web site and interact with readers about the book, and about the research behind the world of the book.
How in the world do you do that before the book is available to be read?
How do you create a blog, or a Twitter account, with gazillions of followers, when they have not read your fiction? I have nothing to offer them but the story. I don’t want to build a platform on a bunch of stuff that is unrelated to the book. Neither do I want to build a platform on spoilers.
Bailey T Hurley
I think the actual “meet and greet” style of launching a book might be my favorite thing about it. I write about community so getting to create an intentional and friendly environment with readers is my jam! Hosting friendship workshops now to build that experience and learn from my mistakes before I jump in front of people to sell them on my book. The platform aspect is a bear but I think a little effort to connect with readers can go a long way. Good reminders here