The Dials, Levers and Buttons of Building Your Author Platform

The difference between a traditional book launch and building an author platform

If you are a writer and want to build a successful career, what options do you have? The above image is an example of how one could look at a traditional book launch vs a writer developing their own platform and marketing channels. There are two ways to look at this:

The good:
That if you choose the bottom box – to build an author platform – you have more levers to pull, buttons to push, dials to tune, and this means you have more options, more chances for success. That you are not waiting for someone else to validate you in order to have the chance to be published, that you don’t just have one 6 week window in which to promote a book that you spent years writing and bringing to publication. The above image looks ‘good’ because a traditional book launch can look like this:

A traditional book launch

That timeline here can be weeks or a couple of months. It has taken years to get to this point – you have slaved over writing the book, worked hard to find an agent, a publisher, and get to the culmination of a long process. At that point, you have a few weeks to try to get good reviews, get the media to notice your book, get placement with book retailers, and find your readership.

For most books, that spike does not represent tens of thousands of books sold. Often it is just hundreds of books, or maybe in the low thousands. Does that spike meet your expectations? If you worked on your book for 5 years, and sold 1,100 books before sales trailed off – is that building the type of career you want?

The bad:
Another way to view the image up top is that when you have more levers to pull, buttons to push, dials to tune – that it’s more work. Most people don’t like that. Most people are already swamped – juggling their writing, their career, family, home, hobbies, and other responsibilities. Maybe they struggled to find time to write, and don’t understand how they can find time to engage with potential readers and build their author platform.

To them, having all of these levers, dials and buttons means that your work becomes scattershot. They prefer a simple, elegant, and powerful solution. They want that first box up top – just flip the one toggle switch, and have magical things happen.

So which side is right here? The one that views an author platform as a wonderful opportunity, empowering writers, or the side that views it as a confusing road that takes one away from their writing?

Honestly, I don’t think either side is right, I think there is merely a difference in attitude. That the writer who sees the opportunity in how the web has empowered them – is one who will do the work to find a way to connect with readers. That they don’t find excuses to avoid connecting with readers and finding an audience. That one’s desire is a primary factor in the outcome – that one has a passion to reach their goals and will leverage any opportunity to do so. That these buttons, dials and levers all represent opportunities that did not exist in the old publishing world. That waiting for a phone call from an agent or publisher is not their entire strategy for the success of their writing career.

Don’t get me wrong – I love agents and publishers – enablers of sharing writing with the world, and connecting people through it. But in a world where LOTS of books are published each year, where nearly everyone is a writer and potential author – having your own writing career depend on a single switch is akin to making a bet.

A bet that in that one moment, that one short time frame in which you flip that switch, that your dreams will come true. This, instead of slowly building your dreams – doing things every week to build your audience and your career over the course of months and years.

A reality for writers is that many people are trying to fill a certain niche with books. There is lots of “competition” – although I hate to think of that word in terms of creative work. But the fact is: you are not the only person writing in your genre or on a specific topic. You may feel that fiddling with all of those dials is not for you. The problem is that – other writers in your field or genre WILL make the time. That they might look at those dials, feel confused and overwhelmed and begin fiddling anyway. Because in fiddling with something new, you learn. This is how you find connections that matter. Sure, you will do some things poorly, but you will also unlock opportunities that propels your career forward.

Overall, this is about expanding the number of options at your disposal. More options to build an audience and connect with others.

This is why I am relaunching my online course: Build Your Author Platform. It’s an 8-week course I will be teaching this summer that takes writers through a structured curriculum, but also offers personalized help to grow their writing career. Click here to sign up for updates as I move towards launch.

Have a great day!