Building a Platform vs. Promoting a Book

Promoting a bookYou can’t promote your book without first having a platform. However…

A platform is not enough. To sell copies of your book, you have to actually promote the book.

Shocking, huh?

You can have a huge platform — thousands of Facebook fans, Twitter followers, and blog readers. Maybe you’re even a public speaker, have a popular newsletter, you’re a go-to expert on your topic, or you’re already a bestselling author.

But if you don’t actually put your latest book in front of people and make it easy and advantageous for them to immediately click-to-buy, nobody is going to buy it.

It seems obvious. Even bestselling authors and celebrities have major “launches” for each book—they don’t just sit back and assume people will find the book because they’re famous. But when you’ve been working hard at platform building, it can come as a surprise that once you have a book available, there is even more to be done.

So what’s the difference between platform and promotion?

Platform-building activities could include:

→ Having a blog and using proven strategies to increase your traffic.

→ Interacting effectively on Twitter and building up your follower count.

→ Having a Facebook fan page and growing your number of fans.

→ Establishing an author brand for yourself.

→ Building an email subscriber list and sending out regular newsletters

Book promotion activities could include:

→ Offering a free giveaway of something your readers would enjoy (a novella, a short non-fiction e-book, a collection of behind-the-scenes information about your book, books from your backlist, etc.) to anyone who buys your book within a specified time frame, and promoting the giveaway on all social media.

→ Creating contests on Goodreads, Pinterest, or Facebook in which readers buy your book or sign up for your newsletter for a chance to win something valuable.

→ Having a blog tour for your book, in which dozens of bloggers post about your book within a given week.

→ Running targeted advertising on Facebook

→ Reaching out to Book Clubs

→ Having a “street team” who can work social media on behalf of your book

It’s important to understand the difference between platform building and book promotion. You need both, they’re both ongoing, and they require separate activities. Don’t fall into the trap of doing only half!

Have you thought about this distinction between platform and promotion? Are you uncomfortable with either one? What are some platform or promotional activities that have worked for you? 


A platform is not enough. To sell your book, you have to actually promote it. (Click to Tweet)

Put your book in front of people & make it easy for them to click-to-buy, or nobody will buy it. (Click to Tweet.)

It’s crucial to understand the difference between platform building and book promotion. (Click to Tweet.)



Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. […] • standout writing • a compelling story • strong following/platform […]

  2. Ugochi on May 11, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Oh my publisher is gonna love me then… because I don’t stop. Rachelle, do you know that I got the idea to have a website dedicated to my novel from you? Yup. I read it in one of your blogs. I’m learning alot from you woman!

  3. Book Promotion | on March 11, 2013 at 6:06 AM

    […] Building a Platform vs. Promoting a Book – Rachelle Gardner can't promote your book without first having a platform. However… A platform is not enough. To sell copies of your book, you have to actually promote the book. Shocking, huh? You can have a huge platform — thousands … […]

  4. […] wrote about this blog post on book promotion from literary agent Rachelle Gardner before, but look at some of the ideas in the comments she got […]

  5. Diane Carlisle on February 25, 2013 at 1:25 PM

    I love this post! I’m on chapter 9 of a novel in the works and the previous two novels I started four years ago have been shelved. I may never finish, but in the meantime, I’ve had my blog active since 2009.

    All of these points are right on! I’m inspired to continue on my path.

    Thank you!

  6. Magpie Monday | Robert E. Stutts on February 25, 2013 at 4:08 AM

    […] Gardner on building a platform versus promoting a book. Related: Warren Ellis on download wristbands, or: how to give books away at parties (pretty cool […]

  7. Friday Features #43, #44, #45 - YESENIA VARGAS on February 24, 2013 at 12:27 AM

    […] Building a Platform vs. Promoting a Book – Rachelle Gardner […]

  8. […] Building a Platform vs. Promoting a Book – Rachelle Gardner […]

  9. […] Building a Platform Vs. Promoting a Book […]

  10. […] Building a Platform vs. Promoting a Book by Rachelle Gardner […]

  11. Nancy DeLaval Miller on February 20, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    I don’t understand how a first time memoir writer can promote herself or her book, if it’s never been published. My memoir (about child abuse and insanity) is almost finished, but in your submission info it says I need to have a platform established before I even send in a proposal. This seems like a catch 22 to me.

  12. […] a difference between developing a writer’s platform and promoting your book. In a recent blog post, she wrote the […]

  13. […] Building a Platform vs. Promoting a Book […]

  14. vrabinec on February 19, 2013 at 4:59 PM

    Is it okay if I just publish my book and have YOU guys promote it for me? You seem like a nice bunch. Come on, be a pal, help a guy out. 🙂

  15. Hafeez Baoku on February 19, 2013 at 3:20 PM

    Thank you so much for providing so much wisdom Rachel. Out of curiosity, do you or anyone else have books you would recommend in regards to book promoting?

  16. Janis Cox on February 19, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Oh Mary,

    There is a difficult line to walk between giving good content and promoting a book. I hesitate to talk about my book a lot because I don’t like to “bug” people.

    It is a children’ book and right now I am trying to find the moms who will be interested enough in helping me.

    I do use Twitter and that is building an audience of people I don’t know which is good.

    How often can “promoting a book” occur without being obtrusive? Once a day, once a week, once a month?

    And I know it is a slow process – I trust in God to show me the way.


  17. Jeff on February 19, 2013 at 10:58 AM

    Absolutely – social networking and social feedback has turned the net into one giant, global neighborhood within which you must now create your own platform.

    In many ways this is a HUGE opportunity, but only if you a) Are totally in tune with and committed to your market b) You learn to find your voice in your marketplace and c) You embrace the rapid change in how we network and communicate with our market…

    Word or mouth marketing is the new norm – and for that, yes, you definitely need a platform.


  18. Dan Erickson on February 19, 2013 at 9:33 AM

    Great post, and I agree with both your platform and promotion lists. I actively do a couple of the things mentioned on both lists. However, as a self-published author, a full-time college instructor, and a single dad, I only have so much time in a day and have to pick and choose my activities. Honestly, I’m not sure how anyone, but those who have no outside work or kids can do all of the things on the lists on a regular basis. I already spend two hours or more a day on my writing and platform.

  19. Sidney Ross on February 19, 2013 at 12:19 AM

    Rachelle Gardner,
    You agents and publishers never cease to amaze me. You come into a room. You trash everyone in the room. Then you systematically trash the room. Then you proceed in telling everyone in the room, how above the trash, you yourselves are. Rachelle, you make me sick and so does every other agent with this kind of big league rock ’em sock ’em bombs-away mentality. I just read a blog by that time-bomb ticking just waiting to explode flippant of a Janet Reid as she weighs in with her oh so high and mighty self. Talking straight down to anybody and everybody. And now, here you are today, right in step with Janet hurling & throwing out all this platform and promo difficulty crap bundled as ticks and tacks. And everyone here, these poor saps; all wagging their tongues waiting for a sip of water, a morsel or crumb from you. The road of a writer doesn’t have to be this way, folks. Having a gauntlet thrown down on your a** while you’re trying to learn from a supposed superior is unhealthy and for the budding author it is a killer. It for damned sure needs to stop. Yeah, I know it’s your blog. But it’s also a human blog with real feelings attached. Now for the underlings, the knuckleheads on this blog that say they’re learning from you, well SWELL you guys and gals just keep sucking-up to Rachelle and Janet. But it remains mightily sickening to read and to listen to day in and day out. But, having said this; on the flip-side on myside my ringside. I find it highly entertaining and extremely educational. Keep the malarchy rolling. Here’s the thing Rachelle, you’re not doing anything to help anybody with these kind of posts. You’re scaring everyone shitless, that’s what you are doing. I find it akin to slavery-in-writing or to a teacher mistreating a child who dearly needs attention and instead gets a berating in his/her classroom. I find myself asking, just how much longer will the likes of you and Janet and god knows how many other agents and publishers doing this, continue to indeed prosper? And where or what will it all lead to? Keep sucking dry the earnest listeners the young and old wanting and trying to suckle some goodness out of you bunch of professional head spinners. We will see, we will see. . …But, by all means surely to goodness, keep it up.
    I’m getting magnificent material for my upcoming “KILLING AGENTS” thriller.
    Bill O’reilly want have a New York thing on me.

  20. Iulian Ionescu on February 18, 2013 at 10:48 PM

    I enjoyed this article. As a writer at the beginning of my career, I am working relentlessly on my platform.

    Thank you!


  21. Darlene L. Turner on February 18, 2013 at 9:28 PM

    Thanks for this post, Rachelle. Very helpful!

  22. Lisa on February 18, 2013 at 6:29 PM

    Love this post, especially as I work on the platform part in giving away my book today on Amazon. It is amazing to see how this process works. Your guidance is always helpful. Thanks!

  23. Reba on February 18, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    Thanks for the helpful post, however I do have a question.
    How do you advise I go about getting my books into book clubs?(I write Christian Fiction Romance).


  24. […] Building a Platform vs. Promoting a Book – Rachelle Gardner. […]

  25. Turney Duff on February 18, 2013 at 2:23 PM

    Well said Rachelle… I’ve also found that I’m learning what NOT to do by being on FB and Twitter. When I’m following someone and I get bombarded by self promotion it turns me off. There’s a balance – the hard part is finding it…

  26. Lisa Smith on February 18, 2013 at 2:14 PM

    Thanks, Rachelle – this is something I struggle with, particularly as a first time novelist. How on earth do I build a platform when I don’t have a book? I get how it works for non-fiction, but still a bit unsure on how to do it with fiction. Who cares about a website/blog/facebook page,etc, regarding an author who doesn’t have a book?

    That being said, I do have some short stories published. So do I build a platform on those??

    I am also uncomfortable with the “pimping” aspect of the whole thing – I don’t like shining the spotlight on myself. Even though I know it’s not technically ME, but the work, but still…

    This is one of the things I am working on in 2013, as I continue to revise my first draft and inch ever closer to the time when I can seriously start “shopping” it out….

  27. Kathryn Barker on February 18, 2013 at 12:04 PM


    Thanks for this post. Seems like a perfect pairing…platform and promotion…kind of like tea and scones.

    I was especially fond of the ready-made tweetables…saved time for me not having to dream up something clever to say…especially when I’m only on my second cuppa tea!

  28. Peter Frahm on February 18, 2013 at 11:50 AM

    A lot of good information in a very small space. Well said!

  29. Barbara Anne Waite on February 18, 2013 at 11:35 AM

    Thanks for good article. I will attempt to put into practice your advice. One unique thing I used was the E-note cards on to announce my book was out. They are unusual and attractive and I already had my address book list entered. Since my book is a memoir, taken from the letters of a teacher 100 years ago, I used a vintage looking note card. I used another note card later to thank friends for reviews. I also wrote to Amazon and asked them to change the category under memoir they used for my book. It has remained #1 in Memoirs/West for months. Before that it was in a much broader category for memoirs.

  30. Deb Hathaway on February 18, 2013 at 11:25 AM

    I see my platform as a form of promotion.

    I am still writing my book… but am using my blog, Facebook, and twitter to promote as I go. Last week I posted an excerpt and it was the highest hit post I have ever written.

    I’m learning it is never too early to start getting people panting to read your book 🙂

  31. Elaine Manders on February 18, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Rachel, you always have the most relevant posts. Although I don’t have a book out yet, I’m starting a blog next week to gather information on marketing, both theory (studied in college) and the techniques. It’s entitled A Book Goes to Market and starts with Marketing 101. After that I’ll establish an advertising campaign. The point is to be ready. I’m not sure what the site name will be yet, but will put it out when I do.

  32. Angela Brown on February 18, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    The platform building has been a lot of fun. Interacting with others, discussing various writerly/readerly related things, sharing the funny interwebz photos of bad hair day kitty…yeah, all of that is fun.

    Promoting…well…uncomfortable is a good word for it. I know, I know. The book itself can’t jump through the screen and shout “Buy me!!”, but I sure wish it could do that without me having to feel like I’m “pimping” it. Yet, it’s a bit had to sell the book if no one knows it’s there lol!

  33. Linda Caddick on February 18, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    Well timed article for me – thank you. I gleefully wrote my novel, painstakingly edited and re re re etc. edited it and reworked it, and then spent months happily setting up my platform and blog according to internet instruction. Now I have a wonderful invisible novel as well as a wonderful invisible platform! It’s rather like having a car, but not being able to drive.

    And I wonder if Ernie will part with some of those creative ideas?

  34. Meghan Carver on February 18, 2013 at 9:58 AM

    Thanks for the suggestions, Rachelle. Saving this for future use.

  35. Joe Pote on February 18, 2013 at 9:57 AM

    You’ve made a very important distinction, Rachelle!

    Yes, both are equally important.

    However, until one has a platform, non-fiction book promotion seems largely an exercise in futility.

  36. Lisa on February 18, 2013 at 9:56 AM

    Thanks for making this distinction. It’s so important.

  37. Matt on February 18, 2013 at 9:47 AM

    My book comes out in a few months, but I already feel like I’m behind in the promotion. These are some terrific tips, thanks!

  38. William Pipes on February 18, 2013 at 8:23 AM

    I signed a publishing contract last week for my novel Darby. Now I have to begin promoting it. Darby is an Appalachian novel. Darby begins in 1895 and is a story of danger, suspense, romance, and intrigue interwoven with the history and culture of the Appalachians. Hopefully Darby will be in print within a year.

    • sherrie miranda on February 18, 2013 at 4:11 PM

      Start contacting the high schools ASAP!!

      • William Pipes on February 18, 2013 at 5:11 PM

        Sherrie – What do you mean – Start contacting the high schools ASAP?

        • sherrie miranda on February 19, 2013 at 12:50 AM

          Well, as a former teacher, I know I would want my students reading something like this. Any schools in and around that area should have teachers interested in having their students read your book. And the best way to get students interested in reading a book is to meet the author.
          We brought Luis (darn, I am drawing a blank) “Always Running” to our school in Venice. Some of the students read the book beforehand and so they had good questions. The auditorium was full and for the first time since I had been there, you could hear a pin drop. The students were enraptured with him.
          It certainly is worth a shot to send out a letter to the English teachers, maybe even the history teachers. You might be surprised.
          Best of luck to you!

          • William Pipes on February 19, 2013 at 7:19 AM

            Thanks Sherrie.

            I’ll follow your advice. I taught school for many years – HS Science

  39. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on February 18, 2013 at 4:15 AM

    Platform building is a science.

    Book promotion is a seance.

    The first’s been easy, but the second is a constant struggle with will-o-the-wisp marketing concepts that often don’t effectively gel.

    One thing I’m trying now is a “crossover” approach; since the book deals with PTSD, I’m sending copies to churches and other religion-based organizations that have veterans’ outreach programs. It’s too early to tell what the results are, but the initial word-of-mouth is showing promise.

    It’s a LOT of work.

    Oh, to be J.D. Salinger! (But I have to confess that the reason I read “Catcher In The Rye” was that I thought it was about baseball…)

    • sherrie miranda on February 18, 2013 at 4:10 PM

      That old crab?! He was just a grouchy old man. Why would you want to be him? Plus, he never published another book. Though I must admit, “Cather In the Rye” is brilliant! I never had so much fun teaching in my life! Though I taught it to juniors. As a freshman in a NYS high school, I didn’t get it. THIS is exactly why Knowing Your Audience is key!

  40. Tehila on February 18, 2013 at 3:43 AM

    Thank you for this wisdom!

    I have started building my platform bearing in mind that I will be publishing some books in the future.

    The great thing is that I am learning so much about writing, people, and building connections in the process.

    (I thoroughly enjoy and value your website).

    • sherrie miranda on February 18, 2013 at 4:04 PM

      I concur. Thanks very much for this bit of wisdom.
      One question: I can not grow my Twitter account because I am following too many people and not enough are following me. Every time I get a few new followers, I can follow ONE more person or group. This has been like this for a couple of years. Anybody know how I can change that? ALSO, I don’t really get Twitter. What really is the point? I mean do other people know something I don’t. I love LinkedIn and have great discussions there and people are asking to connect ALL the time. Facebook, I kinda messed up as my Author page used to be my profile so I can not add to my 5K “friend”. Anyone know if I can switch the page to a fan page?
      I have other questions but still have work to do before I get there so that is it for now.
      Is anyone else having issues seeing the graphics here?
      P.S. How do I switch to following from my new e-mail address? I am getting ready to rid myself of this one.

      • sherrie miranda on February 18, 2013 at 4:05 PM

        Sorry! So much for the one question, huh?

      • Evangeline Holland on February 19, 2013 at 9:56 PM

        Twitter does that to restrict spam accounts, so unless you unfollow a mass of people, you will continue to have this issue. A great way to get around this (and to decrease your follow count) is to create lists. As for why Twitter matters or how it works: think of it as a water cooler at work: low pressure interaction, jabbering on about fun things, and meeting people you don’t necessarily have to “friends” with (like a Facebook request).

        Facebook has instructions on how to switch your account to an author page here:

        To follow the blog with another email address, just scroll up to the box on the right side of this blog and click “subscribe by mail”.

  41. Ernie Zelinski on February 18, 2013 at 3:03 AM

    Great article.

    You have certainly distinguished between platform and promotion. Recently, I had to take a so-called “book expert” to task when he wrote that your platform was much more than marketing, with your marketing representing a small part of it. I had to point out to him that platform is actually a small part of marketing, with marketing comprising all the 4P’s of marketing that includes platform in of the 4P’s.

    As for myself, I still find that book promotion in itself works a lot better than having a platform. I don’t have much of a platform. I use my two Twitter accounts almost never and use my Facebook account (with a few hundred followers) mainly to post jokes and silly stuff.

    But when it comes to book promotion, I know that I out perform 99 percent of authors. I don’t have major launches, however. I rely on steady promotion, the small things.

    I also do things that virtually no other authors are doing. Doing a lot of these creative things that other authors don’t do can pays off in the long run.

    For example, if you go to Amazon and type in “retirement” in its search box, you will see that not only does my self-published “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” come in the #1 spot, my “The Joy of Not Working” comes in the #2 spot — out of about 34,000 items! This is not the result of platform. This is the result of promotion over a long period of time, with a lot small creative things that I have done and that other authors are not doing.

    Here are some great quotations to place true creativity in perspective:

    “The great creative individual . . . is capable of more wisdom and virtue than collective man ever can be.”
    — John Stuart Mill

    “The radical invents the views. When he has worn them out the conservative adopts them.”
    — Mark Twain

    “There is no great genius without a mixture of madness.”
    — Aristotle

    “When starting out, don’t worry about not having enough money. Limited funds are a blessing, not a curse. Nothing encourages creative thinking in quite the same way.”
    — H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

    “Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth.”
    — Bernice Fitz-Gibbon

    Incidentally, I often ask authors to name one thing that they have done to promote their books that is truly unique — something they have come up with that no one else has done previously. Guess what? 99 percent can’t name one thing and most get irritated at me for pointing that out.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    “Helping Truly Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free
    (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller The Joy of Not Working
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Natasha on February 18, 2013 at 2:26 PM

      The problem is, “platform” doesn’t fit nicely into a box of the traditional 4Ps. In many ways, it impacts the “product P” (you) because it involves branding. Depending on what you are selling, it might also be part of the “placement P” (if you’re distributing online). It offers part of the audience for the “promotion P”, and is involved in both components of promotion – the message and the media.

      Your online presence is much more comparable to an outlet store than any traditional marketing P. In other words, this online world is like its own business. It’s not your only business, but it’s one entire branch that involves its own marketing, finance and operations when done correctly. Doing well on Amazon is great, but it’s just part of the “promotion P” within your online business.

      I also think we need to distinguish promotional media type from promotional audience here. To think of it simply, say your general message is “buy this book.” In traditional marketing, you would send that message out through multiple media types – direct mail, TV, radio, magazine, etc. When you have a platform of people who have already engaged with you and expressed interest, it’s just one type of qualified audience for your promotional message (just like TV, radio, etc.). From this perspective, saying that “book promotion in itself works a lot better than having a platform” doesn’t really make sense. A social media platform is one vehicle to promote your message, and Amazon is another.

      Lastly, using a social media platform shouldn’t stifle creativity – it’s the brands/people who are most creative with it who find the greatest success. With the success you’ve already had with other vehicles, I can imagine you would find fantastic ways to drive further sales with social media.