Let’s Talk About PLATFORM

I seem to receive more questions about platform than anything else, so I’m doing 3 whole days of posts to try and clear up some mysteries.

What is a platform?

Your platform refers to the means by which YOU will help sell your book by your presence in the media and/or the public sphere, or at least within the audience you hope to reach with your book.

In non-fiction, publishers want to see what the author is already doing to get their message out there—before the book is published or even contracted. In fiction, they want to see that you know what it will take to begin building a platform once your book is contracted, and that you will be an active participant in the marketing of your book. You tell them this in your proposal.

Is platform different for fiction authors than it is for non-fiction authors?


For fiction, a large platform isn’t necessary to sell your book to a publisher. Helpful, but not necessary.

In non-fiction, it’s fast becoming the #1 consideration. In most cases, it’s necessary to have some type of platform before your book can sell to a publisher. The size of platform required depends on the book, the topic, and the publisher.

In what other ways do fiction and non-fiction platforms differ?

Non-fiction writers need to have a pretty good platform prior to selling the book to a publisher. Fiction authors need to be prepared to start building one after their book is contracted (if they haven’t already) by finding ways to increase their following and reader loyalty.

Author marketing efforts are proven to help sell non-fiction books. However in fiction, nobody is really clear whether author marketing efforts translate to significantly greater sales or not. The prevailing wisdom is that it certainly doesn’t hurt, and publishers will take every edge they can get. As my friend Jeff Gerke says, “As far as I can tell, no one has figured out how to promote a novel so well that jillions of people go buy it who wouldn’t have otherwise. Even secular publishing doesn’t really know how to promote fiction. Everybody just wants it to be a movie.”

A non-fiction platform can be much more targeted than that of most novelists, since it’s based on a particular topic, whether it be parenting, Christian life, marriage or whatever. Non-fiction authors can target publications, websites, radio shows (etc) that address their topic. Fiction readers are more difficult to categorize.

What if I have a non-fiction book idea but no platform?

I would strongly recommend you take the time and effort needed to begin building a platform (even if it takes a year or two…or more). Without a platform, no matter how good or helpful the book is, publishers are simply not giving good books the time of day (sorry to say). Your next option is to self publish and sell the books yourself, which many authors are having to do.

Is blogging considered a platform?

I think a blog is a good tool for those who enjoy it and have the time to maintain it. I believe it gets writers used to writing everyday and engaging audiences. It helps you learn what people respond to (and what bores them to death). And yes, it can definitely build your visibility on the web. It’s a great way to begin capturing names and email addresses for that all-important database that publishers want you to have. However, a blog does not a platform make. See this post by Rob Eagar of Wildfire Marketing on the dangers of blogging.

I am overwhelmed and don’t even know where to start.

Whether you’re writing fiction or non-fiction, start with good website. Not just a blog. Get a professionally designed website that tells about you. Visit your favorite authors on the web to get ideas of what a good author site looks like.

Begin getting yourself used to speaking in public. Volunteer to teach a Bible study or Sunday school class, then move up to speaking in slightly larger venues such as a women’s luncheon. Join Toastmasters if you need to. Speaking experience is helpful for both fiction and non-fiction authors, since either way, you might eventually be doing radio interviews, book signings, and other events. You want to be ready.

Try to place articles in magazines, journals, newspapers, even if they’re just local. Again, this is helpful for both fiction and non. It helps prepare you for the realities of publishing, and it can even begin to create a small following for you.

Tomorrow I’ll detail what a good NON-FICTION platform is, and the following day we’ll discussion FICTION platforms.

(This is a repeat of a previously posted column.)

Rachelle Gardner, Christian literary agent, WordServe Literary Group, Colorado.

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!


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  6. Kim Kasch on March 26, 2009 at 9:18 AM

    >I’m glad you’ve been explaining this ’cause I was getting ready to go in my closet and pull out my shoes from grade school – WOW! now that ages me.


  7. Sharon A. Lavy on March 25, 2009 at 7:13 AM


  8. Genny on March 24, 2009 at 4:02 PM

    >This was great; thank you. I clicked over and read Rob Eagar’s post as well. I look forward to your next post on nonfiction platforms!

  9. Solvang Sherrie on March 24, 2009 at 3:30 PM

    >Thank you for the wonderful post. I always learn so much when I visit your site!

  10. A Musing Mom on March 24, 2009 at 2:19 PM

    >I’ll second Jana on recommending Toastmasters. I felt so much less nervous about doing radio interviews (particularly with listener call-ins) because of my experience at Toastmasters. It’s not just about getting better giving prepared speeches, but about being an all around better communicator. What writer wouldn’t want that?

    Love this topic, Rachelle. Just wondering how to find the time to devote to both building that platform (at least the speaking side) and actually getting some writing done?

  11. Jana on March 24, 2009 at 11:43 AM

    >I highly recommend Toastmasters! This is an excellent “safe” environment to work on your communications and leadership skills.

    I discovered I liked to write when I joined Toastmasters and had so much fun putting speeches together.

  12. Sharon Ball on March 24, 2009 at 11:15 AM

    >Wow…I have heard platform explained my ways and many times, but reading your clear definition and insight, really drove home my understanding. I recently started blogging and have a web designer that I’m working with to redesign my blog, but perhaps I need to consider letting her develop a website for me as well. Thank you for all of the information.

  13. Jaime on March 24, 2009 at 9:40 AM

    >I LOVE the fact you put speaking engagements as a platform. I love speaking – probably too much – right now I do it mostly for youth groups and some women’s stuff, but it’s definitely an avenue I enjoy.
    Blogging is so much fun too! And, it’s great to kick ideas around etc. Anyway, great stuff, keep it comin! 🙂

  14. Krista Phillips on March 24, 2009 at 8:13 AM

    >LOVE your explanation of a fiction platform. It’s so hard to be told by people that I need to be building a platform, doing speaking engagements etc.

    Seriously? On what??? I write novels. THAT is my product. I will be the first to be out there gung-ho to market my book when it is published, but until I have a product, it is difficult to do that. I feel like I’m saying, “Hey, I write well, please follow me until my book gets published so you can read it!”

    I do blog, because a.) It’s fun! and b.) It does build an, albeit small, web presence. I have my website, although I wouldn’t call it professional. Working on that little detail though:-) My hope is that these things show that I’m WILLING to market and WILLING to go the mile once my book is published.

  15. David Russell Mosley on March 24, 2009 at 6:43 AM

    >I’m a first time follower of the blog, and I must say, I like. I do have a question though. Now, let’s say I had a book fiction or nonfiction, with which I wanted to query you. This April I am presenting a paper on the Books of Genesis, Samuel and Kings at a large conference in Cincinnati, but it has nothing to do with above mentioned book. Does my presentation still add to my platform?

  16. Mridu Khullar on March 24, 2009 at 6:24 AM

    >Thanks for the tips.

    Question: What about a memoir? Platform or no need for platform?

    And also, is a memoir written first like fiction, or sold first, like non-fiction?