Non-Fiction Platforms

I’ve had some people tell me lately that they’re starting to hate that word platform. I’ll let you in on a little secret: I sometimes wish the whole idea of platform would just go away and we’d be free to simply publish the books we love. Like you, I wish it were all about original ideas and great writing. I long for the days when agents and editors were simply searching for the best new talent and nobody ever heard the word platform. But that’s not the world we live in.

If you want to write non-fiction, platform is crucial. The key to a non-fiction platform is your target market and what you are doing to reach them. You want to show a publisher that you personally have the ability to attract buyers for your book. You want to establish yourself as an authority in your subject, or the authority, the go-to person. Platform tells a publisher that you are not only the right person to write this book, you are the very best person to write this book.

So what are some elements of a strong platform? They can include:

  • A blog or website with growing traffic. There’s no “magic number” of pageviews that will put you over the top, but if your numbers aren’t growing, that’s something to shoot for.
  • You also want the ability to capture names and email addresses. Publishers love to see that you already have a database of 3,000 to 5,000 names (or more) to whom you can market your book when it comes out.
  • Social media presence on at least one platform (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest…) with clear evidence of engagement with your tribe.
  • A podcast with a growing audience, or frequent guest spots on others’ podcasts.
  • Speaking engagements. You can start small and slowly grow the size of your audiences over time.
  • Numerous articles published, whether national, local or specialized. Online or print.
  • A regular column in a national magazine or a large metro newspaper.
  • Regular appearances on television or radio.
  • Regular contact with your target audience, for example, through a newsletter.
  • Notoriety and/or authority within your area of expertise. You are a known expert on your topic.
  • Previous books published with respectable sales numbers.

Not everyone who gets published has reached these standards or even come close, but this gives you an idea of the kinds of things publishers are hoping to see.

You want to sell an agent and/or a publisher not just on your book but on you. Your query and your proposal both serve the purpose of selling a package—you and your book. I’ve received numerous questions from people asking, “Does it count if I have clips from anthologies? Does it count if I have theater experience?” etc. etc. You don’t have to play the what-if game and analyze every eventuality. Just sell yourself as the author of the particular book you’re writing. Got nothing to sell? Better get a hammer and some nails ‘cuz you’ve got a platform to build.

Don’t forget… the longest journey begins with the first step. You have to start somewhere, right? Get that website. Start a professional page on Facebook. Begin speaking at local events, then branch out. Pitch articles for magazine and newspaper publication. Start small, one step at a time. Building a platform is doable. So, do it.

If you’re a non-fiction author, what are you doing to build a platform?

Photo by Hanny Naibaho on Unsplash

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Books & Such Literary Agency. 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!

9 Comments

  1. […] Amanda J. Evans reminds us that author branding is more than genre, while Rachelle Gardner talks non-fiction platforms. […]



  2. Lisa Van Engen on August 15, 2018 at 8:16 PM

    Great encouragement, thank you. You have to work for it. Sometimes the willingness to work hard makes a difference too. I got a contract without a totally impressive platform yet… but I had to prove I knew how to do it and that I was committed to the vision long term.



  3. Pat Iacuzzi on August 15, 2018 at 5:16 PM

    Re: Non-Fiction Platforms–
    I write fiction. So what has this to do with me you say? I have a ton of nonfiction books that I not only enjoy reading, but use as resources to develop plausible settings and characters for my stories.
    Thanks to nonfiction writers–and their hard work that blesses us all!
    And thank you, Rachelle!



  4. Matthew C. Kriner on March 26, 2012 at 1:20 AM

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  5. Feedcast on December 11, 2011 at 2:20 AM

    Feedcast…

    Fantastic blog post, saw on…



  6. Tiffany Stuart on February 22, 2008 at 2:49 PM

    >This shows who wants it and who doesn’t. If I don’t have the energy to consider some of these steps, than maybe book writing is not for me. I can easily find some other outlet to release that creative energy.

    But since I cannot NOT write my book idea, I better get busy stepping.

    It’s a long process, but I’m baby stepping and enjoying it. Regardless of the outcome, I feel God’s pleasure by writing.



  7. Marla Taviano on February 21, 2008 at 8:02 PM

    >Doable and EXHAUSTING. Whew.



  8. Tami Boesiger on February 21, 2008 at 11:54 AM

    >VERY helpful, Rachelle. I especially love the encouragement you give at the end–“Building a platform is doable. So, do it.”



  9. Cyndi Lewis on February 21, 2008 at 8:52 AM

    >This would be so much easier if I were related to Oprah- or even the local news guy.



I love words.

I love books and publishing and talking incessantly about them.

I love authors and all the intricacies of managing a writing life.

I sell. I negotiate. I coach. I brainstorm.

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