Can I Skip the Platform but Still Get on the Train?

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

Dear Rachelle,
I’m submitting my first non-fiction book proposal, and I am wondering if the absence of a platform dooms a proposal to rejection. I am confident in the quality and the relevance of my book, but I have no platform or marketing experience. How does one address this in a book proposal?
A Writer, Not a Marketer


Dear Not a Marketer,

If your book is targeted at a niche audience, and it’s on a topic on which you are a recognized expert or you are highly credentialed, then a platform isn’t as much of a concern.

But generally with a non-fiction book, you’ll need to show why you’re the right person to author this book, and why potential readers would want to buy your book. Assuming there will be other books on the shelf that are similar in nature to yours, what would make a reader choose yours? That’s what a platform is all about:

  • Maybe you are the most experienced and/or credentialed author on that subject.
  • Maybe readers have already read things you’ve written on the topic—on a blog, on Facebook, in a reputable publication.
  • Maybe readers have heard you on the radio or a podcast, so they already recognize you as someone knowledgeable on the topic.
  • Perhaps readers attended an event at which you spoke.

What would make readers choose you?

As you can see, it isn’t so much about “publisher requirements,” since these concerns exist even for self-published authors. Readers need a reason to buy your book as opposed to someone else’s.

Think about that as you’re putting together the proposal. If you really have no platform whatsoever, i.e. no reason for people to buy your book, then it’s better to wait a year or two, figure out how to begin engaging with people on your topic (blog, Facebook, Instagram, writing articles for publication, speaking engagements, podcasts) and get started. Then submit your proposal when you have something to show.

Hope that helps!

Does this help your understanding of platform? What’s the hardest part about publishing platform requirements?

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

10 Responses

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  1. Dear Not a Marketer,
    * I used to be you. I had a book, not a platform.
    * I finally conceded the point, and started a blog. It was slow-going, but I kept at it. I tweaked, I re-designed, I found my niche.
    * I discovered my brand, launched my website, refined my voice, rewrote my book.
    * My book is much better now. I owe it to my platform. I owe both to God, his gentle nudges and firm imperatives.

    • Things always proceed better when we surrender to God’s Divine Order. Thanks for a great reminder! Best wishes for your book.–Rev. Allen C. Liles, author of THE FOREVER PENNY/How Our Loved Ones Stay Connected After Death.

  2. I always appreciate your insights, Rachelle. One of the hardest things about establishing an author platform is carving out the time to do it well in the midst of living life and writing/editing/polishing our books. It’s a balancing act to do it all well.

  3. If you draw a line ten inches long on a piece of paper, and draw a coloured dot at each end, those dots will be ten inches apart for as long as the paper endures.
    * If, however, you fold the paper, the dots can be brought together, and this movement in the third dimension defines platform for me; the bringing together of reader and writer, of need and its fulfillment through the complex spatiality of social media.

  4. Rachelle, I’ve had the feeling quite often that I’d like to completely withdraw from social media and just write. But the harsh reality is, whether writing for a publisher or indie-publishing, authors have to get the word out about their book. Platform may be a dirty word to many of us, but the necessity is there. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Robert says:

    Rachelle – Rather than building a platform isn’t it possible (and easier) to find a platform to stand on. I’d love to see your comments on finding and networking onto existing platforms rather than trying to build ones own.

  6. This does make the need for platform clear. For me, the hardest part of building platform is feeling like I’m saying “Look at me! Look at me!” which I do not like. I’m trying to find fun ways to be out there, like silly puppy videos and stuff.

  7. Pat Iacuzzi says:

    Thanks for your post, Rachelle. It’s a huge thing to think about as our work doesn’t end when we write that last sentence of our story. I picture myself standing on a physical platform to “hawk” my brand (kind of books I write). A platform which needs to be built from the bottom up, using the right tools, the latest innovations –yes– including live speaking engagements. And especially adding a unique quality or direction to my platform that makes my book and brand stand out…and continue to be supported over time.

  8. Jodi Bracken says:

    I love that you mentioned how having a platform is a concern for authors of all kinds, self-published as well as traditionally. I think many people assume it will be easier to go the self-published route, but, as Andrew said, the dots still have to be brought together to be successful.