I Write Nonfiction–Is My Platform Strong Enough?

  • By: Jessica Faust | Date: Jul 02 2019

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of an author’s platform for nonfiction and what makes a strong nonfiction book proposal. This has been discussed both on YouTube and the blog. Not surprisingly, I get a lot of questions about what makes a strong platform.

When talking about an author’s platform, we aren’t asking about your credentials or the letters behind your name. We want to know how big your audience is. We are looking at how many people will automatically buy this book because they’re already fans. A platform includes your workshops, blogs, websites, podcasts and of course, social media, which we’ve talked about on the blog and YouTube.

Experience is not Platform

As a published hybrid author for the last 9 years I want to write a Q&A book all about what I’ve learned. I have a brand with my fiction and I feel like I’ve gathered a lot of information over the years. My question is would my skills be enough to do a proposal for a writer’s self-help if I’ve only taught one class on the subject? Do I need to have a lot of teaching under my belt to submit a proposal for this type of book, even though I’m published and been through all the subjects the book would talk about?

While you have the experience, you don’t have a platform. Not enough people know who you are and connect you, yet, with an expertise in writing. A platform is how many people relate your name with the expertise you’re writing about.

If your only experience is writing and you’re Stephen King or Nora Roberts, you’ve built a name and platform that transcends workshops. You have a stable of fans who already study your work and want to learn from you.

If you’re not a bestselling author, you need to have a bigger platform. You need to be teaching classes, building social media, and finding ways to make yourself stand out beyond just being a writer who wants to write a book.

The Book as Platform

I’m going to throw a wrench into my own argument. Because there are no hard and fast rules in publishing. If your book is different enough it could be the platform on its own. Presenting your material and title in a way that’s never been done and appears revolutionary is also a platform. It’s just a much harder platform to sell on.

I believe this was done with You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero. She was one of the first sweary-word books. Her personal platform probably wasn’t off the charts, but her book title and presentation was.

What I Want to See

I LOVE nonfiction and have been actively and joyfully rebuilding my nonfiction list. I’m looking primarily for business, empowerment and self-improvement books. And I need to see a platform.

I want to know that you have at least some social media, that you present workshops, are featured on podcasts or, even better, have your own. And I will warn you. I have some impressive clients and yet almost every single one of them has received at least one rejection that the platform wasn’t strong enough.

Publishers have big expectations of nonfiction authors, but so do readers. They want to put their trust and faith in someone they know, or at least can find easily.

5 responses to “I Write Nonfiction–Is My Platform Strong Enough?”

  1. Avatar AJ Blythe says:

    I guess I mustn’t be te rule, because if I read the info on the author of a non-fiction book and they have credentials I would expect than I don’t care if they don’t have a platform (ie I’ve never heard of them). EG if they’ve worked in the field for a really long time, or have raised a child with the condition, or been in that emergency situation. That’s what I look for.

    • Maybe. But how do you find the book and author in the first place? Often that’s from the platform–the name recognition the author already has. An author with platform and credentials is ideal. An author with just credentials is sometimes harder to find–no media attention or established fan base.

      • Avatar Iris says:

        “But how do you find the book and author in the first place?”

        Ummm… by going to a bookstore and browsing the shelves.
        Is that not how it’s done anymore?

        • It can be. But a lot of people come to books, and especially nonfiction, through word of mouth first. Also, the truth is, not a lot of people have access to bookstores any longer. Even in my area it’s at least a 20-minute drive for me to find a bookstore.

  2. Two questions:

    I’ve been working on building my author platform, but I’ve hesitated to say in my query letter that I have 1300 Twitter followers, 750 Facebook, etc because I’m worried that those numbers are not big enough. I was concerned an agent would just see that and stop considering right away. But now, I’m thinking that not mentioning it at all is a worse tactic. When you say you want to know your author has “at least some social media,” is it worth it to mention if one doesn’t have a big following yet?

    Secondly, I have been interviewed for a few podcasts, but they have not been released yet. Should I suspend my query process until a few of those are out on the internet? It might be months and that’s not something I can control.