6 Tips on How to Build a Platform and Sell Books

Publish date:

For nonfiction writers, the most significant development of the past decade has been the insistence by the publishers that authors have national platforms. For fiction writers, authors’ platforms matter less. However, it never hurts for a fiction writer to be charismatic, articulate, a vigorous promoter, and media savvy. Children’s book writers and illustrators also benefit from being willing to travel, visit bookstores, network with educators, and promote.

Image placeholder title

This column excerpted from
Author 101: Bestselling Secrets From Top Agents

Agents gravitate to writers with visibility and “reach” because publishers are convinced they will generate more book sales. With that in mind, here are some basic ways to build a platform:


  • Start locally by approaching civic, community, and religious organizations. Develop a series of talks for your church or the rotary club and then move up to larger groups and venues. Ask everyone you know to help find bookings. Speak often and work your way up. Make your initial mistakes locally and build a devoted fanbase close to home.
  • Hone your craft by taking speaking, voice, or acting lessons. Or you could hire a professional media coach. Then practice, practice, practice. 
  • Ask your audiences and your friends to critique your performances and to give you their suggestions. Ruthlessly critique yourself.


  • Inform members of the media about your appearance(s) and invite them to attend as your guest.
  • Maintain a file of press clippings about you and your presentations that you can use to get more media coverage.
  • Write a regularly published column, newsletter or blog. Again, start small and then try to build your exposure.


Starting and leading an online community can position you as an expert. Expand your following, and stay informed of problems, issues and developments in your field.


Compile a names list. Create a list of individuals who would be interested in buying your book. At your appearances or on your website, offer free giveaways to people who pass on their contact information or sign up for a newsletter.


When some agents receive submissions that they like from writers who don’t have platforms, they try to pair them with people who do. Pairing seems to work best when authors are matched before the actual writing begins. They can plan the book together, divide responsibilities, and decide how they will work.


Good examples are the Dummies, Chicken Soup, Everything and Streetwise series of books. With a series like this, the brand and reputation are what sells, and are more important than the writer's platform.

Want more on this

  • Footnotes: 6
    articles on building a platform.
  • Buy Christina Katz's book on platform, Get
    Known Before the Book Deal
  • Platform
    and the debut of your book.
  • Confused about formatting? Check out Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript.
  • Read about What Agents Hate: Chapter 1 Pet Peeves.
  • Want the most complete
    database of agents and what genres they're looking for? Buy the 2011 Guide to Literary Agents today!
Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Crystal Wilkinson: On The Vulnerability of Memoir Writing

Kentucky’s Poet Laureate Crystal Wilkinson discusses how each project has its own process and the difference between writing fiction and her new memoir, Perfect Black.

From Script

Approaching Comedy from a Personal Perspective and Tapping into Your Unique Writer’s Voice (From Script)

In this week’s round up brought to us by ScriptMag.com, interviews with masters of comedy, screenwriter Tim Long ('The Simpsons') and writer-director Dan Mazer (Borat Subsequent Movie) about their collaboration on their film 'The Exchange', and filmmaker Trent O’Donnell on his new film 'Ride the Eagle' co-written with actor Jake Johnson ('New Girl'). Plus, tips on how to tap into your unique voice and more!

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Accepting Feedback on Your Writing

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not accepting feedback on your writing.

Writer's Digest Best Creativity Websites 2021

Writer's Digest Best Creativity Websites 2021

Here are the top creativity websites as identified in the 23rd Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Poetic Forms

Englyn Proest Dalgron: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the englyn proest dalgron, a Welsh quatrain form.

What Is a Palindrome in Writing?

What Is a Palindrome in Writing?

In this post, we look at what a palindrome is when it comes to writing, including several examples of palindromes.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Set a Trap

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Set a Trap

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, it's time to set a trap.

5 Ways to Add a Refrain to Your Picture Books (and Why You Should)

5 Ways to Add a Refrain to Your Picture Books (and Why You Should)

Children's author Christine Evans shares how repetition is good for growing readers and gives you the tools to write your story's perfect refrain.

From Our Readers

Describe the First Time a Book Transported You to Another/Magical World: From Our Readers (Comment for a Chance at Publication)

This post announces our latest From Our Readers ask: Describe the First Time a Book Transported You to Another/Magical World. Comment for a chance at publication in a future issue of Writer's Digest.