A Leg to Stand On: How Do I Know if I Have a Platform?

You’ve written a book about dog training. You have a successful dog training business for the past 15 years. You blog about your unique methods and have a small but loyal following. You also run an organic fruit stand at your local farmer’s market and sell imported Guatemalan handbags at street fairs. When you query an agent, please mention the dog-related things, which are your relevant platform. The other things, although interesting, are not relevant. I would like a funky new handbag though.

You’ve just completed your first science fiction manuscript, which has underlying themes related to race, ethnicity, gender equality and  sexism. You have a MSW and work with disenfranchised minority youth in an after school program and volunteer at a woman’s shelter. You also breed standard poodles, a number of which have won awards nationally in dog shows. When you query an agent, feel free to mention the first three things, which are part of your platform. The dog-related thing, although interesting, is just not relevant. Unless, of course, in your manuscript a mad scientist of the future has cross-bred women and poodles in a bizarre social experiment… never mind. The dog stuff isn’t relevant.

You’re done writing your self-help book for survivors of abuse, which is largely based on your own experience about growing up with an abusive, alcoholic parent. It is your intention to start blogging and sign up for Twitter to promote your book when it gets published. All your friends have told you your idea is very good and the parts where you share your own story brought them to tears, especially knowing your father. You are now a successful real estate agent, happily married with two small children and a house in the suburbs, which is a triumph, given your background. Sorry, although it’s great that you turned out fine, you don’t really have a platform. There are things you can do to create a platform for yourself, but as is, nope. I’ll put up a post about building a platform soon.

You’ve written a fantastic historical fiction novel,  set in Massachusetts among key figures in the Transcendentalist movement such as Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorn, although your main character is entirely fictitious and funny and flirty.  Although you don’t have an advanced degrees or anything, you’ve started Tweeting Emerson quotes every day. You did extensive historical research, visiting Walden Pond and Concord, Massachusetts. You are a member of the Historical Novelist society and have had some short stories published in literary journals, although they are not historical at all. Hey, fictitious writer that I’ve made up! You’ve got a great platform! Please send me a query about that manuscript! (Ok, I’m talking to myself now…)

You just finished writing your first YA novel. You joined SCBWI as soon as you found out about it and then joined an online critique group because you live in the middle of nowhere. So far you are unpublished. Good start, new author! You seem to be building your platform.  I promise, I’m working on a post about how to build a platform, which can help you. It will be for both non-fiction and fiction writers.

Tell me about your platform in 2-3 sentences!

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5 responses to “A Leg to Stand On: How Do I Know if I Have a Platform?

  1. I’m really looking forward to your next post, and thank you for approaching this subject.

  2. I’ve written a YA book. I have a blog http://www.victoria-writes.com, use Facebook actively and am a proud member of YA Lit Chat.

    Looking forward to the platform post!

  3. Vengeance Is Mine is a murder mystery with underlying themes of on-the-job gender tension and sexism. The main character is a woman with gender orientation issues. I am a lesbian woman who has worked in predominantly male jobs. One of my best friends is a female police officer. We trade stories and information. In 2002 my first novel, Good Intentions, was published by Rising Tide Press. Currently, I am a member of an online critique group, Novel Writer’s Group.

  4. I am an evolutionary ecologist who writes SF/F. I worry “scientist” sounds dull although I could go into being chased by a bull, the fine art of climbing barbed wire fences, how to extract someone stuck in a mudflat with the tide coming in, how to act with grace when a bird poops on you, how NOT to react to an excited rattlesnake, how much fun it is to pilot an airboat – all this really does go into what I write.

  5. Not sure about my platform, so I’m interested to see your next post. I’ll give it a shot anyway.

    I wrote a paranormal young adult novel. I run an Arkansas-exclusive online literary journal that’s a year old this month. I have a fairly good following on Twitter and my blog does all right. I have used my Twitter following for beta readers and plan to continue in the future. I’ve been published twice through other online magazines.

    Obviously, my platform isn’t as strong as the examples you’ve listed. But I’m working on it. I look forward to your tips on how to improve.