Your "Author Platform"

edited August 2013 in The Toolbox
Comics blows my mind sometimes. It's this medium and this industry that involves a whole bunch of elements of other industries: Book publishing, periodical publishing, script writing, pencilled/inked/colored/painted art, cinematography. But it tends to be super insular. I pick up a book defining various camera angles and giving examples of what they're like and what the excepted uses for them in creating a dramatic effect are, and I go "This is great!" And then I can't use them, because lots of artists don't know what I'm talking about if I do.

This week's example... the term "Author Platform" in book publishing. All of us in comics deal with it and worry about it... but I never hear anybody talking about it by name, or talking about all the books and resources out there to help build yours.

One description of Author Platform:

Platform, simply put, is your visibility as an author.

The definition of platform, broken down, is your personal ability to sell books through:
  1. Who you are
  2. The personal and professional connections you have
  3. Any media outlets (including blogs and social networks) that you can utilize to sell books
The Building Blocks of a Platform
The most common building blocks of a platform include the following:
  1. A website and/or blog with a large readership
  2. An e-newsletter and/or mailing list with a large number of subscribers/recipients
  3. Article/column writing (or correspondent involvement) for the media—preferably for larger outlets and outlets within the writer’s specialty
  4. Guest contributions to successful websites, blogs, and periodicals
  5. A track record of strong past book sales[1]
  6. Individuals of influence that you know—personal contacts (organizational, media, celebrity, relatives) who can help you market at no cost to yourself, whether through blurbs, promotion, or other means
  7. Public speaking appearances—the bigger, the better
  8. An impressive social media presence (Twitter, Facebook, and the like)
  9. Membership in organizations that support the successes of their own
  10. Recurring media appearances and interviews—in print, on the radio, on TV, or online
Not all of these methods will be of interest/relevance to you. As you learn more about how to find success in each one, some will jump out as practical and feasible, while others will not. My advice is to choose a few and dive in deep—and don’t be afraid to concede failure in one area, then shift gears and plunge into something else. It’s better to show impressive success in some areas than minimal success in all.

Lastly, know that building a platform takes time. Strive for something real—strong channels that will help you sell. Simply being on Twitter and having a website does not mean you have a platform. Those are just the first steps.

Like I said — we all know what that is. I just haven't seen anybody in the industry speaking in these terms.

So, let's speak in those terms. What's your platform like right now? (Artists, this goes for you too — you're authors.) What elements have you used to build your platform to the point it's at now, and what elements are you hoping to use in the future?

Also, let's talk platforms in general. Of the things listed above, the one that's less common in comics than in traditional publishing is public speaking — though lots of us do it on panels at cons and some of us (like Russell) do things like library talks. Another element that's more common in comics than in traditional publishing is signings and in-person appearances, such as tabling at cons. Are there other things that are getting left out from that list?


  • This is good. Unfortunately, my platform is about the size of a postage stamp.
  • By that standard, mine is just big enough that philosophers debate about how many angels can dance on it.
  • I have a website I pay no attention to, a publisher who may or may not be interested in my next project, a Facebook page that totally obliterates any difference between my personal and public identities, a Twitter account I rarely even look at, and this forum. I didn't even get to any conventions any more and seldom get into a comic book store. I am not doing a good job on the platform front. But its not nothing. Its just a matter of working them.
  • BTW I appreciate Brandon pointing out that artists are authors, too.
  • Things left out:

    School workshops
    Traditional bookstore appearances
    Teaching ongoing classes, a la Bendis and Schmidt

  • I look at that list and I realise that I use many of those to sell my work. In many ways, I think this becomes even more important when you are self-publishing.
    I think the key is to explore new channels. However, if you are a one-man-self-publishing-machine, you will need to make sure that you don't spread yourself too thin. It doesn't make sense to do a crappy job of using multiple channels, versus remaining strong and consistent in a limited amount of channels. It's like they always say, build a strong foundation and then grow out from there.
  • In many ways, I think this becomes even more important when you are self-publishing.
    When you're self-publishing, your platform (and how you can grow your platform) is all you've got. But doing mainstream comics... I find it's still 75%-90% of what you've got. Comics publishers don't have the time, staff or budgets to promote a lot of their books — so it falls on the creators (same, it turns out, in traditional publishing right now). The larger you can get your platform, the more a publisher is likely to spend time promoting you. Image Expo 2013 is a great example of that — it was almost entirely focused on big-name creators, i.e. creators who already have larger platforms, built-in audiences.
  • OK, more seriously, my "platform" consists primarily of
    • my Facebook presence
    • personal and about-my-comics web site (not much traffic, even though I'm trying to feed it content)
    • a Twitter account, which repeats my web site updates and is seen by almost no-one
    • a few web sites that aren't all about me (, "This Is Not A Penis")
    • my participation in a few online forums (e.g. Whitechapel, Bleeding Cool) which may or may not be good PR
    • a few published works
    • those of you who'll admit that you know me
  • @BrandonSeifert - well done.

    My platform has been a moving target, and I've worried about it over time -- though I didn't have the term "platform" to go by.

    One of the reasons I switched from Bomb Queen to Five Weapons is that it wasn't serving my full platform.  I was doing many of the things cited on the list; from store signings to convention panel / lectures / talks / online platform, etc.  However, what remained the dark shadow every time I spoke was Bomb Queen.  Speaking on women's right?  Yeaaaah right.  Commenting on diversity in comics and that it's not all T&A wrapped up in spandex?  Uhn-huh... yeaaaah right.  Demanding that we grow readership among the existing fans and new / younger / readers?  Yeaaaaah right.

    So a lot of what I am doing now is back-peddling and spin control and adding to my platform.  I guess my author's platform is based on *diversity* -- which is what I hope will sell my books and myself.
  • But I need to increase my platform, because lately I've been slacking off.
  • Just to clarify, since I'm not sure everyone caught it—

    In book publishing, when they talk about "platform" they mean (as above) your "visibility" as an author at any given time. There are a lot of ways to make yourself visible — live events, Twitter, blogging, a website — but those aren't your "platform," they're some of the things you use to get your platform bigger.

    Basically, your platform is whatever your existing audience is, right this minute.
  • I believe I'm seeing it the same way, I'm just blending a few things.  My fault.

    I see my existing audience as fractured, and that's due to my exposure when I promote my work.  Sometimes I downplay Bomb Queen because it can be toxic.  That has affected my audience and my outreach to extend my platform.  I think that's what I'm trying to say.

    This also spurs off the discussion we had not long about being a "guest at a convention".  I'm a bit leery about asking because I would rather be thought of as a guest instead of making myself one. But being added to a *guest list* on a convention masthead is definitely one way to boost a profile / platform / audience outreach.
  • edited August 2013
    My to broaden it...

     I have my own facebook page and my, "Art of..." facebook page.

    I have a twitter account I rarely use (I haven't figured out how to make twitter social... feels more like shouting a brief statement or link in the town square and hoping someone heard.  Sometimes I get retweeted, but... never see a "conversation", or maybe don't recognize them, when I see them?) and a DeviatArt page I use even less... 

    I also have a website, but it's not set up for interaction, really... more a gallery.

    I live in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest comics shop is 70 miles away (I don't even know anything about the shops in Grand Rapids, but I am going to GrandCon, in September and can make connections, then).   

    I used to teach a little, through a local art gallery, but funding dried up, years ago. 

    I have to figure out how to reach out to more online venues... maybe join more forums...?  I dunno.

    I know CRESCENT CITY MAGICK really should have strong female audience appeal (doesn't have Jimmie's T&A problem... or the male readership T&A pluses)... but so far, except for a few sales to facebook friends... I'm not reaching them.  Yet.  I'll figure it out, but am not really sure where to begin...

    My audience is currently far smaller than I'd like. 
  • I think all of us can say, "My audience is currently far smaller than I'd like. "
  • Looked at this way, what is the size/range of your audience? I'd have to admit that I have no idea. Which suggests that its not large. Has anyone ever heard of me outside of a few readers and members of this forum?

    Actually, that's a serious question. If you've heard of me outside of this forum I'd like to know, because it will tell me a little more about what my outreach is.
  • I think all of us can say, "My audience is currently far smaller than I'd like. "
    For my current project, that'd be a sign I'm doing it poorly. ;)
  • Hmmm, I dunno.

    Let's see:

    The second series of Luther Strode has consistently sold around 10,000 copies, with very little attrition in the last four issues, which would indicate to me that's approximately the number of people actually buying the single issues.

    There are probably another 3,000 or so who buy it digitally (I can get a better fix on this soonish).

    The first trade has currently sold somewhere in the neighborhood of 15,000 copies. This would obvious have some level of overlap with people who've bought the digital and singles ( and they themselves may overlap).

    The Luther Strode Facebook fan page has 1600 or so likes.

    I myself have about 1600 Facebook friends.

    I have 4600 twitter followers.

    There's obviously some degree of overlap with all three of those.

    I have a list of 20 or so media outlets with whom I am friendly.

    I have a list of a 100 or so retailers with whom I am also friendly.

    I've done a goodly number if signings and cons.

    So I dunno. I know that I would indeed like to improve all of these.
  • You name comes up on comics related web sites and lists. You have some presence with "movers and shakers". they weight heavier than mere readers.
  • Showing up on "most overrated" lists counts too. :)
  • @JustinJordan - Wow.  Just wow.  I would love to have some of those stats for my platform.

    But currently... my audience is not very big.  My books sell in the mid 5,000 -- and under.  That goes for Bomb Queen and / or Five Weapons.  I only get by because my threshold is lower since I can write & draw.

    But imagine... having a larger audience AND keeping it mostly for myself... that would be great.

    Sadly, my stats are:

    Bomb Queen fan page: 394

    My Facebook friends: 723

    Twitter followers:  209

    I don't think I have any media outlets -- beyond the standard CBR, Newsarama, The Beat, etc.

    I do have several retailers that I talk with.

    I do some (but not a ton) of conventions and signings.

    I've helped some charities.

    I have Bomb Queen in two college text books.

    I have Bomb Queen in foreign languages & countries

    I have about 15 years in the industry which has gained me a few head nods.

    But overall... it's kinda sad.  I've kept a lot to myself and I think I am reaping what I sow.
    I do see myself as a professional, but not as a successful one.  I could be doing a lot better.
  • edited August 2013
    @JustinJordan, you've built yourself a platform I think anybody on this forum would be envious of — and in a very short span of time!

    I'm currently reading Create Your Writer Platform by Chuck Sambuchino (which is the book that the description of platform in my first post came from). I'm not sure how much use it's going to be for comics — it's focused primarily on nonfiction prose, and less so on fiction prose — but I'll let you guys know what I thought when I'm done with it. So far, the section "The 12 Fundamental Principles of Platform" has been really useful. It's what it says, evergreen guiding principles, rather than focusing on nitty-gritty social networking platforms and stuff that's likely to get outdated soon.
  • This also spurs off the discussion we had not long about being a "guest at a convention".  I'm a bit leery about asking because I would rather be thought of as a guest instead of making myself one. But being added to a *guest list* on a convention masthead is definitely one way to boost a profile / platform / audience outreach.
    A lot of the cons I'm a guest of, I'm a guest of because I wrote them and asked. (...Actually, I think the only time I've been asked is when I did Wizard World New Orleans.) And, the thing is? When you look at the guest list for a show? A bunch of the people on it are there because they asked. They were proactive about it — they aren't waiting for people to give them publicity, they're going out and setting it up themselves. 

    That's part of why someone like @JustinJordan is kicking the rest of our asses in the platform game: He's going out and actively growing it, and he has been for years.

    I sympathize Jimmie, because I would like people to ask me, too. But every time I want to do a show, and my options are (1) spend a bunch of money on a table I may not recoup or (2) swallow my pride and ask to be a guest, I swallow my pride and ask. The only time it hasn't worked was Baltimore Comic Con this year — and that's probably because I wrote them around January/February and never followed up. I'm confident that if I'd followed up in May-July, I could've gotten on the guest list.
  • Anyone know which comics message boards and the like are still, "evergreen"?  Facebook seems to have eroded a lot of the draw of message boards.
  • Asking works to get out of paying for a table?  I have local cons I've been paying for a table in artist's alley for... well over a decade...

    I've been offered free tables a few times, but it's rare.  I always chalked it off as lack of fame.

  • edited August 2013
    @BrandonSeifert - true enough.  I need to start hunting and less surviving.

    @mlpeters ;- lack of fame is also what I was chalking it up as.
    I mean, don't get me wrong... I know I have some clout in the industry.  I just always thought that others had more and that only so many guests are allowed per show, thus... I tend to hang back.

    But then part of me still doesn't connect how being a guest would help all that much when my books still sell such low numbers.
  • edited August 2013
    @Jimmie_Robinson — Being a guest helps, if for no other reasons than (1) you're making more of a profit off your sales at the con because your costs are lower, (2) you get preferential listing on the con's website (and program, if they have one), frequently including a bio and either a headshot or a sample of your art, and (3) the con promotes you in other ways as a guest, even if it's just to mention you once or twice on Twitter or Facebook. So you're doing a con for cheaper, and the con is actively helping you promote that you're there.

    Honestly, I consider it a no-brainer.

    (For examples — the next show I'm doing is Rose City Comic Con in Portland, where I'm a guest. Here's the guest listings, and here's the artist alley listings. Why on earth would you want to be in that AA list if you can be in the guest list?)
  • Yeah, I'm at Rose City, too. (table #612), but I'm listed as an exhibitor.
  • Jimmie, I didn't even know you were going to be at Rose City!

    But... I would've known...

    ...If you were on the guest list.
  • If there is a show you want to exhibit at, you should always email ahead of time and offer to do panels and promotion in exchange for full guest status. The worst they can do is say no. At the least, you may get a free table. At best, all expenses paid.

    Of course, this only applies if you have the credits or rep to back it up.
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