Building an Author Platform from Scratch

In English Language by Guest Contributor

• Publishers want to work with authors who have an existing audience.

• Following-up on last Friday’s article about personal marketing, model, author and self-publisher Isobella Jade, shares how she’s built her own impressive platform.

Isobella Jade by Robert Caldarone

By Isobella Jade

Whenever a girl comments on my Facebook page saying she just bought my books, I know it is because she Googled words that relate to me and my book and brand. She then found my blog, or website, or podcast radio show, web videos, or social media pages (via TwitterFacebook or Myspace) most likely, and was inclined to friend me, and then tell me that she just bought my book via BN.com. My books are in bookstores also, but I know it is social media and web 2.0 that has helped me build a brand. If someone asked me who I’d be without the Internet and if I’d be an author at all without it? Well…I really don’t think so.

I’ve paid extremely little for my platform’s connectivity. For my blog I use www.blogger.com which is free, (I pay $10 a year for it to be a dot com). I started it in 2007 and get over 15,000 page views a month on www.petitemodelingtips.com. For a niche topic –- modeling when you are short –- I’ve captured it , becoming the go-to girl for modeling advice when you are not giraffe tall. My podcast radio show, Model Talk on the Blogtalkradio.com network, has become a top show on the network and had over 715,000 downloads since I launched it in the fall 2007 –- and has provided me advertising revenue as well. Web video is also key to my book marketing and branding: I own a Logitech camera ($100) and, since 2007, I posted over 100 YouTube videos.

I entwine these various outlets together, plugging each of them on each source.

“Search” is a major part of building my platform. Google has been especially important — it is my most important web connection tool actually. My readers are teens, young adults and also girls who watch America’s Next Top Model (a show I can’t stand), and I know my audience is like searching on the web how they might also be models, despite being shorter than than the average model. (Most American girls are under 5’4”.)

Being “found” and “discovered” via Google has meant a lot to my branding. I get most of my traffic from Google and I make sure whenever I create a blog post, new video or a new podcast segment, I consider how the title of the post will appear on Google. I interact with my platform for about four hours a day, with the remainder devoted to writing and the day-to-day of being a working model.

To get the buzz I’ve gained in The New York Times, The New York Post (Page Six), The New York Daily News, and elsewhere — I’ve had to be my own publicist. I believe in reading the news to be the news: I was featured in the The Los Angeles Times, after I approached a reporter who covered America’s Next Top Model. Within the hours after the story came out, I sent the Web link out to other publications, blogs, and outlets I wanted to be featured on as well. By doing so immediately, I landed a feature on Glamour.com.

Being aggressive and ambitious with marketing and PR is essential. Knowing what your readership is reading, watching is all-important, whether its blogs, magazines, newspapers or TV shows. You need to think like your reader when approaching the media to write features on you. Even a few paragraphs in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, or a magazine can be a powerful tool to soliciting even more coverage. At the same time, it’s important to think like a reporter: how do you and your story relate to a specific publication’s audience? Only then should you pitch a reporter. But if you fear that all you’ll hear is “no,” just remember newspapers need news every single day –- and one of those days could be yours.

The Internet-age has allowed me to cut out the middlemen. I don’t feel the need to pay a professional publicist thousands of dollars in fees, when I can simply email the reporter or editor at the magazine myself. The connectivity of the Internet-age has made it accepted, welcomed, and even expected for the little guy to reach out to editors at Conde Nast, the New York Times, Hearst and others with story ideas or a review copy, just as a publicist at a top PR agency in NYC would.

The truth is: I feel can pitch myself and story better than anyone, so I do, daily, and 99.9% of the press I’ve gained on me, my books and brand has come from myself emailing, postal mailing, and following up with reporters at the publications and news outlets.

And for the little author, it is all about having the will just to try. Just be nice about it.

I’ve also recently taken even more control of my own publishing destiny. Having worked with large (HarperCollins UK) and smaller publishers (Soft Skull Press), I have started my own publishing imprint, which I call Gamine Press, using Ingram’s Lightning Source. After gaining back my full US rights from HarperCollins UK to my memoir Almost 5’4”, I released the e-book version through BN’s Pubit program and Amazon’s digital text platform. Next up are the e-book editions of my graphic novel Model Life: The Journey of a Pint-Size Fashion Warrior and my latest book, Short Stuff: On the Job with an X-small Model. All the while, I am in the process of creating an app for the iPhone to bring together my blog, podcast, web videos and books.

With current self-publishing and web 2.0 tools, the little guy has nothing to fear. You just have to know going into it that success doesn’t come overnight: It can take months and years to build a network around yourself and books by yourself. And it can happen. You can translate what you are doing on the web into publishing books. And your online following can even inspire your writing and the books you write.

I’ve learned you don’t have to already be the best at something or the most famous to build your own fame, following and respect. I’ve learned that if you put yourself out there you can grow something from starting with basically nothing. And that learning happens through trial and error.

As my own publisher, I do a lot more than write, and the hats to wear are heavy and stressful sometimes, But I’ve learned it is ok to “be alone with it.” This can actually be the best thing for the little guy and the rewards are truly great. If the little guy has the dedication and passion and the time to handle the grit of self-branding –- that includes learning the technical and financial sides –- there is a lot to gain by doing it their way. It just take a marketing mind-set.

There is a very special delight that comes with seeing my books in bookstores, but I always know that without the Internet-age there sure of hell wouldn’t be Isobella Jade or my books.

DISCUSS: Will an Author Ever Release a Sex Tape?

Isobella Jade wrote her first book at the Apple Store in SoHo. She has been called “. . . a wizard of self-promotion,” by Advertising Age magazine. You can connect with her via any of the sites and outlets linked above.

About the Author

Guest Contributor

Guest contributors to Publishing Perspectives have diverse backgrounds in publishing, media and technology. They live across the globe and bring unique, first-hand experience to their writing.