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Building an Author Platform from Scratch

• 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.

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  1. Posted November 15, 2010 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    Excellent article! I do admire authors who make an effort to promote themselves. While I used to think that authors should leave marketing to others and concentrate on their writing, I am aware that publishers may not have the budget for a lesser known author, agents are already overwhelmed and a publicist/PR company may be too expensive.

    In addition, it’s great for writers to interact with their readers which can only be good for their writing.

    I am not sure though how many writers can be good marketers or promoters of themselves or their work. Is it just a matter of changing your mindset?

    But whatever it is, one can try and it’s best to take charge of your own writing life by taking advantage of the internet and the various tools as demonstrated by Ms Isobella Jade.

  2. Posted November 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    Isobella this is inspiring for any author. You put in a lot of work getting all these leads and it is impressive. Congrats on all your success and here’s to continued success.

  3. Susan Farrell
    Posted November 15, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Isabella Jade is a true polymorphous being. I admire her energy and resourcefulness. I note also she spends about 4 hours per day interacting with her platform, this is half a normal working day, and therefore quite telling that she is doing several more jobs that would seem humanly possible. As a self employed person I did everything myself at the begining, but now I ‘buy’ in experts for discrete items of work, simply because I truely find that you can do everything yourself up to a certain level, but in order not to bust your health and suffer from burnout, at some stage,someone else needs to be involved.
    Good luck Isabella.

  4. Posted November 15, 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    This was very inspirational. I have just started blogging in the last month every day and I am finding out that it has a lot of potential. Building the platform is number one I agree. it’s a matter of wrking out eh best way to do it.

    Regards Janet Keen
    Ps It gives hope to little guys in little countries like new Zealand.

    janet keen on creativity janetkeen.blogspot.com

  5. Posted November 17, 2010 at 6:04 am | Permalink

    Isobella, love your pizzaz and gumption, go go go…..in terms of never give up, i wrote a prose poem a few years ago in China, did it bilingual in a book there and now made a flash with the words here. i think YOU of all people might like this, in a way i wrote it for you, and for me too or course, may i post it here?


    2-minute mv video cute i wrote for kids and adults:


  6. Posted November 17, 2010 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    WOW! This is such a great article. Thank you for your wisdom in this area! Very helpful! I wish you the best success!

  7. Posted November 17, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    Yep–great article! Authors need to be their own best friend and manage their publicity…Not as much fun as writing, but oh so important if we want to keep writing! Good luck!

  8. Posted November 17, 2010 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Good article Isobella. With the free tools available to upcoming authors and as these become easier to use and implement, it leaves little excuse to not get started as soon as possible, even prior to getting published.

    The world of web2.0 free marketing lends beautifully to non-fiction books and adult fiction, but when it comes to YA and children’s fiction, your core audience still needs to be reached the old fashioned way of leg work, with school and library visits.

    Publicists do help you cut through the media stream blockages especially when seeking TV coverage. This is where most of the parents and kids who have no idea of RSS or Twitter still get their exposure. Traditional media and publicists still have their place, but with the accessibility of online media tools, authors are no longer solely at the mercy of the old ways of promotion. All the best to everyone!

  9. Posted November 27, 2010 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this great article, Isobella. You’ve opened my eyes wider as to the possibilities of personal marketing.

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