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Building an Author Platform with Carole Jelen

Welcome Carole Jelen [1], literary agent and author platform builder. If you’re looking to increase your reader base, you need to build your author platform – and here’s Carole to tell us how!

IMG_1501-FCropedit1There’s no way around the fact that the joys of receiving the world’s communications right in our pockets through a handheld device also means that you as an author must participate.

The digital era has ushered in the need for readers to find you and dialog with you. Now readers want to know you as a person, to reach out and hear from you directly and are enabled to do just that via comment boxes, Tweets and more. Ann Rice, whose books have sold nearly 100 million copies once said “I enjoy the web a lot and I like being able to talk to my readers. I’ve always had a close relationship with them.” The authors who embrace shifting from monologue to dialogue find that using the power and strength of the internet engine propels them forward. It’s time to get on board.

Are there easy to understand fundamentals to creating and building an author platform? Yes, and better yet, the tools are free. The digital world has brought with it a new model: authors must build an interested audience, not a continuation of an outdated model: selling to everyone. Although platform building is different from traditional marketing or selling, it’s not rocket science to understand it and build your own.

I’ve worked with and learned from many successful author clients for decades as a literary agent and have been teaching new author clients to use the same techniques and inside secrets to build their own. In the end we see not only higher sales of books but also we see a demand created for authors to write more books, in the form of revised editions and additional books or series of titles.

To start out, a good exercise is to assess your own platform: try searching on Google for names of top selling authors like Ann Rice, and then top authors like the ones mentioned at the end of this post, or you can use my own website at jelenpub.com [1] as a model. Then search Google for your own name for a comparison. How findable are you? How much does your platform represent what your readers should learn about you? Your platform may not match top selling authors yet, and I mean yet, as we are in an era where a solid author platform to serve as your magnet for readers is in reach.

Here are some tips to get started:

Create your central author web site. The secret isn’t just having a site; this grand author location needs to be constructed to tie all of the pieces and locations together. All online tools work together if you know how to connect them. As an example, take a look at the author web sites mentioned below by searching on Google for these authors’ names. You’ll see clear buttons for the big 4 social networks and sharing, tabs, blogs, and links to articles, talks, audios and videos. This is the hub location for your platform.

Create a presence on all the 4 big social networks: Twitter, Facebook fan page, Google+ and LinkedIn. The secret is to be sure to list on –all- of the social networks, not just one or two, and talk to your readers directly by answering all comments and Tweets. All of these networks should have buttons on your own site, as they all lead to separate listings for you when a reader searches Google for your name to find out more about you. Look at the model sites for examples.

Ride the wave on big networks of others. Many of the top authors know that to succeed, they need to form alliances with a community with other authors or like minded people. The big 4 social networks have long lists of communities to join and post to. The top authors also understand that posting directly to groups instead of just one single person magnifies your presence significantly.

Create personal appearances that stay online. Blogs, audio recordings, videos and articles posted online are fantastic to create multiple new ways for readers to connect to your content for all time. But even better is the fact that these all stay online to be watched over and over or at any future date thereby keeping your presence going over time. Authors who write content via nonfiction or about first-hand experiences etc. in either articles, books or other content on your topic grow audience significantly as people connect to your subject. Check out bestselling author Barbara Kingsolver as an example, or Stephen King connecting with the author community via his nonfiction book, On Writing.

Authors supporting other authors is powerful. Another key is that top authors understand is that other authors are readers too; other authors are often their first line and most supportive audience. Being in community with other authors is a smart move in addition to support communities with like minded people.

Find people to give positive reviews, praise quotes, and testimonials. Publishers and authors understand the power of public view online, on Amazon and review sites, where authors now have a showcase reviews and praise from their audience. What others say becomes a magnet for others to become drawn to your writing.

Then: Shakespeare’s Author Platform

photo-266x300More than a few years have slipped through the hourglass since William Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet, now categorized as teen romance set in the midst of warring families. Yet today you’ll find on Goodreads: 9500+ reviews for Romeo and Juilet, Facebook: 413,288 likes Romeo and Juliet the filmTwitter: 9,138 followers @RomeoandJuLIet ;Google +: 247,540 followers|375,689 views RomeoAndJuliet on Broadway, just to name a few.

Shakespeare was a writer, and an entrepreneur who understood that he needed audience, community, networks, and locations ie an author platform. Like any top writer, Shakespeare used the author tools of his time, and he understood the importance of building audience, even in the Elizabethan era. We can never hear his voice in a 60 minutes interview, but we have evidence that he worked toward his goals in his career choice to earn his living as a professional writer, indicating that he didn’t write and then simply hope that an audience would appear.

He networked with influencers. Shakesepeare enlisted supporters to influence others to follow his work. He was faithful to Queen Elizabeth and her Court, even to the point of becoming an author to write custom plays to order; he was also patron of King James I. He gave private royal performances at the home of his friends and patrons including the Earls of Southampton and Pembroke.

He got praise quotes and reviews. Shakespeare didn’t need much more than the royal court to count toward his successful word of mouth positive reviews, but authorities in literary circles praised Shakespeare in quotes that helped him to become known as an excellent dramatist in his time, even though his bigger fame came after his death.

He understood direct communication with his audience. Shakespeare saved money to build the Globe Theatre to showcase his work to his audience front and center. The Globe held 3,000 people, and the audiences packed the theatre at most performances. Remember, yesterday’s Globe theater is today’s box office, and that romantic comedies rank #7 in top film genres.

Now: Top Romance Authors’ Platforms

Image3 [2]The following statistics show why so many authors are drawn to writing the romantic novel today and why it’s worth taking the time to build your own author platform:

Romance was the top-performing category on the best-seller lists in 2012 across the NYT, USA Today, and PW best-seller lists (Consumer Book Publishing 2013)

74.8 million people read at least one romance novel in 2008. (source: RWA Reader Survey)

39%, of all fiction books sold today are in the romance category (RWA)

So why wait, just start working on your platform every morning over coffee, like so many of us do daily. The easiest way jumpstart an author platform? Don’t start from scratch; find a model of a platform similar to what you want and then modify it to fit your style. Here are three top romance writers to use as models to start out:

Madeline Hunter [3]: nominated four times and has twice won the Romance Writers of America’s prestigious award.

Sherry Thomas [4]: two time winner of Best Historical Romance RITA awards and Publishers’ Weekly Best Books of 2008

Nalini Singh [5]: Jane Porter Award, Clendon Award, Readers Choice Award

Nora Roberts [6]: called “America’s favorite novelist.” by the New Yorker.

Wishing you best in building and growing your author platform! As you grow, please send me your stories to include in the next edition of our book, Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules: A Literary Agent’s Guide to Growing Your Audience in 14 Steps (BenBella publishers, May, 2014)


How do YOU build your author platform? Any tricks of the trade you want to share?

Join us the next four Tuesdays for Pat Haggerty’s Creating a WordPress Author Site in Four Easy Lessons



Carole Jelen, is coauthor of the newly released book title: Build Your Author Platform: The New Rules: A Literary Agent’s Guide to Building Your Audience in 14 Steps (which just hit number one in it’s category on Amazon!) found at  www.buildauthorplatform.com [7]
She is the founder of Jelen Publishing,  www.jelenpub.com [8], top literary agent at leading literary agency Waterside Productions, and a veteran in the book publishing industry. She has worked as an editor for three major publishing houses  and holds a Master’s Degree in English/Linguistics from UC Los Angeles. She also holds a California college teaching credential, instructs author platform seminars and works as a publishing consultant aiding authors and companies in the publishing process.

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7 Comments To "Building an Author Platform with Carole Jelen"

#1 Comment By Carrie Spencer On May 5, 2014 @ 6:48 am

Morning Carole!

Great analogy with Shakespeare…=) Promote thyself! =)

I belong to LinkedIn, but I admit it confuses me….=) Any helpful hints on how to use it best?



#2 Comment By Carole Jelen On May 5, 2014 @ 12:53 pm

Thanks Carrie. You’re right, joining LinkedIn is one thing, but using it is another. It’s a great place for posting status reports as updates about your book, creating a group that discusses your book, and asking for and exchanging recommendations. As a literary agent I use it to find authors and to keep up with the changing bios and updates from author clients and editors. Our book goes much more in-depth as it takes a few steps to get the hang of it, but it’s not that hard to grow readers via LinkedIn over time, over that daily cup of morning coffee. (With the book launching, must admit I’m only on decaf now!)

#3 Comment By Jennifer Tanner On May 5, 2014 @ 10:09 pm

Hi Carole,

Considering how popular Shakespeare remains today, I’d say his networking paid off. I had no idea he raised funds to build the Globe Theater. Good point about the separate listing links.

Thanks for blogging with us today.

#4 Comment By Carole Jelen On May 6, 2014 @ 1:34 pm

Thanks Jennifer. It counts when a big influencer praises your writing in public view!

#5 Comment By Becke Martin Davis On May 5, 2014 @ 10:22 pm

Hi Carole – Sometimes I think building an author platform is harder than writing a book! Thanks for the great suggestions – I’m all over social media, but sometimes it feels like no matter how many sites I frequent, there’s always a hot new site popping up. I remember when everyone was on MySpace – now I don’t even remember my password. I’m not on Instagram and it seems the rest of the world is. I tried Tumblr but gave up – I just couldn’t figure it out. It sounds like I should be okay sticking to the Big Four: Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn. I sure hope so! Thanks again for joining us today!

#6 Comment By Carole Jelen On May 6, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

Hi Becke, Thanks and feeling your pain. I had that feeling when I started out building a platform. It became easier to just follow the model of my most successful author clients, so I shared interviews with them at the end of each chapter too. Hoping you’ll connect with all of us in author communities on these Big Four (huge) networks.

#7 Comment By nat Everall On September 25, 2014 @ 7:26 pm

Hi Carole,
Thankyou so much for the insight. Do you honestly believe that building a platform- such as the format you have suggested, is necesary for newbie, unpublished writers? And more specifically- those not yet completed their stories.
Thanks for your time and thoughts.