How To Build Your Author Platform – The Author Hangout (Episode 8 w/ Carole Jelen)

>>SHAWN: Hi, I’m Shawn Manaher. Welcome to
The Author Hangout. The Author Hangout is brought to you by,
where we provide you the tools, education, and community to help you market your books
better. Today’s guest is Carole Jelen. She is the co-author of Build Your Author Platform,
and it’s really good to have Carole on the line with us today. Hi, Carole.>>CAROLE: Hi, Shawn. How are you doing?>>SHAWN: Doing really well. Thanks for being
on the show. Now, we’re going to get right into it really quick here. With the show,
everybody, you know what to do; we’re tracking the comments on the hashtag #theauthorhangout.
We’re also tracking comments on Google+, which The Author Hangout is playing through. So
if you’re looking for a book that is going to provide you a ton of answers, you really
want to stay tuned right here into what Carole’s going to be sharing. A lot of what she has
to say is not in a position of theory and ideas that she’s guessing at; these are proven
practices that she has done, not only for herself, but also for her author clients.
So today, we’re going to be talking actually about three calls to action at the end of
this and throughout the show. #1 is go to You’ll want to take a look at
her network icons. Click on those and follow her there. Also, as I mentioned, Build Your
Author Platform was co-written by Carole Jelen and Michael McCallister, who really is tying
things together from a literary and technology standpoint so that you as authors are able
to move ahead and build your author platform. And finally, we’re going to be talking about
a call to action for a free seminar that Carole and her team are going to be putting together
on July 15th, which can be found on And getting things started, Carole, again,
thank you for being on the show; your career has actually spanned a number of different
hats. You’re an author, a literary agent, editor at three publishing houses. Now, as
a result of all of that wide experience, you likely have seen a lot of changes in the industry.
What are some of the biggest changes and how do those affect authors?>>CAROLE: Yes, I do have a long range perspective.
It’s been a whole generation that I’ve been in publishing, so it’s a little different
than people who are coming in brand new. I also have a tech perspective, having worked
in the Silicon Valley 1.0, so to speak, with the visionaries who created the technology,
and I learned a lot from working with them in the early days how best to use it. So to
answer your question, the biggest thing in publishing that has happened for authors is
empowerment. It’s a wonderful era. It’s a fantastic time because everybody can print
and bind their own books and bring it to the world and sell their own books. This is a
situation where a lot of people have said, “Well, we’re going to kill the gatekeepers.
Yay, no more traditional publishers! Break down the gates! Kill!” But the idea is it’s
given rise to a kind of chaos in publishing, and that is a problem. Publishing is an apprentice
industry that you learn from the inside, and it’s pretty complex in how all the pieces
fit together. So it’s not really possible to create a book and fling it out into the
world easily. It’s sort of like getting the ingredients for a gourmet dinner and thinking
that you can create the same meal as a fantastic chef. So what’s happened is it’s become harder
for the quality author to rise above the noise level. This is a big problem. With 300,000
titles published every year, how is your title going to get attention is really the issue,
and I think it’s why your segments and what you’re doing has a big audience. I’ve worked
at a publishing model for a generation where the publishers pay the authors, pay for the
price of the book, and this is the model that’s going by the wayside. It’s a beautiful model
for authors. So what happens is, with so many books published, authors have to figure out
a way to build a platform, to build a readership, and that’s why we’re here today and why we
wrote the book.>>SHAWN: Yeah, and talking about what is
the big deal about author platform?>>CAROLE: Well, if you want to sell books,
you have to become known given how busy the industry is. Also, authors love to write.
I’ve been a specialist for many years in creating series and multiple book contracts. So if
you want to build a career, you have to build a readership that’s going to be looking for
what you want to write in the future as well. If you want to have a readership ready for
your second, third, fourth books, if you’re a writer, this is a dream come true. That’s
what a platform will do for you.>>SHAWN: And if an author does want to go
the route of either self-publishing or publishing, at some point they’re going to be hit with
this idea of an author platform, right?>>CAROLE: That’s exactly right. Whether you’re
published or whether you’re self-published, traditionally or self. It’s all the same.
Books are books, publishing is publishing.>>SHAWN: Yeah, and with that, from reading
up on you, Carole, and what you’re doing with your author clients, what inspires you as
a literary agent to go deeper into building author platforms for your clients?>>CAROLE: The easy answer is higher book
sales. I’m on a commission basis. I love what I do. I create publisher contracts for authors.
And on a commission basis, you’re in it to get as many books sold as possible, to pick
the best author with the best following and then get as many copies out there as you can.
This is my profession and my career, so I like the higher sales that come from it, and
that’s why I delve deeper into it. I saw some books were selling better than others, and
I wanted to figure out why that was. So it took awhile to get this all put together in
this book.>>SHAWN: Are published authors — so we’re
talking about self-published and published authors at the same time, because we do have
both that come to The Author Hangout. Our focus is really working with both, in helping
authors in general to create a better platform for themselves and be able to get out there.
Are published authors easy to convince that they actually need a platform?>>CAROLE: That’s funny. No, they’re not easy
to convince. There’s many, many kinds of resistances that I encounter, and that’s why a good part
of the forward and the introduction and even into the first chapter is about overcoming
resistance. One of the resistances, of course, is time. If you’re a writer, you want to write,
and you don’t want to promote, so you don’t have the time. My answer to that is do you
brush your teeth? Everybody does, I believe. Do you go to the gym? Some people don’t; okay,
that’s another analogy. But whatever you do every day — and mine is a cup of coffee — I
work on my platform every morning with a cup of coffee, 20 minutes. Maybe it’s two cups
of coffee. But that consistent effort of that amount of time every day, over time builds
your platform.>>SHAWN: And that’s not a lot of time in
a given day. Was there a ramp-up period where early on, you said, “I’m going to really dive
into this. It’s going to be full-time I’m going to do it,” or has it always been consistent
for you?>>CAROLE: I looked at my Facebook profile
for the book, and it was October of 2013 that I started that page, with zero followers.
I decided that it was easy for me to sign up for the Big Four social networks, and these
are essentials to authors. I won’t talk about them separately; I do in the book. But here
is the Big Four: you get on Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and it’s not that hard
to sign up. You can do probably all four of those signing up in a morning. So for me,
it has been consistent effort, mostly 20 minutes a day. Sometimes I come back in the night,
another 20 minutes, half an hour.>>SHAWN: That’s fantastic. I did notice that
you’re on Google+. You’re not only just here, but you’re actually on Google+.>>CAROLE: That’s how we found each other.>>SHAWN: Yeah. And you mention in your book
— I want to talk about your book as a call to action we had mentioned. There’s a lot
of what we’re talking about in this book and I recommend it. You’re going to learn a lot
more. One of the things that I really appreciated about the book is the checklist. We at The
Author Hangout really like our checklists, and in addition, what I would say, folks,
is that what you’re going to get is not only, again, the ideas, but you’re going to get
practical tips on what you can do at the end of each chapter. And at the very end of the
book, there’s a nice section where you can actually cut out the checklist. So the 14
steps that Carole and Mike have outlined, you’re going to be able to go through Step
1 through 14 pretty easily. And if you’re looking for the detail on how to do things,
you actually have it in the book Build Your Author Platform. So from a call to action
standpoint, that is very impressive and very helpful for the authors, especially this audience.
So thank you, Carole.>>CAROLE: The book is an action plan, basically.
This book was written for our author clients who want to really get up and running right
away. And if you’re starting from scratch, you can use the book. If you’ve already put
one or two pieces in place, you can fill in with what is in the book. But it’s a complete
plan, actionable. That was what we were shooting for.>>SHAWN: Awesome. We talk a lot with marketing
experts at The Author Hangout; each has a different perspective on promotion. So is
an author platform different than traditional marketing? If so, how is that?>>CAROLE: Yeah, basically there is a fundamental
difference between platform and traditional marketing. There’s been a lot of splitting
up of traditional publishing and self-publishing, and you know there is some gray area in it.
A lot of great self-published books became traditionally published later on. We do have
gray area. But fundamentally, there is a difference, and the way that’s easiest to explain that
is push and pull. If I take my book and I push it at you and push it at you, “Buy my
book, buy my book,” I’m going to get a high rate of click-off. I’m on every major social
network, and I see a huge mistake authors are making, and that is “Buy my book. Read
my blog.” And that is not creating author platform. That’s the push method. The pull
is to understand what your audience wants, why they would care about what you’re saying,
and then touch that person with something that is meaningful to them. So I click off
all the “Buy my books,” just unilaterally — and trust me, that’s what most people do.
The people who say “I want to share with you something about my journey in writing this
book that really was a great truth that I want to share with you,” I’m going to click
on that person and I’m going to look at their blog, because they offered me something. And
that’s what the difference is here. You’re pulling in your readers by making it meaningful
and talking from their point of view. That’s a critical element to all of this, and that’s
why it’s different.>>SHAWN: That personalization really I think
speaks to the audience. So as opposed to where a lot is here, like you’re saying, push it,
push it, push it, it’s kind of like “Have I even thought about my target market? Have
I even thought about what the message really needs to be?” So it’s not even just pulling
them in; it’s really thinking about the message.>>CAROLE: Right. Can I add something in there?
Unfortunately, with self-publishing, authors circumvent the whole process to become accepted
by a traditional publisher in the first place. Every proposal that I work with for traditional
— I call them professional publishers — has a description of the audience. Where they
go, what websites they look at, what they’re reading, what the competing books are. If
you’re a self-published author, I think you’re really shooting yourself in the foot not to
write a proposal for your own book, to go through this exercise of understanding how
a publisher creates a book that is well received.>>SHAWN: To be honest, folks, what Carole
said is exactly — I mean, to the “T” of what we’re doing at The Author Hangout in trying
to reach authors. We didn’t start The Author Hangout by guessing. We didn’t start The Author
Hangout by hope. Not to say that self-published authors are trying to do it that way, but
there’s been a lot of work that goes into what we’re doing at The Author Hangout so
that we’re actually on Kboards, we’re on Twitter looking at the influencers, which is something
that Carole talks about in her book, how you can use Twitter to reach out to influencers
and gain their attention. As an example, even in what we’re doing at Book Marketing Tools,
all of that is the same exact thing that you can do with your book. I think it’s really
important to understand that it isn’t about that guesswork; it is about being very targeted.
Is that something that your book can help them with as well?>>CAROLE: Absolutely. I do have a section
in the book on how you need to think about your author, which is kind of a brand, because
when I sell proposals to publishers, I talk about the author brand, and that includes
an elevator pitch. And I don’t like that term at all, but it really means it’s — I like
plain English, so the book is jargon-free. We reduced it out of there, just to reach
out to people on a level that they — how people regularly communicate. So you have
to have an author brand distilled into a few lines that your audience is going to relate
to and want to join in with you. You should put together a proposal and think about your
audience. These are really important steps, and it is covered in the beginning part of
our book, at the website chapter, Chapter 1.>>SHAWN: Great. Now we’re going to dive in
a little bit more about author platform. There are some obvious confusion and frustration,
even by the definition of author platform, and how to use the technology to build that
platform. What is a clear definition that we can use for author platform?>>CAROLE: Right. I think that the problem
is the way that we’re gathering information today, and that is a lot of people are sifting
through the internet to get a little article on this and a little article on that — and
they’re great, but conflicting opinions, small bits and bytes. What I use as an analogy is
that we’re taking tiny grains of sand and trying to push them together, but they’re
constantly slipping through our fingers. Some information needs to be portrayed in a longer
document, and that’s called a book. I think author platform is one of those. So that’s
what has created the confusion, not what an author platform is; that is very simple and
very clear. An author platform is basically a combination of using the tools in the right
way to gain a readership, to notice you, to want to follow you and see more of what you’re
writing. That’s a basic definition. You can make it more complex, but that really is what
it is. You’re reeling in your readers.>>SHAWN: I appreciate the simplicity of that,
not because our audience needs simplicity, but at the end of the day, it is often the
simple things that confound us, and as authors and writers of works, we can think it’s more
than it needs to be, and I appreciate that definition. Now, in diving in a little bit
more, can you explain –>>CAROLE: The definition — an author platform
— and I guess we’ll get into the new rules after that — it’s a combination of websites,
the Big Four social networks, your presence as a person, as an author, live and recorded,
because people need to be able to touch you and feel you and interact with you, like what
we’re doing today. Online author tools and locations like Amazon, which is author’s great
friend. There are many, many tools there that people are not using, and they really should
be. Positive and public reviews by others, and a launch strategy to make a spectacle
out of what you’re doing to reel people in. That’s what we’re doing in New York. We have
champagne reception, we have autographing. We are pulling people to us to spread our
ideas, basically. I don’t know, do you want me to go through the 14 steps that are listed
in the book, or do we have time for that? I know this is a short show. I could tell
you to come to the seminar and we’ll go into it deeper. It’s free. I’m not going to monetize.
It’s to get the information out.>>SHAWN: Yeah, I think that would be good
that we talk about the webinar, the seminar that’s for free, because you’re going to outline
those 14 steps. Feel free to share a little bit about that.>>CAROLE: Okay. Basically this is just a
chance to get more information. Today we have a half an hour to look at my Table of Contents,
and Michael McCallister is my co-author, our Table of Contents, on what the 14 steps are
for a complete author platform. Go to my Facebook page, Build Author Platform.
is how it’s listed. Press “freebie,” and you will get a quiz where you can assess your
own platform. You can see where you are in terms of having yours built. The seminar is
intended to follow on this conversation today, where we can only touch the surface. In the
seminar, we’re going to go in every one of the 14 steps of author platform, and then
Mike McCallister is my co-teacher; he’s going to show the tech insider view of how to link
them all together. People are not linking. They’re not getting the shareability. They’re
viewing this as all the pieces that they saw on the internet. And we will show you how
to do that, in an hour, and then after that we will give another seminar starting to delve
in deeper. But the blog posts are going into really drilling down into why you don’t need
a million Twitter followers, why 5,000 engaged is worth more than a million followers who
don’t care.>>SHAWN: You’re already saying it, but I
guess the question comes to mind, why does an author even need an author platform then?
We could’ve led with this, but why?>>CAROLE: Why do you need an author platform?
Imagine an image, you’re sitting there in your warehouse or your garage filled with
books. They’re fresh from the printer, and they’re sitting there. So, does this push
method of “Buy, buy, buy my book,” does that work for you? Or is there a better way? Maybe
some people will work in combination with the two, but the better way is always to pull
in interest in readers. You’re always going to find book sales from it, and it’s purely
business. I mean, a publisher has a P&L statement, profit/loss, like any other business, and
you have to earn out your P&L by selling a certain amount of copies to even justify publishing
a title. Authors need to be thinking about this and selling books.>>SHAWN: That ROI, for self-published authors,
I guess they should be looking at what factors for that — I know it’s not something that
we talked about earlier, but what are some of the factors that they need to consider
when they’re calculating their own ROI?>>CAROLE: Well, the bottom line is are you
in the red or the black? I’d like to go to simple first, not lead up to it. But authors
are being called upon to invest significantly now to create their own books. It was not
like that in the past. A publisher in the old model — and the model I still work with,
so it’s current — is the publisher pays you. So if you’re doing this on your own, if you’re
do-it-yourself, you have to look at how many books do you have to sell in order to make
up your investment? It’s not complex. That’s all it is. ROI, return on investment.>>SHAWN: Some of those things, I guess you
consider their time, which is often not a consideration. At the end of the day, somebody’s
time, whether you’re on the published side or self-published, somebody is investing their
time in order to market their book. So I think that’s one thing that authors may not think
of. “I’m just marketing.” Well no, it’s actually a real cost, and you have to factor that into
the ROI. And even promotions for your book, if you’re going to be using sites like BookBub
or others like that to promote your book, cost of the publishing. I guess these may
be some things that self-published authors are not thinking of, but they should be thinking
of, because it ultimately makes them determine whether or not it’s been a success or not.>>CAROLE: Unfortunately, it’s the reason
why a lot of those 300,000 books that are self-published are going to go by the wayside
at some point, and authors might not try to write that second book because the first one
didn’t sell and they lost out on it, and that’s unfortunate for people who have a great voice,
an important message, to get lost like that.>>SHAWN: Let me take a look here. People
are curious, and we’ll talk about this, about new rules in digital landscape. What are the
new rules, and can you share some of them with us?>>CAROLE: Yeah, absolutely. The new rules
basically are the concepts underlying the use of the tools. Use of the tools is just
one half of the story. If you don’t understand really — sometimes they are deceptively simple,
as you said — the concepts that underlie the use of the tools, you can really miss
the boat. So one of the underlying concepts that is really important to understand is
the power of groups on the internet. Crowdfunding, crowdsourcing. Look at the amazing things
that are happening if each person gives a small amount of money to any given cause.
Look at how political groups or faith-based groups are using the internet with their groups
of people to give likes and exchanges and money and whatever. The power of groups is
very significant, and authors are not seeing this. We talked about it a little earlier,
before the show went on, but all of these little author communities that are springing
up where people are starting to get this need to be stitched together into one big group.
And you can start local, you can start with genre, whatever, but the more these groups
stitch together, the more authors can talk to each other, the more likes, follows, reviews,
comments you get as an author — and also, authors are your first line of readers. I’m
an author. I love science fiction. I love steampunk. I love — I’m not going to tell
you all the genres I love, but I am a potential buyer of your book. So don’t count me out
because I’m an author supporting you. This is first line readership, too.>>SHAWN: With that, we do find — because
we do have a community on Google+ for authors, that they can tie together and work together
— we actually started a segment, another group so that people can specifically try
to target their readers. A lot of times, what we’re finding is authors are just then staying
in that community. They’re getting it, but now they’re like, “Wait, I’m here. I’m supposed
to go someplace else?” Can you talk to us about that, how important it is to take that
target audience and move that and find the platforms that they are on?>>CAROLE: I’m going to try and understand
your question, because there was a lot you’re saying. People join a community, they stay
there, they don’t want to reach out. Is that the general idea? Reach out, okay. Just like
we were saying, don’t join one social network; join them all. Don’t join one group; join
them all. As many as you can stitch together and the more people you can join with, the
better off your book is going to have a chance to be found, discovered, and viewed.>>SHAWN: Sure. And we do actually have a
question that came up, so I’m going to pull that up here. Christie asks, “In general,
where is the best place to share aside from my book? Is it a blog or bits here and there,
for example?”>>CAROLE: That’s a good question, and I think
I’m going to answer it correctly in what you’re asking. If you read our book, we design the
author platform to be centered on your author website, where you should have your blog.
If you have your blog where somebody else is controlling it, you’ve given up your control.
If they change the company or decide to drop you or whatever — or your website, if it’s
owned by somebody else, you might lose it. So you start with the website and your blog,
and that’s where you’re sharing. And then, we really don’t have time for everything,
but all the spokes go back and forth from your networks, from your presences, back and
forth to your website and to your blog. So think of that as your center and the rest
of your work as spokes leading to it, if that makes sense. I hope it does.>>SHAWN: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
We’re coming to close real quick, but I have a couple other questions I want to go through.
What advice do you have for authors regarding building their own author platforms? I think
we talked about some, but what advice do you have for that person just going on their own?>>CAROLE: Closing steps. First, go take the
quiz. Get the freebie on the Facebook page, the Take the
test, assess where you are, and then decide where it is that you need to go, what steps
you need to add. And we recommend all of them to our author clients. #2, jumpstart your
platform by joining me. I have worked hard to make 5,000 Twitter followers that are all
authors. No, excuse me, 9,000. Google+, 5,000. LinkedIn is a professional network for me
with my author clients and publishers, but still, we can look at that as a viable place.
But join with me. Join in with your author community, and that is the first way to jumpstart
your author platform, because you have to have those likes. Join those networks, get
those likes, and you’re really on your way, leading back to your website and your blog.>>SHAWN: Carole, there’s been a lot of stuff
that we shared. What specifics would you like to share directly with readers?>>CAROLE: Please join us at Book Expo. We
will be autographing this week, on Thursday. Join us in the seminar. Don’t forget to join
in with other people. I don’t mean to be repeating it, but it’s very important you get this information,
learn it, and don’t learn it in pieces. Learn how to connect it together rather than just
picking one piece and saying “Oh, that’s not for me” or “That’s not for me.” That’s the
main thing I’d like to leave authors with.>>SHAWN: Great. Again, folks, it’s not by
the book, but there is a lot of information in here that you’re going to find very useful.
It’s valuable to what’s been shared here already. There’s been a lot of good dialogue about
building your author platform. And I really do endorse this book in terms of the volume
of information that’s presented and the quality that you’re going to get out of it. So Carole,
I do appreciate you being on the show today.>>CAROLE: Thank you, Shawn.>>SHAWN: I really am glad that you were able
to make it. And good luck at the Book Expo as well.>>CAROLE: Thank you.>>SHAWN: Audience, thank you. This has been
a lot of fun. If you want to connect with us, you can take a look at
on the right hand side. You’ll find an option to sign up for a free checklist, our own checklist
for marketing your book. I really appreciate you guys being on the show today, and we’ll
see you soon on the next episode. Take care. Bye bye.

One thought on “How To Build Your Author Platform – The Author Hangout (Episode 8 w/ Carole Jelen)

  1. Awesome @Carole Jelen, thanks for sharing your understanding of the industry!! Thank you too @Shawn Manaher for hosting this conversation on How to Build Your Author Platform! Carole, I love how you promote consistency and small efforts over huge action and then laying low for a while. 20 minutes a day each morning is a great system!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *