By Jason Kong
Author Hugh Howey had an idea. He decided to share it with his peers on KBoards, a community forum for Kindle-related topics.
Indie authors wanting to showcase their writing would contribute flash fiction, to be compiled into a single book. 101 writers submitted a story, and the resulting anthology was published in December of 2014. Stories on the Go generates exposure for the participating authors, and will continue to do so every time another reader gives the book a shot.
The concept of anthologies isn’t new, but it bears a closer look as a vehicle for discoverability. Standing out from the crowd is only going to get tougher, and marketing through collaboration remains a smart strategy.
Why not start an anthology to increase your visibility?
The first step
Appoint yourself as lead organizer.
Sure, it’s more work than just being a contributor. But consider the benefits:
- The anthology actually happens – Otherwise, you’re depending on someone else to see it through.
- You’re the primary decision-maker – This is critical since you want the book to serve a marketing function. You can ensure the end product reflects that vision.
- Get additional credit for leading the effort – Having your name on the cover or inside the book as the key organizer sets you apart from everyone else, which may yield a similar benefit for your story within the anthology.
- You get to directly work with the other authors – Developing these relationships may lead to other partnerships in the future.
Okay, so now that you’ve decided to embark on this project, what exactly do you need to know? Here are some pointers to help you out:
Only consider authors with similar audiences to yours
An anthology containing stories that appeal to a particular kind of reader creates a unified brand. People attracted to the book will more likely enjoy the fiction within, thus increasing the odds of becoming a fan. Likewise, folks drawn to the anthology because of any single writer will have a greater chance of finding someone else they like.
This is a strategic marketing decision, intended to boost your success rate.
Focus on short stories
In theory, you could do an anthology containing fiction of any length. I would suggest you choose to keep the word count for each submission on the lower side.
Why? If the authors you contact don’t already have a finished story to contribute, then they’re going to have to crank one out in order to join. And as you already know, writers are busy people. Don’t make it harder for them to commit.
Shorter pieces means less work for you too, since you’re organizing the overall effort.
Find the right balance of participants and your workload
As long as the contributing authors share a similar audience to yours, you’ll generally want as many of them as possible. More stories will typically draw more attention, which is better from a promotional perspective.
Of course, more participants also means more coordination at your end. Good project management skills will allow you to take on more, but you should be realistic about what you can handle, regardless. Don’t let oversized aspirations cause the book to go unpublished.
Solicit authors more likely to participate, before approaching those less likely
Once you have a list of possible candidates for the anthology, don’t contact them all at once.
Instead, start with those most likely to say “yes,” such as writers you know personally. Once you have a group of authors that have committed, then check with everyone else. Because now you can list the names of people already on board, which may heighten the anthology’s appeal.
It’s possible that this tactic won’t make a difference at all, but it’s an approach that has a significant upside and no real downside. So why not?
Display links to the respective author platforms in an obvious way
Let’s say a reader enjoyed one of the anthology stories, and wants to check out other stuff the author has written. Where should that link be located?
The obvious place is at the end of story that author wrote. But consider making that link also available elsewhere, such as in its own separate section within the book. You could list all the contributing writers alphabetically with the respective link next to each name.
Remember, the point of the anthology is not only to attract new readers, but to further engage those interested — which best occurs on an author’s home base. Having that link easily found is a key step to creating that bridge.
Direct your traffic to a landing page
Most writers will choose their main website url as the primary platform link included in the anthology.
It’s an easy default option. But most home pages for author websites are geared for the general audience, attempting to welcome anyone with a passing interest. When you don’t know exactly what a person is looking for, you can lose her attention rather quickly.
In this case, however, you do have additional knowledge: the person coming to your site arrived via a link from the anthology. So why not use that fact to create a better experience for your visitor? Why not design a dedicated page on your site just for this traffic?
Now you can take the next logical step that makes sense for this specific audience, whether it’s sharing more about yourself or introducing your larger body of work. You can customize the message on this page to be more relevant and compelling.
Other authors may use their website’s home page as their platform link, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Don’t waste the attention you’ve earned.
Invest in the presentation
How well the stories connect with readers may drive the anthology’s effectiveness as a marketing tool, but the book’s appearance drives the initial opportunity.
Make sure you put enough resources into the:
- Cover design
- Book formatting
- Manuscript editing
Self-publishing doesn’t mean you literally handle all the critical tasks yourself. Seek professional help in the areas where you lack expertise.
Make your book easily accessible and shareable
A well-packaged collection of stories won’t give the proper marketing boost without exposure to the right people. Consider:
- Making the book available in the most popular digital formats
- Giving the anthology away for free
- Uploading to different distribution platforms
Keep finding ways to remove barriers preventing the connection between book and readers, and encourage your fellow authors to come with ideas too.
Leverage the power of your marketing team
Yes, you do have one.
Not only that, but every member is as vested in the outcome as you are, each having contributed a story to the book.
That’s right — the other authors that are part of the anthology form your marketing team. And while it’s a given each writer will promote the book to their respective followings, that’s just a small part of what’s possible.
Coordinating your efforts can amplify the effects. Whether that means holding a launch party on a digital platform or generating an avalanche of reviews by asking for them at the same time, you’ll draw more attention by working in concert.
Creativity matters, but so does good leadership. It’s up to you to get everyone moving together.
Over to you
What other suggestions can you add that would help use an anthology as a marketing tool? Let us know in the comments.
Jason Kong is a Contributing Writer for The Book Designer. He also runs Storyrally, an email-based subscription that helps fiction writers with their online marketing.
You can learn more about Jason here.
Photo: bigstockphoto.com. Amazon links contain my affiliate code.