My Experience with The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales – Part Two

The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales was the brainchild of Peter Friend, Eileen Mueller and A.J. Ponder. The obstacles, rewards and tips for creating a strong anthology are here in part one.

I’m Eileen Mueller, and today I’ll share how we succeeded in hitting number 2 on a New Zealand AC Nielsen Bestseller list, and what you can do to boost your marketing efforts.

Once you’ve created a strong anthology, it needs to fly into the hands of readers. In part one, we discussed knowing your market. Who are your readers? Where do they live? How do they buy books?

Our target market for The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales was New Zealand children. Our products were paperbacks. The purchasers were often parents, grandparents or relatives who give books as gifts. This influenced the way we marketed the book, but the steps we took can be applied to most markets.

1. Share the Organisational Workload

It’s a huge amount of work to create an anthology, and just as much work to get it into your readers’ hands. Having three on our editorial team made the individual workload lighter. Peter Friend, A.J Ponder and I were actively involved in the story selection process and helping writers hone their work. We also managed other areas that utilised our specialised skills:

Peter Friend, who likes attention to detail, did the final copy-edit. Although his main role was editorial and creating a book trailer for our crowdfunding campaign, Peter was great at brainstorming and very supportive.

A.J. Ponder, who comes from a family of artists and has creative flair, did the layout, book design, liaised with the artist about the cover and internal art, and coordinated printing and distribution.

I managed the project planning, financial forecasting, submissions process, marketing, and organised the book launch, sales and promotion.
What skills do your anthology team have? Do you need anyone else on board to help you?

2. Build a Community

We’re from New Zealand. We have a tiny population (4.6 million). The disadvantage is that it’s hard to make money selling books in NZ. The advantage is that instead of having six degrees of separation in NZ, we usually have three. So most people will know a friend of one of your friends. Let me explain how that helped us.

When I lived in Switzerland we used to play a game. Whenever I met a fellow kiwi, I’d ask a Swiss to start a stop watch (Swiss all wore fancy watches back then). We’d get silence in the room and I would start asking rapid-fire questions of the other NZ citizen, a complete stranger to me. And I mean rapid fire. Usually within 1 minute we’d find someone we both knew. Sometimes it took 2 minutes. I don’t think we ever got to 3.

The advantage is that when we called for submissions for our anthology, word spread quickly because NZ is a small community and the ‘writers’ subset is even smaller. People told each other and shared our posts on social media and blogs. This was great for our submissions process. Word of mouth was also good for selling the books.

Once the acceptances for stories had gone out, we decided to use that strength to build a tight community. We created a Facebook group where authors could

• Get to know one another
• Share funny snippets of their stories (humour often features in kid’s fiction)
• Share their writing successes with each other
• Make plans for promoting our crowdfunding campaign
• Get hyped up about the launch
• Moan about the editors!!! No, they actually didn’t, which was surprising!

As I mentioned in Part One, other projects were spawned as a result of this community, and a large number of sales were driven by its members.

3. Acquire Funding

There are many costs in producing an anthology: author payments, artist fees, editor fees, printing and advertising. Budget carefully. Forecast your sales figures in the worst-case and best-case scenarios, using a variety of prices. Once you have a budget, you’re ready to seek funds for your project. There are a few sources of funds:

• Publishers or editors
• Crowdfunding platforms such as Kick-starter, which promise rewards in return for pledged funds. Before using crowdfunding, please be aware that many of these platforms only require pledges to be paid if you reach your targets
• Sponsorship
• Community grants

I have been involved in various anthologies that have used the above methods. Some used a combination of more than one.

To fund The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales, we decided to provide personal seed money to get the anthology off the ground. We then started a Pledge Me campaign for additional funds. (Pledge Me is a New Zealand crowdfunding platform).

4. Dare to Dream Big, While Aiming Small

Because we’d invested some of our own money into the anthology, we were able to set a modest fundraising goal with a realistic stretch goal in our Twisty Christmas Pledge Me campaign. By setting a low goal, we reached it and were guaranteed funds. Our stretch goal was also achievable, so we overshot it, which helped create an online buzz and excitement among the authors in our Twisty community.

Crowdfunding platforms are great for sharing book trailers, artwork, cool rewards for pledgers, and can be shared on social media.

Overshooting our fundraising goal meant we could print more books, but we stayed conservative. We did a small print run. Then another, which was gone in a week. Then yet another, which also sold out. In six short weeks, we’d sold most of our books.

We could have made more money by doing one large print run, but then we would have run the risk of not selling books. We were happy to play it safe.

5. Publicize Widely and Wisely:

Learn how to sell in your target market. Ours was the local New Zealand print book market. We were aiming to distribute our books to stores, so we used several approaches.

Leveraging Bookseller Channels:

• For a small fee, we advertised in a Booksellers NZ electronic newsletter sent to all booksellers in NZ
• We also had the book reviewed in a subsequent bookseller’s newsletter to keep it in booksellers’ minds.
• To ensure our book sales would be logged and our barcode was instantly recognisable in retail systems, we listed our product information with AC Nielsen.
• Our local Children’s Bookstore launched the book, and became champions, recommending it to buyers.
• We sent email campaigns to all NZ booksellers

Encouraging Our Authors to be Ambassadors

• Authors promoted books in their communities, recommending Twisty to their local booksellers.
• Whenever Twisty authors informed us they’d spoken to a local bookseller, we followed up with targeted emails and a phone call within a week
• We sent pre-written emails to our authors so they could forward them to friends, family and their fan lists
• When we hit the AC Nielsen Bestseller list, Twisty authors ‘shouted it from the rooftops’, driving up awareness
• We sent emails to schools and libraries and also to the main book distributors that supplied stock to schools
• The whole Twisty community shared our social media posts
• We provided a press release to authors with guidelines about how to tailor the release to include information about them. Several authors were featured in Twisty articles in their local newspapers

Helping Our Authors Make Money

We also gave authors a discounted purchase price so they could on-sell books at retail price in weekend markets or in their local communities. This gave them an incentive to help with sales and made it possible for them to earn more than just their initial story fee. For example: One author sold nearly 100 books at her market stall.

Hopefully, the ideas above will help you think of creative ways to market your anthology. You could also market to interest groups that may enjoy your genre (e.g.: sci-fi groups, genre book clubs, cos-play societies, clubs, etc.). Use your creativity and start brainstorming.

6. Plan Your Launch

We did a high-impact physical launch and a soft launch online. There was so much buzz online about The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales that authors traveled from all over New Zealand to attend the launch. We chose a specialised store, The Children’s Bookstore. The quality of our collection pleased the store owner, who was a well-respected judge of children’s literature awards and had a radio show promoting kids’ books. He championed our book and was thrilled with subsequent sales.

We set up a special Twisty Christmas window display, complete with crazy Christmas props. The store was packed. Nearly all of our authors were present. We ran a Twisty Christmas art competition for local kids, judged by our artist, and kids played Christmas carols on the violin and cello. It was a party atmosphere. The store manager said he hadn’t seen a launch that size before. Straight after the launch, we had to order our next print run! We were thrilled.

eileen-signing-a-twisty-copy

If your market is online, you need to consider what variables will influence your eBooks’ success. Some of the following are important:

• Genre category and size of that category. It’s easier to be noticed as a big fish in a small pond.
• Advanced reader copies and early reviews
• Pre-sales
• Special launch price
• Advertising
• Launch banners and artwork
• Promotion via your contributing authors
• Social media
• Giveaways during launch week
• Online launch events on Facebook and other social media platforms.

7. Donate a percentage of profits to charity

One of our authors works for the Muscular Dystrophy Association of New Zealand, and his wife has muscular dystrophy, so we donated a percentage of the profit for The Best of Twisty Christmas Tales to muscular dystrophy. They also sold copies through their organisation, allowing them to make more profit. We’ve been thrilled to donate to such a worthy cause and many of our customers are too.

Find a charity you’d like to support—it gives readers another good reason to purchase your anthology.

Parents and grandparents love buying our anthology, knowing it contains stories by famous authors, looks professional, and contains feel-good stories and adventures that will appeal to kids—and helps a worthy cause.

How could you develop a sense of community around your collection? What sort of funding would suit you? How can you plan conservatively to minimise risk, while dreaming big? What publicity suits your market? What research can you do to find out? What type of launch would suit your book? And is there a charity that would suit your anthology?

I hope you create a strong anthology and market it well. Good luck.

The Best of Twisty Talehttp://my-experience-with-the-best-of-twisty-christmas-tales-part-ones is available on Amazon as an e-book and paperback, and is a great gift for 8-12 year-olds. For tips on creating a strong anthology, see Part One

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Eileen Mueller
 

Awarded two Sir Julius Vogel Awards for Best New Talent and Best Youth Novel (Dragons’ Realm), Eileen Mueller lives in New Zealand with four dragonets and a shape-shifter. She has also won SpecFicNZ and NZ Society of Authors literary contests. Visit her website for free, non-stop fantasy action and adventures or her Amazon author page here.