Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Sell More Books By Choosing The Right Anthology or Collection Theme

My long-time readers know two things about me; I've got a healthy amount of experience with anthologies, and I like to sell books. Getting into anthologies is a lot easier than selling them though, mostly because you need something unique to get them out of your inventory and into the hands of your readers. Maybe it's a bundle deal with a more popular book, an awesome book cover designed by a famous artist, a Big Name who contributed a short story, or another gimmick entirely.

Holding readers at gunpoint is certainly different, but not in the way you're looking for.
One unique selling point that a lot of writers overlook when it comes to anthologies as well as single-author short story collections is the theme. If you can hook readers with a theme they haven't heard before you'll get them to read your sample. Once they've dipped a toe in you're that much closer to snapping up another sale.

Dare to be Different

Since folks like examples here's one that's hot off the presses.

Seriously, go take a look inside!
What you're looking at is my latest release, and the first book I've never had to share with other contributors. New Avalon: Love and Loss in The City of Steam contains 10 steampunk noir stories, each of which is connected by a single theme. Is it romance? Tragedy? The corrupt heart of the clockwork city that drinks the blood and souls of those who dig too deep?

It's all of those things, but specifically the book acts as a guided tour of New Avalon.

From the steam-shrouded souk of the Grates to the concrete bunkers of Cranktown, from the soupy, rotting alleys of the Gutters to the misty quays of Headsman's Wharf every story takes the reader by the hand and leads them on a district-by-district journey. Readers see the possible and the impossible, meet residents of the city, but more than that they see New Avalon's many faces. From the miraculous to the monstrous there's something for every reader in this book.

Assuming of course you aren't a fan of happy endings?

Know What You're Selling (Preferably Before You Write It)

Anthologies and collections are similar to other books in one way; it's easier to sell them if you know your market before you start. If you're writing a horror story for example, who are you appealing to? Will the latest hordes of zombie fans want to devour it? Will it be the latest fad among the vampire sect? Are you appealing to old-style fans of shows like The Twilight Zone and Tales From The Crypt?

While there's no need to pigeonhole your project before you even open up a blank word document, you need to think about what selling points it has. Returning to our above example, New Avalon has several fulcrums I can lever to get it into the hands of fans. Those include:

- Noir Steampunk: While the genre is no stranger to mysteries and detectives something that's more Sam Spade and less Sherlock Holmes is something that turns readers' heads.

- No Happy Endings: It's right there in black and white in the introduction, which I think of as the user-agreement for this book. New Avalon is a place happy endings go to die, so for those who find catharsis in tragedy this is definitely a book for them.

- Guided Tour: As mentioned the book's stories are all separate, but they are used to paint a picture of a single place. This can give it a serialized feel not unlike Frank Miller's graphic novel Sin City. While stories may intersect like gears in a watch, none of them know what the others are doing.

- Single Author Collection: One of the big hurdles when you're trying to sell a multi-author collection is that even if someone likes your work they're only getting one of your stories. This book offers multiple tales, but they were all penned by the same hand. If you're putting together an anthology though you'd want to get several well-known authors to make the book feel like a safer bet.

Do I Need To Do All That?

That depends, are you selling as many books as you want to?

If you're reading my blog then we both know the answer to that question.
Some authors will get lucky their first time out. If you look at the news it seems like all some authors had to do was get one influential person to see their book and bam! overnight bestseller! Whether it was a viral send off on social media, or just the spirit of the zeitgeist taking hold they happened to write a winning ticket.

For most of us (and even most of the authors who look like they hit it big overnight) that isn't how it works. We write blogs, participate in community forums, guest post, get reviews, find guest slots on podcasts, try to catch the attention of local media, set up signings, and go to tons and tons of events. And because every yutz with a computer and Internet access can become an author that means there are hundreds of thousands more books out there for you to compete with. If you're peddling short stories you're already at something of a disadvantage, which is why you need to try and turn that weakness into a strength by finding a way to sell it.

Also, May is National Short Story Month! Use that as a crowbar if you can, and see how many doors you pry open with it.

If you'd like to support me, but New Avalon doesn't seem like your bag then feel free to stop by The Literary Mercenary's Patreon page and become a patron today! Even as little as $1 a month can make a big difference. If you want to be sure you're getting all of my updates then make sure you're following me on Facebook and Tumblr as well!

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