August 10th, 2015

Using a Free Anthology Sampler To Hook Readers

Marilyn Brant

Thanks so much for inviting to me to Writers in the Storm today and for asking me to share a little bit about the group blog anthology I worked on this spring!

Girlfriends Bk Club cover 667x1000

A few months ago, I organized a writing/promotional project for one of my blogs, the Girlfriends Book Club, which is an online group I’ve been a part of for over eight years. (And the wonderful Laura Drake is also a member!) I had the pleasure of working with sixteen GBC members on a multi-author collection that we called, One More Page: A Fiction Sampler with Bonus Writing Advice from 17 Successful Novelists. It was intended to showcase both the diversity of our individual writing, as well as the collective wisdom of our group blog.

What resulted was a FREE ebook anthology that I thought was pretty unique. Each chapter in the book featured a different author, and the chapters included a range of writing treats. In every chapter, there was a short author bio, website links, a couple of blog posts about writing that the author had previously posted on the GBC, and an excerpt with buy links from one of the author’s published novels. And, so, the project itself was a combination of writing wisdom for aspiring novelists *and* fiction samples for curious readers.

We released the anthology in mid-May and, to date, we’ve had a few thousand downloads across the various retailers. While I can’t speak to the experiences of all of the other participants, I found that reader interest in the novel that I excerpted in the collection (a chapter from my coming-of-age romantic mystery, The Road to You) has garnered some additional sales since the publication of the sampler.

Where we are in the Amazon/B&N/iBooks/Kobo rankings at any given time fluctuates, of course. When the book gets a promotional boost on a popular Facebook page, blog or author newsletter, the rankings always improve. But I think the added visibility has been of some help to everyone involved. As with most promo projects, the more effort somebody is willing to put into it, the more he/she tends to get out of it. I definitely think the author participants who took the time to really promote the project to their individual readership also saw added interest in their own work.

Again, speaking just from my own experience, I know that after I sent my newsletter out and posted about the free book on my social media sites, I received quite a positive response, and not just for The Road to You. I found that my readers were excited that I was introducing them to a bunch of talented, new (to them) authors—which could only be a good thing for my GBC friends!—but they showed their appreciation by sharing my posts, engaging in some fun Facebook conversations with me, and checking out novels of mine that they may not have read.

An opportunity that I saw some authors in the group taking advantage of—and I wished I’d been able to do it at the time, too—was the use of their specific story excerpt as a means of getting readers hooked on a series. When I was pulling this project together, I was still a few months away from releasing the earliest books in my Mirabelle Harbor series, which is a crossover contemporary romance/romantic women’s fiction project that spans at least seven stories. I would have loved to have used an excerpt from either Take a Chance on Me or The One That I Want (the first two Mirabelle Harbor books) to give readers a taste of this new fictional world that I’d been creating all year.

However, even though I didn’t get to do that myself, I did get some feedback from a few of the GBC members who promoted one of their romance or mystery series book in the sampler. They said they were pleased with the response to their excerpt and that they saw an increased interest (along with more sales!) in other books of theirs from the same series. So, for writers who might be hoping to try a group project similar to this one, if you’ve got a series you’d like to promote, there’s the potential for an added benefit.

Regardless, I found One More Page to be a fascinating collection to both work on and to share with others. For years, I’d felt as though the GBC had a treasure trove of blog posts that could be insightful and inspiring to our fellow writers. It was a delight to help readers/aspiring writers out there find some of those words of wisdom…and, as an author, I also loved getting to connect writers whose work I admire with a new and enthusiastic readership.

Wishing you all an enjoyable rest of the summer!



Marilyn Brant is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author of contemporary women’s fiction, romantic comedy, and mystery. Her debut novel won RWA’s Golden Heart® Award, and she was named the Author of the Year (2013) by the Illinois Association of Teachers of English. She loves all things Jane Austen, has a passion for Sherlock Holmes, is a travel addict and a music junkie, and lives on chocolate and gelato. Check out her website for new releases in her Mirabelle Harbor series and for upcoming special events and giveaways:


8 comments to Using a Free Anthology Sampler To Hook Readers

  • Oh Marilyn, I so wish I could have gotten in on that! Even more, after reading this!

  • alinakfield

    Great post! Historical authors have banded together to put together a couple of different free anthologies, “Cats on the Keyboard” and “Governess Romance”. I loved sharing my cat’s story and finding new authors!

  • Orly Konig-Lopez

    Thanks for the insight into this project, Marilyn. I really enjoyed the anthology and learning about new to me authors.

  • Fae Rowen

    What a wonderful idea, Marilyn! Working together to craft the anthology might sound quite daunting, but it seems you all worked it out well. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

    • Thank you so much, Fae!
      There were moments when it felt a bit daunting, LOL, but we did manage to work it all out, and I hope everyone is as pleased with the final product as I am. 🙂