Because we’re both fans of the same blog, The Business Rusch, my friend David Marusek and I read at the same time a post that mentioned book bundling, and we both had the same idea: let’s make it easy for readers to discover the real Alaska, minus the hype and minus the cost, by creating a free bundled eBook.
So we put the challenge to ten of Alaska’s finest authors: to share unique and intimate prose—some previously published, some brand new—that reaches beyond the usual media stereotypes of Alaska. The resulting collection, the Alaska Sampler 2014, features fiction, memoir, biography, and humor that lay bare a cherished and primal land. Dana Stabenow, Howard Weaver, Don Rearden, and Ned Rozell are among the contributors.
“Our selections range all over the literary landscape,” says Marusek. “As we swerve from adventure to opinion and biography to humor, you’d best keep both hands on the wheel.”
Unique to this ebook is a partnership with brick-and-mortar bookshops in Anchorage, Homer, Palmer, and Skagway; each Sampler selection includes a link to annotated store listings, aiming to get beyond the either-or thinking about books that are downloaded and books that readers hold in their hands.
For those who are thinking of creating their own book bundles, here’s our advice:
· · Approaching authors: For this initial bundle (we plan to do one every year), we approached ten authors whose work would add value to our Alaska-themed bundle. These authors needed to either own the digital rights to their work or be able to get reprint permission from their publishers. They also needed to be forward-thinking in their understanding of our purpose in offering the book for free—that by aggregating high-quality prose, we’d be getting cross-readership, plus the advantages of marketing together.
· Legalities: We procured signed agreements with all contributors, and we signed agreements with one another, with David as the production person and me as the editorial director. The project is officially housed with Denali Ventures, a sub-S corporation doing business as Running Fox Books.
· Production: David is a master at graphic design and eBook production, so he handled the cover and the manuscript conversion. We used social media to get input on covers in draft and we used Dropbox for file sharing. We assembled the contributions into a “bible” that we updated as we went along.
· Partners: We appreciate independent booksellers, and we didn’t want them out of the loop by producing in digital format. So we offered annotated bookshop listings within the book, and we feature our bookshop partners on our webpage and in our newsletter.
· Timeline: We came up with the idea in March, with the goal of releasing in time for Alaska’s big influx of summer tourists. Next year, we’ll start earlier.
· Proofing: I proofed the contributions; once assembled into the initial “bible,” they were returned to the authors for their proofing. Then David proofed the entire book, and we did a short beta launch during which our authors re-proofed before our official launch on June 5.
· Availability: I created a “freebie” page on the Running Fox website so that readers could easily access links for downloading the book in all formats. We made the book free wherever we could (Kobo, Inkbok, Instafreebie) and listed it for 99 cents on Nook and Amazon, with links and side-loading instructions so that readers could load to Nook and Kindle directly from our webpage.
· Promotion: On launch day, we urged our authors to broadcast to their contacts. We also sent out a press release and an e-newsletter. Within a few hours, we’d hit #1, #2, and #5 in our Amazon categories. Amazon’s bots took note, and within twenty-four hours, the book became free on Amazon—exactly what we’d hoped for. In the same one-day period, our website received ten times the traffic it normally gets in a week. We’ll continue promoting the Sampler through blogs, social media, and sites that feature free books and/or Alaska-themed material.
· Follow-through: Together, David and I have so far clocked over 180 hours of work on the Sampler. We believe it’s worth it in terms of exposure and cross-marketing. Collectively and individually, we’ll be tracking the impact of the Sampler on traffic and sales.
This post also appears at www.49writers.blogspot.com.