This month marks the debut of my inclusion in an anthology. This is a Christmas collection of short stories with seven other writers. To be honest, as excited as I was about being accepted for this new adventure, I was also pretty worried about it.
I didn’t know these other people, except a couple of them by name through social media. And we were to be working together on this project via email over a period of several months. What were they like? Sticklers for timeliness? Procrastinators? Folks who delegate or where they micro managers? We were supposed to be able to work as a team, but there were eight of us, plus an editor. Eight levels of experience and eight personalities and I wasn’t sure what to expect. What if they didn’t like how I worked? Or if I didn’t like their work style?
First came a need for a title. We each had titles for our individual contribution, now we needed a collective title. The suggestions began, over a string of endless emails, flying madly about like snowflakes in a blizzard. Some were great, while some I didn’t care for. I tossed a few suggestions in as well. After a breathless marathon, we finally picked our winning title: Sizzle in the Snow: A Soul Mate Christmas Collection. I like it.
Okay, catch my breath. That wasn’t so bad. Next, we needed a cover. Everyone had suggestions on a cover. It ended up changing twice. Personally I prefer the second version over the first one we had.
Now we had a tentative release date, so I thought it would be smooth sailing from here on out. Wrong. It was just beginning.
First came the blurbs. A few of them. We needed long blurbs to post, about a paragraph, summarizing our story as succinctly as possible. We swapped blurbs like a plate of cookies. Try this, what do you think of it? Too much? Too little? Admittedly, it was a good way to get to know people. A kind of social recipe exchange.
We needed one-liner taglines as well. Condense your story down to one single line, around 12 to 15 words. This time we passed the drinks around along with the cookies. We needed to chisel just a couple of words off, tighten that tagline. This was September, but we were preparing hard and heavy now.
Our in boxes filled rapidly with one line tagline suggestions for our collective bundle of joy. We needed a twitter hashtag. Suggestions of places to advertise once we had all the goodies in place.
Goodies! Advertise! More to come. Our in boxes were now flooded with countless emails back and forth like a tsunami. We created a newsletter. I am forever grateful to the individual who captained that project. Topics were decided upon and assignments were scheduled. I hastened to get my materials submitted at least a month or two before the particular newsletter was scheduled to post.I couldn’t risk being the one who held up production of the newsletter.
Our editor created an awesome book trailer. And tweaked it a few times based on more email feedback. https://youtu.be/ie_Gs9hhtJQ We planned an ad in the December InD’tale Magazine and money was sent by all. Again, I sent my check the week it was requested, lest I hold up the process in a timely matter. We also had to provide two or three word synopsis of our works for the InD’tale ad. More email suggestions crossed the email highway like a herd of reindeer. Time and size really mattered. Two words, three max.
Okay, now round one of edits arrived in our in boxes. Time was tight. We needed to go through our stories, make revisions and get them back to the editor immediately, if not sooner. No procrastination.
We planned a Facebook release party. I felt like I was being swallowed by a typhoon. Not only did I not understand how they worked, the consensus was to hold it one evening. I work evenings. So I felt like the wallflower no one wanted to dance with. I apologized, probably a little too much, and offered to do what I could to promote. I bought a prize to offer into the pot of prizes. Everyone contributed something special for the multiple giveaways and the grand prize.
Since I had released a full-length novel at the same time, literally on the same day, I felt torn between promoting both my book and the anthology. Plus I had held a rafflecopter giveaway earlier for my book and was running a couple of paperback giveaways on Goodreads for my earlier releases now in print. So my Give-Free-Stuff-Away- budget was running kind of thread bare by now. But I did purchase a pretty love dove Christmas ornament for the Sizzle grand prize. Something else to package up and take to the post office. Taxes should be fun this year.
Round two edits came back. Time to dust off the fine tooth comb and get to looking. We were also asked to read the other seven stories, looking for anything that needed addressing. I got a couple of comments back saying how enjoyable my story was. That made me feel good. Those few thoughtful comments made all the encompassing stress well worth it. And I was learning how my fellow contributors were working together as a cohesive team. We were a creative and compassionate bunch of writers who all wanted to see our Sizzle baby shine bright. A shared common goal.
Okay, the clock was ticking down. We were on track with edits and promo. With the exception of missing the Facebook Launch party, I felt I was carrying my weight equally among the team. Some team members had different connections then I, so they spread the news through their networking ways. I stuck to what I had done previously. I felt pretty good about this whole anthology thing. Enough so, that I might try to write and submit another someday.
Then the release day arrived. December 2. And it was all hands on deck to promote. And my other baby released simultaneously. I am fairly certain my butt never left the chair till it was time to leave for work.
I went to work, feeling the adrenalin letdown after a big emotional and physical push. I’d been driving so hard for this day, and now it was here, and for the next nine hours, it was over. Time to regroup and catch my breath while I see what all of our combined results would bring.
Rankings never mattered much to me before. Like weight and age, they are just numbers and tend to change a lot. So it caught me by surprise when the rankings suddenly became the newest topic to fill my inbox. It quickly became Canada against the US, and team Canada held a large margin win. We quickly swept into the top 100 bestseller rank with anthologies in Canada. From 100, we steadily climbed till my eyes glazed over and the numbers grew smaller. I admit, I did sneak a few peeks and dash an email off to the team, sharing our latest ranking status.
To my knowledge, team US never caught up with Canada, but we’ve done pretty decent in America as well. The competition between the countries did soon become infectious. And the shared joy over our first five star review felt like decadent chocolate fudge icing drizzled over an eight layer chocolate cake. Last I checked, there were two five stars up now.
So what did this whole experience teach me? When entering into an anthology, expect to work with creative, diverse and exciting people. Expect to pull your weight as much as possible. And enjoy the journey. I was privileged to work with some special and talented authors. Perhaps one day we can do this again.