3 S.R. Johannes: The Amanda Project (Part 2 of 2)

Monday, March 08, 2010

The Amanda Project (Part 2 of 2)

Here is part 2 of the The Amanda Project with Marketing Director, Ariel Aberg-Riger. Y0u can also review Part 1.

Note: This is a 2 part series. Comment on Part 1 or 2 to be entered into a random drawing for one of two books of Invisible 1 (book 1 of The Amanda Project). You must be a follower and in the US to win. The book drawing for both books will be tonight so you must comment by 12 PM EST

What was it like for the author to allow the shaping a story left
to the readers? Do you find the storylines completely different or similar?

Well, our authors did what they do best which is create compelling characters and a riveting story. We just created a framework that allows our community to supplement their vision. Each book is written by each author in a fairly traditional manner, and the authors all worked together to establish an overarching plot structure for the eight books (a HUGE hat tip to our amazingly talented editorial director for keeping track of everything!). It is the details of Amanda's world that are flexible, and ever-growing, as our community of readers and writers adds to what the authors have created.

How has The Amanda Project evolved over time?

We're still really young! The site only officially launched last August, and Invisible I came out in October. We've definitely responded to our community's wants (the addition of the Zine section on the site came out of our beta testers' comments), and we are developing some additional features which we hope to launch this summer, but overall we are still in our infancy!

How did you draw in your initial readers? What marketing did you use to get the project started?

We started testing the website in beta about six months before the first book in the series - Invisible I - hit stores. Our initial beta testers came from a call we put out via the Fourth Story Media website, along with a number of teens from HarperCollins/HarperTeen' ARC early reviewers lists. We knew even before we started that our most hardcore members would be girls who loved to read and write, so we went after voracious readers to test the site. We used the beta testing period to really talk to our testers and find out what they loved and what they wanted more of. Before the site went live (last August - about a month before the first book came out), we made a number of changes based on our beta's feedback.

After building and energizing a small core of super Amanda enthusiasts during beta, we then equipped them with the tools to go out and bring their friends onto the site (creating a street team, incentivizing the process, offering them cool ads and buddy icons to post, etc.). In addition we built our social media pages and outreach through targeted ads on Facebook and Myspace, and followed relevant Twitter users who in turn followed us back. In addition, there was of course all of the standard promotion and press surrounding the book launch that drove users to the site, and we've continued to build our base with cool cross promotions like the Modcloth contest I mentioned.

What other creative marketing techniques are you planning on using to promote the book?

Well, we are always looking for collaborations with other websites, publications, retailers, etc. that make sense and are mutually beneficial to all parties involved. For instance, we partnered with I Heart Daily in September to create week-long clue hunt that was a huge success. Every day a puzzle ran in the IHD newsletter, and solving the puzzle led you to a secret URL where you got a word of the day. At the end of the week if you put together all of the words, you unlocked another secret URL where you discovered how the objects were connected, and were rewarded with an exclusive, previously unpublished, piece of Callie's (the narrator of Invisible I) story (as well as a free book and gift certificate to Fred Flare).

We also did a really fun partnership with Modcloth recently where we invited girls to create collages of Amanda's perfect outfit using Modcloth clothing on the fashion site Polyvore. The girls LOVED it, and were amazingly creative as always.

Currently, we're working on a week-long clue hunt with Just So You Know (JSYK) (AOL’s teen site) and a six-week long puzzle hunt with What If? a Canadian magazine that features teen writing and artwork.

What are the top 3 reasons The Amanda Project interactive model works for readers?
  1. Most importantly, it's an amazing, well-written story. We have fantastic, bestselling YA authors like Melissa Kantor and Laurie Stolarz working collaboratively to create a rich narrative core and to build Amanda's world. It's only with such a strong base that we are able to extend the story and invite our readers in to collaborate and interact as well. If they weren't hooked in the first place, they wouldn't care!)
  2. It's a structured creative environment. We find that although the sky really is the limit in terms of what you can invent and who you can be on The Amanda Project, our readers and writers create most readily when we actually impose certain constraints. For example, every Friday we publish a new story on the site, and each week's story ends with a call to action that asks a very specific question (e.g. Have you ever lied to make people like you? Is this Amanda's purple ink?) which we find both lowers the barrier to entry for participation (aka the blank page effect), as well as creates a much more cohesive direction for the continuation of the story.
  3. It's universal. The Amanda Project deals with issues all teen girls (and anyone, really) can relate to - identity, friendship, difficult decisions, loyalties, secrets, the drama of high school life - so it's easy to lose yourself in the character you create, and really immerse yourself in Amanda's world.
Thank you Ariel for taking the time to answer (in a wonderful amount of detail) all these questions!

Thanks Shelli!


Janet Johnson said...

Very interesting concept. Sounds just like something girls would love. And great marketing ideas.

Kayeleen Hamblin said...

I love that there is an emphasis on having a great story. That seems to be the lesson for me. No matter what other great things you do with your marketing, etc., you have to start with a great, well-written story.

Anonymous said...

This is a fascinating idea.

lisa and laura said...

Awesome interview, Shelli! We sent this onto our editor. Very cool stuff they're doing over there.

Sherrie Petersen said...

What an interesting way to create a book!