The Greatest Story Not Yet Told: How Macmillan Leveraged Open Innovation to Conceive, Curate, and Market a Book for College Students

Two and a half years in the making, Freshman Year of Life is the first of its kind — a lively and honest collection of first-person narratives with its target audience involved in multiple stages of the conception and marketing process.

On September 29th, 2014, Macmillan posted its first challenge for the MindSumo’s community. The idea behind that challenge was simple. What’s the most direct and reliable way to find out what college students want to read? Ask them.

Freshman Year of Life

One of the ten prize-winning solutions proposed a historical fiction novel based on the life of Ada Lovelace. Another described a book about collaboration itself, while a third suggested an analysis of the “diverse intellectual vibrancy of social networks.” The remaining seven prize-winning solutions hope for a book that would give guidance into common challenges like finding a job, living independently, and developing identity and a life purpose.

From this idea, the editorial team at Flatiron (an imprint of Macmillan) began the process of curating an anthology of true stories about people’s freshman year (and sometimes years) of life. MindSumo’s community was involved in two challenges at the curation stage of the editorial process, one to suggest ways to find the best contributors and another that was an essay contest.

The thirty-eight stories that would end up comprising Freshman Year of Life were curated over years by the Flatiron editorial team and cover a wide variety of thematic terrain. Some of these stories are funny, some heartwarming; some are about successes, and others reflect failures. There are stories about going from a committed college relationship to casual dating in an unfamiliar city, navigating a toxic work environment, learning how to stay patient in a part of life that isn’t defined by semesters and finals, and tackling the task of making new friends.

We could not be more proud of this book and were honored to leverage our community to help bring it to life!


Buy Freshman Year of Life online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and other locations.

Curious how a challenge is run? See a real client dashboard