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I'm extremely excited to announce that ‘Deadly Dozen,’ the thriller/mystery box-set I am part of, hit the New York Times Bestseller list as well as the USA Today Bestseller list for the second week running!
It’s #13 for fiction E-book bestsellers and #19 for combined print and ebook, plus it’s also now ranking #42 on the USA Today list, up from last week. That’s a writing dream achieved!
I’m now a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author, along with the other fantastic authors in The Twelve: Diane Capri, J. Carson Black, Joshua Graham, Cheryl Bradshaw, Allan Leverone, M.A. Comley, Aaron Patterson, Carol Davis Luce, Vincent Zandri, Linda S. Prather, and Michele Scott.
We also had a brilliant publishing partner in Phoenix Sullivan from Steel Magnolia Press who wrangled us into a team and coordinated the publishing side.
Thank you so much to everyone who bought the book and joined in the promotion. And if you’d like to read 12 bestselling mystery/thrillers for a great price, you can still buy the book from all ebook stores, or read more about it here.
Here are my lessons learned from the experience:
(1) Collaboration and relationships are the most important thing
This was a fantastic joint promotion effort, made possible because twelve authors plus a brilliant coordinator worked together to achieve a goal. There have been other box-sets by romance authors that have made the New York Times list, so we knew it was possible. It was a case of all pulling together at the same time.
We all pitched our lists on different days, we all paid for promotional activities, collectively we paid for advertising and prizes, we all used social media to spread the word and we asked for shout-outs from other long-term author friends. Everyone pitched in and took time out of their schedules to make this happen within a specific time period.
This is not out of reach for you to do as well. Five years ago I didn’t have any author friends. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t have any web presence or social media following or email list. We all have to start somewhere.
Authentic relationships take time to build, so don't expect to just email a few people and go from there. I started on Twitter, then met people through podcast interviews, and then met people in person at conventions/conferences like London Book Fair and Thrillerfest.
I’m an introvert (as many of you are) so these things are hard for me. I still have heart palpitations before I get on Skype to interview people. I still have to psych myself up for live events. But it’s worth it!
(2) You need sales in more than one store to hit the lists
You can’t be exclusive and hit the lists. Even if you sell 200,000 copies on Amazon alone, you won’t make it. It’s important to have sales at all the stores – iBooks, Nook, Kobo as well as Amazon, even if the numbers are smaller at each store.
This is a challenge as the other sites work on merchandising rather than an algorithm that doesn’t discriminate between trad pub and indie. But one of my focuses going forward is to grow my list to include readers on multiple platforms. I'll share how when I figure it out myself! (By the way, if you'd like to get early access to my bestselling thrillers, sign up here!)
(3) Decide on the goal before the marketing campaign starts
Related to the point above, if our goal had been to get to #1 on just Amazon.com, we would have gone about it in a different way e.g. with one big spike in the marketing plan.
But the wonderful Diane Capri had the foresight to focus on the New York Times and USA Today lists, so everything was geared towards that goal and involved more of a stepped approach over a longer period.
A lot of our general author marketing is just aimed at “selling more books,” but perhaps it is time to get more specific. I talked about definition of success recently, so maybe we should do that for micro-campaigns as well as larger career goals.
(4) Building your email list should always be the highest priority
Now we’ve done it with one book, of course I’m keen to hit the lists with one of my own books as a single author as well as work with The Twelve on other projects.
As an individual it's difficult, as we all have smaller email lists. But it can clearly be done, as indie romance authors HM Ward and Bella Andre hit the NY Times list regularly, presumably through a combination of huge email lists, merchandising and promotional spikes. It’s just a case of building up that list slowly over time, by delivering quality books that readers want more of, for years. Luckily, we all have time!
No matter how often I harp on about this, I still see so many author websites with no email signup. Go check your site right now, please! Read this if you need to know how to set up a list, and this for putting the signup at the back of all your books.
Why box-sets are so brilliant
Box-sets represent amazing value for customers, as they get multiple books for a lower price, which is why they are so popular. Deadly Dozen features 12 books from 12 award-winning and bestselling authors, with over 600 five star reviews on Amazon and a saving of over US$40.
Traditional publishers have been doing box-sets in print for years, and in the last six months, they have become popular for ebook bundling, rising high in the bestseller lists as customers snap up the deals.
Box-sets can be great opportunities for authors to collaborate with other authors to reach a different audience, or maximize point of sale revenue from one customer with their own series or theme box-set.
Single author box-sets as a value-added product
You can also do box-sets of your own if you have multiple books. You may be surprised at how popular they turn out to be!
After listening to a Self Publishing Podcast discussion with Ed Robertson about the success of his Breakers box-set, I went ahead and created my own ARKANE box-set for the first three books in my series.
I decided to use KDP Select for the first 90 days as this was a new idea for me and I wanted to get reviews and thought the borrows might be the best way to start. I wasn't really expecting to sell many at $5.99 but actually the sales are rising and readers get 3 full-length books and a saving. It's also my only product in the Kindle Lending Library so I am reaching a different audience. A forward-thinking promotion idea will be to reduce the price of the box-set in a sale when the full-length book 4 is out, which is the strategy Ed mentioned on the podcast. I'll be moving this into the other stores when the Select period is over.
The box-set is also being used for serials written in seasons, as popularized by Sean Platt & David Wright in their Yesterdays Gone series, as well as Johnny B. Truant with the Fat Vampire value meal.
How to make your own box-set
As a single author, it's pretty easy. I just used Scrivener (or you can use whichever formatting tool you like) to compile all 3 books together and then I hired a graphic designer to make a box style cover.
If you want to do it as multiple authors, you need to make things a bit more formal. Consider the following aspects first:
- Do you share a similar audience? Genre box-sets are doing well, but they are being used less in other non-fiction and literary markets. Regardless of what you're writing, consider which authors your books crossover with and work with them.
- Rights and money. Whose account will the box-set be loaded onto, who will get the royalty income and who will be in charge of all the money? You'll need to pay for promotions and potentially other marketing, so make sure everyone knows what's involved. The book used in a box-set could also be banned from other types of promos at the same time e.g. KDP Select, Nook First or BookBub, so be careful with which books are used.
- How will you do the promotion fairly? You need to split the work between the group and keep communication simple and easy, staying in touch to be sure everyone knows what is happening. The Twelve have been coordinating through a private Facebook group, which seems to be a popular way to do it all.
- Timings. You need a highly coordinated promotional campaign in order to maximize your chances of hitting whichever lists you're aiming at, as well as splitting out when each individual is promoting to their list.
For marketing specifically to box-set readers, check out Premium Box Sets, set up by author J. Thorn.
I have certainly found the box-set to be an amazing experience, and look forward to more collaborations. It is truly an amazing time to be an author!
Have you tried box-sets as an author? or as a reader? What are your opinions and lessons learned? Please share your comments below.
Ted Lazaris says
What did it cost you for the joint box set promotion to become a NYT best selling author?
Joanna Penn says
It was way back in the days before people did paid box sets. I didn’t pay anything to be in it. We were a group of authors who knew each other from within ITW.
We all did pay for promotions like ads, but it was not a paid boxset. All those things started after we did this.
Joanna Penn says
To be clear – don’t pay to be in a boxset!