Traditional publishers have always made box-sets for print books, and over the last few years, they have become popular for ebook bundling, rising high in the bestseller lists as customers snap up the deals, boosted by BookBub and other promotions.
Box-sets can be a great opportunity 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 themed box-set.
Ebook box-sets are a real advantage for indie authors, but many authors are still hesitating, so here's why box-sets are so great and how you can create them yourself.
What are ebook box-sets or bundles?
- Single author box-set containing multiple books in one series, priced at a discount to buying the individual books but still a good income for the author. Example: My ARKANE 8 book boxset at iBooks, or my London Crime Thriller trilogy on Amazon. These can also be reduced for easier merchandising.
- Single author box-set containing starter books from multiple series as an introduction to the author's work. Many authors give these away in exchange for an email list signup.
- Multi-author box-set sold at a massive discount in order to hit the New York Times or USA Today lists. Example: The Deadly Dozen which I was part of, a 12 book boxset for 99c which hit both lists in March 2014.
- Multi-author box-set sold at a good price for income purposes e.g. StoryBundle.com where I was just part of a 10 author premium writing bundle that completely bypassed the usual online bookstores and made us all some good extra money.
It's also not to be confused with an anthology, which is usually a curated set of short stories or novellas on a specific topic, most of which will not have been published before.
Why create an ebook box-set?
- Box-sets represent amazing value for customers, as they get multiple books for a lower price, which is why they are so popular.
- Binge consumption has become more common, with Netflix customers wanting whole series of TV shows, and book buyers wanting enough content to last more than a few hours. A box-set satisfies binge readers and they also end up remembering you because they've spent so much time with your words. As indie superstar Kristine Kathryn Rusch says, “The best way to get noticed is by publishing enough that readers can binge for a weekend.”
- Boxsets are easier to merchandise than single books because of discounting, and also a higher retail price means more income for the author and retailer. You can also sell them on Kobo, iBooks and other stores that don't have a $9.99 cap on prices, so I have a 7 book box-set on Kobo and an 8-book boxset on iBooks.
- You get better return on paid advertising like BookBub Ads or Facebook Ads. You get higher income than from a single book so you need fewer conversions. The ad on the left is one of my top performers on BookBub ads for the Kobo 7 book box-set.
- You can sell boxsets for higher prices so you get a higher income per customer per transaction, even though overall the books are sold for less. You get more money up front rather than expecting the customer to buy all the books individually, which they might not do.
- You already have the books available, so why not add another stream of income? Readers who buy boxsets are often a different sub-set to those who buy single books, so why not appeal to both? You're leaving money on the table if you're not doing box-sets, especially if you're selling wide on Kobo and iBooks.
Pricing for box-sets will depend on your aim:
- If you want to make income for the longer term, then you'll want to price at a discount to buying the books separately but still at a high enough price to make it worthwhile for you. For example, my 7 book box-set at Kobo is $14.99
- If you want to boost ranking and have a massive number of downloads, or you're aiming for the NY Times or USA Today lists, then put as many books in as possible and price as low as possible e.g. 99c. Or start at the high price and then do a limited time sale.
How to make your own single author box-set
- Use Vellum to compile the books together into one file. It's super easy to drag and drop book files in and then compile into one file. There are many other book formatting options, but Vellum makes everything much easier!
- Hire a graphic designer/cover designer to make a box-set cover. Get a 3D and a flat version, since iBooks only accepts the flat version and Kobo recommends the flat version for better sales, so it's good to have both.
- Decide on the price and then publish as usual.
How to make a multi-author box-set
If you want to do a boxset 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 do well, and they are used less often in non-fiction and literary markets, so that might be an opportunity for you. Regardless of what you’re writing, consider which authors your books crossover with and work with them.
- Rights and money. Whose publishing 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. These are the same issues faced with co-writing – more on practical collaboration issues in this interview with J. Thorn. 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 split promotion fairly? You need to divide the work between the group and keep communication simple and easy. Stay in touch and make sure everyone knows what is happening on what days, especially if your aim is to hit any lists, since a highly coordinated promotional campaign will be needed for this. A central Google Doc is a good start.
Clearly, a multi-author box-set is more complicated, but why not get started on a single author box-set if you have 3 books in a series or that are linked in some way.
Have you tried box-sets as an author? or as a reader? What are your opinions and lessons learned? Please share your comments below.