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51% of my fiction book sales income for the last year has been from boxsets, rising to 77% of my Kobo fiction sales income. Without box sets, my income would be significantly less – plus, being in multi-author-boxsets enables me to reach new readers. So if you're not bundling your books, you're missing out on income and visibility. In today's show, I talk to Chuck Heintzelman about some of the options for ebook bundling and box sets.
In the intro, I discuss the furore over the Amazon buy boxes this week from the Author's Guild, and Nate's response at The Digital Reader.
In futurist stuff, the exciting news that the XPrize for the Tricorder has been awarded. And check out www.FightForPhoenix.com for the Mark Dawson thriller novella, Phoenix, to help Emma's breast cancer fund.
In personal news, I share thoughts from my trip to Venice to see Damien Hirst's Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable – which really was jaw-dropping in creative scope and ambition. You can see pics here on Flickr.
Today’s show is sponsored by my non-fiction audiobooks, Business for Authors, How to Make a Living with your Writing and The Successful Author Mindset, available now on Audible. If you need some more inspirational audio that will give you actionable tips to make more money with your books AND stay sane while doing it, check them out here!
Chuck Heintzelman is a programmer with 25 years' experience developing software, and he also writes fantasy short stories. His main site is BundleRabbit, which helps authors bundle books together. His new book is Ebook Bundling: Level Up Your Income with the Power of Bundling.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- The difference between a box set and a bundle
- Why bundling is so popular with indie authors now
- On whether there's a different market for bundles than for single titles
- How to format bundles and info on bundle covers
- Why Chuck started BundleRabbit
- How pricing works for bundles
- On Chuck's new service that will handle author collaborations
You can find Chuck at BundleRabbit.com and on Twitter @BundleRabbit
Transcript of Interview with Chuck Heinzelmann
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com, and today I'm here with Chuck Heintzelman. Hi, Chuck.
Chuck: Hi. Nice to see you.
Joanna: You, too. Thanks for coming on the show. Just a little introduction.
Chuck is a programmer with 25 years' experience developing software, and he also writes fantasy short stories. His main site is BundleRabbit, which helps authors bundle books together.
His new book is “Ebook Bundling: Level Up Your Income with the Power of Bundling,” which is just fantastic. I'm very excited about this book. In fact, I think I was the one who suggested it to you, wasn't I, Chuck?
Chuck: Yeah. I was kinda thinking, “Oh, I should do this,” but you were the impetus for me to actually get it done. So after talking to you, what, a week later I had it. So yeah, it was a pretty quick book.
Joanna: Absolutely. But it's actually pretty in-depth. I want to start by unpacking the concept of bundling.
Chuck: Can I start with something first? Sorry to interrupt you here. But I just have to say congratulations on your nominations on the International Thriller Awards for “Destroyer of Worlds.” That's awesome.
Joanna: Oh, thank you. That's very sweet of you. Thank you, Chuck.
Chuck: No problem.
Joanna: Okay, so back to bundling. Let's start by unpacking the concept of bundling because people, I think, get confused about it. So what are the different types?
What's the difference between a bundle and a box set, for example? Just explain the different possibilities.
Chuck: Okay. Bundling is really a general term. To me a bundle is a group of books, be they physical or electronic or whatever. Whereas a box set comes from a physical box set and so in the electronic world, a box set you really have a multi-volume eBook.
And by separate volumes, each book or story within the box set could have its own title page, its own cover, its own copyright, its own About the Author. It's like it's packaged together but each unit within it is distinct.
But like I say, everything's a bundle. Short story collections, that's a bundle of short stories. A novella collection, I mean you could call that a collection, you could that a box set, how you package it just like Stephen King's “Different Seasons.”
Remember that? That's a physical novella collection, and you have trilogy and series box sets. You can have sampler collections that showcase a sample of your work across a variety of genres if you write across a variety of genres, or you might even come up with a first-in-series box set.
If you write several series, why not package them together into a box set, sell that, and that gives a reader a taste of the different things you do?
There's anthologies, there's omnibuses, these are all, to me, bundles. It's like bundle is the all-encompassing term. But really traditionally, if I can say traditionally since…I mean we're talking digital books and how long is traditional.
What I first thought of were the sites like Humble Bundle or StoryBundle where they're selling multiple books. You buy them all at once, but then you go to their website and then you can download them individually. So initially coming into this game, that was where my head was. That's a bundle. Other things are collections and box sets, but I've come to say everything's a bundle.
Joanna: Yeah. Well, it's good to say that. It's interesting when I talk and I'll use the word box set, I tend to use the word box set and then people will put their hands up and say, “But isn't it expensive to do a box set or a bundle?” So just to be clear, we are talking about an eBook bundle or box set.
Joanna: Right. So we're talking about digital files, either combined together into one file or sold together but downloaded separately onto people's devices.
Chuck: Right. But the simplest definition of bundle is an e-bundle is a group of eBooks, I mean, no matter how you group them.
Chuck: Single author, multi-author, you can start subdividing it out but the bundle is a bundle.
Joanna: Yeah, and it's actually interesting. I haven't got it right next to me now, but I'm just starting to the print editions of my own single author bundles.
Joanna: And they're actually very satisfyingly large which is… They're more like a George RR Martin.
Chuck: Yeah. Oh, man.
Joanna: Yeah, so that can be done, too. And I guess it will help the price comparison things, but generally we're talking eBook bundles. So let's talk a bit more about the benefits.
You mentioned multi-author box sets or bundle single authors.
Why is bundling so popular with indie authors now and I guess it has been in the last couple of years?
Chuck: It's really a low-effort way for indie authors to increase their discoverability and increase their income. I mean you take the inventory that you have and you package it in different ways, and end up with more inventory.
You end up with some higher priced products in your inventory. I mean if you have just novels at 5.99, let's say 6.99, all of a sudden you can have some 9.99 products or some 12.99 products.
And especially with multi-author bundles, the big benefit is cross-pollination. I mean for you to share your audience with other authors in the book and they are sharing their audience with you, and that's just for the author side the things.
There's also increased ROI if you have a higher price ticket item in your inventory. You could advertise that item and you have your better return on your investment.
But to the reader, there's also benefits. I mean it's a great deal. Your bundles are almost always 30% off retail if you buy them individually, but you can get them 70%-80% off.
We live in the age of Netflix, and people are used to binging their entertainment. So all of a sudden with the bundle, you've got a million words you can binge there if you've got a large bundle.
And to a reader, it also lets them run across authors they may not have ever known about before, and they can discover new authors. So some other benefits to the readers, let me see.
Charities. A lot of these bundling sites like StoryBundle and whatnot, you get an option to donate a portion of your sale to charity. I mean that's a real feel good thing for the reader that they're doing something. And also they know that they're helping indie authors, and that's another feel good thing. That's about all I have.
Joanna: Yeah. Well, that is a lot of benefits. I do find it really odd when people sort of say, “Oh. Well, you know, I wouldn't do a bundle or a box set because it might cannibalize the sales of my individual books. And I want my reviews and things on my individual books.”
Do you see that bundle readers are different to people who buy individual books? Do you think there's like a different market for bundles?
Chuck: Anecdotally, yes. I've talked to authors because it's perfectly logical to think that. In fact, I thought that. I thought, “Well, how do I buy a book? How do I buy a bundle?” And you know, if I read the first in a series and I really liked it and I go out to buy the next in the series and I see, “Oh. Well, they have a three-book bundle, a three-book box set, I'll buy that over buying them individually and probably save money even though I've read the first book in that box set.”
So to me, that seemed like a perfectly legitimate concern, but I've talked to authors and they say no. Because you have a higher priced item in your inventory, it's almost like you're hitting a new market that your other books are not hitting.
I think you could speak to that much better than I could because you have single novels out there, and you have sets of box sets and what have you seen?
Joanna: I think it's interesting because I can't really comment on the Amazon side so much. I mean, you know, it's difficult to know. I've done numbers but they're not amazing compared to Kobo and iBooks where 70% of my fiction income is from box sets.
Now, I'm not sure that's so much the readers or the merchandising opportunities for box sets, because both Kobo and iBooks working on discounting as a model and hand choosing things for their marketing. And of course, if you have a higher price box set, say, at 14.99 that you're reducing down to 7.99, you're going to get merchandising and you're going to sell more.
Kobo and iBooks readers are more used to paying higher prices, so I think maybe the discounting looks different. Although I had Lindsay Buroker on the from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast, she said that the page reads on Kindle Unlimited can be really good for a box set. And I never thought about that.
So there's a new one in terms of revenue because of course like you're saying, if people are gonna binge and you've got a three-book or a six-book or something available and you've got that in KU, well, they could be there for ages and you could get a good payout.
I think there are so many possibilities really, aren't there?
Chuck: Well, and what's interesting about that is I don't know 100% is just having a box set is that actually attracting new readers to your single books? Because I mean you'd have a large inventory so you're more discoverable and does that increase in the single book readership offset those people like me that will jump to a box set because I wanna save a little bit of money? I don't know.
I have no stats for that but it's interesting. Bottom line, every everything I've heard, it does not seem to cannibalize the sales. Again, I'm just going from what people tell me. I don't have a bunch of novels out there, you know, that I've actually run any tests.
Joanna: Without the bundling income, my fiction sales would be a lot lower. So I definitely believe in it.
Actually, did you cover audiobook bundles in the book? I'm not sure you did.
Chuck: No, I did not. And part of the reason is because of BundleRabbit. Initially, I was like, “You know, I'm gonna do everything. Comic book bundles, audiobook bundles,” and then I decided, “Well, let's pare it back down for a year or two and then see that.”
Audiobooks is another untapped market really. I mean yes, there's some out there but there's so much available and you can do so much.
Joanna: Exactly. I see audiobook bundles as in doing three…as in one file on Audible with three books in. It's something that traditional publishing is not really doing yet.
Whereas we've seen traditional publishing moving into the eBook bundling as they did with print. So it is a really interesting time.
Let's talk about the actual technical side. You're a software guy. We're going to come on to your software in a bit.
If listeners want to format their own bundle or box set, what software do you recommend? And how can they do that?
Chuck: Okay. Here's what I do. Let me go back to BundleRabbit and how I first started. And I follow the model of StoryBundle which was people would buy from the site only, and then they'd be able to download individually.
And then I thought, “Well, why just be on site? Why not be on Amazon and iBooks and Kobo, etc.?” And I thought, “Well, then I just need to turn these eBooks into a box set.” And you know, I said, “Well, I'm a programmer. I can do this. eBooks are easy.”
So I created a program, clicked the button and wham it pushed together 10 eBooks into a box set. And I was testing it out and I'm looking at it. The first book looked okay. Second book, I get to that and it looks okay. It's a little different style and whatnot.
I went back to the first book, and it totally was messed up because every eBook had their own style sheets, every eBook had its own formatting, its own way of doing things. And my program just wasn't smart enough to handle all that. But with Vellum, it's so slick. I mean I can build a box set in five minutes.
Joanna: And it's fun.
Chuck: It's a matter of dragging and dropping. So yeah. I mean go to thecreativepenn/vellum, right?
Joanna: Thanks, Chuck. And it's interesting. I mean maybe you've got an opinion on the technical side. So obviously, if people have been listening to the show, Vellum is a Mac product. But some people have suggested using MacinCloud if you're a Windows user that you use MacinCloud which is like a rent-per-hour Mac service. And then you can actually use Vellum within MacinCloud. I haven't tried that.
Is that something you've heard other people use?
Chuck: Yes. Well, I've heard that, yes, you could do this. I know nobody that actually does that because once they see Vellum, like even the hardcore Windows users are like, “Wow.” I mean this just makes it so easy. I'm gonna go buy a used Mac for 500 bucks because it's worth that much to me just to do it.
So yes, I've heard people say, “Yes, you could do this.” And people use other programs, I mean Jutoh to put together a box set.
Vellum just makes it easy. Takes the pain out. Being technically oriented, sometimes I like to get down to the nitty gritty and I want to do something just a certain way. And no, you have to live within their constraints, but it doesn't matter because they have great constraints.
Joanna: That is true. And it is super fun. And I never thought formatting was fun. I don't even like to call it formatting anymore. It's just kind of creating and making beautiful things. But let's come to BundleRabbit then. So tell us a bit. And we'll come back to other stuff in box sets in a minute but why did you…
Joanna: Why did you start BundleRabbit? Tell us a bit more about it and how it's different to some of those other bundle sites you mentioned.
Chuck: Okay. Well, I saw these sites like Humble Bundle and StoryBundle and great sites. I bought books from them. Humble Bundle does a lot of games and whatnot, and I'm not really into that. And I thought, “Well, this is cool but wouldn't it be nice if you could just do it yourself, if you didn't have to have them be the curator?”
So I set out and I followed the same exact model with the idea anybody could upload an eBook and anybody could be a curator. And what this did is it created a marketplace there, where right now I have almost 1,000 eBooks people have uploaded. This morning I checked. It was 920 something.
A lot of people when they go to publish now, they say, “Okay, I format everything. I upload to Amazon, upload to Kobo, upload to iBooks, Nook, upload to BundleRabbit.”
To me this just blows my mind, the copyright thing. BundleRabbit asks for the specific non-exclusive worldwide eBook bundling rights in the English language. And I mean that wasn't a right that even existed a couple years ago. Well, it always existed but nobody ever thought to cut that little piece of the pie out.
So what you have with BundleRabbit is you have this marketplace where there's hundreds of books out there. And if you have a vision for a bundle, you could go out and create your own bundle. And then the software makes it easy to search through these books and say, “Yeah. I wanna add this to my bundle, I wanna add this one to my bundle. Great. I have an eight-book bundle fantasy bundle that has yadda, yadda, yadda theme.”
Being an author myself, I made this very author friendly. So the author always has a choice of what to do with their IP. You'll get a request to be in a bundle and you can check it out and say, “I don't really wanna be in this one,” or “Yes, yes, I wanna be in this bundle.” So the author has rights all the way along.
So wham, the curator makes a bundle, creates it and puts it out there for sale. Okay. I make it available on BundleRabbit. And this is up to the curator. They can push it to be published on Amazon, on Kobo, on Nook, and on iBooks right now. And the cool thing is, too, you're an author in that bundle that gets pushed out to Amazon. That bundle shows up in your inventory on Amazon. You might have to claim it, but you have more inventory on Amazon, too.
And here's how the money is split out. Seventy percent of the net, whatever that is, if it's from a sale from BundleRabbit then the net is a lot larger because Amazon takes their chunk or Kobo takes their chunk. Seventy percent of that is evenly distributed across to the authors. Five percent goes to the curator and then 25% goes to BundleRabbit for the service and all that. And that's how I make my money.
There are no fees on becoming a member. There's no, you know, nothing there. So that's it in a nutshell.
Joanna: That's awesome.
Just on the non-exclusivity, does that mean that the curator who puts the bundle together, they cannot put it in KDP Select?
Chuck: Yes. See, so that's the thing you need to think about. In fact, I had a bundle that was out for a while, and they decided just to keep it up. And it was up almost a year, then one of the authors in the bundle said, “Hey, I want to pull my book out of this bundle because I want to try KDP Select for a while.” And I was like, “Fine.”
So the bundle came down. It was unpublished everywhere. Again, it's the author's choice. Any author could actually break the bundle at any point, you know, how the contract is. But yeah, that's something to think about. I mean there's other programs out there. There used to be Nook First. Is that still going?
Joanna: Yeah, I think so but you have to kind of know someone to get in it.
Chuck: Okay. Yeah. So if you published a book or a story in a bundle, then you would be ineligible for that. So you need to know what you want to do with it but I mean 90% of the time, it's going to be a good fit.
Joanna: Yeah, fantastic.
What are some of the most successful bundles you've seen. Like give us some ideas for what they could be.
Chuck: You know, some interesting ones have been short story bundles. I hadn't thought initially that would be such a big deal, but 20 short stories…actually 20 eBooks complete with the covers and the author contact and, you know, also by bundled together.
“Witches' Brew Bundle” was a popular Halloween one. There's a summer fairies one starting 1st of May, 20 short stories. So that's 20 authors out there making blog posts about it and whatnot. So there's a lot across pollination going on with the short story bundles.
There's a “Winter Mysteries Bundle” going right now which are 10 mystery novels. It's up to the curator to come up with these themes and these ideas. But the surprising one to me was the short story, you know, to bundle so many short stories together. It's kind of big.
Joanna: That is really cool. And I guess that in old school, that's an anthology. I mean that's what an anthology is. It's a number of short stories.
Chuck: I mean the presentation is different because an anthology, you have the editor writing like an introduction to each one. And you don't have all the marketing material that people should put in their eBooks, you know. Some people don't. I'm not sure why.
But you always have to have at least a link to your site or a link to your newsletter. But a lot of people are really good with that – you get to the end of the story. Here's a preview to my next one.
Joanna: All my books.
Chuck: Yeah, exactly, which you should do. I mean there's nothing wrong with that, so that's how it should be.
Joanna; Yeah, fantastic. And then pricing. So people struggle with pricing. You just mentioned 20 short stories from different authors.
What is the price on that? And of course, pricing will differ if it's for marketing reasons versus for income reasons, right?
Chuck: Right. Well, we're playing with that a little bit. But it's going out at 3.99, okay, which is a real good deal for the readers. But their push really is not profit because I mean you add that up…you're getting a 20th of that 70% of the sale of two… I mean it's just pennies every sale. So they're really going to expand their audience.
But you know what's interesting is back on like the Coast Workshop back in October, Mark Lefebvre showed this chart of retail prices and how well they sell on Kobo. And it was kind of an interesting chart. It started at one side and you know, 99 cents, and a little higher it was 1.99, 2.99, 3.99, 4.99. It kinda started going down, right?
And there was this big slope heading down 8.99, 9.99 and this slope almost bottoms out. And then all of a sudden it spikes up almost as high as the other side. And I asked Mark. I said, “What are those?” He goes, “Those are box sets.” And I was like, “Oh, interesting.”
If you look at the pricing, if you sell 100 books at 99 cents, okay, you're gonna make 35 bucks. If you sold those at 2.99, you'd only need to sell 17 to make the same amount, but if you sold at 9.99 you'd only need to sell five. So these big ticket items and authors, especially named authors are selling $40-$50 box sets out there.
What I suggest is you add up the retail. And then you take a certain percentage off. You take like 30% off, and then you see what your number is. And if it seems too high to you, then go 40% off. And then test. I mean that's, I think, where the key is. Nobody knows what the pricing is or a price that works today, is it gonna work six months from now? You keep on having a test.
Joanna: Yeah. And I think one of the important things for people to remember is when I'm up with 11 other authors, we hit the New York Times back in 2014. And that was with a 99 cent box set with 12 authors. And everyone then went, “Oh, 99 cent box sets are ruining the industry,” as they do.
But what's interesting now is the 99 cent box set and the bundle is still going but as you say, there's this other side which is the higher priced box set. And my box sets are 7.99, 9.99. I've even got one, I think, for 22.99. It's a nine-book set. It's not on Amazon. Although Kris Rusch said, “Well, why not put it on Amazon? Even if you get 30% you're still getting a decent amount.”
Chuck: That's true.
Joanna: So I want people to think about that pricing. I think that's really important. The market is kind of spread out a bit now.
You can discount heavily for promotional or marketing reasons, or you can have this kind of higher priced product that some people will buy.
Chuck: And you can do both. You can have the higher priced product. You have a six-book box set, six novels, let's say, at 12.99, 14.99 something like that. And you do a three-day sale. I mean you have a lot more wiggle room to work with your sales when you have those big ticket items in the inventory.
Joanna: Yeah. And also I think, you know, when people say, “Oh, you know, my first book isn't selling. I'm not doing very well,” and the advice is, “Well, write another book.”
I actually think that these box sets mean that if you have three books, you're going to be in a much better situation. Because as soon as you have three books, you can then put out a fourth format which is the three-book box set before your fourth book. I think it adds another product to your author profile. As you say, it gives the algorithms a nudge, and in general it's a good thing.
Now, let's talk about covers because some people like the 3D cover, as if it's a real physical box set. And then other people go for the 2D covers and in fact Kobo and iBooks only accept 2D covers.
What are your thoughts around the 2D, 3D cover thing?
Chuck: Okay. Well, here's the problem with 3D covers. The retailers have their site designed around a 2D cover. So if you're building a 3D cover, you have half that image space wasted really. So that's problem number one.
Problem number two is like you say. iBooks thinks that a reader will see that 3D cover and they think they're ordering a 3D physical box set. So that's why they say, “I'm not gonna allow that.”
Now on BundleRabbit, I only show the 3D images, but I mean from the ground up, I designed that to be box set specific. So it looks like every package you see what it looks like if it was a physical thing even though it's not. But yeah, so only do 2D covers.
And there's different types of 2D covers, too.
When you're talking a box set, a bundle, you can have what I call an anthology looking cover. And if you look at… If you go online and look at any anthology, you'll have a single image or piece of artwork, and you'll have a title, and you'll have a few authors listed on the cover and maybe some other buy-me-now type text. That's what I call an anthology style. I like that style. But a lot of people will put together a box set and they think that they have to get those little teeny little covers of the individual books on to their cover.
So they'll have a 2D cover with three or four little mini 2D covers which nobody can see even with a magnifying glass. Don't do that. You see thousands of them, you know. So what? Don't do them. They don't convey anything.
And sometimes they'll even put a 3D image cover on a 2D cover which is acceptable by iBooks and whatnot, but again, it's too small to see anything. Especially if you're looking at a book cover, the 2D cover at thumbnail size sometimes you can't even tell that that's a book down there. Do not do that.
Now, I have seen some cool what I call a collage cover where it's a box set, let's say, of three novels. And they'll take like a third of one novel and merge it with a third of the cover of the other novel and come up with like a collage which is all three. But you can have just a simple 2D cover that has a single piece of art that says box set, books one through three on that. I mean that to me is best on these outside places, Amazon, Kobo, etc.
Joanna: I'm laughing so much because of course I do have covers with the tiny little thumbnail.
Chuck: Oh, I'm sorry.
Joanna: So now I'm like, “Okay, I need to change that,” for my 2D. I mean you're right of course. I think it's probably because we all invested so much in our individual covers.
Joanna: I think there's almost a mindset shift into thinking of these as a different product. As you say, they literally take five minutes to make on Vellum. So then you have to pay for another cover obviously and then you upload them. And I think it does feel like perhaps you need to take more care and perhaps design a new form of cover for the bundle or the box set. So yeah, really good ideas there.
Okay. You've mentioned, I guess, a few of the different sites. I obviously also upload my bundles and box sets directly to Amazon. But how does…
Chuck: For a single author bundle, there's no advantage to you to use a service like BundleRabbit. That's really for multi-author bundles.
What's the problem with dealing with multiple authors? It's deciding who's gonna publish the thing, who's gonna track the sales, who's gonna track the income, who's gonna divide it out, who's gonna do all that work which is quite a bit of work. I'm sure you've experienced that yourself.
BundleRabbit does all that. That's the big advantage is who handles the money there.
Joanna: You and I have talked about this. It makes it very hard so I've just done this four-author and it's not a book set. It's a new project. It's a new novel, a four-author novel “American Demon Hunters: Sacrifice” with three other authors. And the fact is J. Thorn has published that. He will collect the money, and he will have to pay us until the end of time or until we pull the book down. So it's a slightly different situation.
Can you see a time where there might be a solution to that kind of problem? Like how can people do that?
Chuck: Yes, let me tell you. That's a perfect segue.
BundleRabbit does that behind the scenes for eBook bundles. It handles the multi-author, divvying up the percentages, paying authors monthly, giving them a royalty statement, etc. So that backend is built.
What I have developed, and it's just days away from beta, is collaborative publishing. It's like draft-to-digital for coauthors.
Chuck: And that's part of BundleRabbit. My day to go live is this summer. June 21st is the first day of summer so that's like my target. And I have my beta testers. They're all chomping at the bid to get it.
What happens is you go in and create a project. I'm keeping it under BundleRabbit for one reason. And that is I have the engine built for the bundling software.
But to justify it, I said. “Okay. Well, let's flip the concept of bundling. Instead of bundling multiple eBooks together, we'll bundle authors on a single eBook.”
What happens is you go in there and you say, “Yes, I'm gonna take part of this collaborative publishing.” I create a project. I invite the participants to the project. I set up everyone's percentage. I define what the roles are because you might have illustrators, you might have translators, you could use this for a lot of different things.
Then you decide where you want to publish this. Okay, I'm gonna publish this at Amazon. You upload the finished digital assets for Amazon which Amazon is just the MOBI file and the cover. Same thing if you want it Kobo, you upload the assets for Kobo. You upload the assets for iBooks, and you upload the assets for Barnes and Noble. And for CreateSpace, you can upload either the print-ready PDF for the interior or a doc that follows their format, and the print-ready cover for CreateSpace.
So basically, you have one unified dashboard where you're doing this, where you're publishing this collaboration, and then you say, “Fire it off. Let me publish it.”
And then what I do behind the scenes is I push them to the various retailers. A couple times a month I gather sales stats so you can go in there and see how they're doing at the various retailers. And once a month, I collect the monies and divvy it across whatever percentage that you specified. And I keep 10%. BundleRabbit keeps 10% for that service which is a pretty decent deal, I think.
Joanna: Wow, that's awesome. Listeners to the show will know that I have been talking about this kind of service, and I told Chuck about it last year. And with your programming background, you're so definitely so well placed to do this.
Now, a few practical questions. I'm in the UK, another person's in South Africa, another person's in India. How are you paying out those royalties? Is it PayPal? Is it bank transfer?
Chuck: It's only PayPal. I only pay via PayPal.
Joanna: And what currency?
Chuck: I report and show all the currency in U.S. dollars. Okay. Like with Amazon you get your currency on your income statement.
Joanna: In different currencies.
Chuck: Yeah, in the different currencies but it all comes and it's converted to USD. And then PayPal when you pay, I'm paying USD but it will convert it to whatever your currency is.
Joanna: Yeah, so you could download that. But you're paying out in U.S. dollars. I have a U.S. dollar PayPal that I maintain. I think that works definitely.
Chuck: You can use it in the UK. I have people I'm paying on BundleRabbit that are in the UK.
Joanna: Yeah, you can still get it in pounds but I would like to nominate that even though I'm in the UK, I would still get paid U.S. dollars because I do a lot of business in U.S. dollars. So I would definitely want the option to get paid in U.S. dollars instead of GBP.
Joanna: So just something to think about.
Who is the publisher of record? So for example, if we wanted to use an ISBN from one of the individuals instead of a free one, is that possible, because it goes to your account?
Chuck: So the publisher, it's going to be through my account. But there is a slot there for publisher name in print on the various things. So if you plug it in, I will use the same value that you give me. And I don't know yet. I mean we're just going to beta.
And here's what took so long. I thought I'd be done by now. But the categories on these various sites, oh my god, they're not all the same.
Joanna: No, they're not.
Chuck: They take the basics out and then they modify them themselves. And there's no one place to go on the Internet to say, “Let me download all of Amazon's categories in a way that a programmer can use.” No.
Joanna: So you have to manually do it.
Chuck: It was cutting and pasting 4,000 to 6,000 categories out of each of these sites. That took hours of time where I'm just like listening to the radio, cut, paste, cut, paste. Oh, man. That hurt my time on this project but it's done. It's past me. But yeah. So that's the cool thing though is everything you fill out there, I'm capturing so that I can just like push it right to the vendor.
Joanna: And I think this is the point that you're saying.
This is hopefully the collaboration engine that people have been waiting for.
Chuck: Yes, that you've talked about. Yeah.
Joanna: That I've talked about, which could revolutionize the number of people who do coauthoring, because it is such a pain in the proverbial having to do this. And the fact is if you do a collaboration…especially if you do a collaboration that doesn't sell very much, and then you have to spend your time every month dividing $10 between six authors or whatever.
And the other thing is this is potentially for the life of copyright. So you know, this could go on for years and years. This is not necessarily a quick bundle that's only for six months like sacrifice is gonna go on for years.
That's why I think this model is well worth 10%. It's because of the amount of time… I mean obviously, some people are like, “Oh. Well, you know, why would I do that?”
The point is if you're doing every month yourself and you're doing it with someone like J. Thorn who works with loads of authors, then setting all this up in advance and then it's automatic. Plus, it is a pain doing all this royalty reporting every month and paying out people.
I love this model. I'm looking forward to seeing how it goes. People could be listening to this in a long time so let's assume that they can go and check it out.
Where can they go and find more about the collaboration engine side of things?
Chuck: If they go to bundlerabbit.com, it's all under BundleRabbit, once it is actually live. I will have a tab up at the top that will say collaboration that you can read all about it. But right now, like you say, it's somewhat hidden. If you remember BundleRabbit, you see this collaboration area in your members area. But it says this is coming, it's gonna be cool. And my beta tester is the only one that actually can see and do anything at this point. So bundlerabbit.com.
Joanna: Yeah, that is awesome. And if they go to bundlerabbit.com now, just remind everybody what is the main thing that they can do at BundleRabbit.
Chuck: Okay. You can be in multi-author bundles. You upload your eBook to the marketplace, curators search through, find your book, build bundles, sell bundles, you become part of bundles.
Joanna: There you go. And just again tell us the name of your book and where people can find that as well.
Chuck: Yeah. It's “The Author's Guide to Ebook Bundling,” and it's on all the retailers. You can go to Amazon wherever.
For a short period of time, I'm not sure how long I'm gonna do this, you could go sign up for a BundleRabbit newsletter and receive a free copy of this book for signing up. So that's right now. Like I said, I don't know how much longer… maybe another few months. We'll see how it goes.
Joanna: Yeah, another few months for my listeners. Okay, Chuck. Thank you so much. And I'm really excited that you have taken this idea and actually are making it happen. I feel like this is a really big deal not just for writers. Like you mentioned, you could do a deal with an editor or a cover designer or someone else…
Chuck: Illustrators, yes.
Joanna: Illustrators. This is huge.
Joanna: A musician. I mean there's lots of things you could do. I hope this is the multi-million-dollar idea. I really do. And I'll be wanting a beer at some point.
Chuck: Yes, not a problem.
Joanna: All right. Thanks so much for you time, Chuck. That was great.
Chuck: Thank you.
Congratulations on 1 million views on youtube – thats how I found you & yes I also listen to the PodCast for your own views.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks so much, Tony!
Anne Hagan says
I bought the eBook bundle recently that included Chuck’s book from, interestingly, another site. I finished the book over the weekend and then you publish this. I’m interested to do this and I have gone to his website. There are two things that concern me:
1. There just aren’t a lot of books there yet. He mentions 1000 above but, reality is, that isn’t many when you start trying to target specific genres and their major sub-genres. Some basic searches (like for ‘cozy mystery’ or cozy mysteries’) turn up only 13 books, most of them not cozies. There’s no hope of breaking them down to a third level (like cat themed cozy mysteries or witch-themed cozies.)
2. That brings me to my second point. The site isn’t set up in such a way that authors can categorize their books when they load them so a curator can then search within a category. Currently, only a keyword search is available. Could Chuck address whether this functionality is coming?
Chuck Heintzelman says
That’s awesome you got the Write Stuff StoryBundle. There were lots of great books in it.
I understand what you’re saying, and other BundleRabbit users have requested a way to specify the genre when searching. When you upload ebooks to BundleRabbit you can specify up to 3 different categories, but there are only 85 different categories you can choose from at BundleRabbit, which is far less than Amazon’s 5000+ categories.
When you search in the Content Marketplace, any search terms you enter actually search the ebook’s title, description, keywords, AND CATEGORIES. So although there’s not an explicitly way to filter by genre, the search feature implicitly searches by category.
Still, not ideal. And adding a category filter is definitely on my to do list.
I just checked and there are 12 ebooks at BundleRabbit with the category “Mystery & Suspense » Cozy Mysteries” and with only 85 categories to choose from, there’s definitely no breakdown into specific sub-genres under cozies.
One thing you can do is click on the “Similar Books” when you’re viewing the details of an ebook within the Content Marketplace. Sometimes that can help.
Of course, you can also bring authors that you know in. If you have author friends that have books fitting a theme for a bundle you’d like to curate, tell them to upload their ebooks to BundleRabbit so you can create a cool bundle with their books.
Hannah Steenbock says
Thank you for this fascinating interview!
I never heard of BundleRabbit, and I’ll definintely check it out. And you totally inspired me to create an ebook bundle of my first series – I’m so excited about this!
Thank you also for providing a transcript. I do better reading articles rather than listening to podcasts, so I very much appreciate this.
A.J. Sendall says
Thanks for a great article, and a wonderful initiative.
I’m looking forward to the release of the collaboration facility with a view to moving my royalty share translations to BundleRabbit. Would it require the books to be re-published?
Chuck Heintzelman says
There’s no exclusivity with BundleRabbit, but BundleRabbit does need to publish directly to the various sales channels in order to track the sales.
Which means you have to publish through BundleRabbit.
And not 100% sure what the rules are at Kobo, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and CreateSpace (the initial channels available) about having published essentially the same book through two different accounts.
So, although not required by BundleRabbit, it seems much cleaner to publish through BR and then unpublish the version you’ve previously published.
Deborah Burst says
Great info Joanna & Chuck! As a creative nonfiction writer with a very focused niche (historic churches, cemeteries & haunted bayous) I struggle to get a wider audience.
I’m also a freelance writer & photographer & with more than 1,000 feature articles, I can easily put together short story anthologies. Then drop a chapter or two from my books.
I liked your suggestion of several authors coming together for these short story bundles. I’m talking to my author friends right now about BundleRabbit. But most are fiction writers, however our books share the same backdrop of New Orleans & the bayous of South Louisiana. Do you think it’s possible to combine my work & theirs?
Be it bundle our books or short stories? One thing for sure, it’s never been done before.
Chuck Heintzelman says
I love things that haven’t been done before 🙂
I could see a you hitting a very specific niche with a bundle titled “Haunted Bayous – Facts and Fiction” or something similar with short stories interspersed with non fiction.
Over time you could even create a whole “Facts and Fiction” series, each bundle with both non-fiction and fiction.
“New Orleans Cemeteries – Facts and Fiction”
“Louisiana Historical Churches – Facts and Fiction”
“Haunted Bayous – Facts and Fiction”
What cool topics.
Definitely something that would catch my eye.
Very interesting episode! Could royalty-split translations also work on BundleRabbit? Or are there any plans on publishing ebook bundles in other languages but English?
I loved this episode. Many thanks to both of you for the information.