Book Discovery Strategy #4: Joining a Box Set

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Most of the strategies we’ve discussed so far in the Book Discovery series have been solo operations. This makes sense, after all, a large part of your work as an author is done alone. Now we’re going to get into a few strategies that require other people. If you have to work with someone to boost your books, it’s never a bad idea to ally yourself with the top authors in your genre.

When a group of authors all works toward a similar aim, it’s likely they’ll come up with something spectacular. That’s the beauty of getting a group of creative people together. The same can be true of marketing. By putting together books from a variety of authors into a box set, you not only provide a great deal for readers, you also combine everybody’s promotional prowess. Readers love the idea of finding new, undiscovered authors they can read. When every author in a box set spreads the word, you’re able to share your fans with your colleagues, and they can introduce their fans to you. It’s one of the most synergistic forms of book marketing there is.

Why Does This Strategy Work?

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Before self-publishing hit the big time, most readers could only get the ebook version of their favorite books by shelling out $10 to $15. Nowadays, with the wave of 99 cent and $2.99 books out there, many readers expect a deal and it’s the only way to get your foot in the door. Box sets include multiple full-length novels in the same low-priced bundle, which makes them a steal for voracious readers who are looking to save a buck or two. Even if some of the books in the box set are available for free, the image and idea of over a thousand pages worth of words for a low price is often too good to pass up.

Since box sets are often priced low (99 cents or free seems to be the norm), you’re not likely to make a ton of money by being part of one. The real advantage of joining a box set is getting your book onto the Kindles of many readers who’ve never heard of you. The goal is to get fans of another author in the box set to read your book and buy the other books in your series. Since many well-promoted sets sell thousands of copies, you’ve got a good opportunity to get several dozen new fans (if not more) out of the endeavor.

How Does This Strategy Work?

The box set usually starts with a few authors in a single genre who want to put a set together. From a time investment standpoint, it’s usually best to join a box set others are already assembling, rather than putting together on your own. Organizing a set takes a lot of work and there are many headaches you may encounter along the way. If you join an existing one, you’ll simply need to submit the book you want to include and follow instructions. Brave souls who want to put a set together from scratch will need to take a lot more action along the way.

Getting into or starting a box set starts with connecting with the other authors in your genre. Facebook and Twitter are great places to make initial contact, and from there, you can ask for an email address or hunt it down from the authors’ websites. Unless you have a box set track record, you’ll likely get a lot of declines when you ask people to be part of a set. Many authors are busy, lazy, or some strange combination between the two. Be advised; even those who agree to be a part of the set may do the least amount of work possible in the slowest imaginable timeframe.

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Once you’ve gathered together some authors, it’s time to figure out all the administrative stuff. Ask yourself when you’d like the set to come out, what platforms you’d like it to be on, who’s formatting, who’s handling the cover, how the group plans on promoting, and who’s handling all the money at the end. While all these issues can be time consuming, the formatting- and money-related tasks will take the longest to figure out. If you think formatting one novel is a pain, then try dealing with a dozen. Unless you’re an expert in the subject, outsourcing is recommended.

You can’t really outsource the sales and money aspect of the project, unless you aren’t the one putting the set together. As the head of the set, you’re responsible for keeping track of sales, putting aside the money the set has earned, and splitting it between all the authors involved. Instead of splitting the money monthly, it’s a good idea to do it every three to six months. This way, you don’t have to spend so much time figuring out earnings and paying a bunch of PayPal fees along the way.

As the set is coming together, make sure everybody’s books link properly to the next books in their respective series. Since the entire point of the set is to get sell-throughs, it would be a shame if any of the books weren’t linked up correctly. As the coordinator, it can be like pulling teeth to get the proper links and materials from people, so you should set hard and fast deadlines with plenty of reminders to get folks on board. Setting up a private Facebook group will also help you make small announcements that don’t require constant emails.

It’s common practice to use paid ads to push box sets and taking the money spent out of the end earnings. Make sure you clear that point with authors when they first join the project. While BookBub won’t take multi-author box sets, many of the other email advertisers will. Use the five-day strategy of spreading out promotions instead of having them all fall on the same day. This will give your box set the biggest possible boost. Encourage the authors to also email out about the set to their readers around the time of the launch. Subscribe to all the mailing lists of the authors ahead of time, and politely nag the people who neglect to send out their message.

Since box sets take a lot of work and some upkeep, many coordinators put a limit on how long they’ll release the set. Some will only put it out for a month at most, while others will let them run indefinitely. Six months seems to be a common length for these projects to move as many copies as possible. Decide on a length of time early on in the process to make sure the other authors are on board.

Has The Box Set Fever Cooled?

Box sets aren’t as popular as they once were because you can now find multiple collections in every major genre. When the idea was more or less original, all you had to do was put the collection out and it’d stick in the Kindle Top 1,000 for months at a time. It’s no longer that easy, and putting together a set is no guarantee of success.

That being said, several box sets still appear on the USA Today and New York Times Bestseller lists nearly every week. Most of these sets are in very popular genres like romance, but you’ll see an occasional thriller or science fiction set make the lists as well. Making these big time lists is tricky business, but a box set with the right authors will almost definitely get the word out about your series to new potential readers.

If you’re putting together a set yourself, then you’ll have to spend a lot of hours setting it up. Dollars per hour-wise, it may not be worth your time, but the other authors in the set will appreciate your efforts, which could lead to future book discovery opportunities later on down the road.