In case you missed it last week my friend and fellow author, Kathy Kulig was interviewing some authors about the popularity of multiauthor box sets on the USA Today HEA blog. This is what she had to say…
Multiauthor boxed sets consisting of six, eight, 12 or more e-books flaunt eye-opening benefits that authors and readers can’t resist. Authors love the collaborative efforts that can pay off with an expanded fan base, a boost in rankings, increased visibility, and a slot on the USA TODAY and New York Times bestseller lists. Readers love the bargains — a box full of e-books by their favorite authors for a dollar. Even after the royalties are divided many ways, the authors claim to make decent sales. Individual authors are also grouping novellas, short stories and novels into boxed-set collections and doing quite well.
BENEFITS AND DISADVANTAGES
Cat Johnson, author of the Oklahoma Nights series. “You are harnessing the power of many authors — their fan bases, their promotional potential. There are many authors, and each one has their own vision and ideas, deadlines and schedules you have to work around and that makes decision-making difficult. Formatting a book that length is a nightmare.”
Caridad Pineiro, One Night Only Erotic Romance Anthology and Lucky 7 Bad Boys Contemporary Romance Boxed Set. “You get to meet and work with lots of awesome people who bring all different kinds of skills to the table. The hard part is coordinating that many people, trying to keep that many people focused …”
Stephanie Julian, author of the Salon Games and Indecent erotic romance series. “The positives are exposure beyond your own fan base. With several authors offered in a bundle for a low price, readers are much more willing to pay to read authors they may not have read before. The negative is the accounting that goes into royalties and wrangling that many authors.”
Shoshanna Evers, author of Make Me: Twelve Tales of Dark Desire Boxed Set and The Enslaved Trilogy. “The biggest positive of being part of a large, multiauthor project was all the cross promotion … everyone had great ideas on how to get readers excited about the boxed set.”
The authors who were interviewed said they worked with an accountant or lawyer to organize the finances and fill out tax forms, and some set up an LLC. Each author had to fill out an individual tax form and sent that to the financial person. Retailers like Amazon/BN/Apple won’t divide royalties among all the authors so it goes under one account and must be distributed later.
When so many authors are working toward the success of one project, the results can be significant, but coordinating and planning can be challenging. Authors have the opportunity to network with those savvier in one arena of social media or the publishing business. Author AC James, organizer and contributor of the Spice Box, a 16-book boxed set including five USA TODAY and New York Times bestsellers (and me), worked directly with Mark Coker from Smashwords to set up the pre-order and secure other details at the various retailers. I believe every author in the Spice Boxboxed set discovered something new pertaining to promotion that will benefit their future books.
The authors interviewed used a variety of promotion. Some used paid advertising like Bookblast and the Kindle Fire Department, or used blog tour marketing services. Goodreads, Facebook and Google+ pages and party launches were popular promotion methods as well as regular posts on Twitter and Facebook. Careful keywords selection and pre-orders were also elements that helped drive sales.
Stephanie Julian: “Facebook party, hands down. It gets the readers engaged and interested.”
Shoshanna Evers: “We sent newsletters out to our mailing lists, told our Street Teams, shared on Facebook, on Twitter, etc. We all gave away prizes for various promotions.”
Cat Johnson: “We had some big-name authors in our bundle who had existing large and dedicated fan followings on their social networks, and who had newsletters with large mailing lists. I believe that was probably one of the key things that put us in the zone to hit the NY Times e-book list at No. 8, the combined print/e-book list at No. 11, and the USA TODAY list at No. 14.”
Caridad Pineiro: “Using social media in innovative ways with memes, hashtags and coordinated sharing of posts seemed to be a very effective way of getting the word out about the sets.”
For some bundles, pre-orders helped boost initial sales. Many started with a low 99-cent sale price then either left it at 99 cents or raised it partway through to $2.99 to $5.99. The authors who were interviewed had their sets up for one to three months. As with anything e-books, writing and publishing, there is no right or wrong way.
Besides the bargain, readers will jump to download anything by their favorite authors. Some will read other books in that collection, other won’t.
After reading dozens of reviews for various boxed sets, I noticed why readers tended to give low reviews:
They didn’t like ALL of the stories. When you have a variety of authors in one collection with different styles of writing, it would be rare for a reader to love all the books equally.
The boxed sets received low reviews when the books were only teasers or incomplete books that were the start of the authors’ series. The aim for the collection was to encourage readers to by the completed book. This seems to some readers like a bait and switch technique that will only annoy readers. Readers would probably appreciate fair warning that the collection is only an introduction of each authors’ series, or a sampling.
Shoshanna Evers: “A lot of readers had read one or even a few of the books in the set already and enjoyed them, so they bought the set to get more dark erotica.”
Stephanie Julian: “Most readers are thrilled to be able to read a variety of stories for such a low price. And when they find your story and love it, that’s the best thing in the world.”
Caridad Pineiro: “In general, readers seem to enjoy having a mix of stories to choose from at such a good price, but many readers also said that they had a pile of books that had to be read. Because of that, it seems as if it takes time for readers to get to the sets, read them and review them.”
It’s difficult to say how long the boxed set trend will continue. Trends tend to die out to be replaced by the next big thing. The big bestseller lists may decide to disqualify the multiauthor sets from landing on their lists. Authors may find diminished sales as the trend fades. For the moment, boxed sets are still HOT. They’re popular and profitable and readers can’t seem to get enough.
Kathy Kulig is an award-winning erotic romance author whose works include BDSM, paranormal and romantic suspense. Her latest release is a boxed set titled Spice Box: 16 Novels of Erotic Romance, featuring Red Tape, her sizzling romantic suspense novel. Find out more about her at www.kathykulig.com.