Authors: Should You Join A Box Set?

By Toby Neal

Passion+Danger_OPBox sets are a thing with the weather warming and people loading up on beach reads. I have been asked to put my books in a boxed set numerous times and declined for various reasons, but I finally decided to try it, putting my romantic suspense standalone Stolen In Paradise in a set of ten novels we called Passion and Danger.

Things to consider when deciding to put your book in a box set with other authors:

Have a clear goal

Having a target objective is an important part of deciding to join a box set, so consider yours. The objective of our group was to get onto one of the big bestseller lists—USA Today, etc. I had never gone after this before, choosing instead to focus my sales efforts on Amazon, so this goal appealed to me as a milestone to achieve. Other common goals include raising money for a cause (we did that too, also appealing) exposing your work to readers who wouldn’t otherwise find it, building relationships/sharing readerships, and just plain sales when there might have been few.

Have a solid group leader

In our situation, Kim Hornsby recruited us to the project and was an unflagging source of enthusiasm, promotion ideas, cheerleading, and putting out a ton of advertising money and effort herself, thus motivating us.

Have a healthy budget to meet your aim

We each contributed a small amount for advertising, and seriously underestimated the cost of the blitz of PR necessary to break onto the big lists. We weren’t able to achieve our goal, at least in part for lack of funding and a ton of competition in the same genre. Live and learn!

Share responsibilities, have equal participation, and spell this out in advance

Again, our group worked well together, though some of the lesser-known authors were unable to bring the reader clout and email lists Alexa Grace and I did, they helped in other ways: chipping in extra money for ads, making fun teaser art, tweeting, etc.

Dana Delamar, one of the authors in our set, adds, Make sure there’s an agreement in place that details …

  • Each author’s responsibilities, monetary commitment, exclusivity (or not) to the set (and duration of exclusivity)
  • Expected lifetime of the set and the trigger(s) for terminating the set
  • What will happen in the event an author needs to pull out before the set is due to end
  • How royalties are to be divided
  • Someone should also be appointed the bookkeeper, and that person should send out the royalties each month (or at the agreed-upon schedule), and any 1099’s

Have a GREAT cover

The hottest-selling box sets have wonderfully appealing covers that convey the reader’s potential experience and invite them into the escape, from the dark bondage cover with a luscious cherry on it, to the sizzlin’ summer read with a hunky dude oiling up on the beach, or the thriller collection wrapped in chains.

Get in a set with authors of similar or bigger clout

I was one of the better-known names in my set. Participating in it didn’t help my sales rank or visibility the same way it did the others, but the objective and good cause were enough to bring me in. Benefits I got as a leading author were much greater name visibility at the front of the set, being listed as one of the main authors in tweets, etc.

Offer a consistent reading experience

Dana Delamar has been in four box sets. She says, “One of the big keys for romance is a consistent heat level, with books falling into either the “sweet”(no sex or closed door) the “warm” category (some sex, but not graphic or detailed), the “sizzling” (detailed sex with three or more scenes), or the “erotic” (frequent, graphic sex driving the story.) Quite frequently, when I see complaints in reviews, they revolve around the amount of sex (too much vs. not enough). Most readers seem to favor one end of the spectrum over the other. Profanity and violence can also be divisive for readers, so those might be considerations as well when putting a set together.”

We offered a “range of sizzling to sweet” romantic suspense in our Passion and Danger set, with a variety of heroes and locations, but in hindsight the sets that are selling best are those that appeal to a niche and provide a similar “hotness” level. For instance, “sweet cowboy romance” or “smokin’ hot military.” Even when a set is practically free, readers dread having to sort through the different books within to find their particular cup of tea. Offering a very consistent experience guarantees confident buying and happy reading.

Reviews are key

How else are readers going to know the set isn’t a bunch of cliffhanger novellas, riddled with typos and guaranteed to annoy? However, getting reviews is challenging at first because readers who might add one for your book haven’t read all the books in the series, so having a strategy to get these from the minute the book is live is important.

Get legal releases for all material included

Again, this was not a problem for our group but we heard of a box set that ran into an Amazon complaint about copyright infringement, pulling the book during a critical stage of pre-sale. Plan to document the consent of all participants for both content and cover art.

Make sure the editing is top notch

Putting together a box set was a chance for all of us to read each other’s work, and as often happens, typos were found, links were broken, formatting needed updating. Be prepared to work with your participating authors in making sure the end product is even better than the sum of its parts.

Have fun!

One of the best things I discovered about being a part of a box set was that it was all for one, one for all. That can have its downside, but when it’s working it’s a dynamic, exciting collaborative experience to watch your box set achieve its goals—or just a lot of good cross promotion if it doesn’t. Will I do this again? Definitely.

Toby-Neal_OptimizedToby Neal grew up on the island of Kaua`i in Hawaii. After a few “stretches of exile” to pursue education, the islands have been home for the last fifteen years. Toby is a mental health therapist, a career that has informed the depth and complexity of the characters in her books. Outside of work and writing, Toby volunteers in a nonprofit for children and enjoys life in Hawaii through beach walking, body boarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Have you ever participated in a box set with other authors? Have you declined? Three commenters will receive a free set of Passion and Danger, so be sure to leave a comment and share!

All original content by Molly Greene and guests is copyright protected – did you enjoy the article? You can show your support by checking out my Amazon Author Page – and hey, buy a book while you’re there! Or, subscribe to my blog and you’ll never miss my weekly posts. Your email will NOT be sold, shared, abused, or rented – that’s a promise. If you’re not already, follow @mollygreene on Twitter. Mwah! Thank you so much.


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21 Responses to Authors: Should You Join A Box Set?

  1. Kristine Cayne June 8, 2015 at 11:55 am #

    Great article, Toby! I loved being in the box set with all you wonderful ladies. 🙂

  2. Alexa Grace June 8, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    Being involved in this book set has been such fun.

  3. Toby Neal June 8, 2015 at 12:14 pm #

    Thanks for having me, Molly, I hope it helps some authors considering this marketing option!

    • Molly Greene June 8, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

      Toby, thank YOU so much for sharing this post! And Alicia, Alexa, and Kristine, thanks so much for stopping by my blog. Your boxed set experience will not only benefit your charity, the information will also help other authors considering this marketing option.

  4. Alicia Dean June 8, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    Well said, Toby. I loved being a part of this awesome endeavor. You are right. Kim did a fabulous job!

  5. Sue Coletta June 8, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    Overall it sounds like a good experience. Congratulations for meeting your goal! I found this post fascinating, as I’ve never read about how authors deal with the ins and outs of boxed sets. Interesting info. Thanks for sharing!

    • Molly Greene June 8, 2015 at 3:39 pm #

      Thanks Sue and I agree – I’ve never heard how it’s handled. Great to know!

  6. Melissa Gill June 8, 2015 at 4:57 pm #

    Very interesting. I’ve always wondered what the best approach to a group boxed set would be. This was very helpful, and excellent things to consider.

  7. Belinda Pollard June 8, 2015 at 5:27 pm #

    Thanks Toby, and Molly. I’ve been curious about the possibilities of the boxed set, ever since I saw Joanna Penn get on the USA Today bestseller list with the one she joined. There’s definitely cachet in being able to promote yourself as a “USA Today bestselling author”!

    It’s wonderful to have such an honest appraisal of the pros and cons of the process, Toby. So generous of you to share it with us. It has definitely made me think twice. A LOT of effort. And some very useful tips for how to make it as targeted as possible.

    I also find myself wondering if box sets were rocket launchers when they were a new idea for indies, and now they’ve maybe lost some of their power because everyone’s doing it??

    • Molly Greene June 8, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

      Yes, a lot of effort. Toby gave us much to consider – but how cool would it be to hit one of those lists?!

    • Toby Neal June 8, 2015 at 6:52 pm #

      Belinda, I don’t think we made our lists because there was SO MUCH competition, we had too much variety in our set, we didn’t have a big enough advertising budget (BookBub does not accept box sets of mixed author books) and I think our cover, while nice, just wasn’t appealing enough.
      That’s what I think happened. And still it was overall a good experience.

  8. MM Jaye June 9, 2015 at 12:01 am #

    That was an incredibly honest account. Thank you for sharing, Toby and Molly!

  9. cindy June 9, 2015 at 3:26 am #

    Wow, what an opportunity. Thanks for sharing what you did right and what went wrong. I particularly appreciate the honesty about how much cash is needed to succeed at this.

    • Molly Greene June 9, 2015 at 7:44 am #

      Cindy, several authors have asked me off the blog, so let’s ask Toby: How much money total would you suggest, Toby, as a practical advertising budget, and where are boxed sets best advertised if BookBub won’t take them?

  10. Joanie Chevalier June 10, 2015 at 6:25 pm #

    Thank you for the interesting article. I will be included in a box set late this summer but I didn’t really know what that consisted of, until now! All I am hoping for is name recognition but I wouldn’t decline anything other perks that might come my way. Thank you.

    • Molly Greene June 11, 2015 at 8:13 am #

      Best of luck to you, Joanie!

  11. Kim Hornsby June 11, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

    I LOVED this box set and originally thought diversity would work for us but as Toby mentioned, it might have worked against us. If we all wrote sizzling novels about firemen, I think we might have found a niche and sold more.
    I learned so much from this amazing experience. So happy to have the other nine authors with me on this. The truth is that I used the authors in the set. I used them to share their readers, their expertise and their generosity.
    We did not hit the USA TODAY list for several reasons: One was that we released in a week with many other box sets. Suddenly they were everywhere because it was the week after RT. Also, like Toby said, our budget was much lower than the others, we didn’t use a blog tour/promo company (we did everything ourselves), we included a wide variety of novels that had all been published for years. Not new releases and we had only one USA TODAY BESTSELLING author–Alexa Grace. The rest of the authors are previously Harlequin Intrigue, Kensington published, Award Winners, Top Ten Amazon Bestselling Authors and in Toby’s case, a beloved author with tons of sales, reviews and readers.
    We worked so hard, tweeted and formatted and emailed and made new writer friends. For me, it was well worth it to connect with these fine ladies!

    • Molly Greene June 12, 2015 at 9:01 am #

      Kim, authors understand the value of friendships in the industry, as well as the education every new project provides, so your points are well taken. It sounds like your collaboration was a reward in itself and we’ve all learned so much just through Toby’s – and your – sharing of it. THANK YOU!

  12. Heidi Kneale (Her Grace) June 16, 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    I was in a novella anthology (rather than a novel boxed set) and sales weren’t terribly stellar. We did have a connecting theme throughout, but otherwise, each story was rather different in style and voice.

    Our issues, I believe:

    1. We weren’t full-length novels.
    2. Not enough promotion. When we started out, none of us had a clue.
    3. We didn’t “match” style/voice-wise. As each novella had the same premise and a shared character, our variety of style/voice might have worked against us.

    We did have a beautiful cover. I must mention that. I loved the cover.

    I’ve moved more copies of my novella as a standalone than I did part of the anthology set.

    That said, I am game to try a box set, should I have the opportunity. I’ve bought and read a few, and have discovered some lovely treasures I would not have otherwise picked up as singletons.