By Toby Neal
Box 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.
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 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!
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