BENEFITS OF BEING IN A MULTI-AUTHOR BOXSET
When you launch a boxset onto the market, you shout it out to all your readers – through email, on your socials, even in the back of other books. This is especially, doubly true if the set contains exclusive material from you – a new short story from their favourite world, or some tipsheets or a video they haven't seen.
If there are 5 or 10 or 20 authors in a set, each contributing material, each emailing their readers to tell them about this cool thing they've made... that's lots of other readers you're getting in front of who might not otherwise know you exist.
Some of those readers are just going to check out their fave author's content and that's it. But many of them will look at other books or content in the set they might enjoy. And because you've chosen a set filled with similar authors whose readers would love your stuff, you end up with new fans excited to devour your other books.
I know you like real numbers, so let's talk results. I did one set with a $200 buy-in where I did an exclusive 20k preview of an as-yet-unpublished book. I sold 325 pre-orders of that book at $3.99, and I believe I can attribute many of those to the boxset.
I did another set with a bonus scene from a popular series (5k words). I used a unique link to get readers to join my newsletter to get a free book. I gained 234 new readers. This set had a buy-in of $10.
I participated in a charity boxset cookbook (recipes from characters in our books) that has raised over $800USD for charity. The buy-in was nominal or nothing – I can't actually remember.
This is the main reason authors participate in boxsets. There are other benefits, too – namely, getting to know a cool bunch of people, possibly hitting a bestseller list, creating some new content you can repurpose later, making some extra money (I did one boxset with a $500 buy-in the made me $4000 in profit just from the sales, but that was before the new 3000 page reads limit was in place). But the main one is that box sets are a great way to get your work in front of new readers.
When choosing to be part of a boxset or anthology, you gotta consider how you're going to get more readers to check out your entry, and then how to get them to follow you. This is why we're going to get all clever and strategic about multi-author boxsets.
FINDING AND CHOOSING BOX SET OPPORTUNITIES?
Okay, so you've decided you're keen to try a boxset. Now, how do you find a box-set, anthology, or bundle to be a part of?
This is one of those things where it pays to be involved in the author community and to be talking with other authors. Organisers will post sign-up sheets and applications in author groups on Facebook, or in online forums. I've found most of my box sets through those two avenues.
There are some specific Facebook groups that post box set opportunities for authors. If you find people who regularly organise box-sets (hint, they're usually the person with their story first in a set), follow them on Facebook and see if they post sign-ups. Alternatively, you can be brave and ask about future opportunities.
Some marketing companies/PR firms also run sets and anthologies. Going on their mailing lists will keep you informed when new opportunities come up.
I ended up in two boxsets recently simply from posting on my Facebook feed. "Hey, anyone organising a boxset? I'd like to join one." But it obviously helps to have lots of authors on your friend list.
When assessing boxset opportunities, you need to be careful that you're making strategic decisions that will help your career. Don't say yes to a set just because you're invited. Think about:
How many sets are you in? When will the set go live? Don't overextend yourself. I only do one set at once.
What is the goal of the set? This is the MOST IMPORTANT THING OMG. The set must have a goal. The most common goals are:
Who is running the set? Do you know this person? Do they have a good reputation in the industry/genre? Do they have a decent following? (Box set organisers tend to place their books first in the collection, as a reward because this shit is a ton of work. Make sure you're happy with the quality of their work and their ability to pull in readers).
If possible, look at other box-sets they're run in the past, to see how they're presented. You might even ask previous participants if they
What genres/stories will be represented and who is already on-board? Sometimes sets are a wild jumble of stories (often these are put out by writing groups for geographic areas or to benefit charities). I'd avoid any multi-genre sets because remember, you're being strategic about this and you're doing it to increase your readership – so you need to be in front of YOUR readers.
Also, it doesn't hurt to check out any authors who are already signed on for the set. The organiser will usually ask their friends first, so see if those are names you'd like to be associated with.
Can you afford the buy-in? Most sets have a buy-in – an amount each author pays to contribute toward a cover artist and advertising. I've seen buy-ins as low as $10 and as high as $1000. List-aiming sets usually have the highest buy-in.
Does the buy-in match the goals of the set? If the set is asking for a low buy-in, but they're aiming to hit a list, you might conclude they're unlikely to hit that goal. If a set is aiming to be revenue-generating but the cover art is so cheap and terrible you know it won't sell many copies, you need to steer clear.
Is there a contract? Most box-set organisers will have a contract. This helps everyone deal with situations where people pull out or don't contribute (which always happens). Read the contract carefully and make sure you're happy with the terms. In particular:
What will you have to write? This is the second biggest factor you'll need to consider when being strategic about boxset opportunities. Sets have different themes and ask for different types of work. Most sets want exclusive content (but not all). You may have to include a whole new novel, or write bonus material to beef up your non-fiction entry. You may need to stick to a strict word-count (for example, I don't do sets where the wordcount is under 10k because I can't write short stories like that).
BEING STRATEGIC ABOUT WHAT YOU WRITE FOR A BOXSET OR BUNDLE
After you've signed on to a boxset, looked over the contract, and paid the fee, you'll next need to start working on your entry for the set.
First, a few things to consider.
Most authors will be running their boxsets on Amazon. You might also have the set on sale other places (especially if you're trying to make a list) but Amazon will be where you make the majority of your sales.
Obviously, if your set is going to be in KU, it cannot contain work that is also wide. And vice versa – if you set is wide, it cannot contain work that is in KU. This is true even if the set is on pre-order. I was once in a set that was pulled down because the organiser listed books that would be available in a wide set that were still in KU during the pre-order. So don't do that.
Amazon does not allow boxsets in KU to contain books that are also published under your own account. You used to be able to do this, and it was common for authors to simply place book 1 in a series into a boxset. But you now cannot do this. If you want to put a book one of a series into a set in KU, you'll need to unpublish it from your own dashboard.
Boxsets in KU have a page-read cut-off. Boxsets are looooong-ass books, and you used to get a metric fuck-ton of page reads from them that would make them extremely profitable. Now, Amazon has the page reads capped at 3000, so most organisers won't make their sets any longer than this.
Now that you know all this, what should you write about?
YOUR BOXSET CALL-TO-ACTION
We addressed this back in the previous point, but I'm going to bring it up again. What you're trying to do with a boxset is get new readers to pay attention to you. You do this by giving something great to read right meow, then adding a call-to-action to inspire them to do something else.
For fiction authors, you want them to either pick up a book of yours, or join your mailing list. You might also ask them to follow you on social media but let's keep things simple. Send them (strategically) to the next book and/or give them some (strategic) cool free download for signing up to your mailing list.
For non-fiction authors, the same rules apply. You either want them to buy another one of your products, or to sign up to your mailing list so you can promote to them in the future. If this were me I'd consider creating a challenge funnel (where you give them a 5-day challenge with new content/steps each day) related to the content in your boxset content that they can sign up to for free or for $1 or $7. The more people converting to your list, the better for you in the long-term.
NETWORKING WITH YOUR FELLOW AUTHORS
While you're doing the whole boxset thing, participate in conversations and decision-making with your fellow authors. If there's a FB group or chat stream for the set, join up!
If possible, follow all the participants on social media or sign up to their mailing lists – keep up-to-date with what's happening in their book lives.
Be an awesome participant and a kind person – like I know you are. Volunteer for jobs you know how to do, and help others make decisions. Share about the set as often as you can. Cheer on the other authors as they get their material together and see successes in their career.
Think of ways you might like to leverage relationships built from the set in the future. Many authors meet in boxsets and go on to co-write together, create unique projects, guest on each other's podcasts, etc.
MARKETING A BOXSET
YAY! You're in a box set and you've got some cool new author buddies. Now, how do you get this puppy in front of as many readers as possible?
You take advantage of the collective to do some awesome shit, of course.
Here are things I've done on previous sets that've worked well:
HITTING A BESTSELLER LIST WITH A BOXSET
One of the most common goals for indie authors participating in multi-author boxsets is "making a list run" – this means, aiming to get the boxset a spot on one of the bestseller lists.
'Hitting a list' means you as an author can use "USA Today bestselling author" on your books if you want to. That's why most authors do it. It's also just really cool to see your name there. I've also known authors to get attention from agents and editors for hitting the list, but that's mainly if they hit with their own boxsets or single titles.
There are three lists worth their salt. The first is the USA Today, which ranks the top 150-bestselling books using data from the previous week from online and bricks-and-mortar retailers. The top 150 are published online every Tuesday. You will need to sell at least 5000 copies in the US to have a chance at this list.
Then there's the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. This is actually several lists comprising of the top 10-20 books in different categories. Some are tougher to get on than others. You will need to sell 8-10000 copies to have a chance at this list.
Finally, there is the mother-load. The big kahuna. The New York Times bestseller list. Unlike the other two lists, the NYT list is curated – meaning even if you make the sales numbers to hit it, you might not end up on the list. Multi-author boxsets rarely make it on this list. (I've been on one that has). You will usually need to aim for around 20,000 books in order to have a shot at being on this list, and it also helps to have media attention, etc.
Most indie authors aim for the USA Today list, as it's the most attainable. Here's what your set needs to be doing if you're aiming to make a list run.
There's some debate in indie author circles if aiming for the lists in this way is "scamming" or "cheating." I'm going to share my thoughts on that real quick.
1. It's not great to go around calling other authors 'scammers' unless you have significant evidence that is so. That's a loaded word and I think it should be reserved for ACTUAL people trying to do ACTUAL harm rather than authors legitimately selling a book to readers.
2. It's entirely possible authors doing this have eroded some of the value of the letters on their books. But this is not new. The lists have been "gamed" since they started by publishers. The system is the system and if you work within the system, you're entitled to the rewards of the system. Asking if the system is broken (it is) is a completely different topic.
3. For me personally, I'll only participate in sets for list runs that focus on gaining the attention of READERS. I don't care about the number of books sold so much as who they're being sold to. I don't want to participate in "buy-swaps" with people who won't even read the set, or running any kind of promo that breaks FB or Amazon rules. It's up to you as the author to decide what you're comfortable with.
4. Some people refuse to use the letters they gain from boxsets and tell other authors not to use them either. I say, do what you believe is right. Personally, I use the USA Today letters because when you got to the USA Today website and look up my name, it comes up with all the times I've hit. If you go to the NYT website and search my name, it doesn't come up (only the name of the set organiser) and for that reason, I don't use that on my books, even though it was super cool.
PITFALLS TO AVOID
Wheeeee! Apparently, I have a lot to say about boxsets.
Okay, so, we've talked a ton about the positives of boxsets. Now, what should you try to avoid.
I've had some amazing experiences in boxsets, and I've also been in sets mired in controversy. I'm so so so careful now because I don't want to risk my Amazon account on set organisers who don't follow the rules.
For me, there are two big red flags. The first is about the set organiser. I've been in a set where Amazon rule changes resulted in a lawsuit between the organiser and an author (I lost $500 on this set). In another set I was in, an organiser took the buy-in money and ghosted the authors. The set never happened and no-one got their money back. MAKE SURE YOU TRUST THE ORGANISER. Make sure they have a good reputation in the industry. If people warn you off them, it might be worthwhile to listen, even if the set looks amazing.
The second is sets that aren't focused on getting readers. These are usually list-aiming sets so focused on selling copies they don't care who buys the copies. These end up with buy-swaps with other authors or giveaways that don't conform to legal rules. Before you join a set, find out about the promotional activities planned and make sure you're happy with them. For me, I will pull out of any sets that don't focus on readers.