Monday 29 June 2015

How to Write and Publish a Multi-Author Indie Box Set: The Beginning

By Narelle Atkins

Last week I talked about the benefits from participating in an indie box set collection and my experiences from publishing my first indie novella in SPLASH! Today I’m posting the first of a three part series on how to indie publish a fiction box set collection with a group of authors.


Defining the genre for your box set genre is essential if your goal is to gain visibility on the Amazon lists.

Individual Story Word Length

Will your box set include short stories, novelettes, novellas, short novels or longer novels?

Box Set Theme

From a marketing perspective, it’s helpful if your box set has a theme that connects all the stories. For example, SPLASH! has a water theme that’s reflected in the box set title and cover art. The theme can be easier to define if all the stories are new titles and written with the box set in mind. I wrote His Perfect Catch, my SPLASH! novella, knowing I needed to include a water theme in the story.

Organise a Group of Authors

Your group will need a leader, preferably an experienced indie author who has previously participated in a box set group project. The authors in our SPLASH! group came from a range of publishing backgrounds, including indie and traditional. I was one of the new indie authors and His Perfect Catch was my seventh release. I discovered that indie publishing is different to traditional publishing, and I was on a steep indie publishing learning curve when I joined the SPLASH! group.

Financial Arrangements

The financial arrangements need to be defined up-front to assist potential group members in making informed decisions before they join the group. What is your group budget for cover art, advertising? Will the money be paid up-front by group members, or deducted from book sales before the earnings are split between the group members? Do you need to pay for formatting, or can the group members do it themselves? How will your group be paid from online retailers? Who will distribute the earnings to the group members?

Box Set Pre-order and Release Dates

Is your box set a seasonal collection eg. Christmas, Valentine’s Day? The SPLASH! box set is a summer beach read novella collection. We chose June 23 as our release date, and set up our Amazon Kindle pre-order in early May. The Kindle pre-order option has specific deadlines and obligations that need to be met by the group.

Brand New Individual Titles vs. Titles Already For Sale

The SPLASH! box set contains brand new novellas that haven’t previously been released. Many box sets are compilations of books that are already available for sale.

Individual Book Release Dates

If the box set contains brand new titles, the group will need to decide on the preferred dates for the individual titles to be released by the authors. Marketing considerations will play a role in this decision. The release dates could also depend on how long the group plans to keep the box set for sale. For example, SPLASH! is a limited time offer and the individual novellas will be released in early July.

Deadlines for Group Members

The most important deadline for group members is the manuscript submission date. For SPLASH!, our group members committed to submitting their edited manuscripts by May 1. If the May 1 deadline wasn’t met, the box set production schedule, pre-order and release dates could have been adversely affected by the delay. Our group leader had a vacation planned in late May, and she had offered to format and upload the box set on the retail sites. We needed to give her enough time to have the initial files ready for a firm pre-order date, and time for proof reading by group members, prior to her vacation.

Box Set Book Production

An advantage of working with a group of experienced indie authors is they have different skill sets. Indie authors either contract out their book production work or they do it themselves. If the book production workload can be shared among the authors, the whole group will benefit from the cost savings.

Roles and Responsibilities of Group Leader and Group Members

It’s helpful to define from the start the group dynamics and expectations. This will help group members know exactly what is expected of them and what they’ll need to contribute to the group.

Box Set Price

The ebook price point will be a reflection of the group’s goals for the box set. We chose the 99 cents price point for SPLASH! One of our goals was to increase our visibility in the market and gain new readers, and a bargain priced box set met that criteria

Box Set Distribution

Your group could decide to publish exclusively with Amazon, or distribute wide to other retailers. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. If you distribute the box set wide, the individual titles can’t be put in the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program that requires exclusivity with Amazon.

Next Monday I’ll continue this series by talking about the middle phase of producing an indie box set.

A fun loving Aussie girl at heart, Narelle Atkins was born and raised on the beautiful northern beaches in Sydney, Australia. She has settled in Canberra with her husband and children. A lifelong romance reader, she found the perfect genre to write when she discovered inspirational romance. Narelle's contemporary stories of faith and romance are set in Australia. Her latest book, His Perfect Catch, is releasing on June 23 in the SPLASH! box set contemporary Christian romance novella collection. 

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins


  1. Thanks Narelle. Lots of decisions to be made. I take it each author was to deliver by May 1 a "publishable" manuscript. Who defined the quality, so, were there guidelines re: expectations re: editing and such? I know some Indie authors don't use editors (for whatever reasons). Did someone do a full read through of the complete box set to ensure consistency? SPLASH is authored by an international group of authors, how did you define what to do with cultural differences, use of "z v s", etc?

    Or are you covering all these points in your next post?

  2. Hi Ian, thanks for your questions :) Yes, we started the box set group at the end of January and each author had a May 1 deadline. We had 3 months to plan, write and edit a 20-35k novella.

    For SPLASH! we didn't have any specific editing group rules, other than it being the individual author's responsibility to submit an edited ms by May 1. Each author in our group was already published prior to SPLASH! The group was effectively an invitation only arrangement among friends of friends, which is why I believe it's important for writers to network wth other writers in their genre.

    Our target audience for SPLASH! is North American readers, and we planned for a Northern Hemisphere summer release date. We used US grammar and spelling for the novellas.

    I'll be covering your questions in more detail next week. Please let me know if you have any other questions and I'll do my best to answer them in the next two posts.

  3. Wow so much is involved! I love the idea of sharing the load with other writers and increasing visibility. Thanks for the run down Narelle, it's not something I had considered

    1. Hi Cat, I've had so much fun working on SPLASH! with my author friends. The new friendships that have formed in the group have been a real blessing on so many levels, and I'd definitely do it again :)

  4. Love the idea of box set novellas and love your practical post. It's clearly a lot of work but you've made it sound doable. Thanks, Narelle :)

    1. Hi Andrea, There is a lot of work involved, and it could easily become a nightmare if there was a lack of organisation and commitment from group members. I'm glad you've found my post helpful :)


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