Monday 3 October 2016

Marketing your book in a boxed set

By Narelle Atkins

Boxed sets have proven to be a lucrative way for authors to market and sell their indie fiction ebooks. Check out the Amazon Kindle fiction genre lists and you’ll find numerous boxed sets among the top 20 bestsellers. 

Last year I wrote a 3-part series on indie boxed sets for the Australasian Christian Writers (ACW) blog. The posts contained information on how to publish a multi-author indie boxed set.

The Benefits from Indie Publishing a Box Set Collection 

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

How to Write and Publish a Multi-Author Indie Box Set: Preparing to Launch

I write contemporary Christian romance (CCR). In this post I’ll be referring to the CCR genre for examples of boxed sets purchased from Amazon Kindle. 

History of Christian Romance indie boxed sets

The indie author boxed set trend in the CCR genre kicked off in late 2014. The first Christian/inspirational romance box set to hit the Amazon bestseller lists in the CCR genre was Red Hot Squeaky Clean ROMANCE collection (Boxed Set): Ten Shades of Inspirational Romance, released in October 2014. The stories in this box set covered a range of Christian romance genres including historical, mystery, suspense, and contemporary.

Mistletoe Kisses (Inspy Kisses Box Set Book 3) was released in November 2014. It was the first Christian romance boxed set to hit the USA Today bestseller list. Four of the eight books in the collection are CCR. 

Love Brings Us Home was also released in November 2014. It hit the Amazon bestseller lists in CCR and contained full length novels that were previously published as individual indie releases. 

USA best-selling author Hallee Bridgeman was an author in Love Brings Us Home and Red Hot Squeaky Clean Romance. Hallee is our international guest speaker at the upcoming Omega Writers Conference in Sydney, October 28-30. 

Market research on boxed sets in CCR genre 

I put together a spreadsheet based on a sample of CCR multi-author boxed sets I’d purchased in the last 2 years. 

My research included: 
14 boxed sets in the CCR genre 
105 books (with only 1 duplicate title in 2 boxed sets)
45 authors – a combination of indie authors and hybrid authors who are traditionally published
7 titles by Marion Ueckermann
6 titles each by Kimberly Rae Jordan and Valerie Comer
I also sourced book release information from the Inspy Romance group blog (established in February 2014 for CCR readers)
My multi-author boxed sets I included in my research

SPLASH! (released in June 2015, retired in November 2015) 
Love Blossoms (released in January 2016, retiring soon in late October 2016) 
An Aussie Summer Christmas (new release in September 2016) 

Other CCR multi-author boxed sets in my Kindle account or on pre-order (minimum 6 books in each set) 

CCR boxed sets in my Kindle account that are no longer available for sale

Whispers of Love (USA Today Bestseller)
Home for Christmas
Summer of Love
Love’s Gift
Love Brings Us Home
Mistletoe Kisses (USA Today Bestseller) 

The boxed sets ranged in price from US0.99 to US2.99. I paid between US14.00 to US20.00 to purchase the 14 boxed sets (most were priced at 99 cents). As a result, the average price I paid for an individual book is between 15 to 20 cents. 

Is the price for boxed sets too low? 

The answer is yes and no, depending on your perspective. Traditionally published ebooks are often priced higher than indie ebooks.

If you’re a reader, bargain priced ebooks combined with the ability to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited (US9.99 per month to borrow an unlimited number of ebooks) is appealing. Avid readers can indulge their favourite past time without hurting their bank balance. For many readers Kindle Unlimited has replaced their use of public libraries (and free print book borrows).

If you’re an indie author and can place your book in the right boxed set in your genre, at the present time you can make a reasonable return on a competitively priced boxed set due to volume sales and page reads in Kindle Unlimited. Please note this strategy for success could change at any time due to the rapid changes that constantly take place in the publishing industry. 

The bestseller lists are your goal

For many readers the Amazon Kindle bestseller lists have replaced the physical bookshelf in stores as the place they browse for books. Book exposure on the bestseller lists and in the hot new releases lists is critical for reaching potential readers. Paid advertising, for example Bookbub, can help ebooks rise to the top of the bestseller lists. 

Boxed sets can help authors reach new readers who are fans of their co-authors in the boxed set. 

Bestseller lists provide both the platform for finding new readers and the visibility to gain ebook sales/page reads that generate income for authors. 

Successful authors place series books in boxed sets 

The large majority of books in the 14 boxed sets I researched were part of a series. If a reader falls in love with your writing, they may buy your entire backlist. 

Repeat books in multiple boxed sets

We need to think like a reader when we’re marketing and promoting our books. How would we feel if we purchased a boxed set containing repeat books we’d already bought and read in previous boxed sets? From my sample of 14 CCR boxed sets, the only repeat title was published in boxed sets with release dates of more than 12 months apart. 

Traditional publishers reprint their bestselling books and sometimes update the cover art. When I used to work in retail on the returns desk, the most common reason for customers returning print books was due to an accidental repeat purchase.

If you have a brand new story to place in a boxed set, it would be wise to seek a boxed set opportunity that will be marketed as brand new stories. 

Have you participated in a boxed set or anthology collection? Do you enjoy reading boxed sets? I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

This post is being shared on the Australasian Christian Writers blog and the Christian Writers Downunder blog.

If you’re looking to connect with writing groups online, you can join the Australasian Christian Writers Facebook Group and the Christian Writers Downunder Facebook Group.

Omega Writers Inc. provides helpful resources and membership benefits for writers who live in the Australasian region.

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 novella release, Seaside Christmas, is available in An Aussie Summer Christmas boxed set from Amazon for 99 cents. 

Twitter: @NarelleAtkins


  1. I enjoy some box sets and have a few but what annoys me is when I buy a box set thinking it is new books only to find I have already bought and read some of the books as single titles. I know check the titles and then check from my list of books at goodreads or my blog or kindle to see if I have any of the books. Its worse when they don't even give the title of the books just the authors name. I have returned at least one boxset cos I saw as soon as I bought it, it was books that I had read.

    If there are books that have been updated, repackaged please be upfront and tell the readers. I noticed a boxset recently with a title in it and thought I have read that book and found the book was about 5 years old and in the box set the reviews for the boxset were only on this book and they admitted they hadn't read any of the other books. My thought was how can you review a whole boxset if you only read one book.

    1. I recently didn't buy a box set for the same reason, Jenny. It did disclose the titles and authors, and I realised I'd already read more than half the titles. But it wasn't obvious - I had to check my Goodreads reading record to be sure.

    2. Hi Jenny, Yes, I can understand why this annoys you. From what I've seen, the boxed sets with new stories are being labelled as brand new stories in the book description. This makes sense - brand new stories is a marketing hook. I guess we need to assume that a boxed set may have one or more repeat titles if we're not told that the stories are brand new.

      Sometimes the reviewers for the boxed sets will update the reviews they post on Amazon and Goodreads as they work their way through the set. If the boxed set is a new release, this may be the reason why only one book in the set is mentioned by the reviewer.

    3. Hi Iola, If I'd used Goodreads to track the books I'd purchased, I wouldn't have needed to create a spreadsheet to analyse the boxed sets. If I was organised, the search feature in Goodreads would have picked up the duplication at the time of purchase. This would only work if every individual title in the boxed set is added as a separate title in Goodreads (and if the titles haven't changed). Another benefit for avid readers who use Goodreads. :)

    4. I've started tracking in Goodreads to try to avoid this but as I read faster than I review and have *ahem* just a few previous reads to add might be a while before I can catch up!!! Lol

  2. Thanks for the post, Narelle. I haven't bought too many boxed sets & the one or two I have purchased, I haven't started reading yet. Mainly because my to-read pile is already so high. Still, I do like the idea. I've found anthologies a great way to experiment with new authors (or at least new to me).

    I notice that with some boxed sets, the authors published the included stories individually as well as in the set. Do you have any thoughts on that practice? And are boxed set generally just published as e-books - rather than as print books. Can you 'box' a set of printed novellas on Createspace or Ingram Spark? (I know traditional publishers do - eg a boxed set of the Narnia books - but it then comes with an actual box.)

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Interesting :)

    1. Jeanette, authors ultimately want their books out there as single titles, however, when they release varies from box set to box set. Sometimes we would want to drive sales to the set for a longer period of time so solos might only be release a month or more after the set. Other times the goal might be to get onto a bestseller list, so and then apply for an ad that will require the solos to be published in order to determine page count, so the solos could release shortly after the boxed set release week.

      We recently looked into doing a boxed set as print as well, and the price we would've had to charge didn't justify going this route.

    2. Hi Jeanette, Thanks for your great questions!

      As Marion has mentioned, the timing of the release of the individual titles will vary depending on the boxed set objectives.

      Publishing the solo title also registers the copyright for the individual title. Being indie books, the author is typically granting the non-exclusive right to whoever is actually publishing the boxed set on behalf of the group for the title in a particular form. Being on top of the legalities and knowing what you're signing and agreeing to do is very important.

      In general, the romance genre indie ebook sales far exceed print sales. The ROI for doing print for indie romance books isn't as big as it would be for a genre that sells more print than ebooks. The cost of printing and shipping is more expensive for longer books.

    3. Hi Marion, Thanks for stopping by and sharing your wealth of experience with us :)

  3. As Jeanette said I like Boxed Sets because they are a way of discovering new authors. I also like to buy them as a way of supporting authors. Hey at $0.99 it's not a difficult decision to make is it. If there are novellas that I particular want to read I'll often buy the standalone one to further encourage the author but also to just read the single novella.

    There are lots of good reasons as a reader for enjoying them but I hope as authors we're not getting caught up in the bestseller syndrome as the main reason for doing box sets.

    Short story telling has always had a fundamental place in literary circles and it's great to see this notion has expanded into other genres including all the various Christian fiction ones as a way of delivering quality content to readers.

    1. Hi Ian, I've also discovered new authors through reading boxed sets. Apparently I'm unusual because I jump around and cherry pick which stories I'll read rather than reading the boxed set from cover to cover. This is one reason why I put together the spreadsheet and searched my Kindle list to see if I'd bought repeat books in the boxed sets. I've found I often click 'buy now' on Amazon for ebooks I already own.

      Re. Bestseller Syndrome. For many authors, I really do believe that hitting the bestseller lists is more about putting food on the table and earning income from their writing rather than gaining status or prestige.

      I hope we'll soon see a turnaround in the fortunes of traditional publishers and an expansion in their publishing programs (rather than line closures and staffing cuts) for a number of reasons. One reason is that traditional publishing is accessible to everyone, not just those who can afford to indie publish.

      I believe it's a class issue. I'm concerned that talented authors with great stories to tell won't have the opportunity to publish their books due to the cost. This is the cost not only in dollar terms but also the opportunity cost (including lost income from an alternative job due to the time they spend writing their book). Author advances provide the means for writers to support themselves while they write their books. The steady income from multiple traditional publishing contracts can provide a degree of financial security and the potential for new authors to write full-time.

      There are indie authors who earn great money and write full-time, but that doesn't usually happen until they have numerous books available for sale. Ten has been thrown around as the number of books needed to gain any real traction in the market. At the start indie authors are often paying freelancers in order to produce a professional book that is competitive in the market. Instead of being paid an up-front advance, they're running their indie publishing business at either a loss or a small profit.

      I find novella writing (20-25k) is just as challenging as writing a short 45-50k novel. Every word counts and there's no room to deviate from the main plot and storyline. I also enjoy reading novellas because I'm time poor and they're fast to read.

    2. Narelle, thanks for that insight. I didn't appreciate there was that much to be earned from a boxed set bestseller. Yes, to start as an indie author and produce quality covers/editing, etc does require a decent upfront investment in money and time.

    3. Ian, you're welcome. The earnings do vary and certain genres eg. romance have higher sales. The top 100 category bestseller lists are really important for a book's visibility. If readers can't find the ebook, then the ebook isn't going to have good sales. Print sales of indie books are typically low compared to the ebook sales unless the author is doing a lot of hand selling or the book is available in the bricks and mortar stores.

  4. Great ideas here. Thanks for all your knowledgeable research, Narelle!

    1. Thanks, Rita :) I'm glad you found my post helpful.

  5. As a writer, participating in a box set with Narelle and five other authors has been a a fabulous experience for me. I've learned a lot about Indie publishing too. Most of all, I've enjoyed being part of a team. I thoroughly recommend the experience.

    As a reader, I really enjoy box sets. The value for money is terrific, and I love meeting new authors - they're invariably in there with the more well-known ones. I have also learned to watch out for double ups.

    To my mind, box sets are a win-win for both writers and readers.

    1. Hi Andrea, I've loved working with you on our Aussie boxed set. :)

      As usual Iola is right, lol. I had a look at Goodreads and yes, it's definitely the place to search if you're worried about double ups. Even if a boxed set is unpublished on Amazon, it will still appear in a Goodreads search. Iola, thanks again for the tip. :)

  6. I have loved being a part of our new box set, and it doesn't surprise me to hear that they are very popular. There are so many advantages for both writers and readers.

  7. I have loved being a part of our new box set, and it doesn't surprise me to hear that they are very popular. There are so many advantages for both writers and readers.

    1. Hi Rose, I've loved working with you on this project, too. :)


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