Multi-Author Boxed Set – an Overload or a Success?

Sugar and Spice Boxed SetYou’ve probably all heard of a multi-author boxed set by now. Yes – a bunch of authors get together and each put in one book, then they sell this pack for 99c, usually as an introductory price. Some then raise the price; others make it a short term publishing gig. From a reader’s point of view, it is a very sweet deal. As an author, you make peanuts, but here are some of the good things that can come out of a set like this…

PROS

  • You should hopefully get some sweet sales, with it being such a good deal for readers
  • More sales means that your book is in the hands of more readers
  • You are hopefully scoring yourself new fans by working with other authors and breaking into their fan bases
  • Follow-on sales for other books written by you will hopefully ensue
  • You get to support fellow authors and promote their stuff

CONS

  • Readers may buy your boxed set, but they won’t necessarily read YOUR book. They may only read one or two from the set, so there are no guarantees that all your efforts will be fruitful.
  • It may not pay off. I was part of one boxed set recently and we barely covered our cover design and marketing costs. It was really disappointing and did not turn out at all like we planned. I guess you win some, you lose some.
  • The market is getting saturated. I think readers are over the boxed set mania a little. I could be wrong in saying this, but I’ve been picking up an eye-rolling vibe and wonder if it’s time for the boxed sets to go. I’m pretty sure the New York Times Bestseller list is no longer including boxed sets, which I know was once the motivation for many authors – so they could get that best seller title.
  • Are we training our readers to expect practical freebies? 99c for 8 – 10 books! That is a REALLY good deal. With boxed sets around, will readers simply be waiting and not buying our books unless they are stupidly cheap? What does that say about the value of our work and the hours we’ve poured into making the writing worthy of reading?

To me, the pros outweighed the cons, and that is why I chose to be part of the Sugar & Spice Boxed Set that came out this month. With that experience under my belt, here are some the things I recommend you consider when putting a boxed set together…for those of you who are keen to try it.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

  • Make sure you are working with authors who are riding the same waves as you. You want to be working with people who share the same goals. There’s always room for discussion of course, but you want to avoid constant battles about minor things
  • It’s always a good idea for your boxed set to have a theme. The purpose of the Sugar & Spice Boxed Set was to reach those readers who like a little spice in their romance, but not full-blown erotica. There are plenty of us out there like that, so we decided to pitch a set just for them.
  • Which book should go in the set? Some authors make their boxed sets newly released novellas so that content is fresh; others put together boxed sets with books that have already been published. I see the advantages of both and think that, either way, the readers are getting a pretty sweet deal.
  • How many books should go into the set? I did a survey on my Facebook page and quickly discovered that most readers prefer a boxed set that is between 4 – 8 books rather than a 10+. I thought that was interesting, because I was assuming people would shout out, “The more the merrier! Give us more book for our buck!” Some people did say that, but most found too many books overwhelming and said they didn’t bother reading them all.

Despite all that, I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about boxed sets. What do you think of them? Have you had any experience with a boxed set – as a reader or a writer? Has it been good, bad or ugly?

Author: Melissa Pearl

Melissa Pearl is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of multiple novels spanning a variety of genres, from YA fantasy and paranormal to romantic suspense, including award-winning novel, BETWIXT. For more on Melissa, visit her blog or her Amazon author page.

20 thoughts on “Multi-Author Boxed Set – an Overload or a Success?”

  1. I was considering putting my trilogy into a boxed set. Lynne, have you had success with yours?
    I tend to be a lone wolf and working alongside others might be a challenge for me. As you say, you must collaborate with like-minded people. I think it’s also important to stick to one theme and genre – as you said.

    1. Yvonne, I’ve had some success with the Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus, and even picked up a few new readers.

      What Melissa is talking about here, though, is a slightly different approach than putting your own work together in a set. I’ve done similar things with other writers with short fiction, but I haven’t put one of my novels in a box set with other writers, though — except for IU’s First Chapters. And again, that was just the first chapter, not the whole book.

      1. Thanks, Lynne. Yes, I understood that this was about a collaboration or more than one author. I was in that First Chapters book, too, but, as you say, that was only one chapter and in only one book. I’m glad you had some success with the omnibus.

        1. I’ve put three of my trilogies into omnibus boxed set and I like having that extra sale option. I find that the individual books still sell better, but the nice thing about the boxed set is that people are buying the whole trilogy in one go 🙂

  2. My guess is that boxed sets make sense in genres like romance or erotica with absolutely voracious readers, because you hope they’ll decide they like your work and then go buy all the rest of it.

    I don’t have enough work out to even think about joining one, personally, but I can’t imagine I ever would, because I never look at them as a potential purchase. I’m not a voracious reader (on the contrary, I’m a reader horrified by the size of her current to-read list), and they’re all just lumped together like those shrink-wrapped deals on boxes of macaroni and cheese at Walmart.

    1. Haha – yeah. I get what you mean. I tend to shy away from buying them because I’m overwhelmed by the amount of reading involved. In saying that, I’m in the second to last book of a multi-author boxed set at the moment and I’ve plowed through it. It’s been so enjoyable 🙂

  3. I am a voracious reader and have recently purchased 2 box sets in my favorite genre of science fiction. I read every word in both 10 book sets, although some weren’t my cup of tea. I’ve found 8 authors whose works I like and have purchased single books from 3 of them so far. I’ve purchased 8 books already from one and am now on his email list to keep up with new books. Another only has two books out, but has become a Facebook friend and I will purchase her next when it is released. I like the bargain and the chance to discover new authors in my favorite genre.

    1. Linda Lee, a boxed set of short stories is, IMO, something different than this. Mainly because that is something that has been done for years, even released in a paper version, and more typically is called a short story anthology. Total length is going to be in the range of a novel (possibly even a short novel). It doesn’t give the perception of a great deal in the same way as several novels for a price that would be a good deal for any single included novel. However, it does have the potential to attract new readers.

      1. Thanks, Big Al!. That’s very helpful. It was of interest to me because I’m part of a short-story collection with fourteen authors. I didn’t know if that were too many stories or not. Ironically, mine is the shortest: around 2000 words!

        1. I think people enjoy both. There is that enticing deal with full length novels, but that much reading can be overwhelming to some. The short stories can work as a great taste test to an authors work.

    1. This Sugar & Spice boxed set was actually initiated by me and an author friend of mine who wanted to produce a collection of books that was sexy and romantic, yet not veiled erotica. We wanted to put together a collection of stories where the male lead wasn’t a total jerk and treated women with respect. We wanted loved stories, not lust stories 😉
      So we found other like-minded authors to join us.
      The other sets I’ve been involved with, I’ve been invited into by authors I already know.

  4. Melissa, I’ve had discussions with a couple authors who have been in promotional box sets. All the things you’ve mentioned, both pro and con, fit what I’ve heard from them. The two biggest takeaways I’ve had from my listening and observation are that first, you need to have agreement among authors participating on what everyone is responsible for, how the finances will work, and what your mutual goals are. Second, as the prior comments appear to demonstrate, being a genre that tends to attract voracious readers is more likely to have a good result.

    1. Yes – I absolutely agree. Working with others can be really hard. You’re trying to pull together multiple small business owners who are used to be in total charge of their projects. Open communication is vital.

      I think romance genres work really well, but like Richard W. Bender said, he bought a couple of sci-fi ones. I, personally, would love to read a suspense/mystery type set 🙂

  5. Great info, Melissa. I was a little surprised by the 10-book upper limit, although I probably shouldn’t have been. Early in my indie career, I won a contest in which the prize was probably 15 or 20 indie eBooks. It *was* overwhelming and it took me forever to get around to reading them all, partly because there were so many of them. I might have been more inclined to work my way through the virtual stack more quickly if there had been fewer titles.

  6. Great rundown, Melissa, thank you! Yes, I feel guilty about it, but I’ve purchased a few multi-author box sets that I haven’t completed. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. In one case, it was one very small detail: no table of contents. I like the idea of similar genres or themes, though. More authors to discover!

    1. I have about 4 multi-author boxed sets on my Kindle that I haven’t even touched yet. I keep going for the individual books as they feel more doable. In saying that, I started reading Sugar & Spice so I could help promote it better and I’ve loved working my way through each novel. TOC is vital though. I had already read a couple of the books so I was able to skip over those stories.

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