Author Topic: Has anyone been thinking about the downside of huge multi-author box sets?  (Read 6099 times)  

Offline LindsayBuroker

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When I saw the title of this thread, I thought it would be a consideration of potential downsides for the authors involved, which is something I wonder about with these giant 20-author-plus boxed sets.

Does it end up being worth the lost revenue in the end? We had Gwynn on our podcast back in April and she mentioned that these are all new releases for the authors. Super effective for marketing and a huge opportunity for a new author, but for an established author, they'll likely earn a lot less than if they'd brought out their title on their own. Is getting all those new eyeballs worth the initial financial loss? Does it bring tons and tons of new readers to your series (which may or may not be out yet if these are Book 1s) or, with so many books in the set, do most of them just get skipped? If you're at the end, do people even get to them?

It would be super interesting to see a break down from someone in the set (after the dust settles) who's launched a lot of books and has a good-sized readership already. Was it worth putting a brand new novel into the set?

I did an all-new novella for an eight-author set with my pen name a couple of summers ago, and it hit the USA Today list and sold maybe 15,000 copies that summer (less than this one, of course) but I wasn't convinced it was worth it since I could have sold the novella to my list at 2.99 and made more. However, the theme was pretty broad for that set, and my scifi stuff wasn't a close fit, so that may have impacted the read-through rate.

Anyway, just rambling here. Carry on. :)



Offline David VanDyke

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When I saw the title of this thread, I thought it would be a consideration of potential downsides for the authors involved, which is something I wonder about with these giant 20-author-plus boxed sets.

Does it end up being worth the lost revenue in the end? We had Gwynn on our podcast back in April and she mentioned that these are all new releases for the authors. Super effective for marketing and a huge opportunity for a new author, but for an established author, they'll likely earn a lot less than if they'd brought out their title on their own. Is getting all those new eyeballs worth the initial financial loss? Does it bring tons and tons of new readers to your series (which may or may not be out yet if these are Book 1s) or, with so many books in the set, do most of them just get skipped? If you're at the end, do people even get to them?

It would be super interesting to see a break down from someone in the set (after the dust settles) who's launched a lot of books and has a good-sized readership already. Was it worth putting a brand new novel into the set?


Piggybacking off the above (not replying directly to it per se)-- I have author friends at Lindsay's sales level-ish (seven figures or better, several multiples higher than my own) who refuse to do box sets anymore for exactly this reason--the ROI is insufficient. Writing and releasing a novel of their own might make $100K the first month, with the usual long tail of a lot more money over time. They say it's simply too much to give up, and their profiles are high enough they couldn't possibly get enough new readers from a box set, especially one with more than five authors or so.

In fact, the "big names" lift the smaller folks upward in that situation, it seems, and that might be too much downside, if ROI is the main consideration.

But if you're prawny, and especially if the work in the box set is an old reader magnet rather than a new work, it may well be worth it simply for discoverability.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 03:00:21 PM by David VanDyke »


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Online JaclynDolamore

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I do wonder about that myself, Lindsay. I've never participated in a box set. It's hard for me to imagine that getting lost in a sea of a dozen or more other authors in some cheap box set would lead enough people to my work to make up for the lost revenue from the work included. But it's also dumb to make assumptions about how the market works so I'd love to hear if it worked for people...

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Offline Scratchy_Bitey

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It was not worth it for me and I have four years and forty books to my name. If anything, I lost money from my bottom line the months I spent working on just one of the bundles I was involved in. My readers certainly purchased the set to get my story, but I haven't seen anything from new readers. It's quite disappointing as it was my main goal for signing up.
I'm looking forward to going back to doing solo releases and focusing on new series. You live and learn.

Offline TwistedTales

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For me it's about product differentiators and branding. I pump enough money into marketing to support the promotion needed for a box set, but I don't like the concept.

Firstly, I've scanned quite a few box sets and the quality is never stable. Some books are ok and others are badly written. I don't want my name associated with the worst book in the collection.

Secondly, the ROI sucks. I already know if I win a reader to one of my books a percentage will read the next, or possibly the entire catalog. Providing I market well enough to win the readers then there will be a good percentage of ongoing sales. I don't need to be in a multi author box set to market effectively.

Thirdly, I don't need anymore letters. I already have one set and, although they help, they don't do enough for me to want more.

What effect do the large box sets have on the market? Based on the also boughts I can only assume readers buy them, even if they don't read every book. I think the multi author box sets simply add to the never ending downward pressure on pricing.

There is a market for cheap books that doesn't ever buy books at a fair price. I don't want that reader, so the box sets, freebies and perpetual discounters are welcome to them.

We might be targeting the same genres, but that doesn't mean we're aiming for the same type of reader. I want readers that will pay a fair price for a decent book. I don't mind a small amount of strategic discounting, but these days I want readers who will pay a fair price for the bulk of my catalog.

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I'm doing OK but am nowhere near Lindsay's sales level, and I turn down box set invites all the time, for this reason. They're just not worth the effort.

Oh, don't get me wrong, if you do it once, you get a lot of good experience in how to market and how to set up launches and tips of the trade, but sales? Nup. Better off doing your own.

If you go to the alsobots of any set (and I go to a LOT of them, because of the promo and my Ebookaroo newsletter), you will see that the alsobots are mostly sets, not books from individual authors, and this gets worse the more "set regulars" take part in the set. In fact, if you go to the bios of those "set regulars", you will see that their entire alsobots are made up of sets, and their Amazon page has sets at the top.

IMO, this is not doing them any favours whatsoever, because set buyers are not the same people as single book buyers, and for the author, single book buyers are more valuable.

While sets can teach you things and get you a little bump, I think there comes a time that you have to cut it off, because you don't want your alsobots to become set-heavy. And there also comes a time when promoting sets vs writing and selling your own books just becomes a time sink.

Offline aimeeeasterling

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It would be super interesting to see a break down from someone in the set (after the dust settles) who's launched a lot of books and has a good-sized readership already. Was it worth putting a brand new novel into the set?


I'm not in the Dominion Rising box set, but I am in an anthology of all-new novellas that came out August 1 (Fire Kissed). This is the first box set I've been in since 2015 (when I had a much smaller following, used a non-exclusive book, and got excellent results from the collaboration).

I only have two weeks of data to go on so far, and it's a bit tough to compare since I don't have many novellas in my catalog, but I'll give it a try. The last novella I published (40,000 words) was a year ago and I considered it a dud --- it made $545 its first month of life. (Various issues were involved, but I think the fact it was a novella was at least partially to blame.)

For the record, the novella I put in the anthology is half the length of last year's novella and I got lucky and landed slot number two. Income for the first 12 days has been about $280/author, so maybe we'll hit $700 apiece this month if we're lucky?

I've also seen quite a bit of sell-through boosting the rank of other books in the series. Hard to get solid numbers on that yet, though, because a lot of that is borrows. I expect this to be much less valuable as the set progresses, though, since the majority voted to raise the price to $5.99 after the first few days.

We weren't aiming for any list, so my time (beyond writing) has been minimal. Basically, I emailed my list and posted on facebook.

My analysis is --- the Fire Kissed anthology has definitely been worth it for a novella. Would it have been worth it if I'd landed the thirteenth slot or if this had been a box set of novels? I think it would have been worth it in the first case, maybe not in the second. I guess we'll have to wait on one of the Dominion Rising folks to comment on that.  :)

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Offline C. Gockel

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Does it end up being worth the lost revenue in the end?

A little bird told me that they've already earned it back with the 70% royalty from Pronoun ... but I could have it wrong. Also, they didn't do any "gifting" so these are real sales, not buying circles which obviously aren't going to help you get follow up sales.

I have found this set: https://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Kiss-Romantic-Faerie-ebook/dp/B01MYDRO61/
This set: https://www.amazon.com/Once-Upon-Curse-Faerie-Tales-ebook/dp/B01G35DZAW/
This one:  https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Under-Fire-fantasy-romance-ebook/dp/B073FDSFN9
And this one: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01H7J5Z38

.. all to be worth it. These all have standalone stories in my existing universes. I think if I had about 50 more, I'd never have to buy advertising again ... but these are all well managed, too. I've been in some anthologies that haven't gotten me that many leads.

Also, they are short stories and putting them in a bundle makes more sense as we split the cost of editing and cover. That said, maybe for you Lindsay, a short story by itself would sell more?

This set drive some folks to my other work, even though the short story is a true standalone in a unique universe: https://www.amazon.com/Orphans-Black-Space-Opera-Anthology-ebook/dp/B073BNJR25/


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Offline SunshineOnMe

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a) that's not what that means, and
b) that's not nearly a large enough audience for a FB ad.

I can't speak to what's going on with your sales. Maybe the series is too long. Maybe your last book had a dip in quality or a plot point that missed the tropes that had kept readers reading. Maybe you priced too high. Maybe your newsletter has poor deliverability (I know mine sure does). Without a lot more insight into your writing and your business, I can't do more than throw out wild guesses.

I do pretty well with marketing though, and if you want to PM me I'd be happy to do a brief rundown of FB (and AMS) ads with you. I generally charge quite a bit for that but I'll give you a quickie primer gratis. I know you've worked hard and this is confounding you, but even if the reason for the "flop" are out of your control (which I don't think they are), you can only make changes to the things you DO control. So that's where you need to focus.

Just butting in to say you are awesome to offer this, lilywhite! I love it when we can help each other out.

Offline Dobby the House Elf

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Kylie, thanks for sharing the link.  At the risk of derailing the thread, in the post Gwynn says you can run AMS if you have a US vendor account with Amazon. I seem to recall trying to look into that and there being some reason it wouldn't work for me.  Can you guys give more details about how it works/how to set it up?  Thanks.

If you email me your questions about AMS I'll forward them to one of our ads experts they'll answer your questions. Email me at Kylie(at)gmail(dot)com.
« Last Edit: August 14, 2017, 06:50:27 PM by Dobby the House Elf »

Offline Max 007

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To add my two cents, (lots of good takes too I see in this thread too) :  Boxed sets do two things I think --- an author can offer a few or several books as a bundle having the effect that a KU reader can now get just one book and have a few books actually and only take up one slot and binge on it, of the 10 they have a month, vs taking up 7 slots of the 10 (this is for the KU reader).  The author may get a bigger piece of the KENP pie in effect too, with one bundled book - but then maybe not - several folks here say they are discerning - so as a buyer, bundles don't really mean much and the KENP grab is pointless most likely - if that is what it was.

To me the bundle of many different authors is just a grab for KENP.  I am not a short story anthology reader either.  Out of one hundred shorts, I might find one worth reading.

An anthology of books, really?  Lord try to KOLL that.   Plus at 15 cents per megabyte download and the bundle is 99 cents? Who is reaching for a brass ring may be a bit challenged as a sell to a non-KU reader you think?

Amazon also just changed up how KENP is figured (and this will not affect most books out there - they did not say who it affects ... ).

I wonder if this new bundle paradigm was also in Amazon's mind?  I don't know.   8)

If you have a truck load of nothing, ten trucks won't make it better.   :P

Offline GwynnEWhite

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Kylie, thanks for sharing the link.  At the risk of derailing the thread, in the post Gwynn says you can run AMS if you have a US vendor account with Amazon. I seem to recall trying to look into that and there being some reason it wouldn't work for me.  Can you guys give more details about how it works/how to set it up?  Thanks.

Full disclosure...I did not know this myself until I posted what has become known as the Dominion Rising White Paper on how we sold 16000 pre-orders in six months in a few author Facebook groups, and now on my website: http://www.gwynnwhite.com/dominion-rising-16000-pre-orders-six-months. An author I respect greatly posted in a facebook thread that it was possible to run AMS even if you are listed with Pronoun, as long as you have a US vendor account with Amazon. P.K. Tyler and I looked into this briefly just as Dominion Rising set went live but other launch priorities drove it off the table. I have not further researched it as I'm based in Australia and therefore do not qualify. But I am sure you could find out more by contacting Amazon. 

I would also like to add a couple of things about the Dominion Rising experience.

It was a textbook case of what happens when a group of like-minded people work together with enthusiasm and commitment to achieve two cherished goalsto hit a bestseller list while remaining 100% within all vendor TOS. This became the personal and collective mission of every author in the set. We had people tasked with scouring the vendor TOS to make sure that all our marketing efforts were legit and didn't breach our contract with our vendorsthat included the many giveaways we ran.

Adherence to this mission made working on the set both fun and rewarding. You can't beat the squeaky clean feeling of a clear conscience. The fruits of this effort came in the form of 28,000 genuine sales from genuine readers by the end of our launch week. And as for gifting...the question that invariably comes up when talking boxed sets . . . while the vendors do provide legitimate tools for giving away books to readers, we collectively decided to not to gift copies to boost our numbers. We even set a limit on the number of sets that could be gifted to our true fans: ten per vendor. With our aversion to gifting, most of us didn't even bother with that. We were however very generous with ARCs, evidenced by the number of five-star reviews posted on the first day of our launch.

Knowing we were operating totally above board as far as TOS went, we approached the indie community for promotional help with absolute confidence. This is where we did make some mistakes: we admit to over-spamming Facebook with our promotional noise. We have apologized for that. Still, we attribute a large portion of our success to the support we got from the SFF indie community. You did newsletter swaps with us, you promoted the set for usand a significant number of you purchased it. You guys rock. We could not have done it without you.

I am well aware that boxed sets are not for everyone. Not everyone likes chocolate, either. I know, crazy. But hey...

If a boxed set does appeal to you for its list-making potential, or for the opportunity to collaborate with other authors to help your marketing and to sell more books, then do your research on the authors in the set and the organizers. If you are happy with what you see, then throw your heart into it. Use the opportunity to learn new skills, and to grow your readership. A boxed set run by experienced, ethical authors can be like a mini college course in marketing. That alone is worth a reasonable buy-in price.

And as for hitting lists... this is another emotive subject. I live by the mantra 'each to his own'. If hitting a list this way doesn't resonate with you, cool. That's your choice. So don't do it. But if it suits someone else, don't knock it. If we were all the same, with identical dreams, motivations, and goals, the world would be a very boring place.

The question of how many books people read in a boxed set has been raised in the thread. If the 1,3K strong poll of readers who attended the launch week portion of our Facebook release party is anything to judge by, a lot of readers do reador at least sample all the books in a set. If you scan Dominion Rising's 181 reviews, you'll also see that readers do read more than one or two books in a set. It's up to the individual author to ensure that his/her book is engaging enough to keep the reader's attention. That's the only way you will get buy-through to the rest of the books in your series.

And to address the OP's concern. I am sorry that your launch wasn't as successful as you hoped it would be. I feel the pain behind your words. It's no easy thing to pour your soul into a project and to be disappointed with the results. With love, can I suggest that the best way to make sure your books perform is to keep up to date in a market where the only certainty is that change happens? Join some Facebook groups. Network with other authors. See what the successful authors in your genre are doing and copy them. From the bottom of my heart, I wish you well with your books. There is plenty of room for us all to succeed.

Finally, Lindsay Buroker raised the question about ROI in a set versus launching a single title on your own. She is absolutely rightif you have her fan base and earning potential, a multi-author boxed set with 23 individual titles is not going to make her as much money as launching alone. But ROI wasn't the intention of Dominion Rising. This was primarily a list making set. However, I'm thrilled to say that even at a 99c launch price, the set has already earned back its author buy-inand then some. Selling 28,000 copies with Pronoun royalties will do that for you... I'm confident that before Dominion Rising delists, all 25 authors on the set will have profited financially from it.

I hope this answers the questions about Dominion Rising. If you need more information, feel free to PM me. I will do my best to help.
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Offline David VanDyke

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  Plus at 15 cents per megabyte download and the bundle is 99 cents?

Pretty sure books at 99c pay no delivery cost. So, it's 70% of 99c from Pronoun, or, if the box set is KU, a negligible 35% plus tons of KU money--and KU has no delivery costs either.

There's a thought: charge delivery costs for KU books. That will at least claw back some money for Amazon from the scammers and semi-scammers, if not for real authors.


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Hi folks,

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