A conversation between L.J. Sellers and Peg Brantley. Join us in the comments section!
L.J: I was just getting ready to combine the first three Jackson books in a set when I received an offer from Thomas & Mercer. I signed the contract and let go of control. Later, when I suggested to my marketer that we create a boxed set featuring the first book of several authors' series, she said Amazon didn’t offer those. Her reason was that their data indicated customers didn’t read all the way through longer ebook files, and that “wasn’t a good customer experience.” I guess it depends on how many novels you include and whether the books are similar enough in content and quality to hold a reader’s interest. But I’m still curious to know if a boxed set from a single author could expand sales and/or readership.
Peg: That’s interesting. As far as single author experiences go, look at Wool by Hugh Howey. I admit I was a bit surprised that my ebook seemed to go on and on, but I loved the story. And, although it wasn’t a boxed set, I devoured all of Michael Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer series one right after the other before his latest release. So I’m not sure I agree with Amazon’s statement about longer ebook files not being a good customer experience.
L.J: Just because Amazon doesn’t offer boxed sets doesn’t mean it isn’t a good idea. Other writers have collaborated to create such offerings. Recently for example, Joe Konrath and five other authors released a boxed set of horror stories. It’s been in the top 300, and is currently at #803 in the whole Kindle store, so it’s selling hundreds of copies a day. But they’ve priced it at $.99, so no one’s making money on it. But they may be gaining new readers, and/or they may plan to increase the price very shortly. All six of those authors have many other books on the market, so they can afford to have one novel as a promotional giveaway. Not everyone can do that and still make a living.
Peg: That sounds intriguing. I like the idea of multiple-author boxed sets. Each author would likely pull in a few different readers who would then be exposed to different writers and their styles. And doesn’t selling hundreds of copies a day sort of bury the idea that it isn’t a good customer experience?
L.J.: Not necessarily. Buying a product is only the first step. And most people who read digitally buy many more books than they will ever consume. If those readers only get through one or two of the six stories, then the other authors don’t benefit.
But to a certain extent, you’re right. Just because Amazon labels it “not a good experience” doesn’t mean it’s a bad experience for consumers, who still get a great deal on ebooks. Amazon just has very high standards! We authors, on the other hand, tend to focus on sales as a measure of a book’s success. Still, I want people to read my novels, not just buy them. I think limiting a boxed set to three might the perfect middle ground.
Readers: Do you buy these sets? Do you read all the way through?
Writers: What has your experience been?
I haven't bought any boxed sets yet, but I'm certainly open to the idea - especially if the total price for the 3 books was about what I'd pay for one or two of them!ReplyDelete
And I must see if I can drum up any interest with other craft-of-writing authors to do something like this... Especially those who write fairly short books - we could try different themes... Hmmm... Thanks for the idea!
I'm not sure I've ever seen a boxed set of craft books. You could be on to something!Delete
I love the idea of sampling the work of more than one author. However, I'd rather see shorter than longer "samples." A story (or novel) must clear several hurtles:ReplyDelete
1 Interesting hook to gain attention
2 Appealing (low risk) price
3 Reader's time
Three novels for 99¢ may easily clear 1 & 2, but reading a novel is a big commitment for a reader, probably why physical and virtual bookshelves often house unread volumes for years. If I'm sampling an author for the first time a short story provides a lower barrier to entry for me.
If a writer has a series of novels, it would be great to sample a short adventure with those characters.
Richard, do you read samples of books prior to making a purchase? And I'm curious, what about authors who are not new to you?Delete
Thanks for stopping by!
I think box sets have place on my shelf. My concern is having the author I like paired with an author I haven't read. If you look at Nora Roberts she put together trilogies on many story lines. Once all three of the books are out she offers them in a box set. Sometimes she offers an extra book as a reward for buying the set. She also has grouped her J.D. Robb Lt Eve Dallas and Roarke "In Death" series in groups of 4 to 6. She calls them Volumes She has written 48 books. Her sets sell the story line. Now If LJ offered her Agent Dallas series and paired them with her short stories that would be a good set. It would be great if the Jackson series could be offered in groups of 3. But why offer them in groups of three as every one the Jackson series as well as the stand alone books are still selling. I think Jodie would benefit if she offered her first two books as a set. What I don't see is putting together a boxed set with other authors. Both LJ and Peg have a strong following and Jodie has developed a following in craft- writing. I know I have added Jodie to the conversation but it brings home my point. Each author has a following because your readers like your styles. You fans would like to get a reward by buying a boxed set of their favorite authors work. He or she might think he has been forced to buy an author he or she hasn't read to get a set of Sellers or Brantley or Renner.ReplyDelete
You have never seen a set of Beatles albums mixed with albums of the Rolling Stones.
You make some excellent points, John! A well-thought-out response that definitely enriches the conversation. :-)Delete
I agree with Jodie.Delete
The music analogy caught me by surprise and I like it. However, just to push the conversation a little... someone who likes classical music probably has albums they love that are made up of works from different composers, and may even discover a new one they'd missed.
I just turned down an offer to participate in a boxed set with 6 other authors for .99. One other turned it down. It would mean putting the first book of my series--at this time a two-book series--in the set for six months. That would mean the book I sell for $3.99 would net me something like .05. Another consideration is my books are longer than most, this one coming in at 96K. The others probably run around 70-80K. The reason for a boxed set, I was told, was to gain more exposure and to develop more of a readership. I weighed all the pros and cons before I decided, and the cons won, hands down.ReplyDelete
The authors mentioned in this post have many books. They could afford to produce a boxed set alone or with someone else and not feel the pinch. Remember, boxing your own books for .99 effectively takes them off the market at regular price for the amount of time you decide to run the special. Now run the special for less than the collective price of your books, say, 7.99 for a $12 package, and it works for me. But I'm not willing to give away three books for .99 with only 6 books published. Maybe sometime in the future, but not now.
You've put a lot of thought into this and I appreciate you approaching it from a business perspective. I agree totally with the pricing of a boxed set at something less than it would cost to buy them one at a time, and you're right... it would effectively destroy any income for a long period of time for those of use with just a few books.Delete
As much as we like to think of writing as a purely creative discipline, it is a business, and you have to think of it in the long term as opposed to only the present.Delete
It seems like this would be a good idea for short stories or novellas for an author who only has one or two novels out and wants to expand their readership / fan base without discounting their one or two novels.ReplyDelete
One of my favorite authors, Lisa Scott, does amazing short story bundles. I stalk those things and she can't produce them fast enough.Delete
Interesting post! I agree with Jodie Renner. A good idea for the shorts or novellas (whether by different authors or the same). But in my limited experience, the few times I've read an author's series back-to-back, I've not enjoyed them near as much as if I'd read them spaced the typical (at the time) year apart. I found myself growing tired as the author's style and structure became overly apparent. Suddenly you start realizing you are tired of spunky heroines and brave heroes who fall in love, solve a crime, whatever the genre dictates. The last thing you want to do is to lose a reader who grows tired, or disinterested, because your work no longer seems fresh. (And I've stopped reading authors after binging, due to that very reason.)ReplyDelete
I would have to think that Amazon, the king of the numbers, charts and graphs on how things sell, would probably be the first to recognize what does and doesn't sell, since they certainly have the figures to back it up. That being said, there could be exceptions to the rule.
I'm inclined to agree that reading back to back is not always the best experience. But some readers love it. And you can always buy the books together at a discount and space out the reading experience. That said, I'm leaning away from doing a boxed set of Dallas series...someday when I have all three books done.Delete
I know take things one step at a time. Agent Jamie Dallas has gotten under the skin of avid fans who patiently waiting for Dallas #2 and Dallas #3. Once you get the flow of your creative juices, I hope you explore the idea of expanding the series to compliment the Jackson series. You never know what the future in crime fiction holds.Delete
I find this discussion fascinating because I've been on both ends, well, no, ALL sides of the spectrum. Consumer of boxed sets by an individual author, consumer of boxed sets by multiple authors. I'm the author of several boxed sets and I participated in a multi author box set.ReplyDelete
On all accounts I like them.
I know several authors who've landed on the Lists b/c of their single author box sets. And I know many other authors whose group box set landed them on the lists.
I enjoy the price cut and convenience of the single author box set. I adore finding new authors in a boxed set. My readers love getting a deal on my boxed sets. And the co-author box set was a smashing success in more ways than one.
The whole thing is a delicate balance and there are many many factors to make it a successful project. I have learned far too much for a single blog comment.
But yeah, yay box sets!
It was good to hear from you. I'm glad to know these offerings can be successful.Delete
I'm not sure I understand why Amazon said they do not offer boxed sets. Or was that just Thomas and Mercer saying they do not? I have published two Kindle boxed sets over a year ago of a 3-book collection of my husband's SciFi, and a 2 book set of one of his mystery series. (now his books were originally published years ago) They sell some but not a lot. My cover designer Judy Bullard has done several boxed sets for Karen Rose Smith, a popular romance author. My question is why not offer a boxed set of two or three books of either a series or similar novels. I've thought about combining a couple of my nonfiction because they often sell together or soon after, but I've not got around to doing that yet. I don't know if long sets of 6 or more books is a good idea, though. And I would prefer sets by one author only.ReplyDelete
Good discussion here, and sorry I'm late.ReplyDelete
I was invited to participate in a 10 book boxed set where the goal was strictly to make the NYT best seller list. There was no expectation of making money; it was purely a marketing tool, and in fact, there was a (for me) rather steep buy-in to cover creating the set and marketing it. I stepped out for a number of reasons, but the book hit the best-seller list and did give all those authors NYT best-selling author status. They left the set up only for a matter of weeks, as I recall.
And yes, I do buy them, both single and multi-author sets. I tend to space out the reading, however, rather than read all the books at once.
I can see how it could be effective for very specific marketing goals. But I can also see myself not participating, probably for some of the same reasons you opted out.Delete
I'm a little confused here. Who said Amazon doesn't offer boxed sets? I've bought several from them - both same author ebox sets and multi author sets. I think it's a nice way to sample new authors.ReplyDelete
I was talking about Amazon Publishing, which functions somewhat like other legacy publishers, not Amazon's KDP, a retail program through which authors self-publish. Or maybe my marketer was only speaking for Thomas & Mercer, AP's mystery/thriller line of books.Delete
Oh, got it! :) *wishes there were a "like" button*Delete
Also, one thing to consider in doing joint projects with several authors, is the tax situation. Amazon only wants one SS number to deal with, so if the book does well there is accounting to worry about and 1099s to be done by whoever receives the royalties. Have any of you ran into that?ReplyDelete
No, but that's one of the main issues that keeps me from doing joint projects, including collaborations.Delete