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Paperback Box Set: How, When & Why To Self-publish One

Paperback Box Set: How, When & Why to Self-publish One

photo of Helena Halme who self-publishes box sets in ebook and paperback

Finnish novelist Helena Halme explains how to self-publish a paperback box set – and why you should

Ever wondered whether it's possible for indie authors to self-publish paperback box sets, as well as the more familiar ebook box sets?  Good news: yes, it is!

Following on from New Zealnd ALLi author Kim Lambert‘s recent post describing why, when and how indie authors should self-publish box sets of ebooks,  Finnish ALLi author Helena Halme talks us through the same considerations for a paperback box set. Wherever you are in the world, their advice will help you emulate their success.


Why Create A Paperback Box Set?

Box sets can be great sellers because they provide a good product for binge readers and those who, once they have found an author they like, want to read all their books in the right order.

A box set is also good value for the reader as it provides a discount against buying the books separately.

If you are a writer of series, it’s almost unthinkable now not to provide a box set (or several box sets) of the books in that series, because the rewards are so great, but compilations also work well for authors with stand-alone novels. For example, the historical romance author (and ALLi member) Clare Flynn, has a Box Set called Across Oceans: Historical fiction collection which includes three novels with similar themes in her genre.

First Came My Ebook Box Set

When I started writing The Nordic Heart Romance Series, I always intended to to create a box set out of the books in the series. Currently there are four novels (The English Heart, The Faithful Heart, The Good Heart and The True Heart) and one prequel novella (The Young Heart) in the series, with a Christmas novella, (you guessed it!), The Christmas Heart coming out in November. I decided to include novels 1-4 in the box set, while leaving the prequel novella, The Young Heart, as my perma-free title.

My box set of The Nordic Heart Romance Series is my current best-selling Kindle title. This is pretty good, since out of my seven books, this ebook is also the priciest of all of my titles.

array of Helena Halme's books including her box set

Making her books available in different formats boosts Helena Halme's sales overall

Case Study of My Paperback Box Set

Why, when the ebook is doing so well, did I want to put my time and money into creating a paperback version of The Nordic Heart Box Set?

  • Some of my readers only like to read physical copies of books, and have been asking me if The Nordic Heart Box Set is available in paperback.
  • A title can be turned into several products, so why not give the readers another way to enjoy my series? (I’m seriously considering publishing large print versions of the books too – but, alas, that’s not possible for the box set.)
  • A paperback copy of a book next to the ebook provides the reader and potential buyer a price comparison, which will encourage the purchase of the Kindle copy.
  • I only have to convince the buyer to make one purchase, not four. I don’t have to wait for the reader to come back and buy more of my books weeks, or even months, later.
  • A box set provides a great marketing opportunity for discount selling. If you wish to hit bestseller lists, having a Countdown Deal (for those in KU), or a short-term outright sale at, say, $0.99, for a box set can bring great results because the price drop is so large. Discounting a box set will also bring a lot of more readers to your door.

For example, my ebook box set retails at $8.99 and I am going to be running a pre-holiday promotion 1-8 July, reducing the price to $0.99. If I ran a similar promotion for The Faithful Heart, Book 2 in the series, which retails at $2.99, the discount would only be $2 as opposed to $8. The costs of the promotion (running email, AMS and FB ads) will be the same, but I think (and hope) that the sales will be significantly more.

bar chart of box set royalty comparison

Lower Royalties for Paperback Box Sets

From the figures above, you can see that the royalties for the paperback copy of the box set are a lot lower than for the ebook version, as if often the case for a paperback version of an ebook, but the royalty is not the point of why I decided to create this version. Here are the two key reasons:

  • To give the readers what they have asked for, and therefore making sales that I may not have made if there was no paperback available. Even if the royalty is lower than for the ebook version, getting $4.78 per book is still a good amount compared to most royalties I get from my novels priced at $7.99.
  • To drive sales to the ebook version (where my royalty is $1.29 more than the paperback) because the potential buyer sees that there is a huge discount involved in getting the Kindle version. So not only do I provide my reader a $3.97 discount for buying the books in a box set, but I also show them how much less an ebook costs (a whopping $15) as opposed to the paperback version of the same book. If I didn't have the paperback out, I couldn’t show the reader the value for money they are getting with the ebook.
screenshot of paperback box set sales page on Amazon

The ebook price is a little different on this image as I am in the UK, looking at the Amazon.com sales page.

The ebook price is a little different on this image as I am in the UK, looking at the Amazon.com sales page.

How To Self-publish a Paperback Box Set

1.   Formatting

  • Use your usual formatting software or service provider. I use Vellum. There are many ALLi Partners who provide a paperback formatting service, if you don’t wish to do it yourself. All you have to do is drop your books into a new file with the cover image at the beginning of each title.
  • With a paperback version of the four novels, each amounting to around 70,000 words, I needed to adjust the font and spacing slightly. to ensure a good reader experience, I made sure that the text wasn’t too small.
  • I needed to keep within the maximum page count (828 pages according to KPD Print Publishing Guide but this depends on your trim size), and I also needed to adjust the gutter to allow for a wider inside margin. I went for a slightly larger trim size of 6 x 9 inches (all my other titles are 5 x 8 inches). The result was 730 pages, which I was pretty happy with.
  • To ensure that the resulting book didn’t have ridiculously small print, and wasn’t too cumbersome to handle, I ordered a proof copy. ‘War and Peace,’ said the Englishman when he got the book in his sticky mitts, and I took this as a compliment. It is a tome, but something, even I with my bad back, could consider carrying in my rucksack. What’s more, the text is very readable and the spacing looks right too.

2.   Great Cover And Blurb

  • The paperback's cover should reflect the genre and the books in the series, but is still visibly a paperback title.
  • Include a brief blurb of each book in the back cover, trying to keep them to a minimum.

3.   Appropriate Title – Excluding ‘Box Set’!

  • Choose a specific new title for your paperback box set. This was the most frustrating part of this process for me. Because I had published the ebook version of the box set a few months previously as The Nordic Heart Box Set, when it came to creating the paperback box set, I didn't think twice about calling this also a box set, but I discovered that Amazon doesn’t allow paperback compilations to be called ‘Box Sets’ because they deem it misleading – buyers may assume a paperback box set will include four individual print books enveloped by a beautiful cardboard box. Bear this in mind when you commission your cover.

Production Checklist for a Paperback Box Set

  1. Format the interior making sure the text isn’t too small for an average reader to enjoy the book. A larger trim size will help. Ensure you follow the gutter size recommendations of books with higher page count.
  2. Create a new cover that reflects the genre and the other books in the series, with a blurb that tells the reader what’s included in the box set without too many spoilers.
  3. Apply an appropriate title (not ‘box set’!) You might decide to include the words in the sub-title or blurb, but do this at your own risk. Amazon may call you up on it.
  4. Price both the ebook and paperback box set copies competitively so that the potential buyer sees there’s a discount in buying all the books at once. Do, however, leave room for a healthy discount for a Countdown Deal promotion or a heavily discounted sale to reach more readers for your books.
#Indieauthors - ever wondered how to #selfpublish a box set of books? In this new post, @HelenaHalme talks you through it - and it's easier than you might think! #selfpublishing Click To Tweet

OVER TO YOU If you have any top tips or any cautionary tales to add to Helena Halme's detailed guidelines, please feel free to leave a comment!


Author: Helena Halme

Prize-winning author, former BBC journalist, bookseller and magazine editor, Helena Halme holds an MSc in Marketing and an MA in Creative Writing. Full-time author and mentor, Helena also acts as Nordic Ambassador for The Alliance of Independent Authors and has published seven bittersweet Nordic romance novels and one non-fiction title, Write Your Story: Turn Your Life into Fiction in 10 Easy Steps. Apart from writing stories set in her native Finland, Helena is addicted to Nordic Noir and dances to Abba songs when nobody's watching. Helena loves to share her experience in indie publishing with other authors and creatives.

Find out more about Helena at her website:


This Post Has 10 Comments
  1. I agree with Sarah and I’m looking everywhere to find a “box” for my limited edition hardcovers. I was hoping this article might tell me so if anyone knows, please advise! Thank you.

  2. I agree with the two commenters above. Even though you didn’t label this as a boxed set in the product title, the description states “The Nordic Heart Boxed Set includes Books 1, 2, 3, and 4….” As a consumer I would expect four novels wrapped in a traditional box. As indie authors we’re well aware that an actual boxed set isn’t feasible, but this isn’t common knowledge to readers. Traditional publishers still offer true boxed sets–complete with the box–so readers would have no reason to think that you’re not delivering what you promised. As an author, I’d worry that this misdirection would negatively impact my reviews.

    That being said, I read both this post, and the one on eBook box sets, and I REALLY appreciate all of these tips/advice! I’m getting ready to publish the third book in my trilogy and I found both of these articles very informative, so thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. Thank you for this detailed explanation. My 2nd book is actually a companion coloring book for my children’s early reader. Is there any way to upload 2 separate paperbacks and sell them as one? I think my customer would want a separate coloring book. Thanks!

  4. I agree, to receive a ‘paperback box set’ which is just 3 books published as one would be very disappointing. I’ve seen evidence of readers being disappointed when they receive it. And this option is not even feasible for my 6 book series, it would be a huge, cumbersome tome of a book. No one would want that. I find this article a bit misleading.

  5. Shouldn’t that more properly be called something like “compendium” rather than a boxed set? A boxed set is traditionally separate physical books packaged in a coordinating box. That’s what I’d expect to receive if I purchased something labeled as a “boxed set.”

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