It's become common practice for authors who are writing multiple books, whether in series or as stand-alones, should consider creating a box set, either of their own books or in partnership with other authors in the same genre. It's also received wisdom that including box sets in your catalogue will extend your reach to readers and add a valuable extra income stream to your business model. From New Zealand, indie author Kim Lambert explains why, when, and how to create box sets, drawing on her own extensive experience and success in this field.
Let’s talk about doing ‘boxed sets’ of your books. This is important stuff, as far as your author earnings are concerned, and it’s even more important to get it right, given Amazon’s latest rule changes.
So, for clarity, I’m going to start with a definition.
What is a Boxed Set?
The term comes from the pre-digital publishing days, when, after considerable time with a series of books being sold as individuals, there might be a collectors’ edition of the whole series released, which was, literally, one of each paperback or hardcover book in the series, all packed together in a decorative cardboard (or sometimes wooden) box. Such things were either sold just a bit cheaper than the cost of buying all of the books separately, or for a premium, as a collectors’ thing.
In the digital era, we can do something similar, but it’s a lot cheaper to deliver! We can bundle up collections of our books into a single file and sell them as a virtual boxed set or box set on Kindle or other digital platforms.
Why Would You Do a Boxed Set?
It’s a common question. After all, a boxed set is usually sold for less than the total of buying the books individually – so why would you, the author, do yourself out of money?
The answer is interesting – because, contrary to what you’d expect, you’ll actually make more money.
Why? That all comes down to psychology. Someone might buy book 1 in your series, and like it, but never get around to buying book two. But, if you tempt them with a three-book set, for slightly less than the price of buying two of the books separately, then the deal looks so good that they’ll likely buy. Bang! They just bought three of your books with one click. You made more money than if they had just bought book 1 by itself. And now that they’ve bought it, they will likely read all three books, because it’s all there in one digital file.
And if you, the author, have done your job, by the time they’ve read three of your books, they’ll be hooked on your writing, and want more.
If your ebook is in KDP Select (ie exclusive to Amazon), that works in your favour in another way – because a boxed set, just your good work, no extra padding, is still a lot of pages, and will gain you more income from page reads – because, as mentioned above, if they bought it, they’ll likely read all of it.
(Note, with Amazon’s recent rule changes, it’s critical that any set you do is clearly labeled on the cover as a collection of books / an anthology or similar, and that your blurb clearly spells out the info about all of the stories in that collection. Amazon have no problem with collections, so long as the buyer knows that’s what they are getting – unlike the scammy practice of advertising it as a single story but stuffing multiple other books in the back of it. Similarly, you can still offer the reader a teaser taste of book four, in the back of your three-book set, so long as the teaser is not more than 10% of the book content, and is clearly marked as a preview.
Do a paperback too, because seeing that the paperback is $18.99 is great ‘price anchoring’ to prove the amazing value that you are offering. But one word of warning about paperbacks – if you do paperbacks, do not title your collections as ‘boxed sets’ – title them collections, omnibus editions, or similar, because some POD providers can’t get their heads around multiple books in one book. (Ed. We'll be running a post specifically about paperback box sets next week.)
When Should You Publish Your Boxed Set?
The when question is actually far more significant than you might think. After all, if your books have been recently released, and they are ranking and selling well, you don’t want to undermine that.
But no book stays at the top of the rankings forever (unless you have an unbelievable marketing budget!) Books naturally drop down the rankings, the longer it is since their release. And the further down the rankings your book goes, the more your income drops.
That’s when boxed sets come into play. Different people have different markers for when they go to a boxed set , and this will vary by genre, but generally, once all of the books that you’d put in the set are living at a worse than 50,000 rank (in Amazon at least – other vendors may be different), it’s a good time to box them up.
The set is better value than buying individually: it’s got a shiny new cover to grab the eye, and a picture of a boxed collection, so the value is obvious. The budget-conscious reader gets tempted, and the set sells more than the individual books were selling, with all of the benefits discussed in the ‘why’ section above.
End result – the author makes more money, especially as the extra visibility created by the set will drive the individual books to improve rankings again.
Which Books Should You Box Up?
Another excellent question! I’ve been talking about series so far, but you can create boxed sets of all sorts of things. Here are some options:
A collection of ‘first in series’ titles.
- A collection of clean romance titles across various sub genres (if you have more than one pen name, this is very useful as an approach to get readers onto your other pen names). This can also work with any other grouping of style of book, clean romance is just an example.
- A multi-author collection (Note that if on Amazon, the titles can’t be published individually by each author while the set is live in Kindle, as material can only be live in one publisher account at a time.)
- A collection of stories around a common theme.
- Or just a collection of works by the same author, showcasing the diversity of their writing.
And every one of those will boost your visibility as an author, and boost your income, because each of them is a new way for readers to find your work.
Even if you choose to sell your boxed set for 99 c to start, you’ll be surprised at how profitable they can be – people love a bargain!
How Do You Put It Together?
Constructing the Interior
You can construct your files using your preferred book formatting tool (I use Word for everything – yes, even very complex paperback files) – Word, Vellum, or any other tool you prefer. What changes a bit compared to a standard single book is the order of what you put in there.
Here is a simple description of how you go from three books to a single file for your boxed set. (I am describing as if you are in Word – you’ll have to interpret to suit whatever other tool you may use.)
- Open all three individual book files
- Make a copy of the book one file, naming the copy whatever you are going to call the set.
- Add a title page before the existing title page of book 1, and add the title of the set on there
- Add a couple of blank pages between the end of book 1 and your back matter (Teaser of another book, About the Author, other books by, join email list call to action etc)
- On the first blank page, copy the title page for book 2
- Then, at the next blank page, copy in the entirety of the story from book 2.
- Repeat those last two steps for book three.
- You can, if you wish, also put a small version of the cover of each book on the title page for each story.
- Replace whatever the teaser was that is there because it was the original teaser in book 1 with the teaser chapter from book 4 (or from another of your books, if that series doesn’t have a book 4)
- Make sure that your ‘About the Author’ info is up to date.
- Make sure that your ‘other books by’ info is up to date etc.
- Go through the file and make the names of each book on the title pages heading 1 style, and make each chapter heading a heading 2 style.
- Go to the front matter and replaced the existing Table of Contents with a new one, which will now have all three books info in it.
- If you allocate ISBN’s to your digital books, replace the ISBN of the first book (which is there because you copied that file) with the new ISBN for the collection
- Check the entire file for any minor errors, make sure that your heading levels are consistent, etc, then you have a ready to upload or convert file.
Constructing the cover image.
- If you are doing a paperback as well (recommended), you’ll need to do a couple of things:
- Make sure that you do not use the words ‘boxed set’ – call it a collection, omnibus edition, anthology or similar.
- You’ll need both a paperback wrap around cover and a 3D mock-up image of the set for use on Kindle / other digital.
- What is on your cover must match what is on that new title page at the start of your interior file. (ie, title, subtitle, series name, author name, any other text)
- All author names must be on the cover if it’s a multi author collection.
- The cover must indicate that it’s a collection – I usually put a subtitle like ‘5 wonderful XXX stories’ where XXX is the subgenre.
- The image on the front of your book/3D mock-up should not be the same as the images on any of the individual books, but should be eye catching and genre appropriate.
- You may choose to have small instances of the covers of the included books either on the front of the set’s cover (as in the image of the Derbyshire Set Omnibus Edition Vol 1 that you see with this article) or on the spines of the boxed set 3D mock-up (as in the image of the Love, a Second Chance set that you see with this article).
- You can get sets of pre-created mock-up templates for Photoshop for very reasonable prices – just add your image and text to the file in the right places. If you don’t do Photoshop, get someone to do it for you who produces mock-ups that actually look realistic.
- When you upload, make sure that you are uploading the right cover images to the right places!
That’s really all there is to it – follow the steps, and you’ll have an income -oosting set out there in no time.
My Experience of Boxed Sets
I have now done nine multi-author boxed sets over the last eighteen months, under my most successful pen name, working with a close group of people. The largest set had thirteen books in it, each novella length, and the smallest had five. We sell them at 99c and leave them live in KDP Select for six months. We do a paperback too, and leave it live forever. The best one earned us over $11,000 USD net in its first sixty days. The worst one netted about $4,000 USD in its six months. (We’ve got steadily better at promoting them). That gives you an idea of just how profitable it can be, even selling at just 99c!
(We'll be bringing you a post specifically about box sets of paperbacks on July 5.)
OVER TO YOU Do you have any top tips to add to Kim Lambert's detailed list? Any box set success stories to share? We'd love to hear about them!
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