Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ebook Marketing: Boxed Sets are Gaining Exposure and Sales

One of the things the digital world allows authors to do is to bundle their writings and easily deliver them to readers. Because of this, we are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of ebook boxed sets offered on-line. The types of sets vary but the author’s objectives are consistent. They want more sales and increased exposure.

At the beginning, the main objective of boxed sets was to sell more books and make a profit. The digital delivery system made it easy. The sets were uploaded to retailers and the marketing and sales began.

Recently, we are seeing authors exploring other ways to use their digital products. This time the book collections are being produced to gain exposure with readers. Offered at giveaway prices, multiple authors are banding together to offer their books in a boxed set.

Traditional Publishing

Book sets and short story digests are not a new phenomenon. Publishers have produced book collections for decades. Their size and the cost of production and delivery were always an issue. I remember reading the Winston Churchill books about World War II for a history project. A 6-book set that filled half of my bookshelf.

Reader’s Digest tried to handle the problem by publishing a set of short stories and later condensed versions of books to try to capture a growing reader’s market.

Digital Publishing

Now, we live in the ebook age where Churchill’s book set, along with hundreds of other novels can fit in the palm of your hand. Size is no longer an issue (some retailers have an artificial size maximum based on price) and the production and delivery costs are a small fraction of the old traditional cost structure.

Transition in Thinking

Many authors are starting to bundle their books and short stories and discounting them from the cover prices of the individual books. Readers can get the set delivered to their ebook device immediately. Great deal. This is all well and good if you have enough books in your inventory that you can bundle.

The following is a summary of how authors are using boxed sets to increase their sales and exposure.

Multi-Author Boxed Sets

We are starting to see unique version of boxed sets appear. The sets are a bundle of full-size books by different authors with a common theme or genre. The objective is exposure not profit. They are selling boxed sets at giveaway prices. This allows authors that only have a few books to take advantage of the new digital concept and gain exposure. (Established authors are taking the lead on this. Many new authors and groups will follow.)

For example, I choose a boxed set that was released in September, 2013 by nine outstanding authors with lots of titles in their portfolio. (Priced at $ 0.99 for the bundle.) I contacted several of the authors to see how their boxed set project had gone. The name of the bundle is 9 Killer Thrillers.


9 Killer Thrillers


The questions I had were general in nature.

1.  Whose idea was it and who coordinated the production?
2.    What were the objectives?
3.    What were your results?
4.    Did you run into any obstacles?

Here are their answers.

Melissa Foster

Award-winning Author Melissa Foster @Melissa_Foster is the author of several International bestselling novels and the founder of the World Literary Café, Fostering Success and the social and support network for women, the Women’s Nest.

Goal: “Our objectives were to expand our readership and reach out to readers in a new and different way.”

Results: “We've experienced high sales volumes which we hope will translate to new readership for each of us. Collaboration is an important aspect of the indie book marketing process.”

Problems: “Too many to count. KDP has a maximum size of 3MB for files sold for $.99 and that was a bit tricky. Different retailers accept different types of covers, so there were quite a few variations that came into play there, too.”

Russell Blake

Russell Blake @blakebooks is the bestselling author of twenty-two novels. Russell added this:

Goal: Melissa Foster and I were tossing around ideas for increasing our visibility, and we came up with the idea of an irresistible value proposition for readers. It made sense - discoverability is the toughest thing in this business, so anything that can increase discoverability is a win.”

Exposure: A sale is just a transaction. Gaining a new reader who likes your work is a relationship. We were after new relationships. That's one of the reasons we were very careful about the authors we approached - it wasn't about quantity so much as it was about quality.”

Results: Very good. I want to say we're closing in on 10,000 bundles sold, which is 10K new readers.”

Obstacles: File size and formatting were the two major bears, but we tackled them handily. We also had to do some heavy lifting on scheduling promotions for maximum effect, but none of it was backbreaking. I've participated in some other bundles, and this one was my favorite of the bunch. I've heard from new readers who discovered my oeuvre due to the bundle, so I'd say it was worth it.”

Claude Bouchard

Best-Selling Author Claude Bouchard @ceebee308 writes Mystery & Thrillers novels in the Vigilante Series. Claude had this to say about the 9 Killer Thriller Project:

Idea: “Sometime in September, I was contacted by bestselling author, Russell Blake, who asked if I was interested in taking part in a book bundle to be released as soon as feasibly possible. Blake's vision was a box set of already successful works by various established authors with the objective of widening the readership base for all participants. The idea had definite promise and the collection of nine authors and novels was soon established, the result being 9 Killer Thrillers. Production was coordinated by Blake with certain requirements overseen by John Betcher, Melissa Foster and me. All participants were involved in spreading the word via their websites and social media platforms upon release.”

Goal: “Since our primary goal was readership expansion versus financial gain, all agreed that a 99 cent price point should improve our chances to maximize distribution all while likely covering production and advertising costs. Less than two days following its October 21st release, the bundle sat at #69 in the Top 100 on Though it has slid back in ranking since, it's been hovering steadily around the #300 mark for over two weeks. Though I'm not at liberty to share specific sales numbers, I can confirm that all costs have been covered and multiple thousands of copies have sold thus far. I'd say we've met our objective.”

This boxed set was quite successful as the authors attested. Their main goal was to gain exposure at a low cost. It’s like the ebook giveaways that are so popular in our industry. They get readers to sample their product and hope the readers will return for more and/or tell someone else about it.

Nick Russell

Another of the author in the 9 Killer Thriller set was New York Times Kindle bestselling author Nick Russell @GypsyJournal. Besides being a novelist, he publishers the popular Gypsy Journal RV travel newspaper.
Nick added this to the discussion.
Results: The goal was not so much to make money from the sales, but rather to
introduce our work to new readers who were unfamiliar with our books.
I think it has succeeded in that. After the first big sales burst,
things have leveled out to an average of 200 - 300 books a day.

Obstacles: There were no real obstacles except for a minor glitch or two in the
formatting stages. It took a few tries to get it to work, although I
wasn't directly involved so I can't remember the details.

The 9 Killer Thriller boxed set included:

MJ Rose - The Halo Effect
Michael Wallace - The Devil's Deep
Russell Blake - King of Swords
CJ Lyons - Snake Skin
Melissa Foster - Traces of Kara
John L. Betcher - The 19th Element
Claude Bouchard - Vigilante
Luke Romyn - Corpus Christi
Nick Russell - Big Lake

To get a closer look at the 9 Killer Thriller details, click here.

Twitter Weight (TW)

I usually weigh my marketing potential by reviewing what I call the Twitter Weight. The Twitter Weight is the number of potential reads I can get by using social media to reach an audience. I round to the nearest thousand. This group of authors (9) has a Twitter Weight of 848. That means that the 9 authors have a combined following of 848,000+ on Twitter.

So, if the 9 Killer Thriller group all started marketing this boxed set on Twitter, they would have a very large potential audience. Of course, they would use other methods of promotion like Facebook, websites, blogs, etc. to push the boxed set but their Twitter reach is mind-blowing.

Individual Author Boxed Sets at Discounted Prices.

This type of boxed set is used by a single author to bundle several of their novels at a discounted prices from the individual cover price. Usually this type will combine a series or have a common theme for readers.

Hetta Coffey Collection Boxed Set

I will start this type of set with Award-Winning author Jinx Schwartz @jinxschwartz. She is an Award-Winning author. Jinx offered this about her boxed set.

Jinx Schwartz

Idea: “I decided to do a boxed set when I reached five in the series. I find when I offer any one of the books goes free, for some reason the boxed set sales jump. I recently offered book 5 (Just the Pits) free, so with the boxed set at 7.99, readers can get the entire series for 1.60.”

Startup: “I decided to do a boxed set when I published book five in the series. I've found when I offer any one of the books in the series for free, for some reason the boxed set sales jump. I recently offered book 5 (Just the Pits) free, so with the boxed set price at 7.99, readers can get all five books in the series for 1.60 each. Now, that is a deal.”

Objectives: “Well, both sales and exposure, of course. Since I am writing a series, I want to have loyal readers waiting for the next book. It is a slow process, but I keep plugging, and absolutely love getting mail from readers who relate to Hetta Coffey and her cohorts. Hetta is best described as somewhat irascible and snarky, but also funny and never dull, so she is liked by both men and women readers.”

Results: “So far I am pleased with my sales. Not gonna buy a new yacht anytime soon, but I am so much better off since I went Indie!”

Obstacles: “Luckily for me my lovely hubby figured out how to make up the boxed set and the cover.”

Jinx boxed set includes her novels:

Just Add Salt
Just Add Trouble
Just Deserts

Jinx has a Twitter Weight of 11 or over 11,000 twitter followers.



Sloane Monroe Series

Another boxed set was created by Cheryl Bradshaw. It features her popular character Sloane Monroe. I included Cheryl to demonstrate the combination of a book series boxed set and a large social media presence. This set had great numbers on Amazon and is still selling well. Cheryl Bradshaw has a Twitter Weight of 46, all by herself.

Cheryl Bradshaw

Amazon Best-Selling Author Cheryl Bradshaw @cherylbradshaw is the creator of the Sloane Monroe series and the founder of the hugely successful Indie Writers Unite group on Facebook.

The three books included in her boxed set are:



First Deadly Conspiracy - Boxed Set

The next set included in my study is the First Deadly Conspiracy which includes 3 books from Roger Stelljes’ McRyan Mystery Series. After release, this boxed set quickly jumped into the top sales categories in its genre on Amazon.

Roger Stelljes

Author Roger Stelljes @rogerstelljes is the bestselling author of the McRyan Mystery Series. His boxed set includes 773 pages:

FIRST CASE - (12 chapter novella) the prequel to the McRyan Mystery Series.

I asked Roger about boxed sets. He had this to offer.

Idea: “I saw that fans were buying subsequent books in the McRyan Mystery Series so I decided to offer a three book box set. I find it easiest and cost effective to utilize a formatter to get the three full length novels into a single downloadable volume.”

Objective: “My objectives in offering a box set included being able to offer convenience as a single download (instead of three ebooks) and also to help fans save a few bucks on all three books. Even if they download "Deadly Stillwater" as a free ebook it still makes sense to purchase the box set if they would like to read the other ebooks. I also think that books should be affordable and people should be able to read more not less.”

Results: “I would recommend that all authors put their ebooks into box sets. My ebook box set First Deadly Conspiracy just hit the NYT Ebook Bestseller List so I think that is proof positive that readers like box sets.  You'll see quite a few box sets out on Amazon and other sites that have 5-10 books in the set. Going forward, I don't think I will have any more than three books in a box set because each novel is quite long.”

Obstacles: “The only obstacles I ran into were that the formatter struggled a bit with the size of the Smashwords document however that might have been solved for other authors when Smashwords moved to allowing epub formats. Also iTunes/iBooks doesn't allow direct upload of a 3D looking cover so I had to get an additional 2D cover made for the box set specifically for use on iTunes. You may see a few 3D covers out there but those were all uploaded through Draft2Digital to iTunes.”

Author Boxed Set - Short Stories

Another approach to bundling your writings using boxed sets was taken by Mike Mathias. He bundles his short stories. He goes at it a little differently. Well let me have him tell you.

Crimzon and Clover

M.R Mathias

Author M.R. Mathias @DahgMahn is an award-winning self-published Fantasy Writer. He is noted for his epic fantasy novels and his prolific social network marketing activity. Mike said this:

Idea:  “Usually I write a Crimzon and Clover story while I am waiting on a novel edit. I have parts of the novel that I didn't use left rattling around in my head, and lots of ideas. I apply some of them to Crimzon and Clover and let their personalities take it where they will. I make the stories free and/or .99 to garner publicity, but that isn't why I write them. I write them because they make me.”

Results: “Crimzon and Clover have been well received and I have had at least five hundred requests to write a full length Crimzon and Clover novel. Our lucky girl and her growing dragon are main characters in the latter Dragoneer novels, and I think Clover might have a redeeming use for banished King Richard in the forthcoming fifth Dragoneer book.”

Obstacles:  “The hardest thing I run into is keeping the story simple. Anyone who has read my novels knows that I get a few threads going and then work on weaving them together for a climax. With a short tale it is a lot harder, at least for me. As for marketing... Getting good covers is a bonus.” (Mike’s Twitter Weight is 128.)

His short story set, Crimzon and Clover includes:

Tricky Wizard
The Grog
Wrath of Crimzon
Killer of Giants         
The First Dragoneer - A Dragoneer Saga Novella

Author Boxed Set – Large Story

Another reason authors use boxed sets is to package a story that, because of its size, was original parsed into separate novels. I asked Mike Wells to explain his objectives. 

Passion, Power & Sin

Mike Wells

Author Mike Wells @MikeWellsAuthor is a bestselling author including his titles Lust, Money & Murder and Passion, Power & Sin.

Idea: “The idea for Passion, Power & Sin came from a Wall Street scam I heard about back before the Internet, where tip letters were sent out by "stockbrokers" to two groups of potential investors--one  predicted that a particular stock would go up significantly in the next week, and the other letter was exactly the same but predicted that the same stock would go DOWN in the next week.  The scammers would only follow up with the investors who got the correct prediction, and after repeating this process one or more times, the scammers would have the investor eating out of their hands, ready to money into whatever company they were told to invest in.”

Objective: “That's only part of the plot, though.  I also wanted to tell a story about a young woman who is ruined by very shrewd con artist and who gets even by conning the con artist, and that's what the story is about.  I wrote this book the way I write all my books, starting with a three-act rough outline and then writing for a while, then going back to the outline and adjusting, and so forth.

Heather, the hero, goes through hell and her journey to track down and punish the scammer takes her all over the world.  Passion, Power & Sin is 200,000 words, so I broke it down into five smaller books.”

Results: “Sales of the book have been slower than I expected, but that's always the case.  The reviews have been spectacular--virtually everyone who reads it loves it, have only had a couple of readers who couldn't get into it for whatever reason.”

Obstacle: “My only obstacle is the same one I have with all my books and as an author in general--visibility.  The nonstop tsunami of badly-written first novels continues to grow due to the ease with which Amazon has made it possible to self-publish, and that's a real concern for serious authors.”  (Mike’s Twitter Weight is 61.)

Mike Wells boxed set, Passion, Power & Sin includes 5 books.


Multi-Author Sampler


KIW Sampler – Selected chapters for $ 0.99

This type of collection doesn’t meet the basic criteria of a boxed set but it is a collection of books held in digital form to help give a reader a sample of the works of the authors. The sampler was published by the Kentucky Independent Writers.

I contacted one of the authors, who is one of the HBS Author’s Spotlight crew.

Katherine Logan 

Award winning, best-selling author Katherine Logan @KathyLLogan is the author of the Celtic Brooch Time-Travel Series.

Idea: “I saw an ad on Facebook from a group of authors who put a sampler together. I mentioned the ad at a Kentucky Independent Writers meeting and told the group that I thought it might be something we could do quarterly. Several people volunteered to submit a chapter. The objectives were to give exposure to individual authors and the group as a whole. We’ve had over 4000 downloads since we put the sampler up a year ago. Everyone has been so busy writing that no one has had time to spearhead another edition.”

Obstacle: “The biggest problem was putting it together, taking chapters from nine books and giving them a similar look and feel. I stripped out all the unique features so that chapters had the same font and spacing, and then we sent it off to a formatter. Another member of the group did the cover and another member did the uploads. It was a joint venture and a fun experience.”

“I never thought of this as a box set because it is only the first chapter of each of the 9 books. Not the complete book. You might want to make that distinction.”

Authors involved in the sampler were:

Teresa Reasor - Kallypso Masters - J.M. Madden - Katherine Logan
Debi Warford (Illustrator)

Kathy has a point about this not being a true boxed set but it is created exactly the same as the other sets mentioned above. The thing that catches my eye is the Twitter Weight. This group’s Twitter Weight is 222. That is a lot of social media presence.

A reader may check the sampler out because they follow one author and they discover another author who has a similar style. It is the exposure that authors are after.

I don’t know if the sampler approach will be rewarding but the potential of the Twitter Weight of this group is sure there.

Author Boxed Set – A Free Novel plus a Sampler and Takeouts

Another concept, because this is a digital product, is the author is not only providing a novel but samples of other books and takeouts. Traditional publishing has used this combination but were always limited in the size of the book and the costs. The ebook loses that boundary.

Diane Capri has done that with her boxed set. She explains her bundle below.


Licensed to Thrill

Diane Capri

Spotlight on #1 Amazon Bestselling Author Diane Capri @DianeCapri is the author of The Hunt for Reacher series.

Idea: “Convenience is probably the number one reason readers choose sets instead of buying books individually. Readers who enjoy reading an entire series like having all the books together in one file on their eReaders, which makes the individual books easier to find and also easier to read in order of publication.”

Objective: “Every decision I make about marketing my work is always about serving readers, so I arranged to publish the sets in groups that would appeal to them. I included bonus content and priced the sets below the cost of purchasing the books individually. More titles increase author visibility on the various retail sites; sets make it easier for readers to find my work in all formats.”

Results: “Set buyers are a smaller audience segment so sets are not as popular as individual books and don't sell as many copies. But for readers looking for the full series at a great price, sets are an ideal solution for both of us.”

Her boxed set Contains: Two #1 Bestselling Titles, plus samples, interviews, and more:
Full Novel:  Fatal Distraction
Short Story: Fatal Enemy 

AND a FREE Diane Capri Sampler containing EXCLUSIVE BONUS CONTENT
plus extended samples of 7 Diane Capri novels all at a discounted price.


The award-winning authors included here have several different objectives in creating their boxed sets. Some have sales and royalties as their main goal. Others are trying to gain exposure. Of course, all authors are looking for both of these.

Boxed sets give new authors the opportunity to get more exposure than they could on their own. That is why I included the Twitter Weight concept. In the case of the 9 Killer Thrillers, we had nine authors cross-tweeting and linking to over 800,000 followers at one time. That is exposure. The good thing is they don’t have to stop marketing. The boxed set will be on-line forever.

Like Astronaut Eugene Cernan said on the moon, “It ain’t easy, McGee.” Actually he stole that quote from a Fibber McGee and Molly radio program.

There are formatters that can help with the creation of your boxed set. The cover issues, retailer’s requirements, and font problems can all be dealt with. But the end result will be more exposure and increased sales.

There is a big marketing opportunity here. Readers are looking for bargains and authors need exposure and they want to move books. I could see support groups and other organizations banding together and producing boxed sets.

My advice is: Authors should bundle up this winter.

Follow me:

Follow Me on Twitter: @jimhbs

Or visit my blog: The eBook Author Corner

Take a look at my Author’s blog: HBS Author’s Spotlight

Or my Mystery blog: HBS Mystery Reader’s Circle

Check out the Jonathon Stone Mystery Novels:
Black Mountain Secrets
Coming Soon: another Jonathon Stone Mystery: Game Of Fire


  1. Lots of good analysis here right from the source - thanks!

  2. Wow... what a fantastic breakdown of the boxed set phenomenon.

    I always wondered about the coordinated boxed sets which contain books from multiple authors. Such promos can create massive reach (as you described using twitter reach as an example), which can compensate for the lower earnings each participant gets.

    Awesome work!

  3. One author shared with me the sales are over 30,000 downloads. That is a lot of prospective followers plus some unexpected income for the authors.

    this is where this is going guys.

    readers like this a lot.