You write your book, put it up on Amazon and the other online retailers, and wait for readers to buy it. The trouble is your book is one of millions out there and one of the biggest hurdles is visibility.
A few years ago, one of the best ways of gaining visibility was to put the first book in a series free. More recently, authors have been coming together to put out multi-author boxed sets to attract readers to sample their work.
Ana welcome Helen Scott Taylor, who shares valuable insights into making and marketing boxes sets.
Multi-author boxed sets are, in my opinion, a great tool for reaching more readers. Those who might never have heard of you will take a chance on a boxed set at a good price when they wouldn't have risked their money on trying your books otherwise.
I have been involved in four such boxed sets, and I've learned what works and what doesn't. The two most recent boxed sets both hit the USA Today best seller list.
Here is my recipe for a successful collaborative project.
1. All authors must agree on the goal of the boxed set. Three possibilities are: to reach new readers, to make money, and to hit the USA Today list. (We believe the New York Times no longer includes multi-author boxed sets.) These are not mutually exclusive, of course, but one's strategy will vary depending on the goal. For instance, if you are in it to make money, you would charge a higher price than if your goal is to sell enough units to hit a list.
2. Have a colorful, eye-catching book cover and an enticing blurb and product description. Too many boxed sets have bland, dull book covers that do not attract the eye. (See our two successful covers below.)
3. It goes without saying that all the books included in the box should be well written, thoroughly edited and properly formatted. A professional product is essential.
4. It is useful to have a New York Times and/or USA Today bestselling author or authors to headline the box, but it is not essential.
5. Choose a theme that appeals to readers and that is also easily promoted. Obviously the ultimate is Christmas, but there are many others. Summer reads, Halloween, Bodyguards, Billionaires, etc.
6. Everyone in the box must be willing to give it 110% effort. To be successful, you will need to promote your socks off. Some of the things that have worked for the boxes I've been involved in are:
Paid and Free Advertising. There are many places to advertise, some good, some not worth bothering with. Chose the best places and book as early as possible to make sure your advertising appears during release week.
FaceBook Advertising. The two boxes I was in that hit the USA Today list both received a huge boost from successful FB ads.
FaceBook Release Party. We've found this is a great way to engage readers, add subscribers to our newsletter lists and gain Likes on our author FB pages.
Twitter Party. This is simple to arrange if you create a list of promotional tweets and ask friends and fellow authors to tweet or re-tweet them during a prescribed two hour period.
Reviews. Send out review copies well in advance to your street teams, review blogs etc. Aim to have 50 reviews lined up to be put up on release day or soon after. We believe that 50 reviews is a magic number that makes the Amazon algorithms give a book more visibility.
How much paid advertising is done will depend on how much each member of the boxed set is willing to contribute. It is wise to agree this at the outset. Remember when the cost is split ten ways or more, it doesn't seem as bad.
7. On the subject of numbers, Amazon only allows ten author names to be input during uploading a book, but it is possible to add additional author names by contacting KDP. You don't have to limit yourself to a maximum of ten authors if you don't want to.
8. Plan well in advance. Make sure you have enough time to ensure everyone has their story finished and handed in for formatting in good time. This allows for any problems to be ironed out. Standardize the front matter and back matter of each story to give a consistent look.
9. A major issue is who will handle the financial and tax affairs of the box. That is a big responsibility for one author. It is worth considering the option of using an aggregator who will format, upload to the retailers and handle the income and tax. Such companies usually take a 15% cut of royalties, but they cut down on the work and headaches for the authors. Do check carefully what the terms and conditions are before you sign up with such a company. Make sure they don't demand any rights to your books.
10. Utilize the preorder option on all the retailers, especially Amazon. Aim to have the boxed set up on preorder for at least two weeks before release date. This allows the box to accumulate a nice bunch of sales that will be credited in release week and will make sure you hit the ground running on release day. Be sure to select Tuesday as release day. Due to a time zone effect, Amazon allocates all preorders to the day before release day. If you release on a Monday, you lose all your preorders into the previous week. (USA Today counts Monday to Sunday for the list.)
11. If any of your group has a contact at Apple, be sure to request inclusion in the Apple categories that are curated such as the 99 cent boxed-set category. Apple is notoriously difficult to navigate and be found on.
Good luck if you are planning a boxed set. I've made some wonderful friends through working on these projects. When the group gels and works well together, it is an energizing and exciting experience with rich rewards.
USA Today bestselling author, Helen Scott Taylor, lives in South West England near Plymouth in Devon between the windswept expanse of Dartmoor and the rocky Atlantic coast. As well as her wonderful, long-suffering husband, she shares her home with a Westie and a burmilla cat.
The two USA Today listed boxed sets I mentioned are:
Sweet Christmas Kisses
This holiday season, warm your heart with 14 Sweet Christmas Kisses, a bundle of PG-rated romance novels and novellas from USA Today bestselling authors. Amazon B&N
Ten Christmas Brides
Join ten New York Times & USA Today bestselling authors to celebrate the holiday season with a boxed set of stories brimming with emotion, holiday spirit and happy ever afters. Amazon B&N
You can connect with Helen here: