Lately, it feels like the loudest voices in the indie community are all about exclusivity and low eBook prices. Well, here’s a story that disproves everything you’ve read recently: a $20 boxed set hit #1 on our charts. Author Lauren Royal generously offered to share the details here.
KWL: What inspired you to put together the Chase Family boxed set?
Lauren Royal: This past May, I felt I’d gone too long between releases, but I had nothing brand-new in the works that would be ready for release soon. All of my full-length novels were already in 3-book boxed sets that were selling very well for me, so I thought, “Hmm. What would happen if I put two boxed sets together and added a couple of shorter bonus titles to sweeten the deal? Would readers be willing to pay $19.99, the same price as the two boxed sets alone?” And so “The Complete Chase Family Series” was born.
I had no idea whether the big boxed set would sell at all, let alone sell well—because who would expect readers to pay $20 for an eBook? But I’ve always been open to experimentation, and my only costs were the price of a new cover plus my time to format. So I decided to run with the concept and see what happened.
Where did you distribute the boxed set and why?
I uploaded it to Kobo, iBooks, and Google Play to start, because these three retailers pay full royalties on books over $9.99. Once the set became a bestseller at Kobo, I pushed it out to Nook via Draft2Digital, because that way I could earn 60% vs the 45% that Nook Press would pay me if I went direct.
My big boxed set has never been on Amazon and never will be, unless they change their royalty policy. I don’t want to offer my entire 8-book series for a 35% royalty. My books are worth more than that!
What happened when you launched it at Kobo?
Kobo featured it on a page called “Can’t Get It On Kindle,” which I found amusing—but more important, that got it some visibility. The set began selling right away. I was astounded, but obviously readers recognized the value there. (The set is nearly half off the cost of all 8 books sold individually.)
Which merchandising opportunities were you offered, and what worked well?
I submitted the big boxed set for a few of Kobo’s 30%-off coupon promotions. It was accepted for a couple of them and sold really well on those dates. It was exciting to watch the sales mount, because when a title is $19.99, a KWL author earns $14 per sale—and that can add up quickly! Of course, I knew the discount would come out of my royalties, but the cost was well worth it for the visibility the promotion brought not only to that boxed set, but also to my other titles in the store.
Next I submitted the set for another author-supported promo code sale, and this time it was one of the 8 or so titles pictured in the email that went out to readers. That boosted its visibility even more, and sales kept climbing.
About a week after that promotion ended, a Kobo email landed in my inbox with my $19.99 boxed set featured at the top in a beautifully designed, historical-looking banner. And this time my set wasn’t in a discount promo—Kobo was promoting it at full price! This came as a complete surprise to me—you could have knocked me over with a feather when I saw that email. I’m on the West Coast and don’t get up early, so the email had gone out a few hours before I saw it. I immediately clicked over to my Kobo Writing Life account and saw that sales had exploded.
I sold my first book in 1999, so I’ve been in this game a while, but that day was one of the most thrilling of my career. I watched my boxed set climb and climb, until it was #1 in the entire Kobo store. That week E.L. James’s “Grey” had just come out, as well as Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman,” two hugely promoted trad-published books. Yet I was beating them both in the rankings—and with a title that cost more! Needless to say, I got very little done that day other than refreshing web pages on my computer!
What was most surprising about this experience?
Everything! I still can hardly believe this happened. But I have to say two things stand out to me. First, I think my story proves that readers are willing to pay serious money for eBooks if they see something they want at a good value. And second, despite the fact that contemporary romance currently outsells historical, historical romance can top the bestseller lists—or at least it can at Kobo!
Common indie publishing wisdom these days is that you sell more books, and therefore make more money, at lower prices. Do you agree? Has this boxed set changed your mind in any way?
I suspect indie authors who price super-low may be leaving money on the table. I’ve never believed it’s a good idea to price eBooks too low. I think that to a real extent, higher prices send a message of quality, and this boxed set experience certainly hasn’t changed my mind about that—if anything, it’s reinforced that opinion.
My full-length novels are all priced at $4.99, which is lower than most trad-published books, but higher than many indie books. I’m comfortable with that in-between price, which offers value without undervaluing.
What advice would you offer to other authors considering their pricing and retail distribution options?
I always advise other authors to distribute as widely as possible, to every country at every retailer. I have sold my books in 56 different countries—people all over the world buy English books!
And do yourself a favor by not underpricing your eBooks. One of the best things about being indie is that we can change anything anytime, so take advantage of that to experiment. Raise your prices and see how that affects your total income. Or if you think your prices might be too high, lower them and see what happens. Eventually you’ll figure out what works best for you and your books. (Well, until things change, because the one constant in our business is change…)
And finally, the one low price that I don’t consider underpricing is free. There’s no better advertising than giving a new reader one of your books to try for free. If you haven’t tried offering a free series-starter yet, I highly recommend it. I love the occasional boosts I get from Kobo’s promo code sales, but I mainly count on my free series-starters to drive my sales year-round.
Will you try a big boxed set again?
I don’t have another series that’s long enough to make a big boxed set—yet! But when I get there, you can bet I’ll be making another one.
What else are you working on these days?
I’m taking a short break from writing sexy historical romance to write sweet, kisses-only historical romance with my daughter, Devon. The two of us recently released three books, “Alexandra,” “Juliana,” and “Corinna”—and we had so much fun with those that we are now working on another sweet series. Now I just need to figure out how to write in two genres at once…but I know plenty of authors who do that, so I’m confident I can figure it out!
Buy Lauren’s eBooks on Kobo!
Lauren Royal is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of “truly enchanting” humorous historical romance novels. Her books have earned raves from reviewers including Publishers Weekly, who calls her “an impressive talent.” Lauren lives in Southern California with her family and their constantly shedding cat.