By Erin Wright
In the summer of 2017, I got together with five other Western Romance authors and we decided to put together a boxset for a two-fold purpose:
1) So we could hit the USA Today list. By pricing at $0.99, we were hoping to be able to drive enough sales to it to hit the list (and we did, coming in at #119 that week. Wahoo!)
2) To raise money for a charity that we all believe in: Heroes and
Horses (https://www.heroesandhorses.org). It’s a therapy camp (using horses) that returning soldiers with PTSD can attend and get help dealing with the demons that have come from serving in the military. Since we are western romance authors, this was a great fit for our audience and also happens to be something that I personally am passionate about. My father, brother, grandfather, great-grandfather, and countless cousins have all served in the military, so this is a cause I can get behind. Plus, horses!
The boxset was a success—we made just over $8000 from that bundle (which we called Kiss Me, Cowboy).
Well, we decided to do it again this year. We launched last year on the 4th of July and this year, we’re launching on the 3rd of July. This is the perfect time of year to be doing patriotic-based fundraisers, and we’ve found a lot of support from other authors and from readers because of the timing of our project.
Some tips and hints to making a multi-author boxset a success:
1) Only work with authors you know and can vouch for. I knew one gal, who knew someone else, who knew two other people, who knew another person . . . soon, we had an even half-dozen people, but every one of us knew at least one other person in the group really well. It is so helpful when it comes to group dynamics because you don’t have the in-fighting and drama that can come from getting a group of perfect strangers together. We’ve become really close friends because of this boxset and get along smashingly well. Don’t do this with just anyone!
2) Decide early on if you’re going to focus on hitting the USA Today list (or NYT / WSJ) or if you’re going to focus on raising money for a charity. Last year, with Kiss Me, Cowboy, we were focused on hitting the list, so we priced at $0.99. This year, since we’re all USA Today bestselling authors, we don’t need to hit that list again (although we certainly wouldn’t complain if we did!) so we’re pricing at $2.99. This will allow us to raise a LOT more money, since the royalties are so much higher at the $2.99 price point vs the $0.99 price point (six times higher!) We didn’t have a goal of how much money we wanted to raise last year because we didn’t really know what to expect, but this year, we’ve set a goal of raising $15,000, the cost of putting one soldier through the program at no cost to them.
3) Start early! The more time you have to gather up preorders, the better. A full three months is ideal, at least it has been for us. Reach out to all storefronts as soon as the boxset is on preorder and tell them what you’re doing. In-house promos are so helpful (and as always, Kobo has been great about this! Thank you, Kobo, for working with us authors so well!) The more time you give the storefronts, the better.
4) Doing a multi-author boxset is a fantastic way to help all authors’ careers grow. When I announced this year’s boxset to my readers, I got the following response from a reader, “Thanks for the boxed set because I get to find new authors that I might have missed.” Because each participating author is heavily promoting the boxset to their own list, there’s a lot of growth of sales all of participating authors as readers find new authors to love and enjoy.
5) With the above in mind, do be sure that the books are closely correlated to each other! A boxset of “contemporary romance novels” with steamy novels and billionaires and cowboys and closed-door sex scenes and a few small-town novels thrown in just for fun . . . it just doesn’t work. The closer the branding, the better the bundle will do. All six participating authors in our bundle are wide contemporary cowboy romance authors. You don’t get much tighter branding than that. Along those same lines, make sure that the heat levels are consistent too. If you have one author in the group with primarily sweet readers and another author in the group with sexy readers, the bundle won’t work. Our readers are all swexy readers (sweet + sexy, meaning about a three or four on a heat scale of one to five) so again, we have similar audiences and lots of crossover appeal.
6) Try to include Book 1 in the boxset if possible, with links to the other books in your series at the end of your novel. Make sure that the group agrees as a whole on what can be included as backmatter for the boxset before it’s compiled. Do you include an About the Author page? Also By page? Excerpt from another novel? All of that should be consistent for each author so everyone feels like they’re being treated fairly.
7) Decide beforehand which costs will be reimbursed back to the authors and which costs will not. Cover, website, promotions, virtual assistant costs . . . what will be paid out of the author’s pockets, and what is going to be reimbursed back to them? In our case, the participating authors are not being reimbursed for anything at all; all costs are being paid for by us so that ALL proceeds can be donated to Heroes and Horses. We make sure to say that in our advertisements also! People want to know that their purchase is going to actually help the soldiers, not just get soaked up by advertising costs, but we’re also lucky that we can afford to do this. Not everyone can, so make sure to decide this upfront.
8) Find a good way to communicate with other authors in the group. Our group uses a program called Slack and everyone LOVES it. It’s free, it’s easy to use, and it makes coordination a snap. Some people opt for Facebook groups; just be aware that Facebook isn’t nearly as easy to organize and find files in. Although not everyone is used to using a program like Slack, you’ll find that people quickly pick it up because it is intuitive, and it will make your life easier than using Facebook groups, I promise.
9) Decide how long the boxset will be available for (will it be a limited-time-only bundle or will it be up for forever?) and if you’re going to raise the price for the boxset after the first week.
10) Pick one person to be your financial person, to upload the boxset to all storefronts and then also pay the money to the charity group. This keeps accounting cleaner and easier. Decide how taxes are going to be taken care of, since you are selling this boxset, not just giving it away for free!
I hope this helped any of you thinking about doing something similar and if you have chance and want to donate to a wonderful cause, be sure to pick up a copy of Kiss Me Again, Cowboy (https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/kiss-me-again-cowboy) and help us support our troops. 🙂 It is a limited-time bundle, so be sure to pick it up quick!
Erin Wright has worked every job under the sun, including library director, barista, teacher, website designer, and ranch hand helping brand cattle, before settling into the career she’s always dreamed about: Author.
She still loves coffee, doesn’t love the smell of cow flesh burning, and is quite happily ensconced with her handsome hubby in a small, charming town in rural Idaho. On her site, you can sign up for her newsletter, along with finding the requisite pictures of Jasmine, her kitty cat muse and snuggle buddy extraordinaire.