Boxed Sets – are they worth it?
Once you’ve written and self-published three or more books, you have the opportunity to package them together into a ‘boxed set’ for sale as an altogether new product – but is it worth the effort? As with anything, there are pros and cons to consider, so Ginger is here to walk you through everything you need to think about to make the right decision for you and your career.
Everybody loves value – that’s why we shop at places like Costco and BJ’s Wholesale Club. If there’s an item you use regularly, it’s a no-brainer to buy ‘in bulk’ and save a ton of money over buying the product individually.
The same can be said of books! On Amazon’s Top 100 lists, you’ll frequently see boxed sets of books for sale, even if they’re ebooks and the ‘boxed’ part of it is purely esoteric.
But is gathering a bunch of books together as a boxed set something you should be thinking about doing? Here’s our hot take on the topic.
More is Better?
Creating a boxed set of multiple books is an appealing prospect for many self-published authors. It allows you to create and market an entirely new product on Amazon using books you’ve already written – what can be better than that?
It’s also an appealing purchase for many readers, since they’ll get multiple books often at a deep discount compared to buying them individually. Given how voraciously some Amazon customers devour books, this is a great way to read more and pay less!
But in truth, making a boxed set of your books isn’t necessarily the ‘no brainer’ you might think. There are a few things to think about before you do so; and additional considerations when it comes to promoting and marketing your bundles of books.
The Box Set Pros
One of the most advantageous things about producing a boxed set of multiple books is that it’s an entirely new product to sell to potential readers, and it has a higher sticker price than selling an individual book. I retail most of my novels for $3.99, for example, but I’ll sell my boxed sets at $9.99 – meaning I’ll get more than double the book royalties for each boxed set I sell, even taking Amazon’s percentage into consideration.
This works to my advantage when I’m advertising my boxed sets because it provides a much bigger margin of profitability. I’ve calculated that I sell about 1 book for every 12 clicks using Advertising on Amazon, so therefore I have to keep my keyword bids at a conservative $0.25 to ensure I remain profitable.
With a boxed set retailing for $9.99, assuming that 12-to-1 ratio holds up, I can still be making a profit even if my bid goes as high as $0.58 – which means I can run much more aggressive advertising campaigns.
Boxed sets are also a winner when it comes to Kindle Unlimited. My average book runs to about 400 pages so I’ll make about $2 in royalties for every complete read-through. Combine three books, though, and you’re looking at 1,200 pages and about $6 in royalties (although before you go crazy, remember Amazon has set the maximum length for a KU readthrough at 3,000 pages.)
Even better, I don’t have to write anything new to take advantage of this. Every time I write three books, I’ve got the materials to package together and create a boxed set, so I’m adding to my potential income without having to do anything other than format the manuscript and create boxed cover art.
The Box Set Cons
However, nothing in this world comes free, and when it comes to creating boxed sets there are some downsides to consider; especially depending on the price your individual books retail at.
Boxed set or not, Amazon has set a rule that you can only get the coveted 70% royalty rate on books you sell that are priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Therefore, selling a boxed set of books priced over $9.99 is self-defeating, since you’d get more in royalties from selling a book at $9.99 than you would at $12.99.
Depending on the price you retail your books at, this could wind up cannibalizing your potential profits. If your individual books retail for $4.99, for example, you’re losing out on almost 33% of your potential profit by putting together a boxed set at $9.99. That makes a good deal for potential readers – but you don’t want to lose out on too much income by giving away an entire book (or more) for free.
Likewise, you’ve got to make sure the boxed set you’re retailing makes sense as a purchase. If you’re writing a four-book series, for example, there’s not much point in selling the first three of those books as a boxed set since they’ll leave the reader having to buy the fourth book individually to wrap up the entire series. In that situation, it’s probably better to keep selling the books individually.
In that situation, Amazon’s updated Series page works almost better than creating an boxed set, since it allows a potential reader to buy all the books in your series with a single click, rather than leaving it up to them to hunt around for the complete collection. You’ve got to view your writing through the eyes of a potential reader and make the decision whether or not to publish a boxed set from their perspective, instead of the perspective of an author trying to sell a few more books.
That being said…
If the idea of selling a boxed set does make sense, though, it can be a really powerful way to reach more readers on Amazon; especially since my experience seems to suggest that readers who buy boxed sets and readers who buy individual books generally don’t have that much crossover.
I’ve now written 12 books in my MC romance series and I’ve published boxed sets of the first 10 books without noticing any drop in sales of the individual books. I think this is due to the fact that boxed set buyers tend to be unique animals who mostly buy boxed sets of books.
To make my boxed sets attractive, I’ve divided them up into ‘seasons’ of my series, almost like you’d find on Buffy the Vampire Slayer or most popular TV shows. The first three books in my series have a story arc, the next four books also have their own self-contained story arc, and the next three books similarly provide a multi-book narrative that wraps up satisfyingly at the end.
This makes selling them to potential readers easier because you can market them based on the fact that they’ll get the value of a boxed set plus the experience of a self-contained story arc that doesn’t leave them hanging for the next installment.
It’s definitely worth thinking about whether your plans for publishing boxed sets provide a similar buying experience. You definitely shouldn’t published a bundle of books just for the sake of it – but given how little crossover there is between readers who buy individual books and the boxed sets, it could also work really well for you.
Just remember to look at your boxed sets through the eyes of potential readers, not from your perspective as a writer. If you can’t make an argument for why this boxed set should exist, maybe you need to hold off until a little further into your series.
Tips and Tricks
If you do decide to take the plunge and publish a boxed set of books, I highly recommend you consider the following:
- Create 3D boxed art for your books. We’ve gone on incessantly about how important the cover of your book is, and that’s doubly true when it comes to bundles of books. Cover art that presents your multi-book series as multiple books (normally presented as a 3D physical boxed set, even if you’re only selling ebook versions) helps instantly and wordlessly communicate to potential readers that they’re going to be buying more than one book at once. That’s how most bundles are marketed, and if you buck that trend (with a flat book cover, for example) you’ll find a lot of readers still think you’re selling an individual book even if your title, subtitle, and blurb promises differently.
- Make sure to include a Table of Contents and dynamic links. A lot of authors don’t bother with an official Table of Contents in their individual books since there’s not much need for one. That isn’t the case when it comes to a multi-book bundle, however. You should make it as easy as tapping the screen of their phone or Kindle to get to a specific book in the multi-book collection, so readers don’t need to scroll through an entire book (or more) to get to the title they’re planning to read.
- Target bundles and boxed sets when advertising your books. I mentioned above that readers who buy bundles of books tend to operate independently of readers who buy books individually. This should be reflected in the keywords you use when you start advertising your boxed set using Advertising on Amazon. Try to find authors and series titles that feature multi-book bundles, because then when your book appears in the Sponsored Products ribbon or search results, it’ll be alongside similar-looking bundles of books.
One final word…
One challenge that authors often have when marketing bundles of books is getting reviews. It’s tough enough getting reviews on individual books – let alone trying to leverage your ARC group to provide reviews for a boxed set of stories they’ve already read and reviewed individually.
What’s always worked for me in the past is to include not just the three or four books you want to bundle, but also some kind of ‘bonus content’ that is only available in the boxed set. For example, in a recent trilogy of books I bundled, I added a short story about the same characters which wasn’t available anywhere else. This turned out to be great leverage when I reached out to my subscribers to ask them to leave reviews of the boxed set, since there was still something new for them to discover.
Once again, that tactic worked because I looked at my boxed set through the eyes of a reader – not a money-hungry author. If you can provide something really interesting, attractive, and exciting in your boxed sets of books, you’re much more likely to maximize the profitability of them.
Good luck! And if you’re wondering where to get 3D images for your multi-book bundles, remember that Hidden Gems books provides cover design services including those 3D book renders.