How to Plan a Box-Set

Today’s post is from a fabulous British author called Jane Davis.

By fabulous, I don’t mean she writes fables. In case you don’t know, her six novels to date are all wonderfully real character-led stories. This Saturday, October 3, she’s at Barton’s Bookshop in Leatherhead from 10.00am to 4.00pm for the launch of the new ‘bookshop editions’ of her novels.

And let me tell you that when you get to Barton’s at 2 Bridge Street, Leatherhead, you know you’ve arrived.

Here’s Jane with her advice on how to plan a box-set.

Jane Davis

In 2014 I experimented with producing two box-sets, first releasing my own three novel box-set, and then collaborating with six other authors on a multi-author limited edition box-set.

I called my own box-set Second Chapter as it contains what I consider to be the second chapter in my journey as an author. My first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, was published by Transworld after it won the Daily Mail First Novel Award in 2009. Second Chapter contains three full-length novels, I Stopped TimeThese Fragile Things, and A Funeral for an Owl. The idea was simple. I wanted to attract new readers by offering three books for the price of two.

Second Chapter

Single author box-sets are the perfect solution for authors who write a series, and they’re great for readers too.

As JJ Marsh explains about her European crime novels in the Beatrice Stubbs Box Set: ‘Readers often say that after reading one, they immediately want the next in the series, so a box-set is a handy way to get three at once.’

My collaboration with six other members of the Alliance of Independent Authors was more unusual. While collaborative efforts have become more common among genre fiction authors, we weren’t aware of other multi-author collections of contemporary novels. Of course, several of the issues highlighted here also apply to single-author box-sets.

Why do it?

Simple. We wanted to explore the power of the group. A box-set aggregates reader bases and the theory was that our combined reader bases would result in cumulated sales. But we also wanted to demonstrate the tremendous quality of fiction that is being self-published.

These Fragile Things

Who to collaborate with?

The group needs to share the same values and aims. These should be set out in an agreement (more later) which, when the going gets tough, can serve as a useful reminder of why you started out on this journey.

Make sure you’re happy to champion the other authors’ books as you would your own. We were fans of one another’s fiction before we teamed up.

No two books should be too alike, but they should appeal to the same target market. Our decision was to focus on our characters and the boundary-breaking nature of our fiction.

Make sure that the other authors are eligible to participate. Better to discover sooner rather than later that they’re signed up to KDP Select.

Find out if all of the books have been professionally copy-edited and proofread. You will save time by asking this very simple question.

Do the books have a high number of 5 star reviews? You may find it very difficult to garner reviews for a box-set, especially if it is only available for a limited period, so it’s a good idea to have a stock of headline quotes to draw from.

I Stopped Time

Outline Agreement

Now comes the nitty gritty. Even though you may want to operate on trust, certain issues should be nailed down at the outset.

Set out your main aims. How else will you measure your success? 

Decide how you’ll work on a logistical level.  Will one person act as overall leader or manager, or will each author take responsibility for a different area? What issues will you put to the vote, and how will you make decisions if you are up against time limits?

There should be written agreement that each author will retain his/her own rights, but grants consent for the party taking responsibility for uploading the e-book to publish it. This really is a key responsibility. That same person will receive all of the proceeds from sales and must act as treasurer for the team. We are so grateful that Jessica Bell took on this mammoth task.

Release date – print magazines put their books and features pages to bed three months before publication. Newspapers have a faster turnaround, as do radio and TV, and two months’ notice may well suit them. While you may not have aimed for publicity via these channels when writing as an individual, don’t underestimate the power of the group. We featured in a number of major publications, The Guardian, The Sun and New Edition to name but a few.

Pre-orders – now available on most platforms. Our experience was that people want e-books instantly.

A Funeral for an Owl

How long will the box-set be available? Consider the appeal of a limited edition product v the benefits of having the product available in the longer term. If some of you have published only one or two books, they may be less keen for the box-set to remain on sale. We decided on a period of 90 days only.

How will the product be priced? Box-sets are usually value-priced, meaning that the box-set costs the reader far less than purchasing all the books individually. Generally, the more limited availability is going to be, the keener the pricing needs to be. We settled on a price that represented a discount of 75% off the price of the books if bought separately, which represented tremendous value.

What is each member is expected to contribute, both in terms of money and time? I was simply blown away by the skill-sets within our team. Having a cover designer, interior formatter and website designer in-house meant that we didn’t have to pay other professionals for these services. And there was surprisingly little overlap in skills, so we were all able to play to our strengths.

How each member will be paid and when (Pay Pal is useful).

A general statement of commitment to summarise what is expected of everyone.

Women Writing Women Box Set Cover_finalGIF (1)

Branding

Title – As well as capturing the theme that links the books together, it’s a good idea to mention the word “box-set” in the title, together with the number of contributing authors.  

Cover design – 2D v 3D? As instructed in the Smashwords Style Guide, Smashwords can’t accept ‘3D’ images (a digital rendition of a three dimensional box-set). And they are not alone. If you wish to publish on any platform other than Amazon, and you only want to have one cover image, it must be 2D. NB: All authors should be listed on the e-book cover image.

Your brand will extend to author photographs, memes, Facebook banner, website domain name and design, all the way to any Twitter hashtags you adopt. Ours also included video trailers and promotional giveaways. 

Formatting and Interior layout

You’ll combine the multiple books into a single e-book file. A Table of Contents becomes crucial for box-sets.

We listed each book and author name, and included a short bio, blurb and headline quotes after each title page. You might also add “Other books by Author Name” or “Connect with Author Name,” with electronic links.

Proof-reading – It is vital to ensure that errors have not been introduced during the formatting process. As a minimum, each author should proof their own book and one other novel.  Set a clear realistic deadline.

Communication within the team

We found it very helpful to set up a closed Facebook Group, as well as a shared Google spreadsheet which was effectively a diary of all of our marketing. This ensured that we didn’t duplicate efforts and that we weren’t all asking favours of the same contacts!

Joni Rodgers

Publicity Campaign

We were fortunate to have our product endorsed by respected industry professionals, including Alison Baverstock and Dan Holloway, who gave us amazing quotes which we were able to use on our cover and in press releases.

We utilised social media to full effect, adopting #womenwritingwomen as our hashtag, setting up a Public Facebook Group and targeting reader groups.

Press Releases – we designed three separate press releases with slightly different emphasis in order to suit the bias of the publications we intended to approach.

We wanted a fresh idea for giveaways that would cost very little but treat the winning readers to something of genuine value. Joni Rodger’s daughter (Jerusha Rodgers of Rabid Badger Editing) created a fabulous digital swag bag that included a critically acclaimed novel by Joni, a free music album download by Jessica Bell and a host of delightfully fun and artsy surprises. We also gave away a couple of Kindle Paperwhites. Giving away upscale prizes in a promotion builds awareness, and brought us email addresses and other benefits.

Joni is also experienced in audio editing, so she created our book trailer – again using one of Jessica’s songs. She also made a 60 second review for each book in the set.

Blog tours – we adopted a dual approach, pulling in favours and paying for a blog tour.

Jane Davis

What we will take away from the experience

Joni Rodgers: ‘I’ve learned a lot about marketing and production, and that’s something I’ll gratefully take with me when our 90 days is done.’

Roz Morris: ‘Certainly I learned that promotion in a group gives you more courage. I find it agonising to write assertive press releases on my own behalf, but it was dead easy for our ensemble. I’ll channel that when I start bumbling through a release for my next book.’

ooOoo

A big thank you to Jane. Here’s more about her:

Jane Davis’s first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award and was described by Joanne Harris as ‘A story of secrets, lies, grief and, ultimately, redemption, charmingly handled by this very promising new writer.’ She has since published five further novels.  Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’

Visit her website: www.jane-davis.co.uk and subscribe to her blog
‘Like’ her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/janerossdale
Follow her on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/janeeleanordavi/boards/

And don’t miss seeing her at Barton’s Bookshop on October 3.

 

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What the Dalai Lama Didn’t Say

As invitations from a financial adviser go, this one was a tad unusual. But I was looking forward to what His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to say about compassion.

We’d been to the O2 Arena before. As I passed the famous balls at the entrance, I wondered: where on the spectrum between Monty Python and Ed Sheeran would this ageing religious rock star fit in?

blue balls in O2 entrance

I’d never met His Holiness, as he is called, but I’ve been on first name terms with one of his dogs. As a teenager, I earned pin money walking Chota Peg, a Lhasa Apso given by the Dalai Lama himself to a neighbour of ours. The breed’s distinguishing feature as far as a 13-year old dog walker is concerned is that its back end looks just like its front, which may explain why I never knew which way we were going.

Now, what to wear to hear His Holiness at the O2? My son assured us that the Dalai Lama would surely be content if we rolled up in yellow sheets, but the good people in hospitality would probably expect us to be in clothes.

So, clothes it was.

Protesters formed a tidy encampment outside the venue.

protest against 'False Dalai Lama'

I can’t fault the O2, especially if you’re hungry or thirsty. We poked our heads into the VIP lounge which has a 70s vibe and possibly the best Bloody Marys in the world, though that wasn’t what we’d come for.

VIP lounge at O2

The Dalai Lama’s warm-up acts were an amazing singer and a young choir. In appreciation, His Holiness bestowed garlands and pats on the head. There’d have been suspicions had he been a Catholic priest or an iconic DJ.

The real disappointment of the day was the Dalai Lama’s address. Martin Luther King he wasn’t. And I should know

The audience was there to hear about compassion as the foundation of well-being. But the man was rambling and inaudible, and, without surtitles à la Glyndebourne, almost incomprehensible. Was the sound system at fault? We cupped our ears, straining to catch the words, trying hard to work out which way he was going.

I’ve heard that HH has spoken eloquently on many occasions. Saturday was not one of them. The unstructured address was punctuated by his trademark chuckling at his own jokes. The question and answer session at the end was even worse. If this was the poster boy for peace and harmony, no surprise the world is in such a mess.  

However the day was not a total loss. The weather was kind and we’d met some interesting people at the event. Fortified by vodka and friendship, we went on the Emirates Air Line

cable car

It’s only a ten minute journey in a cable car, during which you can see Docklands and indeed much of London clearly, including the City and the Thames Barrier. I watched the Thames flow, barges glide past, people amble, trains roll by. 

view of O2 and Docklands

We got off at Victoria Docks and visited the Oiler, a bar on a barge. Next to it, people squeezed themselves into wetsuits and tried out water-skiing.

The Oiler, Docklands

It’s a good place to sit and reflect on peace, and on where to find it.

ooOoo

Easy tweet: What the Dalai Lama Didn’t Say at the O2 http://wp.me/p3uiuG-14C @DrCarolCooper strains to hear him

You may also like:  Dalai Lama says female successor must be ‘very, very attractive’ otherwise she is ‘not much use’; in Times of India.

 

What They Don’t Teach at Medical School

Today GP Geoff gets a new group of medical students to teach. The names may change from week to week, but there’s always at least one swot from Germany or the Far East, a home-grown rugger bugger who is too big for his chair, a student in a hijab, a gay man, a babe who fiddles constantly with her iPhone, and an argumentative leftie.

HP Rapaport Sprague stethoscope, circa 1981

Geoff is a character from my novel One Night at the Jacaranda.  I made him up, but, if you know much about medicine, he seems real enough.

Education is not a vessel to be filled, Geoff muses, but a fire to be lit.  He has forgotten who said, it, but he’s pretty sure the fire should stay lit for the whole of their careers. So the students need a dose of reality.

fire in the political belly

Geoff reflects on his fifteen years of practice. The reality is that patients wangle sick notes because they don’t like their work. They get prescriptions for things they could have bought from the chemist. Well, par for the course.

They also suck you into their lives and dump their shit.  So you get involved when they tell you about their affairs that went wrong, the drugs they score on a Friday night, or how much they hate a sister or brother.

Or when they’re still driving even though they shouldn’t be.

FreeImages.com/Juan Miguel Rodriguez

Case in point: nice Mrs Thingy. Geoff is not too hot good on names, but he knows he advised her very clearly not to drive until her seizures were under control.

The snag is her three children. Geoff instantly forgets what she says her husband does, but he gets the gist. Mr Thingy has to get to Ealing Broadway station by 7am so he can’t do the school run.

“Can you walk them to school instead?” asks Geoff, ready to extol the benefits of blue skies, fresh air, exercise, autumn leaves, and the rest.

suburban street

“Doctor,” she says in a wheedling tone, “if I did that, it’d be a mile and half each way just for the boys. And Poppy is at a different school. There’s just no time. I’d run myself ragged, and that’s not good for my seizures.”

“Perhaps a neighbour can help?” suggests Geoff.

She gives a pitying look. “They’re all pensioners near us.”

“What about asking at the school? You may find a parent of a child in another class who lives near enough to you.”  Geoff is aware he’s running late now.

FreeImages.com/Vikki Hansen

“Well, I don’t know,” says Mrs Thingy.

“Why don’t you talk to the school secretary?” Geoff suggests. He may even need to involve Mr Thingy, find out if he can start work later during term-time. This is as far as one could possibly get from looking through the test results and reminding her about her smear. Geoff makes a mental note to do all this later.

Mrs T says nothing. She stares as if the GP is the baddie who makes up the laws.

Geoff continues, “If you have a seizure at the wheel… Well. It hardly bears thinking about.  Remember the Glasgow bin lorry crash last year? The driver blacked out at the wheel and killed six people.” 

“I know, I know.”  Her glance at the door shows she’d like to end the conversation as soon as possible.

Geoff leans back in the chair, which isn’t far as he has a cheaper model than his partners. “You realize, don’t you, that I’m obligated to contact the DVLA myself if you don’t.”  (For readers outside the UK, this is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency.)

Her expression freezes.  “But I thought confidentiality…”

“Doesn’t extend to situations where the public is in danger.” He shakes his head slowly as he pulls a sympathetic face.

“Oh,” she says in a small voice. “Right.”

Geoff knows what he will discuss with his students today. Confidentiality.

And the knack patients have of sucking you into their lives.

***

Easy tweet: “What They Don’t Teach at Medical School http://wp.me/p3uiuG-14k via @DrCarolCooper” #medicine #students