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.
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 Time, These 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.’
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.