Book bundles are a fantastic way to expand your platform and your writing opportunities.
I have collaborated with other authors on five difficult book bundles-and have at least two more in the works. The first collection, Thirty-One Devotions for Authors, included-you guessed it-thirty-one authors, ranging from some of the most well-known among Christian authors to newbies. When my short story Slider won an honorable mention position in The Saturday Evening Post’s Great American Fiction Contest, they included it in their anthology along with other winners and honorable mentions. My third collection (now no longer available) included previously-published full-length novels bundled for resale as a set.
Each of these approaches to book bundles have their own degree of success and satisfaction. By far, however, the most fun collaboration has been that in which each participating author writes a fresh novella for a new collection.
Why Book Bundles?
Short works are fun and challenging to write. Novellas are generally around 25,000 words, but must be as complete in characterization and story arc as a full-length novel. That adventure alone is reason enough to encourage me to participate in these novella book bundles.
It also gives me a chance to play. I’ve been writing a contemporary Western romance series and have another in mind when it’s done. I also like to write contemporary romance and women’s fiction, but both of these currently go against my brand. Considering the fact that the bulk of my readers prefer their heroes in cowboy hats and boots-and since the two series I’m working on provide such heroes-I’m genre-locked for a while. Collaborating on book bundles has allowed me to write about different people in places other than the ranch and rodeo.
If you’re a new writer, collaborating on book bundles is great for visibility. If you’re an established author, participating gives you a dual benefit: you get to pay forward by helping newbies get publishing creds and you get an income from a new product.
So, how can you put together book bundles?
What Authors Would You Like to Include in Your Book Bundles?
Including friends is always appealing, but you must also consider which business roles the collaborating authors need to fill. Filling these roles with participating authors will help you save on production costs. Doesn’t matter if the same person fulfills multiple roles-although it’s good if there are several different people to shoulder the work.
For a successful collaborative effort, you will need:
1. Authors in Your Genre (or One Reasonably Similar)
This is particularly important if you’re a newbie hoping to break out in your genre of choice. It’s slightly less important if you’re an established author who just wants to play in other genres. Keep in mind, however, that if your anchor author-the one with the highest visibility-is in your same genre, that person’s audience could become your own.
2. An Anchor Author
You need at least one author with a good platform (visibility). As I mentioned above, this will give you access to your target audience. It will also help generate sales and, if you go through Kindle Unlimited, pages read.
3. An Eagle-Eyed Proofreader
My preference is for an author with a side editing business, both content and copy. Editing is the highest expense of any publication, so it’s vital to have an editor on your team, or at least people with enough experience in the craft and mechanics of writing to catch errors before they go public.
4. A Cover Designer and/or Formatter
You’ll need both. There’s no bigger headache in this process than pulling together several novellas into one harmonious unit and putting a cover on it. But the cover is your first marketing tool. It’s what will catch your readers’ eye and draw them in. Your book’s format is what they’ll see if they sneak a peek on Amazon. This means you’ll need people who can make both the outside and inside appealing.
5. An Accountant
At the least, you’ll want someone with a good head for numbers. Once you start selling books, you’ll need someone to divide the royalties and keep up with expenditures. Also, since no one person wants to pay taxes on the group’s total royalty income, the accountant will need W-9s from each member in order to issue 1099s at the end of the year. That way, each person pays taxes on only a fraction of the royalties. (Issuing 1099s is necessary only if the total royalty income is over $600. Under that amount, the royalty income could simply be divided and reported individually.)
6. A Marketing Whiz
To make an income, you have to promote. Generally, it’s important for everyone participate in this, but it’s great to have at least one idea-generator who can come up with unique ways to make your book bundle stand out.
How Much Does It Cost to Produce Book Bundles?
Production costs can range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand, depending upon how well you choose your writing partners to fill the list above. If you have people who are good with editing, cover design, and formatting, you can save a bundle. But following are some expenses you may not be able to avoid.
This is your product’s individual number. You can publish without it, or you can have one assigned through your publishing agency of choice. Either way, this is something to discuss with your team members early.
If you want extensive distribution of your e-books through Apple, Kobo, Nook, and Kindle, you’ll want a number that doesn’t include Amazon’s Kindle code. Amazon is a huge competitor of every other company in this business, so the others are not likely to honor Amazon-assigned ISBNs.
The same is true if you decide to do a print version: retailers and libraries aren’t too fond of Amazon. This means having an ISBN that doesn’t bear their code is a plus, but it also costs. Check with Bowker to determine cost.
2. Print Versions
If you decide to release a print version of your book bundles, each contributor will want to buy books for their own inventory. Generally, paperbacks run around $5-$7 wholesale per copy, but the more pages included in the collection, the higher the cost. The more you buy in bulk, the less the cost upfront, but shipping tends to even things back out.
3. Email Promo Services
Getting posts on blogs and publishing in magazines are nice ways to gain publicity. Social network posts are wonderful. Facebook and Twitter parties are great. Goodreads giveaways are beneficial. But to put your release in front of a seriously broad audienceor, preferably, more than one audience-email promotion services are invaluable.
Most authors have heard of BookBub, the most expensive service (and the one that’s the hardest to get on with), but there are so many others. Each has varying degrees of success, but using several together within a close time frame for sales bumps, or even fanned out for continuous sales, works undeniably and for considerably less than BookBub. (Still, if you can afford BookBub and can get on with them, don’t pass up the opportunity.) The most comprehensive list of services I’ve found is on Indies Unlimited.
3 Final Considerations
There is a lot to consider when doing group book bundles, but they’re fun and worthwhile. Novella collections are popular these days, so if you have an opportunity, jump in-or start one on your own. Here are a few final things to consider and before you and your crew begin:
1. What Is Your Book Bundle’s Theme?
Will your bundle have a theme? Will the theme be interlocking, asThe Bucket List Dare, in which the characters in each story know and mention each other? Or will the theme feature unconnected stories with a unifying motif, as inComing Home: A Tiny House Collection,in which each story includes a tiny house?
2. What Is Your Publication Date?
All the authors need to be aiming for the same deadline. It doesn’t have to be carved in stone, but unless you have one, your team will find excuses not to work on their novellas. Set up a deadline for the each author’s draft to be finished and ready for edit, a deadline for the professional editing to be finished, and a deadline for final revisions to be finished.
3. Who Will Design the Cover?
By the time the novellas are being edited, you’ll want to decide on your cover design and determine your marketing strategy and release plan. So often authors who just want to write don’t realize the work doesn’t stop there. Find a diplomatic whip-snapper to keep everyone on board and on time.
Whether you’re a newbie looking for pub creds or an established author hoping to increase your product line, book bundles are a great way to achieve your goal. Grab a team and start writing!
Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Have you ever considered participating in book bundles? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments!
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