Thursday, December 08, 2016

Creating Single-Author Box Sets: Part Two

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

Last time we looked at the benefits of putting together a box set. This time I want to dig down into what we need to think about on a practical level once we’ve decided that a box set is a good idea.

So here are the most important items when creating a box set…

Decide how many books (and what books) to include.

Single-author box sets tend to be the most successful when we’re bundling up books from the same series in chronological order.

That doesn’t mean they can’t work if you’re not writing a traditional series, though. Other good choices for a box set include standalone novels with a common theme or in the same genre and non-fiction books that deal with related topics. For example, my Busy Writer’s Guides box sets contain books on different topics, but they’re all writing craft-related.

If you have multiple series, another option is to create a “tasting platter.” This kind of box set puts the first books of all your series together into a single box set and sells that box set at a ridiculously low price (e.g., 99 cents or free). The idea behind this is that it creates a low-risk way for new readers to try your work.

How many we put in comes down to pricing. On Amazon, you only receive the 70% royalty rate if you price your product between $2.99 and $9.99. From a business standpoint, this means that if you’re selling on Amazon, you want to put as many books as you can in your box set while still keeping the price within that range. On other sites like Kobo, there’s no cap. You could bundle your entire 10 book series, price it at $40, and still make the full royalty. In fact, authors like Mark Dawson have had great success by doing exactly that.

Important Note: If your books for the box set are on Kindle Unlimited, that means the box set can’t be sold on non-Amazon sites.

Decide on whether to go with a flat cover or a 3-D cover.

For me personally, this decision was the biggest headache when putting together my box sets.

The argument in favor of a flat cover is basically that it makes better use of the space you have. The 3-D covers leave a lot of white space. (You can see a good article about this on the Kobo Writing Life blog.) Apple also doesn’t allow 3-D covers, so having a flat cover means you can upload to all retailers using the same cover.

The argument in favor of a 3-D box set cover is that it’s immediately clear that what you’re selling is a box set. The 3-D cover increases the perceived value.

I went with a flat cover for my box set, and in hindsight, I have to admit that I wish I’d done a 3-D cover.

(Here's more on creating box set images with Book Brush)

Buy a new ISBN.

Unfortunately, our box set is considered a new product, so it needs its own ISBN.

Excerpt another book in the back matter.

Including excerpts to other books in the back of a single book can be a risky strategy for many reasons. (For an in-depth look at whether a teaser will help or hurt you, I recommend reading Jami Gold’s post “Should We Include a Teaser Excerpt?”)

One of those reasons is that readers don’t like to feel tricked about the length of the book they’re reading. If too much of the book they purchased is actually a teaser for a different book, then they can feel cheated and tricked. They were expecting more content from the current book, not sales material trying to convince them to buy another book.

But with box sets, the reader has already received a large amount of material and should be hooked into your series or your writing style. That makes the back matter of a box set the perfect place to include an excerpt of the next book in the series, of the first book of another one of your series that the readers might also enjoy, or of a standalone book that would be hard to market otherwise.

Do you have any other box set tips you’d like to share?

Marcy Kennedy is a suspense and speculative fiction writer who believes fantasy is more real than you think. Alongside her own writing, Marcy works as a freelance fiction editor and teaches classes on craft and social media. She’s also the author of the Busy Writer’s Guides series of books. You can find her blogging about writing and about the place where real life meets science fiction, fantasy, and myth at

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About Fiction Genres: A Busy Writer’s Guide

Genre confuses writers, but everyone who buys, sells, or reads our books wants to know what genre we’re writing in.This mini book will demystify genre so you can better understanding what you’re writing and who might want to read it. In Fiction Genres, you’ll learn what qualities make a book one genre rather than another, and you’ll learn the smaller “genres” that fall under the larger umbrellas of fantasy, science fiction, horror, mystery, suspense, thriller, and romance. For each, you’ll also see examples of published books or authors whose books exemplify the genre.


  1. I usually do a 3D cover for Kindle and my website, and do a flat cover for Smashwords, which distributes to iBooks and the other retailers.

    1. I think that in the future I'll be doing it that way as well.