Thursday, February 09, 2017

Creating Multi-Author Box Sets

By Marcy Kennedy, @MarcyKennedy

Part of the Indie Author Series

Over the past few months, we’ve talked about why we might want to create a box set of our books, how to create a single-author ebook box set, and our options for creating a print book box set.

Today I’ll be closing out the mini-series by looking at multi-author box sets.

A multi-author box set is a collection of short stories, novellas, or novels by different authors. By definition, these works are also sold independently.

Over the past few years, multi-author box sets have gained in popularity because of the benefits they provided to the participating authors.
  • They can help authors pool their resources to make a run at bestseller lists, like the New York Times and USA Today lists.
  • They expose authors to the readership of the other authors in their bundle. Since bundles are usually made of related books, it can be a great way to find new readers who will love our books.
  • They can act as a sampler if authors are putting together first-in-series novels and then either give the box set away for free or discount price it.
  • They often rank high on Amazon—creating even greater visibility for the participating authors and, at times, a good monetary return— because they have the clout of multiple authors behind them and readers like a deal.

Added authors mean added challenges as well, though, so before you participate, here are some things you want to keep in mind.

Someone Has to Organize the Box Set

If our books are selling well, we might be invited to participate in a box set organized by someone else, but this usually means having an already-established name and connections. For anyone who wants to be in a box set and isn’t invited, sometimes the best way to make connections and get into a box set is to organize it yourself. The downside to this is the greater time commitment.

Here are some of the tasks that fall on the shoulders of the organizer:
  • Invite other participants
  • Make sure they submit their contributions on time
  • Format the files into a box set
  • Work with any outside contractors such as editors and cover designers
  • Upload the book to retailers
  • Arrange any advertising
  • Collect any money the authors agreed to contribute to the creation of the box set and the advertising
  • Communicate with contributors in a timely fashion and provide them records of how the box set is selling
  • Distribute earnings among the authors

If the box set remains for sale indefinitely (some box set are available only for a limited time), the upkeep can last for years and eventually the time investment might outweigh the return.

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

Money Comes Out of and Goes In to Multiple Pockets

This one might seem obvious from the list I gave above, but it’s important enough that I wanted to draw attention to it on its own.

When we’re creating a product ourselves, keeping track of expenses and income is relatively simple. We pay for everything, and we keep all the profits.As soon as multiple authors are involved, expenses are divided and so are the profits.

If you’re organizing it, you might end up with someone in the set who refuses to pay for their share of the costs. You also need to be ready to provide documentation for how you’ve spent the funds to the others in the box set at any time if someone asks.

If you’re invited to be part of a box set, you need to be sure you trust the organizer to use the collected funds in the ways stated and to accurately distribute payment.

In addition, should the box set earn over a certain amount, the organizer needs to send tax forms to each contributing member at the end of the year. (I’m not an accountant or a lawyer. If you want to organize a box set, please carefully research the laws in your country and seek professional help if you’re unsure.)

The KDP Select Dilemma

In the past, the authors only had to make sure that the box set and the individual work were both in KDP Select or that neither were in KDP Select in order to stay on the right side of Amazon. When you enroll a book in KDP Select/Kindle Unlimited (which is different than simply publishing through Kindle Direct Publishing), you’re agreeing to be exclusive with Amazon for the ebook version of that work. This means that you can’t put that work in a box set that will be distributed through other retailers, and if the box set is in KDP Select, you can’t publish the work separately elsewhere.

Recently, however, Amazon began enforcing the KDP Select terms of service. The terms of service say, “During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or a book that is substantially similar), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.”

In other words, if you’ve enrolled your project in KDP Select, that project can’t be included in a multi-author box set at all during its enrollment period. Authors have been reporting that Amazon has yanked their projects out of KDP Select because they were also part of a box set.

Do you have any other tips to share when it comes to multi-author box sets? If you’ve tried it, did you feel it was worth it?

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. Does that mean that you can only sell the box set thru KDP select? if the books involved in the box set are all exclusive to KDP select is that enough to keep Amazon happy?

    1. No, just if you have the box set in KDP Select, you can't have one of the items in the box set for sale elsewhere. Everything in the KDP Select box set has to adhere to the exclusivity of KDP Select. But if you're not in KDP Select, you can sell it wherever.