Until last year, boxed
sets with multiple authors were just a pipe-dream for me. I'd heard good things
about them from my author friends, but I hadn't been invited to join one yet!
When I joked with my
author friend Karin Kaufman that we
should do our own set because we enjoy each other's mysteries so much, we began
to realize we could create a boxed set. We just needed to find other authors we
felt meshed with our books.
I've since participated in
that boxed set, Fatal 5,
and one other, Smoke andMirrors, which by no means makes me an expert, but it has given me
some perspective on contracts and other issues you'll want to consider before
you launch a set of your own.
1) Choose a set
theme/rough publication date. This way, you'll have solid facts to take to the
authors you ask to join the set so they can make informed decisions. Most sets
stick with one genre or a mix of comparable genres (our Fatal 5 included both
mysteries and thrillers).
2) Choose your authors
carefully. The more big-name authors with large followings you can get, the
better. This will necessitate going to quite a few authors to find those who
can not only meet your publication deadline, but who are willing to pitch in
their time to market the set.
3) Set up a private Facebook
group where authors can interact quickly. This is so much faster than trying to
set up an email loop, and it's much more effective, because with boxed sets,
there will probably be hang-ups that arise that need to be addressed
4) Write up a contract. For
both the sets I've been in, we followed a contract that all the authors agreed
to before getting rolling with the set. We posted it on our private Facebook
group wall, so authors could refer to it as needed. This contract included the
a) Boxed Set Goal: This can include such information as an
agreement to keep all the books in Kindle Unlimited if the set is in KU. It can
also underline the reason for the set—to drive new readers to all the authors.
b) Timeline: This lays down a very specific timeline for the
authors, including dates drafts are due for formatting and when the book will
be uploaded, when the set will be dissolved, and when and how payments will be
c) Theme/Title: This is updated as the group agrees on a
theme and title. You want a catchy, memorable title that somehow captures the
feel or theme of all the novels/novellas in the set.
d) Cover: This is updated as the group decides to use talent
in the group or pay for a cover artist.
e) Formatting: This specifies who will format the
book—whether someone in-group or hired.
f) Price for Boxed Set: This specifies the pricing on the
boxed set, including specials that will be run. Individual set agreements vary,
but some might wish to specify that authors' individual novels/novellas will
not undersell the set as a whole for the duration of the set. For example,
authors agree not to price their individual novels/novellas below the set price
of 99c. This directs attention back to the set and guarantees everyone works
hard to promote the set, not just their individual novel/novellas.
g) Royalty payouts: This specifies when/how authors can
expect to be paid by the one who uploads the set to vendors.
h) Promo expectations: This section clarifies what will be
expected from all the authors by way of promo, and it includes an agreement on
how ads will be paid for and by whom.
5) Nail down
theme/title/cover art/formatter/uploader. These are things that can change as
additional authors join the set, but most groups work together to decide the
best route to take on these things. Often, decisions are carried by a majority
vote. The dynamics of each set vary, but I always see authors working to
accommodate each other. Authors in my latest set, Smoke and Mirrors, decided to
have our cover art designed, and we were all able to contribute thoughts and
were pleased with the outcome:
6) Get rolling toward those
deadlines, get the final file out to early readers, market like crazy, then
reap the rewards of being in a boxed set!
Inevitably, boxed sets
will run into hitches—just ask anyone who's been in one. You might shoot to be
in Bookbub and then realize your set doesn't meet the specifications (be sure
to read those first—Bookbub requires a 2D cover, novellas and not novels, as
well as a certain number of pages per novella). You might have an author who
can't make the final deadlines. You might have authors who poop out on
marketing and don't participate.
When your set is reviewed,
it's inevitable some readers won't like your contribution. You're mixing author
styles and some can be vastly different. Don't expect everyone to rate yours
There are any number of
variables, but you have to try to be prepared for anything and ride the boxed
set waves, however smooth or choppy they may be.
Yet I probably don't have
to tell you that the payoff can be huge. Yes, there are a plethora of boxed
sets these days, but some are still making the USA Today bestseller lists. Most
will bring new readers/newsletter subscribers to each author in the set.
Valuable connections are made with the authors you work with and the new
readers you gain.