Diana Urban, Industry Marketing Manager at BookBub, did me the great honor of contacting me with these questions after I had a very successful promotion using BookBub. For her full article, please visit the BookBub Partners Blog at http://insights.bookbub.com/
Diana: The Elizabeth Chater Regency Romance Collection #1 box set includes standalone books. What was your strategy behind bundling four standalones together?
CJC: I could go on for days answering this question, but there are three good reasons to put standalones into a box set.
Number one, readers love bargains. 99¢ books are very popular, especially with Regency Romance titles. By pricing my standalone books at 99¢, I’ve been able to enjoy good sales and stay competitive. By putting those same books into box sets of four, and price it at $2.99, readers save one dollar, and (because of the 70/30 royalty split on Amazon), my profit for those same books increases (approximately) $1.00. It’s a win-win.
The second reason is that it creates “another book,” therefore I get more space on the digital shelf.
The third reason is that it exposes readers to a book that might not be as popular as the other books by the same author. If a standalone isn’t selling very well, and that’s not a reflection of the book’s quality, then readers may be more willing to give it a try if it’s in a box set.
Diana: How did you decide on the initial pricing of the box set?
CJC: As the free market adage goes, “Price goes down, quality goes up.” When I started uploading my grandmother’s back list, I priced most of her standalone books at $2.99, with one book at 99¢. For a while this worked, but soon there were so many 99¢ books for sale that my higher-priced books weren’t selling. The 99¢ book was doing terrifically, getting into Amazon’s top 100 and staying there for months, yet the $2.99 books still weren’t selling. When I checked the top 100 lists on Amazon for Regency Romance and Historical Romance, many of the top sellers were priced at 99¢, so I changed nearly all Elizabeth Chater books to 99¢. The 99¢ price change caused my profits to far exceed what they had ever been when the same books had been priced at the $2.99.
There are five Elizabeth Chater collection books for sale, and only one of them is $3.99, because it includes a much longer book that, as a standalone, is priced at 2.99. It doesn’t do half as well as the other collection books priced at $2.99, even though readers are still saving one dollar by buying this collection book. Pricing is tricky!
Diana: When you bundled these books, did the box set cannibalize sales of the individual books included in the set? Or did it have the opposite effect?
CJC: Creating box sets did cannibalize sales of some of the standalone books, but in most cases overall profits were higher, and people were reading and being exposed to books that weren’t selling as well before.
Diana: What were the results of bundling these books into a box set (estimates or generalizations are totally fine if you don’t want to provide exact numbers)? Would you recommend this strategy for authors or book marketers? If so, what advice would you give them about creating box sets for standalones?
CJC: Creating box sets of standalone titles is a great idea, but it should be taken on a case by case basis. Some authors and publishers can get away with selling box sets for a high price and can occasionally run sales of those box sets so they don’t always cannibalize sales of standalones. If standalones are selling well, then selling the box set cheaper than the individual books is only a good idea if the other standalones aren’t selling well. It’s all about experimentation and knowing what your readers want. There are many Regency Romance book bundles for sale right now that are only 99¢. They’re getting into Amazon’s top ten and staying there. The competition is fierce. It’s getting harder to sell a standalone back list title, even at 99¢.
As far as content goes, the books in my box sets are not only by the same author, but the books are all similar in genre, style, and theme. I’d caution publishers against creating a box set of books from different genres, or that involve radically different situations, for instance books that have graphic scenes, while the others books are more G-rated.
Diana: How else have you promoted the box set besides running a deal on BookBub?
CJC: Promotion is a dirty word for most authors. It’s the hardest part. When I started publishing back in the old days of 2011, all I had to do was run a sale and my rankings and sales would soar. I used to be able to do a free giveaway on Amazon and get thousands of downloads. These days it’s much harder to give away a book for free, much less run a sale without some strategic promotional planning. I’d advise using anything and everything to get the word out, but it has to be done “correctly.” Each promotional platform has its own etiquette that publishers should respect. On social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, savvy authors use the 80/20 rule, meaning that 80 percent of your posts are not related to your books, while 20 percent are promotional. I, of course, feature the books on Elizabethchater.com, as well on my blogsite, and I’ve used paid promotional sites like BookGorilla. I’ve created a presence on unpaid sites like Librarything, Goodreads, and Shelfari—and a lot of other places I can’t even remember. Amassing emails is digital gold, and to do that I highly recommend using MailChimp. My motto is, “Try it all.”
Diana: After your BookBub promotion for The Elizabeth Chater Regency Romance Collection #1 box set ended, did you see an increase in sales for any of your grandmother's other titles?
CJC: The BookBub promotion greatly increased sales to all Elizabeth Chater books for the entire month (more than 30 titles), and the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) were fantastically high for the month. I’d like to point out that, because of the BookBub promotion, The Elizabeth Chater Regency Romance Collection #1 went to #1 for Historical Romance on Amazon, and garnered over one million pages read on KENP. Thank you BookBub!
I’ve written more about my BookBub experience, including all the sales numbers, on my blog: www.christopherjohnchater.blogspot.com.
- END Q & A -
For those of you new to publishing box sets, you'll have a decision to make regarding covers. Some retailers and distributors, like Smashwords, won't accept 3D covers. Personally I think 3D covers are more eye-catching and I've always used them on Amazon, but when I was going through Smashwords I had to create additional 2D covers. It's generally a good idea to have the same cover on all platforms, but I've never been good at following generalities. Also, I make my own covers, so I don't have to worry about the cost. Whether or not you chose to use only one cover, I'd still recommend having a 3D cover. They look great on blogs, websites, Facebook pages, ect.
I also included the standalone covers to each book in the interior of the digital books. I thought that added a nice touch. It does increase the megabyte size of the book and therefore the digital shipping charge, but we're talking micro pennies at this point.
Another great reason to create a box set (or publish any book with a high page count) is because of the Amazon Kindle Unlimted program and the new payment structure. From what I can tell, the new system does seem to slightly favor longer books. I published my KENPC below and as you can see my KENP numbers are really more impressive that my sales figures.
Those of you following Joe Konrath’s blog post asking for author rankings and Page Per Day numbers, here they are:
My BookBub promotional sale was from July 1, 2015 – July 7, 2015.
Author ranking reached a high on July 2, with #122
Author ranking for Historical Romance reached a high of #2
Author ranking on July 31 was 4,732
Author ranking on July 31 was 4,732
Total pages read (KENPC) for the month of July: 2,113,914. (1,092,778 from promotional book).
(On a side note, the promotion only marginally increased traffic to the author’s website.)
As you can see from the graph below, on the first day, books sales were an incredible 2,412. The vast majority of the sales, probably 85% or more, came from the book being promoted. The book went into the top 100 for Historical Romance on the first day, and by the second day it was #1. It also went to #1 on Amazon.UK for Historical Romance. It went to a high of #30 for all Kindle Books. Elizabeth Chater’s author ranking went to a high of #2 for Historical Romance and a high of #122 for all authors. By the second or third day, the other four collection books went into the top 100 and enjoyed a brief stay there.
My conclusion: Kindle Unlimited coupled with a Bookbub promotion make boxsets a great idea.