One of my favorite authors recently posed the following question: Is there such a thing as too many authors in a boxed set of books?
If you haven’t noticed, there has been a recent trend in the e-book world where several authors of the same genre get together and each contributes a short story to a boxed set. The price for these sets is typically ninety-nine cents. From a reader’s standpoint this is a steal. You pay ninety-nine cents and get anywhere from five to ten stories in the set, including the one from your favorite author, the one that prompted you to buy the set in the first place.
There’s been a lot of discussion among authors and bloggers about the true benefit of the boxed set. The biggest argument I’ve seen being made against the boxed set is that authors aren’t making any money from these sets. The set is sold for ninety-nine cents and let’s say the average author royalty is sixty cents. If there are ten authors in the ninety-nine cent boxed set, they’re each going to make six cents for every book sold. Hardly seems worth the time, but you have to dig a little deeper. When authors join forces on these boxed sets, they’re often able to achieve something together that they haven’t been able to on their own. Thanks to the sales of one boxed set, many authors find themselves on the NY Times or USA Today bestselling list. It works like this…
Let’s say I decide to write a short story and make it part of box set with nine other authors. We’ll call the set I’m Loving It. This set will have ten short love stories. The ten of us have all agreed to set the price of I’m Loving It at ninety-nine cents because we want to make it more attractive to new readers. The truth is it’s not just new readers we’re trying to reach. We’re counting on our existing fan base to buy I’m Loving It because we’ve written a story for it. For simplicity sake, we’ll say each of us has 300 rabid fans who buy everything we publish the minute it comes out. That means that within the first day of release of our boxed set, I’m Loving It could sell 3,000 copies. Bam, I’m Loving It makes the best seller list and each of us can now say we’re bestselling authors because we contributed a story to I’m Loving It. That’s a pretty nice coupe for minimal effort.
Another nice byproduct of the boxed set is that the readers of all of the other nine authors will have the chance to read my work. This could lead to me snagging more fans, selling more of my already published books and ensuring solid sales of my future releases.
It begs the question is it cheating when you contribute to a multi-author boxed set that becomes a best seller, or is it a stroke of genius? That depends on who you ask. To be honest, I’m divided on the subject. I probably wouldn’t turn down an offer to be a part of a set of this type, but I’d rather call myself a best-selling author because I earned the title on my own. Not because I rode the coattails of nine other authors. Yes, I know that’s a bit blunt and some of my colleagues won’t like it. That said, as a reader, I have purchased and enjoyed a number of these sets.
In the end, I suppose it doesn’t matter how I feel or how my fellow writers feel. What matters is what readers want. As long as these boxed sets continue to be popular, authors will work together to offer them to their readers and will reap the rewards of doing so.