Late last year, I collaborated with six other members of the Alliance of Independent Authors to create a limited edition box set of novels. While collaborative efforts like this have been fairly common among genre fiction authors, we were not aware of another multi-author collection of contemporary novels.
The idea was simple. We wanted to explore the power of the group. A box-set aggregates reader bases and the theory was that our combined reader bases would result in cumulated sales. But there was more behind our project. We also wanted to demonstrate the quality of fiction that is being self-published.
Things to consider when deciding who to collaborate with
The group will need to have share the same values and aims, and these should be set out in an agreement (something I will return to later), which can serve as a useful reminder of why you started out on this journey when the going gets tough.
Make sure you are happy to champion the other authors’ books as you would your own. We were fans of each others’ fiction before we came together as a team.
No two books should be too alike, but they must have enough in common to appeal to the same target market. Our decision was to focus on our characters and the boundary-breaking nature of our fiction.
Make sure that the other authors are eligible to participate. (Better to discover sooner rather than later if they have signed up to KDP Select).
Find out if all of the books have been professionally copy-edited and proofread? (Assume nothing. You will save time by asking this very simple question).
Do the books have a high number of 5 star reviews? You may find it very difficult to garner reviews for a box-set, especially if it is only available for a limited period, so it’s a good idea to have a stock of headline quotes to draw from.
Once you have an agreement in principle, now comes the nitty gritty. Even though it may be your intention to operate on trust, there are certain issues that you must nail down at the outset.
Decide how you want to work on a logistical level – Will one person act as the overall leader or manager or will each author take responsibility for a different area of responsibility? What issues will you put to the vote and how will decisions be made if you are up against time limits?
Set out your main aims and what you are prepared to do to achieve them. How else will you measure your success?
There should be written agreement that each author will retain his/her own rights, but grants consent for the party taking responsibility for uploading the e-book to publish it. (This really is a key responsibility. That same person will receive all of the proceeds from sales and will have to act as treasurer for the team. We are so grateful that Jessica Bell took on this mammoth task.)
Release date – bear in mind that print magazines put their books and features pages to bed three months before publication. Newspapers have a faster turnaround, as do radio and TV, and two months’ notice may well suit them. Whilst you may not have aimed for publicity via these channels when self-publishing as an individual, don’t underestimate the power of the group. We were featured in a number of major publications, The Guardian, The Sun and New Edition to name but a few.
Pre-orders – now available on most platforms. Our experience was that people want e-books instantly.
How long will the box-set be available for? Consider the appeal of a limited edition product (the rarity factor) v the benefits of having the product available as a ‘taster’ of all of the authors’ work in the longer term. If some of your authors have published only one or two books, they may be less keen for the box-set to remain on sale. We decided on a period of 90 days only. This means that Outside the Box: Women Writing Women will disappear on 24th May 2015. For ever.
How will the product be priced? Box sets are usually value-priced, meaning that the box set costs the reader far less than purchasing all the books individually. Generally, the more limited availability is going to be, the keener the pricing needs to be. We settled on a price that represented a discount of 75% off the price of the books if bought separately, which represents tremendous value.
What is each member is expected to contribute, both in terms of money and time? I was simply blown away by the skill-sets within our team. Having a cover-designer, interior formatter and website designer in-house meant that we didn’t have to pay other professionals for these services. And there was surprisingly little overlap in skills, so we were all able to play to our strengths.
How each member will be paid and when (Pay Pal is useful).
A general statement of commitment to summarise what is expected of everyone.
Title – As well as capturing the theme that links the books together, it’s a good idea to mention the word “box set” in the title, together with the number of contributing authors.
Cover design – 2D v3D? As instructed in the Smashwords Style Guide, Smashwords can’t accept ‘3D’ images (a digital rendition of a three dimensional box-set). And they are not alone. If you wish to publish on any other platform than Amazon, and you only want to have one cover image, it will need to be 2D.
NB: All authors should be listed on the eBook cover image.
Your brand will extend to author photographs, memes, Facebook banner, website domain name and design, all the way to any Twitter hashtags you adopt.
Our brand also extended to video trailers and promotional goodies to giveaway.
Formatting and Interior layout
You’ll combine the multiple books into a single eBook file. While a Table of Contents is not essential for individual novels, it becomes crucial for box-sets.
We listed each book and author name, and included a short bio, blurb and headline quotes after each title page. You might also add “Other books by Author Name” or “Connect with Author Name,” with electronic links.
Proof-reading –It is vital to ensure that errors have not been introduced during the formatting process. Set a clear deadline, but don’t underestimate the amount of time that will be required. As a minimum, each author should proof their own book and one other novel.
Communication within the team
How the team communicate is critical. (We found it extremely helpful to set up a closed Facebook Group). We also created a shared spreadsheet which was effectively a diary of all of our marketing efforts. This ensured that we didn’t duplicate efforts and that we weren’t all asking favours of the same contacts!
We were fortunate to have our product endorsed by respected industry professionals, including Alison Baverstock and Dan Holloway, who gave us amazing quotes which we were able to use on our cover and in press releases.
We utilised social media to full effect, adopting #womenwritingwomen as our hashtag, setting up a Public Facebook Group and targeting reader groups.
Press Releases – we designed three separate press releases with slightly different emphasis in order to suit the bias of the publications we intended to approach.
We wanted to come up with a fresh idea for giveaways that would cost very little but treat the winning readers to something of genuine value. Joni Rodger’s daughter (Jerusha Rodgers of Rabid Badger Editing) created a fabulous digital swag bag that included a critically acclaimed novel by Joni, a free music album download by Jessica Bell and a host of delightfully fun and artsy surprises. We also gave away a couple of Kindle Paperwhites. Giving away upscale prizes in a promotion builds awareness, and brings us email addresses and other takeaway benefits.
Joni is also experienced in audio editing, so she created our book trailer – again using one of Jessica’s songs. She also made a 60 second review for each book in the set.
Blog tours – we adopted a dual approach, pulling in favours and paying for a blog tour.
What we will take away from the experience
Joni Rodgers: I’ve learned a lot about marketing and production, and that’s something I’ll gratefully take with me when our 90 days is done.
Roz Morris: Certainly I learned that promotion in a group gives you more courage. I find it agonizing to write assertive press releases on my own behalf, but it was dead easy for our ensemble. I’ll channel that when I start bumbling through a release for my next book.
BLUE MERCY by Orna Ross
“A complex tale of betrayal, revenge, suspense, murder mystery — and surprise…John McGahern meets Maeve Binchy.”
~ IRISH INDEPENDENT
CRAZY FOR TRYING by Joni Rodgers
“Refreshing and provocative… Think Jane Eyre with rock and roll.”
~ HOUSTON PRESS
MY MEMORIES OF A FUTURE LIFE by Roz Morris
“Absolutely gripping…Visual and visceral, original and odd.”
~ FOR BOOKS SAKE
THE CENTAURESS by Kathleen Jones
“A compelling narrative of a writer’s passion for her work.”
~ HELEN DUNMORE
AN UNCHOREOGRAPHED LIFE by Jane Davis
“An extraordinary level of emotion… superb storytelling.”
~ THE CULT DEN
ONE NIGHT AT THE JACARANDA by Carol Cooper
“Sassy and classy in equal measures. A must.”
~DR. PIXIE MCKENNA, media doctor and TV presenter
WHITE LADY by Jessica Bell
“Edgy, pacy, and chillingly real.”
~ JJ MARSH, author of The Beatrice Stubbs series
More about Women Writing Women:
Links to Buy:
Jane Davis’s first novel, Half-truths and White Lies, won the Daily Mail First Novel Award and was described by Joanne Harris as ‘A story of secrets, lies, grief and, ultimately, redemption, charmingly handled by this very promising new writer.’ The Bookseller featured her in their ‘One to Watch’ section. She has since published five further novels. Compulsion Reads describe her as ‘a phenomenal writer whose ability to create well-rounded characters that are easy to relate to feels effortless.’
More about Jane Davis: www.jane-davis.co.uk ‘Like’ her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/JaneDavisAuthorPage
Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/janerossdale
Follow her on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/janeeleanordavi/boards/
Category: How To and Tips