Posted in Tips and Tricks | Posted on 30-01-2015|
For some indie authors, bundling is a no-brainer. If you have three or more books in a series and plan to write more, then it’s a given that you’ll box up the first three (at least). You’ll work out the numbers, give the reader a buck or two off, and stick the bundle out there into the world.
Of course, if you haven’t experimented with bundling your own books yet (I’m not talking about being a part of a big multi-author bundle, which is a whole other beast), you may not see the point. Why discount your books when you could (maybe) make more by selling them individually? Why go through the hassle of formatting that big file and having new cover art designed? I’m glad you asked. I present…
3 Reasons to Bundle the Early Books in Your Series
1. The Potential to Increase Visibility on Amazon (and other stores)
There’s a saying that every book you have out there is a potential doorway into your world. You never know when and where someone will stumble across your work, grab the first book, and then go on to become a fan. But, you might argue, won’t your bundle end up being seen in all the same places as your regular series? Maybe, maybe not.
With a lot of authors, they find that there are multiple categories where their books might be a good fit, but they have to pick the top two. Granted, you can get in some other ones by knowing the right keywords, but you can still only be in two overarching categories, such as science fiction and fantasy. What if you’ve written something that could easily fit into the sub-categories under science fiction, fantasy, and romance?
With a bundle, you have an opportunity to put your series leader into different categories than your Book 1, and you have the potential to start showing up in the also-boughts for different books.
2. The Ability to Tinker with Different Blurbs and Cover Art for the Same Books
In the marketing world, there’s something called split testing, where you show different ad copy to different groups of potential customers to see which ad is more effective. That’s tough to do on Amazon and the other stores, where you can only have one cover and blurb in play at a time. You can change things up from month to month (and many successful authors do exactly that), but with the bundle you can do more of a side-by-side comparison of what’s more effective, or you can deliberately take a different angle with the bundle blurb, in order to possibly attract a different group of readers.
This is what I did with my Dragon Blood boxed set.
When I wrote the first book in that series, Balanced on the Blade’s Edge, I designed it as a stand-alone steampunk romance novel, and the blurb I created for it reflects that. The romance blurb formula is usually three paragraphs, one about the heroine and her problems, one about the hero and his problems, and one about how they’ll have to work together and overcome great difficulties to make their love work.
That blurb was appropriate for that book, but there was action, adventure, humor, etc., too, so I didn’t think that only romance readers could enjoy it. Also, as I continued with the series, I realized there was a lot more going on than smoochy bits. There was a war to fight and a nation to protection, and then we had this whole mystery of whether or not there were dragons left alive somewhere in the world.
So, when it came time to put the first three books together in a bundle (because I was about to release the fourth book and was, as always, hoping to draw in some new readers), I tried a very different blurb for it. I also tried some new cover art for the “box” too. I emphasized the romance elements less and played up the elements that were important in the series as a whole. I also gave the cover art and the blurb more of an epic fantasy feel than a steampunk feel (I’m one of those authors whose work rarely fits neatly into categories, and aside from the fact that there are dirigibles and WWI-style planes in this, the books are similar in style to much of what would be considered high/epic fantasy).
Now, I fully acknowledge that I may get reviews from readers who were unenthused that they got airplanes and a romance in their fantasy, but I did still mention the tech and the romance elements in the blurb, so I’ll hope I end up with more people who like the stories than who don’t. Even if I get less than enthusiastic reviews from some, I already know that readers who had never tried my work before picked up the bundle, enjoyed it, and went on to grab the fourth book in the series (some were kind of enough to email me and tell me so).
Of course, for most of us, a bundle does not sell itself. So, let me talk about one of the other benefits of boxing up your early books.
3. It’s Easier to Get into Bookbub and Some of the Other Pickier Sponsorship Sites
Now, I can’t promise you that boxing up your first three books is the magic thing that’s going to get you accepted by Bookbub if you never have been before. What I can tell you is that, now that they’ve gotten bigger and pickier, they reject my stuff as often as they accept it (I couldn’t get a holiday ad for anything). However, they have yet to reject one of my bundles. I’ve advertised the Emperor’s Edge 1-3 omnibus twice with them (and I’m going to revamp it for a third run later this year, using the very advice I’m offering in this post), and they grabbed this one right away too.
I know that’s not a huge sample size, but if you go hunt around on the Bookbub blog and on their site, I’m fairly certain they’ve mentioned a couple of times that they’re more attracted by being able to offer bigger discounts to their readers. If you’re like most indie authors, you probably sell your full-length novels for $3-$5. Offering a $4 book for 99 cents is a nice discount, but it’s not as good of a discount as a three-book set discounted from $8-$10 to 99 cents.
Not only did Bookbub pick up my Dragon Blood set earlier in January, but I applied to Ereader News Today’s “Book of the Day” sponsorship and was accepted for that too. I’m pretty sure they’ve never accepted me for that before (I’ve been on some of their lists of bargain books, along with numerous other authors, but mine hasn’t been featured in a dedicated post before).
The end result was that I sold over 10,000 copies of the DB boxed set between the 18th and now (the 29th), about 8,000 at Amazon and more than 2,500 at Barnes and Noble (unfortunately for me, I didn’t have it up at iTunes and it never really caught on at Kobo). Not all of these sales came directly from the sponsorships (I attribute about 4000 sales, between Amazon and B&N, to Bookbub and another 1000 to the more recent ENT plug). The others came as a result of people seeing the bundle at the top of the epic fantasy and steampunk lists and, presumably, deciding it looked interesting and was a great deal.
In the past, I’ve bumped the price back up to normal soon after a Bookbub ad, but in this case, the ENT and BB sponsorships were about 10 days apart, and I decided to leave the box at 99 cents and let it ride in between. This is largely because it continued to sell fairly well during that time. (I didn’t check every day, since I kept expecting things to fall off, as is the norm for my stuff, but I believe it stayed under a 500 sales ranking during that time.)
Eventually, I will put the bundle back up to $8 (which is still a deal, compared to buying the three books individually), because selling novels (especially three novels combined) at 99 cents is something I’ll only do in a special situation like this, where I can potentially get lots of new people trying the series. You have to weigh the value of that against the fact that you may end up making less than you usually would by selling the novels individually at higher prices, but for all of the reasons I’ve outlined above, I think it’s a good idea to bundle up the early books in your series (and then put them on sale periodically).
I almost forgot about this one, but it’s the reason I made a bundle of my Flash Gold novellas.
You can reach the 70% royalty split on a bundle of less expensive short stories or novellas
If you’re like me and don’t feel comfortable charging $2.99 for a short story or even a novella, then you’re probably grumbling because you’re only making the %35 royalty rate on those 99-cent or 1.99 sales. If you do a series of short stories or novellas (or if they can logically be grouped together because they fit a theme), then bundle them up and offer them at $2.99 or higher. The readers can still get a deal, while you can end up earning more on those shorter works over all.
All right, this time I’m really done. Have you had any experience with bundling your books? How has it gone?