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3 Reasons to Bundle the Early Books in Your Series

| Posted in Tips and Tricks |

21

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).

Bonus Reason! 

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?

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Comments (21)

I made it most of the way through your post before realizing that the bundle was only 99 cents – at which point I went off and bought a gift copy for my friend because hey, that’s a really good deal and I suspect she’d love your writing. Then I came back and finished reading the post. I like your blog because your posts are well-structured, useful, and full of actual facts and figures … but in this particular care it was also very handy to be able to rope Jen into the series cheap. *grin*

That was my secret plan, Sandra! Thanks for reading and recommending the books to your friend. 🙂

I just came across your blog for the first time yesterday and am working my way through some of your posts. This is excellent stuff. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

I intend to keep reading and to check out your books. Airplanes, romance, war, and dragons sound exactly like what I’d enjoy. 🙂

Cool, thanks for stopping by, Laura!

Great tips, thanks! Lindsey, do you happen to know how BookBub treats a new bundle with regards to reviews? In other words, if each of the individual books has the required number of reviews, but the bundle is new, do they consider the individual reviews sufficient for meeting the review quota for accepting the bundle? Thanks again!

Yes, as Robert said (thanks, Robert!), they will look at the individual books. My bundle was new and only had 7 or 8 reviews when I submitted it to them, but the three titles had a good 300 reviews between them. You can ask your readers to copy and paste their reviews from the old books to the new bundle too, to get those first few.

PS: Sorry for misspelling Lindsay!

Great post, Lindsay. I didn’t know about the bookbub preference. That’s interesting. The art/blurb advice is genius! My series is a bit of a genre-smash (paranormal small town) and I’ve been waffling as to the cover art. A bundle would be a great way to explore an alternative cover. Thanks for all the great advice.

You’re welcome, Ani. Good luck with the series!

To answer Tammy’s question, Bookbub has no absolute minimum for reviews, but they do count the reviews on the individual books toward the bundle. I did very well with a book bundle on three of my standalone mystery/thrillers. Bookbub accepted the ad and I sold thousands of copies with activity remaining brisk for several weeks afterward. The bundle price is 5.99 and I’ve been thinking it’s a little low because the total price of the individual books is 12.97. Will probably raise it up a couple of dollars to 7.99.

Fantastic! Thanks so much, Robert.

Your reasoning is sound, Lindsay. So how do you actually create the bundle? Is it creating a new ePub and MOBI file?

I tell my formatter to do it. 😀 Yes, it’s a new file. Same process as creating any ebook, except that you’ll want to add a table of contents that has the individual titles linked at the front.

I like that! Except I’m my own formatter. Shoot! 🙂 But it should be easy enough to do. Thx!

I won’t have three books out until September or so (assuming the author gods are smiling on me), so I can’t try any of this yet, but I’m definitely putting this post in the “keeper” file. I forwarded the ENT “Book of the Day” email to a friend who I thought would like your books.

Thanks, Carol!

Great information as always, Lindsay! Definitely an advanced technique I hope to try with my own books at some point. Now if only I could write the darn things . . . 🙂

Just a question: I’m working on a new series (well, my first series!), and am holding them back until I can publish the first three together. Hopefully the fourth will follow within two months of that. Would it make sense to bundle the first three immediately, or wait till the fourth? My inclination is to produce the bundle while I’m getting everything else together, especially given what you suggested about playing with blurbs and covers, as mine are in the mildly cross-generic camp.

You certainly could, Victoria!

Even if you end up giving readers a dollar or two off on the bundle, right from the beginning, you probably wouldn’t end up losing money on bundle sales, because there’s no guarantee that people would have bought all three books individually. But by giving them all three at once, they may be more likely to commit to the series (once someone reads three, they’re probably going to stick with you). At the least, you’ve sold them three books instead of one. 😉

This is a timely post for me as I emailed my formatter yesterday about creating a bundle for my trilogy. Book 3 should be finished tomorrow and I was considering doing a box set as well. I think you’ve convinced me (plus I want one of those 3D covers)!

Hehe, I do think those 3D covers help sell people. It just seems like you’re getting something BIG, even if it’s all digital. 🙂

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