Will this become the norm? Are we racing to the bottom? Devaluing ebooks? Lowering consumer expectations until soon no one can charge more than ten cents a novel?
I doubt it.
But I do notice there is a rise in multi-author box sets on Amazon, and I do see many of them crack the Top 100 bestseller lists.
We can all speculate ad nauseum on what the repercussions are, but one thing is certain: a lot of consumers are willing to plunk down 99 cents to try a variety of authors.
I think this more about visibility and discoverability, and less about cheap ebooks driving down prices.
With that in mind, I bring you the Ultimate Supernatural Horror Box Set for $0.99.
So Blake Crouch and Jeff Strand and F. Paul Wilson and Iain Rob Wright and I got together with Scott Nicholson to do this as a limited experiment, to see if we could make a few bucks and find a few new fans.
Scott did all the heavy lifting (cover art, formatting, accounting), so after royalties pay for the expenses, he'll take 10% off the top and then split the remaining royalties six ways.
Peanuts, you're thinking? If we manage to sell 30,000 copies of this, that's $1500 each. And 30k isn't an outrageous number. Getting into the Top 100 is usually good for 10k copies sold in just a few days. Some box sets have stuck around in the Top 100 for a few weeks.
As I said, this is temporary. We don't want to undercut our individual sales of these titles with this set, so we're going to let this run until it peaks, and then follow its descent until it is no longer lucrative. Then we unpublish.
If you're an indie author, you might be intrigued by this, or you might be scared. The curious or experimental among you might want to consider getting 4-8 peers together and creating your own box set. The leery might worry about it effecting your individual sales, or driving down all ebook prices. But since most indies keep their prices low and understand the value of permafree, their fear should be somewhat tempered by the understanding that this is just one more way to reach readers.
If you're a legacy publisher, this should scare the absolute shit out of you.
$0.99 ebooks are scary enough. While an indie author can price titles at $0.99 (or free) sporadically (or permanently) in order to boost sales numbers and discover new fans, the Big 5 won't go that low. Not with their overhead. But they could never put six different authors together and sell them for $0.99.
Advantage: indies. Here's a new way to become visible, to get discovered, to take up more virtual shelf space. Reach new fans, introduce your backlist to those who never heard of you, make a few bucks.
If you are a legacy published author, this should be a cause for concern. Your publisher can't offer you this opportunity, and your ebooks (which take longer to bring to market, have their prices controlled by publishers, and earn less royalties) may become harder to discover by new readers if box sets become omnipresent.
And for those who think multi-author box sets are new--they aren't. We did one two years ago, and I believe we were one of the first. We had positive results, but it was released during an Amazon algorithm glitch where sales and ranks didn't update and we didn't sell as many as we could have. But the idea apparently has legs, because others have used it to much greater success.
So my guess is that box sets, however you feel about them, are here to stay. Get on the bandwagon, or get out of the way before you're run over.
In the meantime, buy us for $0.99, and please help spread the word by tweeting and telling your Facebook friends.
Imagine an Amazon Top 100 Bestseller list where 60 slots are multi-author indie box sets. Imagine the plethora of terrified Big 5 executives if that happened.
How funny would that be?