Monday, November 24, 2014

A Novel Approach To Box Sets

8 Ways to Thrill - Unique Ebook Bundle Available Through 11/27/2014

Available at

My thriller The List is available in a discount eight novel thriller bundle until Thanksgiving.

Box sets are one of the hottest promotional tools going right now, so I interviewed the bundle’s curator M.L. “Matt” Buchman.

Joe: What's the main idea behind this unique bundle, and how did you come up with it?

Matt: I’ve worked with a couple of times and I like their structure. The reader sets the price. For $3 they get half the titles, for $12 they get all eight. For more than $12, they also get the author’s undying gratitude! I like the friendliness of that structure.

For this bundle I wanted to put together a kick-ass group of thrillers. So I set myself two missions: 1) Gather a group of thriller authors who I myself am just dying to read/read more of, 2) Try to offer as much variety as possible.

The first part came together with surprising ease, everyone that I approached jumped right in (thanks folks). So I got my first-tier choices all across the board. The second part also came together, somewhat to my surprise. Thrillers have a wide variety of subgenres and this one bundle actually covers most of them: Legal, Military, Political (both governmental and terrorist), Supernatural, Techno… On top of that, we also cover the range from gritty and hard-hitting up to the lighter ones like my foodie thriller and Smith’s poker thriller.

This works as a great collection, and also as a great “taster’s choice.” On the one hand, it welcomes new readers to the genre. On the other, experienced thriller readers will get some of the best writers working in the genre today.

That takes a firm vision by the curator of the bundle and is awesome when it works this well.

Joe: How does something like this get promoted?

Matt: The premise of bundling, and why it works so well, is cross-promotion. Mayer’s military thriller audience may not know about your techno. My fans following me from my military romantic suspense series (The Night Stalkers and Firehawks), may well be new to all thrillers. It is through the individual authors promoting out through their websites, feeds, street teams, etc. that makes these types of efforts really work. That is a key failure/success criteria: are ALL of the authors in a bundle willing to promote it and do they each have disparate platforms from which to do that?

Joe: Explain how sales work.

Matt: is a unique system that I haven’t seen elsewhere. It is a limited-time bundle offering a “buyer sets the price” structure. It even allows the purchaser to allocate a percentage of their purchase to literacy charities.

These bundles are not available through Amazon, B&N, etc. It is only available on their website. In turn, Storybundle handles mobi and epub delivery, servicing clients with problems, even long after the bundle is over.

They also handle the back end accounting which can be a definite challenge.

Joe: Do you consider this a success so far?

Matt: Whether I get my title into the hands of 50 new readers or 5,000, I consider the method a success. A friend of mine, Scott William Carter, coined the phrase WIBBOW (Would I Be Better Off Writing). The question is would I be better served spending my time writing than curating and promoting a Storybundle bundle. Every bundle I have done with them has more than paid back my time in direct monetary means, despite the deep discounting. After that, new readers and “halo effects” as they discover the other books in my Dead Chef series, or even expanding out into my military romantic suspense and other series, will continue to pay me long after this bundle goes away on 11/27.

Joe: Would you do this again? What changes would you make/chances would you take?

Matt: Absolutely! The bundling concept is now fairly common, both within an individual author’s series as well as a group of authors. The challenge is now: How to stand out? How to catch the reader’s attention? That is by taking chances. Storybundle had never had a thriller bundle before, but was willing to take a chance on me as I’ve curated other bundles for them. It was by both myself and StoryBundle taking that risk that made this bundle happen at all, never mind it also being a success. Upcoming from me the curator? I’m deep in developing a foodie mystery/thriller package and one of Seattle/Pacific Northwest contemporary romances. Military romantic suspense is definitely on its way as well.

Go there now!

Joe sez: I found this experience interesting for several reasons. First, because Matt did all the heavy lifting, and my workload was reduced to replying to a few emails, the usual Twitter and Facebook posts, and this blog.

Second, because this is truly a new ebook venue. I've found that discoverablility is often limited by the search-worthiness of the platform. Amazon has the best online store, best ebook shopping experience, and it sells a lot of ebooks as a result. But here is an entirely new platform, relatively unknown, using a unique way to pay and depending on the visibility of its authors. I'll be curious to see how much it earns each author, and will report back in the comments when I know.

The StoryBundle website is slick, easy to navigate, intuitive, and makes it simple to pay. I'd like to see an online forum, to help make the site become a regular hub for readers. Browsers then to return when they can leave comments and interact with each other. As it stands now, StoryBundle is a means to an end (authors promote bundles, readers click on in). Amazon has that, but people also come to Amazon to surf, browse, leave reviews, make comments, etc. The stickier StoryBundle becomes, the better it will do.

Taking chances, trying new things, being experimental, is how the Next Big Thing gets discovered.

So I encourage all of my readers to plunk down a few bucks and check this out, and let me know in the comments what your impressions are.

M. L. Buchman has over 30 novels in print. His military romantic suspense books have been named Barnes & Noble and NPR “Top 5 of the year” and Booklist “Top 10 of the Year.” He has been nominated for the Reviewer’s Choice Award for “Top 10 Romantic Suspense of 2014” by RT Book Reviews. In addition to thrillers, he also writes romance, fantasy, and science fiction.

In among his career as a corporate project manager he has: rebuilt and single-handed a fifty-foot sailboat, both flown and jumped out of airplanes, designed and built two houses, and bicycled solo around the world. He is now making his living as a full-time writer on the Oregon Coast with his beloved wife. He is constantly amazed at what you can do with a degree in Geophysics. You may keep up with his writing by subscribing to his newsletter at


B. Rehder said...

Interesting, and I learned something new. I see that THE LIST is in KDP Select, but obviously this bundle, with THE LIST included, is not in Select (or on Amazon at all). So even though your individual title has to remain exclusive, the box set does not. Good to know, because I have a couple of box sets, and I got some mixed messages from Amazon regarding this type of arrangement.

JA Konrath said...

So even though your individual title has to remain exclusive, the box set does not.

When this box set rolled out, I got the timing wrong and it was too late for me to take The List out of Select. The Amazon bots haven't caught me yet.

I think that Zon rules state that I should have taken it out of Select.

NJMANGA said...

Very interesting site to say the least ill try it out and see how it works out, as long as authors are being paid I have no issues supporting such a site, but could you bundle a book on amazon without a third party site.

B. Rehder said...

Joe, thanks for clearing that up.

Hard to keep track of some of the rules. Some of them might not even be stated anywhere.

A KPD rep told me that if a box set was in Select, the individuals books in the set could NOT remain in Select. Pretty sure that wasn't accurate.

M. L. Buchman said...

StoryBundle is contracted to pay net 30 but typically pays in net 7 (there's a gauntlet thrown down for other distributors).

Two key differences from a direct to Amazon bundle:
1. the site splits the payment to the individual authors. No accounting by the authors and very simple contracts.
2. Flexibility for the purchaser. They can select a partial or the whole thing. If they want to really support the authors, they can pay more than the $12, which a wonderful number do. There's also the charity portion that occurs pre-tax dollars again simplifying the author's life.

It is just another venue for distribution and gaining notice for an author's work, but I have found it to be a good one across multiple bundles.

Jim Self said...

I'm a little surprised to see Dean involved here. I thought giving your work away or steeply discounting it was supposed to be stupid and shortsighted? Glad to see him trying out new marketing strategies, though.

M. L. Buchman said...

I'll offer an answer for him (just in case he isn't watching the comments):
This is hardly his first title at
Dean is also in the excellent NanoWriMo bundle presently available on SB and will have another in a holiday bundle launching the day that this one comes down.
This discounting is for strategic marketing and for a limited time. That is quite different from the perma-free and $0.99 for a brand new novel that so many practice, which only trains their fans to wait for the discount and be angry when they don't get it.
It isn't the store down the block having a "sale" every week. It isn't the foolishness of Black Friday--a vicious trap that retailers have set up for themselves--that kills all sales for the entire month prior as everyone waits the loss of income due to deep discounting.
It is a once-only, limited-time offer for a specific marketing goal of gaining wider exposure for all involved and introducing ourselves to each others fans. That the readers also win just makes it a good bargain all around, which is my kind of sale. It is a whole different animal entirely.
Sorry, you found one of my soapboxes. It's the same soapbox that Dean has always talked about and I completely agree. It isn't the discounting that's bad, it's the way that it's used.

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

I'd heard of StoryBundle but didn't realize how simple and attractive they made the process. This is exciting and worth exploring. And now I have to go buy that bundle!

Athena Grayson said...

I've been well-pleased with StoryBundle as a customer--they make the purchase meaningful and the side-loading effortless, and I've been very happy with the books curated there. Everything I've ever wanted in a platform to find reading material.

From an author/contributor perspective, very impressed with the "net 7" day payout--that is a niiiice standard to set! I would love to be part of a StoryBundle as an author, and I hope one day that I'll have a title suitable.

Jennifer Jensen said...

I"ve always wondered how 8 or 12 authors split 99 cents! Glad to see the price more sensible, but still affordable to me as a reader. And looking toward the time when I can be part of such a thing, I'm also glad to see that StoryBundle does the accounting!

Anonymous said...

"I'm a little surprised to see Dean involved here. I thought giving your work away or steeply discounting it was supposed to be stupid and shortsighted?"

Yes, he has said that so I'd be interested in hearing why it's no longer stupid in this case.

My problem is that I already have 100+ unread titles owned so a bundle deal doesn't interest me as a bargain shopper. It has to have a book I've been waiting for and finally see it at a steep discount. I've already picked up most of Joe Konrath's book for free. He's not writing them fast enough, and when he does put out a new one I know I can be patient and wait for it to be either free or available for $0.99.

M. L. Buchman said...

Dear Anonymous,
See my answer to Jim as to why it makes sense to people like Dean and I in this case.

Joe has made a different choice about discounting, that I know he's talked about at length in other places. He offers more frequent and deeper discounting (leveraging the Amazon Select system). It's his choice to have rolling sales models and he has trained you, as an observant buyer, to wait for those. When Dean or I discount, it is only for strategic reasons as I mentioned above. Different people, different business models.

As to you already having too long a reading list to be tempted by our bundle...absolutely your choice, and I know the feeling. Thanks for taking a look at it.

Anonymous said...

As a buyer of a few of these story bundles, I'll toss in my two cents.

First, I discovered these because they are an offshoot of the Humble Bundle games promotions, so gamers will be one of the primary groups that are aware of the story bundles.

Second, it's not as easy as one-click Amazon buying. You either need to sideload or jump through a few hoops to get these books on an ereader.

Third, most of the bundles I've bought I've hardly read. They go for $2.99 I think so I need at least a couple of the books in the cheap bundle to appeal to me for me to dive in, and the others I probably won't ever read or even remember the writer's name.

I'd say out of the Story Bundles I've seen I've purchased maybe 20% of them at the cheapest level.

Every year my unread backlog gets larger so every year I find myself being more selective about what I buy or even download. I don't want to drown some of the titles I want to get to by making my library bigger.