By now, most authors know that multi-author boxed sets of ebooks can be a great way to cross promote and reach new readers. While there still can be a lot of power in a bundle, if done right (in fact, there’s a great article right here about how to do that), the power of the mighty boxed set is beginning to wane.
Luckily, authors (especially indies) have all kinds of other great opportunities to collaborate! Here’s a look at a few creative projects that have come out recently.
Authors are banding together to write closely-connected stories within the same world. From projects like the Woodland Creek series, where thirty authors coordinated to write paranormal shifter stories set around the same town, all tightly branded and releasing on the same day, to the ambitious 50-title historical western romance project American Mail Order Brides, authors are using the strength of their numbers to make a marketing splash.
Several bestselling romance authors are collaborating to release sexy novellas under the 1001 Dark Nights brand, with great success. And a number of SF and Fantasy authors have put together short story anthologies based around themes or featuring women writers, like the fabulous collection The Dark Beyond the Stars.
Although the above ventures are ambitious, you don’t have to put together a huge project to be successful. Find one or two other authors writing in your subgenre who have a similar career track and goals, and see if you can come up with some interesting ideas. Bestselling western romance writers Deborah Holland and Carolyn Fyffe share the Mail Order Brides of the West series, taking turns releasing books in that sub-series which are tied to their own, individual series. Authors Grace Draven and Elizabeth Hunter have released themed collaborations where they each contribute a novella, and cross-promote to their readers. Beneath a Waning Moon is their most recent duo release.
Many authors have found that gathering a group of similar authors to share promotions can greatly increase their reach. Whether it’s doing a book giveaway for the holidays or putting together a Facebook reader event, collaborating with others increases the fun, and the potential success, of your project.
The best way to make things happen is to connect with similar authors (the more similar the better in terms of genre and where you are in your careers) and start building connections. Form up or find groups on your social media networks, and start putting ideas out there. Be proactive, fearless, and creative. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of ways to use our power as authors to collaborate and innovate. The next big thing is out there – maybe just waiting for you to invent it!
So You Want to Try Co-writing? Great!
Co-writing can be a very rewarding experience. But, depending on the personalities involved, it can also be very challenging.
Before we get into the pros and cons of co-writing, so you can decide if it’s right for you, we first need to go over some of the basics.
What exactly is co-writing?
Co-writing, at its core, is any kind of writing where you share responsibilities with someone else. This most commonly takes one of several forms:
Christine Bell (AKA Chloe Cole)-
First, let me state that I’m adding this here because I was part of a successful bundle and watched and learned, not because I ran it. My part was nothing more than making sure I didn’t add undue stress to the organizers by making sure I turned my stuff in on time and per the guidlines, raising my hand when volunteers for grunt work were needed and throwing money into the pot for various things. The hard work was done by other people (who did I far better job than I ever could have). I’m just collecting the information I’ve gathered and regurgitating it :o) I invite any others who were part of the bundle (and any successful bundle…or even an unsuccessful bundle, because frankly, knowing was DIDN’T work is just as valuable as what did) to add more here!
Choosing what to bundle- Find something that makes sense to tie it all together and will feed a booming market. The more niche, the fewer readers, but I do think there needs to be a tie-in that appeals to a core readership that makes sense. Ours was PNR (pretty wide there) holiday stories (with as much or as little “holiday” as authors wanted).
Choosing your contributors- Some people throw it out there like an open call. I think that’s a mistake. You can’t control quality that way, or the people you’re working with. I would advise opening the call to a group who you’re familiar with (we knew one another through various FB pages) and then possibly opening it up to authors whose work you’ve read and loved or authors who are well-established in the genre. That netted us a great mix of:
USAT and NYT bestselling authors
National bestsellers with huge backlists, mailing lists, and enthusiastic fan-bases
Entries that were well-written
Authors who had shown that they were gung ho, personally invested, enthusiastic and willing to pitch in wherever they could (whether or not they had a huge following).
(keeping in mind that some authors were more than one or even ALL the above, so these aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive or anything)
I have to say, I think our line-up was set up for success. Each of those cogs were instrumental in this machine. Lettered bestsellers added a perceived value and certain “cache” to the bundle, authors with major fandom brought in loads of early reviews and lots of buzz, good content kept those reviews well above the 4-star average range, and the people that were willing to take on everything from formatting, to reaching out and securing ads, and making a grassroots effort to cross every t and dot every i spackled it all together.
We had such an enthusiastic group across the board, and people were pitching in with everything from commercials, and book trailers and blog posts to creating twitter campaigns and working with the cover artist to create banners etc. and helping one another with blurbs.
Making sure your expectations are set (and understood)- Exclusive? If so, how long? New content? Length? Turn in date? Release date? Editing process? Costs per person? GOAL of the set (i.e. just visibility? or hitting a list? It matters). How will everyone get paid? When? Formatting process? Cover art process? Advertising plans?
More stuff- For us, on top of chipping in for loads of fb ads, I’d say at least half of us did additional ads on fb as well as pretty much every possible site we could think of (besides bookbub). Our coordinator provided a list of lower priced places (under $50 I think, or at least the ones I was responsible for seemed to be) and contributors signed up to contact them and set up promo etc. (and added to the list when they found a new opportunity). Mandy really went balls out and bought ads at places like dear author and the like as well, then many of us also contacted tons of free promo pages on fb etc. It’s important to have a clear goal for advertising. Are you hoping for visibility or to hit a list? I think your timing should be determined by that (and for us, our FB ad person, Joe, geared ads toward Nook users to ensure that we met the legendary “500 copy min” that it has been said needs to be met before BN will report to lists). Sustained ads that are spread out are great to keep your release visible long term, but unloading with both barrels release week is probably a better strategy if you’re hoping to hit a list.
I do think (and this is pure speculation) that new material would sell better in most cases. Say you have a mailing list of 5000 people. Those are your fans who went thru the trouble of signing up for your list. Say half of them have read the book in question already. They would maybe only be buying it because you’re in, so now that incentive is gone. Then apply that same idea to every contributor. I still think it can be successful but I would probably tailor my expectations differently. Communication and making sure everyone is on the same page expectations wise is hugely important. To that end, I’d recommend creating a FB page or board where everyone can talk, share ideas, promo strategies (and “squees”! I know for a fact that the enthusiasm of the group drove everyone to try harder and really kept morale high).
I’m sure I’ll think of more later, and again, I invite anyone to add there .02 below!