Publishing Without Writing A Book

Publishing Without Writing A Book
Terry Odell

First – for those who wanted to see Craig Johnson’s presentation at the Mountain of Authors day at the Pikes Peak Library, you can find it here. The original post, also updated, is here.

Bundles of BooksNot all of us are as prolific as others in being able to produce a story monthly, weekly, or daily. I’m a one-at-a-time writer and don’t have three concurrent projects going. Or two. The closest I come is to start a new book while my editor has my completed manuscript. Even then, when I get my edits back, I turn the burner off under the new one and devote all my time and energy getting the completed one ready for release.

What if you really want something new out there. Sales might be slumping. One option is to package your backlist titles—the ones you’ve already completed—and bundle them together. Whether you call it a box set or a book bundle, you have a “new” product to market.

It’s not hard, and you can probably put one together in less than a day.

My thoughts:

I like bundles of three novels. I did this for my Blackthorne, Inc. series, which comprises ten novels. The first nine are “older”, with #10 being the most recently released in the series, and #11 is in the editing process. Another consideration is pricing, since Amazon still sits in the dark ages with it’s 70% royalty limit plunging to 35% for books priced over $9.99. I can price my bundles inside their ceiling, offer the bundle price at a substantial discount to buying the books individually, and not feel that I’m giving them away.

First step, as with any book you’re creating, is to open a new document, and set up the basics. Most channels like 1-inch margins, TNR, 12 point. (The end user has control of these elements, so no point in getting ‘fancy’ with anything here.)

If you’ve been consistent with your formatting (which may not be the case for older books), all you have to do is piggyback them into one new file. Strip out the typical “more by the author,” “a note from the author,” etc., back matter, leaving only the acknowledgements and dedication pages for each file. My preference for acknowledgments is at the end of each book, but some like to put that up front. Your call, but if you’re writing for “me”, then I want to get to the story as soon as possible, and won’t wade through pages of who you’re thanking first. Same goes for reviews of other books. I’m not reading those; I want to read this one.

Create a new title page for the bundle. I simple called mine “The Blackthorne, Inc. Novels, Volume 1, 2, and 3,” respectively. For my copyright page, I gave the date the bundle was released, with the copyright dates of each book beneath:

Copyright © 2018 by Terry Odell
When Danger Calls, copyright © 2010 by Terry Odell
Where Danger Hides, copyright © 2011 by Terry Odell
Rooted in Danger, copyright ©2013 by Terry Odell

I followed with the usual copyright verbiage.

Then, add your books. You can copy and paste, or you can use the Insert tab. It’s Insert>Text>Text From File. Click that and choose your book file. (Click the image to enlarge.)

screenshot of Word showing an arrow to insert a file into a document

Once I had all three books in the master doc, I tweaked the Table of Contents.

My main Table of Contents was set up with only the three books hyperlinked to the title page of each one, which was the only ‘new’ formatting I needed. Word creates hyperlinks in a few keystrokes. I’m sure other software does it, too. It’s under the “Insert” tab: Insert>Link>Insert Link>Place in This Document. (Click the image to enlarge.)screenshot of how to insert a hyperlink in a Word documentFrom there, each individual book already had the heading style, so the chapters met the demands of the sales channels. Rinse and repeat for each book you’re bundling. At the end of the last book, reinsert the normal back matter. I use Draft2Digital for converting my Word file to epub, so getting all the back matter is nothing more than a click for each item. Plus, they automatically update the ‘more by the author’ section to the most recent releases.

Then, you need a cover. I hired my cover artist to do mine. She’s got the skills and while I could probably create one, I prefer to hire out things that will take time and inevitably, frustration.

Book Cover, Blackthorne Inc. Novels Volume 1 by Terry OdellA caveat. Apple does NOT like 3-D in any iteration. My original bundle covers were flat, but they showed the books they contained in 3-D. It’s a common enough ‘problem’ that D2D has an “Apple Cover” option so you can use a separate one for only that channel. This is relatively new, I think, as my first 2 Blackthorne bundles had no issues–either that or Apple operates on the “whim” system, but the cover for #3 was rejected. My cover artist had never heard of the practice, but she did the ‘all flat’ Apple cover for me.

Apple-specific cover for The Blackthorne Inc. Novels, Volume 1 by Terry OdellOne ‘negative’ to book bundles of backlist titles is that the sales channels don’t all regard a bundle of existing books as a ‘new’ release, so they don’t send out the announcements to followers. You still have to do the marketing.

My most recent release was Volume 3, which brought the bundled books up to 9 of the 10 novels. I did this because at the time, I was working on Book 11 and wanted to see if I could spur more interest in the series prior to Cruising Undercover coming out.

A quick mention of audio. I had all the audio files. There was no recording time involved other than a new opening and closing. Bundles sell well on audio subscription services, since listeners want to get the most book for their monthly credit. I haven’t done my Blackthornes in audio, because by the time the format was open to indie authors, I had 8 books in the series, and the cost was prohibitive. I have 11 now, so it’s even more costly, and my ROI wouldn’t justify the expense.

What’s your take on bundles/box sets? Like them as a way to get more books for your bucks? Have you created any? Were you satisfied with the results?

Cruising Undercover by Terry OdellNow Available for Pre-Order: Cruising Undercover.

Not accepting the assignment could cost him his job. Accepting it could cost him his life.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”

28 thoughts on “Publishing Without Writing A Book

  1. Many thanks, Terry. I’ve been thinking of combining my unreleased Hitler trivia book with my Fuehrer Recognition Kit: Finding the Next Hitler. They’re both very short. I usually like to shoot for 110 pages, the optimum length for KDP. Maybe I can think up something else to toss in there, enough to add a spine title.

    • You’re welcome, JGA. My shortest is “Seeing Red” my 3-short story collection. It’s only 66 pages, and I only put it in print as a giveaway at conferences, etc., although it’s also for sale. I wasn’t worried about the spine. Depends on what you want to do with it. My focus is on digital more than print, since that’s what my readers seem to prefer.

  2. Terry, you had me from the title. It’s a great hook for the terrific advice. Thank you!

    Hope you’re having a great week!

    • Joe, I almost clarified the title in my opening sentence, but decided … nah. These TKZ people can read. They’ll figure it out. Have a great day. My week is being spent editing.

  3. Great post, Terry. I agree with Joe. The title is a wonderful hook. I started skimming immediately to see what you were publishing.

    Thanks for all the details and advice for compiling the bundle. You do a great job of explaining these technical things.

    I like bundles. I will usually buy one book first, for a new author, then buy a bundle. I haven’t created any for my books, yet. When I finish my Mad River Magic series, I’ll create a boxed set. And I’ll come back to this article for a refresher course.

    I hope your editing goes efficiently.

    • Thanks, Steve. Guess all that clickbait on Facebook rubbed off when I titled this post. It started out as a simple, “create a bundle/box set” but turned into a how to somewhere along the line. If you run into snags when you create yours, just give a shout. Always glad to help.

  4. Just a quick shout out for the Mac formatting software, Vellum. All you do is select File > New Box Set and the program does all the heavy lifting.

  5. Good morning, Terry. I also love the title of this post 🙂

    I’m a fan of a box sets as well, using Vellum to create them. I have two out. I published in early 2018. It contains the first three novels in my Empowered series. I put it out earlier than is typical. I had just three novels in that series out, along with a free prequel novella. I had the fourth book on preorder, and I had just gone wide four months earlier. I did it to try for a BookBub Featured Deal and it worked. That box set earned it’s keep and then some.

    Fast forward to last December. I’d finished the Empoweredseries eighteen months earlier. I decided it was time to try a complete box set of all five novels so I commissioned a new cover and released that. It’s paid for itself, but hasn’t done nearly as well as the three-book box set did. An experiment I won’t repeat with my mystery series. Three-book box sets, on the other hand, are something I’m very likely to do again.

    Have a wonderful Wednesday.

    • Thanks for sharing, Dale – I’m a 3-book fan, although I did bundle what was then all 4 of my Pine Hills Police books into a single set. Then I wrote a 5th book (technically the 4th in the series, since one of the novels in the original box set was a spinoff), which right now is a singleton. But plenty of people buy the individual books, so I’m not concerned that it doesn’t have any companions.

  6. Thanks for this info, Terry. I’m in the process of getting the rights back to my first novel. Once that’s accomplished, I intend to publish a 3-book box set.

    I use Vellum to format, so thanks also to JSB for the insight there.

    • Hope the reversion of rights goes smoothly. That’s one beef authors have with traditional publishers. They want to hang on to rights forever. I was lucky that there was a very simple clause in my contract with one publisher that said rights were mine if I didn’t sell XX copies in 12 months. It still took time to get the rights back officially.

  7. Hey, Terry . . . great information! In the words of Gomer Pyle, thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I just might have to give this a try. I don’t have a huge backlist (only 3), but they’re all written in the same format. I could easily bundle them. Maybe time it for my debut novel release. 🙂

    Have a great day!

    • You’re welcome x 3, Deb. Bundles aren’t hard to do, and it’s yet another publication out there for people who prefer them.

  8. Terry, again you’re giving me the final nudge to try something I’ve considered but haven’t yet done. (Your 2020 post about going wide convinced me to try Draft2Digital, thanks!).

    Always appreciate your clear, step-by-step guidance that non-geeks can follow.

  9. One project at a time is optimum for me, but it rarely happened when my career as a novelist and nonfiction writer was taking off. Most of the time, I was moving between fiction and nonfiction at the same time which is much easier, but I also juggled galleys, rewrites, and promotion. With a new book coming, I’d spend one day a week just for promotion, create as much perma-promotion as I could, then move to a few hours a week after the book had been out for a while. It was exhausting yet fulfilling.

    Under the category “What were they thinking?” I’ve seen authors who give away the last book for free when the new book comes out. Essentially giving away the entire series for free. Also, giving away a bundled entire series for free when a new series is coming out. Cheap is good, free like that isn’t. That’s not how backlist is supposed to work. Shakes head.

    • You were one busy person, Marilynn. I have no problem with doing first in series perma-free to lead people into the rest of the series, but I wouldn’t give away the entire set. A friend of mine said she subscribed to an author’s newsletter and every issue had another free novel. She figured she didn’t need to buy any of them. If she waited, she’d get a new one for nothing. I don’t want to train my readers that way.

  10. I like and buy three-book box sets, but I wish more authors would start at book two instead of book one. I like to try out a new author first, and if I’ve bought the first book, I’m not going to buy it again in a box set. The price for the set is much less attractive then.

    • Interesting idea, KS. My first in series are perma free (and I priced volume 1 of my box set a little lower for that reason), so readers can try before they buy.

  11. I have 5 boxsets- 4 from a 13 book series and one from a 4 book series. Their sales are limited. I have thought of doing a boxset of the 13 book series, but have been held back by the idea of only being able to charge 9.99 for it if I want the 70% royalty. I don’t know what readers want in this area.

    • I don’t know that I’d do a 13 book set. Break it up into smaller bundles, although I’m hardly an expert in anything marketing-related. I have 9 of my Blackthornes divided into 3 bundles, 3 books each.

        • True. I’ve been exclusive to Zon as it is where I maximize my income, and I don’t have the boxsets in physical form just print, but I could add them as a print feature.

  12. Excellent advice and how-to! Thank you!
    While I can multi-task on most things, I can’t when it comes to writing. Like you, when edits come in, if I’m working on a new book, I stop and focus only on the edits.

    I always enjoy your posts!

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