Are Boxed Sets Done?

Creating the Boxed Set LOVE DOWN UNDER
by Rosalind James

A little background: LOVE DOWN UNDER (Eight New Zealand & Australian Feel-Good Beach Romances), went up for sale on all outlets on May 20, and, one day later, has reached the 300s overall on Amazon US, the 100s overall on Barnes & Noble, and the 100s in Romance on iBooks. Not too bad!

Amazon US (for more links see below)
The authors? Tracey Alvarez, Diana Fraser, H-Y Hanna, Joanne Hill, Rosalind James (me), Kris Pearson, Annie Seaton, and Serenity Woods. Five Kiwis, two Aussies, and one American in Kiwi clothing (me).

This set was born of disappointment. I was asked last fall to be in a very big-name boxed set of new material that would release this spring, and that I was all but certain would get me those coveted letters. I made the decision to let my publication schedule slide and spent three months writing an exclusive new full-length novel for it, and…well. Not my best decision, ultimately, because the set didn’t perform as I’d expected. Nobody’s fault, just one of those things, but it left me in a tough spot.

I’m sure all of us who’ve been in this game for a while have made choices that seemed like a good idea at the time but didn’t work out so well. You have to pick yourself up and move on, right? I spent a few days pouting (all right, panicking), and then, in the shower where all good ideas come, I had this brainwave.

It was almost (Northern Hemisphere) summer. My own readers, and American women in general, were fascinated by New Zealand. I knew a couple of really talented and professional Australian and New Zealand authors I thought I’d enjoy working with, and whose writing my readers would enjoy as well. (As you know if you’ve done a “box,” your fellow authors really matter! Not just the quality of their work, but their investment in and energy for the project.) So I thought—maybe I’d write to them and ask if they’d be interested in doing a set of already-published material. And did they know some other authors?

My idea was—beach reads for summer. No alphaholes! No angst! Feel-good stories to read while drinking something long and cold by the pool. Maybe boxed sets were “done,” maybe they weren’t. But as long as it was stuff we already had out there—what was the risk?

I wrote to them—hard for me, as I’m shy, but I did it!—and it came together FAST. Almost before I knew it—literally within a couple days—we had a group of eight committed, talented authors (whose work I vetted carefully, because that’s the other thing I’ve learned about boxes—it works best when you’re all appealing to the same group of readers).

After that—it was all the most amazing collaboration. I totally recommend working with Aussies and Kiwis! No egos, and “no dramas,” as they say Down Under. And unlike any group I’ve ever been involved with—eight women all working HARD.

Email and Google Docs were a lifesaver given the hugely different time zones (we had 6 hours’ difference even between AU & NZ), and so was a group with different skill sets. Diana took on the task of formatting, and did an awesome job. (One thing reviewers commented favorably on was that we had short blurbs in the front of the set, linked to the appropriate story—sort of an expanded Table of Contents.)

Tracey Alvarez came up with the image we all loved best for the cover photo, I showed my designer, Robin Ludwig, an example of a “mirror” effect I loved, she ran with it—and we had our gorgeous cover. The title, LOVE DOWN UNDER, was mine. (And if that title conjured up an, um, image—well, that’s all right, too, because we had six steamy stories amongst our eight!) I wrote the blurb, and others had amazing promotional ideas. Somebody put together a media kit, Annie Seaton organized a fantastically successful Facebook party, we pooled information on the most effective promo sites for our $800 budget ($100 from each author), and we were off.

H-Y Hanna and I had contacts at iBooks, and they’ve obliged with a beautiful banner that’s helped us terrifically there. Two of our authors even wrote articles for the Australian and New Zealand romance writers’ newsletters.

The cooperation extended to our ARCs. Amongst us, we had about 120 ARC reviewers, and we decided that our most effective publicity would be to send out the full set to all those reviewers. By the end of our first day, we had almost 80 reviews up on Amazon, with a 4.7-star average!

So how’s it working? Well, it’s early days, but we should recoup our $800 investment by the end of Day 2, and that’s not bad for 99 cents! I believe all the authors are seeing increased sales of their other work already (those ARC reviewers got excited about the new authors!) Many of the reviewers are even cross-posting the reviews to the authors’ individual book pages and are going on to buy other books in their series.

In summary, I think this set is working well so far because of a few factors:

1)    Tightly connected theme (beach setting in Australia or New Zealand; similar type of story [the “feel-good factor])
2)    Similar writing styles amongst the authors, so readers would tend to connect with more than one author
3)    Authors selected partially for marketing savvy and commitment
4)    Communication and cooperation amongst the authors
5)    Not making the set too big. Twenty-author sets are very popular right now, but the authors at the “back” may never get read, and the commitment decreases as the number of authors increases.
6)    Really nice cover! (Shout-out to my fabulous cover designer, Robin Ludwig)

For more information on Rosalind James and her wonderful books, visit

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