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Should You Self-Publish a Box Set of Books?

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

Yes, self-published authors can and do create box sets, but this route may not work for everyone.

Yes, self-published authors can and do create box sets, but this route may not work for everyone.

Selling Box Sets

Big-name record labels and musicians sell box sets (or boxed sets) and bundles. So do big publishers and authors. Can small, self-published authors do it, too? Yes! But like anything else, there are some things you need to consider before deciding to invest your time, money, and labor into this sort of project.

Why Would Publishers Want to Do a Box Set?

For books, a box set is a collection of books that are sold together in a bundle, sometimes literally in a box. The price for the boxed set may be lower than the total if purchased separately, which provides a purchase incentive for readers.

Also, during dry creativity periods, a boxed set of old material can be sold as a "new" release, possibly with some exclusive bonus content thrown in. Sometimes, the bonus content is valuable to buyers, but if it’s just scraps of unused or low-quality content, it’s not really a selling point.

The Best Books for Box Sets?

Some books are natural sell-togethers. For example, a trilogy is ideal to sell as a box set.

Book series are also a possibility. Authors who wish to rapidly release their book series could also consider a box set offer. But when the number of books in the series is large, the high box set price, even if it represents a discount, can become a turn-off for buyers.

In terms of genre, related fiction books are good candidates for box sets. Nonfiction can be more challenging. That’s been my experience.

Can You Do Box Sets on KDP and Amazon?

Yes and no, depending on the format and selling options.

Yes, for Kindle eBooks. On Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you can combine the text for the eBooks you want to box together into one manuscript document, and publish that as a separate box set eBook offering. This involves the same upload and publishing procedures as other books on KDP. This is also the cheapest and most flexible option.

Yes, if all books fit into one physical print book limit. Combining a collection of shorter print books into one is possible if the number of pages isn’t too high. KDP has a limit of 600 to 800 pages or so for print-on-demand books, and the limit depends on what paper and ink are used. This is not recommended for long novels. This is also a cheap and flexible option.

No, if you want to offer a volume discount for the purchase of multiple books. Amazon does not allow authors to create a "virtual" box set or bundle, meaning offering discounts if buyers purchase a group of selected books. This applies to both eBooks and print-on-demand books published through KDP.

Yes, if you use FBA, but this is not recommended for most self-publishers. Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) would be used for physical box sets of print books. While there isn’t a requirement that they technically be in a box (they could just be grouped together and shrink-wrapped), buyers are usually familiar with the box sets they’ve seen in bookstores. The boxes can be a collectible component of the set, so it depends on your goals. Is the box set just a discount for purchasing multiple books? Or is it a specially packaged collection?

This is the most expensive of the box set options. The specially printed and manufactured box can be a very expensive custom printing project on top of the cost of printing the books. The custom printing may have minimums and setup fees. I used to do custom boxes for some of my past promotional-products clients, so I know what it takes. If you don’t have a strong history and forecast of sales for the included titles, this could involve a very very investment in manufacturing costs with a questionable return. Even non-box shrink-wrapped packaging comes with additional cost.

Don’t get stuck in the crafter’s fantasy that you’ll create the box component yourself! An arts and crafts packaging of your books would cost you plenty in materials and time, and this could eliminate profits.

Amazon FBA also has monthly fees for warehousing and handling your physical box set merchandise. There are selling fees, referral fees, fulfillment fees, and inventory fees. There is also the cost of shipping your box sets to a fulfillment center and maybe more.

I would not recommend the FBA and custom packaging box set option for self-publishing.

Why a Box Set Didn't Work for Me

Some years ago, I collected many of my writings about self-publishing into short eBooks and then offered a whole lot of them as a box set. A few of the individual titles got some play on Kindle Unlimited, but rarely as sales, and the box set did nearly nothing. I am unpublishing all of them.

Here’s why I think it didn’t work for me. Usually, people search for my content and get the answers they need from maybe a single book, blog, or YouTube video. That’s the nature of a lot of nonfiction, especially the kind I write. So, a discount on a whole lot of my eBooks wasn’t a selling point.

You need to consider how people would logically consume your content to determine if a box set makes sense for you.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 17, 2021:

Hi Maria! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I saw your reply to my rant on Bill's Mailbag this week. Nice when someone recognizes you, right? :) Like you, I also had an epiphany moment with my blog years ago (which is why I'm on HP) and more recently my website (which wasn't doing much). It's just so overwhelming these days that I'm surprised anyone (except for Amazon) makes money online. Anyway, thanks for the comments and conversation! Have a great weekend!

MariaMontgomery from Coastal Alabama, USA on September 14, 2021:

Heidi, this sounds like good advice. I haven't written my first book yet, although I have started several in my head. Not sure I'll ever have books for a boxed set, but plenty of other people will, and will benefit from your advice. Thanks for writing this article.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 14, 2021:

Hi Mary! As someone who has done self publishing of books other than eBooks, I know you can appreciate what I'm talking about. Thanks so much for reading and chiming in. Have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 14, 2021:

Peggy, it's a rare fan that would be interested in box sets. Like you, I just want the titles I want. For self pub authors, a box set is just too costly to be worthwhile.

Thanks for stopping by and chiming in! Have a great week and stay safe!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 14, 2021:

Flourish, you're right! The big name authors' books are ideal for box sets for super fans. But I'm not that interested either. And, yes, the boxes are a nightmare all their own.

Thanks for reading and commenting, as always! I (and a few others) have been missing our fave HP folks articles in the newsfeed. Since I can't comment, just know that I do read your posts. Didn't have any adds for the long distance playlist. But if I think of some, I'll share.

Have a lovely week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 14, 2021:

Umesh, thanks for reading and I'm glad you found it helpful. Have a great day!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 13, 2021:

As usual, you do have wise words for publishers. I totally understand what you're saying, especially because you had the experience.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 12, 2021:

I think that I have only had one boxed set of books in my entire life. Generally I enjoy picking out individual titles. As always, you have given authors some good advice when selling their books.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 11, 2021:

I’m thinking one almost has to be a Stephen King or other famous writer to warrant a box set in my house and even then I’m not so sure. You present some hood advice especially on the boxes.

Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on September 11, 2021:

Interesting information.