Potential Problems with Book Bundles

This is part 3 of a 4 part series on Book BundlesPart 1 includes an overview of the marketing technique of  book bundles, monetary considerations, and potential benefits.    Part 2 includes who should try a bundle and choosing a group of writers for your book bundle. Part 3 (this article) discusses the major problems and sales mechanics of a book bundle and part 4 (Coming soon!) is the secret guide to doing book bundles the right way.

I know what you’re thinking.  Frickin’ WOW! Take a book, add 9 other authors – do some marketing and BAM!  on the NYT and USA Today Bestseller lists!!!!  Sounds pretty great – and it is…kind of — there are plenty of reasons everyone is not doing this.  In fact, it can get pretty hairy (and even downright painful) having to deal with the potential outcomes. These problems don’t apply all the time.  I’m sure you can find an “exception to the rule” for every item below – If you’re the exception – congratulations!!!!  That being said, MOST people doing bundles find the grass isn’t quite as green as it looks.

When I say this, I mean it is a real roller coaster to have the high point of hitting a big list and then dealing with one of the following issues:

  1. Sales don’t equal readers.  Be prepared that most people that purchased probably won’t READ your book.  In fact, a large number of purchasers will only read the first and maybe the second books on a bundle… Most people are buying the bargain of 10 books for 99 cents – not necessarily the authors in the collection.  You may not see a bump in readership, fans or traffic to your site.  Before I get a bunch of hatemail, I’m not trying to discourage anyone from doing a bundle – I just want to make sure expectations are set correctly.
    I think this happens for a few reasons:

    • Most people don’t know how to skip around on their e-readers.  Since the bundle is delivered as a single file,  how do they read book 7 first?  Most don’t.  Instead, they will start with the first book in the collection.
    • If they don’t like the first or second book in the bundle, many won’t bother with other books in the collection.
    • Internet A.D.D. Yes, this is a condition I made up and probably talk about in too many posts.  Have any books in your house that you haven’t read?  me too.  On your Kindle?  yep, I have plenty.  We all buy a few books we plan to read 🙂 we get busy (or distracted) and maybe excited about that new book coming out.  We go and buy it – and it jumps to the top of our “to read” pile. 
  2. The audience is mostly people that buy 99 cent bundles. It’s easy to see this in the related titles (feel free to look at bundles on Amazon and see this) such as these first couple pages on a bundle in the top 100:
    Book Bundles Page 1

    Click to Enlarge

    Book Bundles Page 2

    Click to Enlarge

    This goes on for pages and pages.  For this book, it wasn’t until the the sixth book that you find a single title that isn’t another bundle.  What does this mean?  People who buy 99 cent bundles buy A LOT of 99 cent bundles and not nearly as many single titles.

  3. Bundles don’t usually drive sales of other books.   Do what I do: take a look at a few of the bundles that are performing well and see how the individual authors are doing. Related to #1 above, In ALL of the bundles I’ve seen and research, only one author seems to have had a career boost from it – and to be honest, I’m not sure it was from the bundle as much as their own marketing.  On a bundle in the top 100, you usually won’t have to look too far to see an individual authors books selling in the 50,000+ range (and you’ll find plenty well over 100,000+!).
    One author said they had only sold 17 copies of her other books combined on the same week she hit the NYT bestseller list.
  4. Money – yes, it has to be mentioned.  In the part 1 article (An Overview of Book Bundles for Indie Authors), I discuss the math of the book bundle (and the fact that you may only get a few hundred dollars for hitting a big list – Ouch!), but what I wanted to call out here is that there is a different money distribution issue around selling a bundle.  ONE person/entity has to upload it and one person/entity has to collect payment.  That means that entity is responsible for taxation on the full amount.  Technically, any disbursement you get form a book sale, you also need to claim as income.  If it’s another author coordinating, they need to be prepared for getting a 1099k tax form from Amazon and dealing with it on their taxes.
  5. Trust.  It seems like several authors are asked by a friend or a friend of a friend to be in a bundle.  How well do you know the person coordinating?  By handing over your book to someone else – what are they really doing with it?  I’ve heard at least one case where they believe the coordinating author took a bigger percentage of the payout.  It’s already not a lot of money (see the Part 1 article) So where does that leave you?  Do you sue them?

Not sounding so good at this point?  It isn’t for everyone, but re-read parts 1 and 2 before you make any decisions 🙂  In the last part of this series (Part 4) I discuss how to do it right and avoid some of the problems above.



Posted in Marketing, Self Publishing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *