Box Sets & Hitting Bestseller Lists!

Join us on the Beach today to talk about Box Sets with Author, Kim Hornsby.

Box Sets are the new Biggest Thing! And you know why an author would offer a book that took her 2 years of her life to write for only 10 cents? To hit the USA Today Bestselling List. Or any other list would be nice too.
That's the main reason authors are banding together in bunches of 10 to offer a book, but the other reason is almost as good--To cross market with other authors, gain readership through them, and get people hooked on their series by offering the first book virtually free.

I'm no different. I saw the Box Set train leaving the station and jumped on board!

Two months ago I researched these anthologies on Amazon, read blogs on them, studied covers, titles, and talked to authors who are already involved in a box set. I already was a year behind, seeing I wanted to get in a set last year this time. Feeling behind in anything always drives me to maniacal productivity.

I contacted a bunch of authors, whose books I loved reading, whose writing I respect greatly, and who write in a slightly similar genre as me. While waiting for these authors to think about my proposition I worked on a title.
In terms of search engines, I decided on the title Passion & Danger, having seen a lot of romance books starting with the word Passionate and knowing we would pop up in a reader's search. All the books I planned to have in the set had these two aspects in common. Passion and danger.
I only was turned down by a few authors who either couldn't give me the temporary publishing rights, didn't have anything that wasn't already in a set, or didn't see themselves fitting in with the group. I appealed to my chosen few writers by asking them if they wanted to become a USA Today Bestselling Author. If they did, here is my plan. (insert my email here.)
Only one of us holds the title of USA TODAY Bestselling Author and she said yes even though her book has thousands of reviews on Amazon and might not need to join us for any particular reason.
Alexa Grace is a superstar of Romantic Suspense but also savvy enough to know that you can always reach more readers through cross networking. We had our star author for the first book!
Toby Neal is a marketing wizard, prolific author and writes fabulous, gritty crime/romance set in Hawaii. I was amazed and thrilled she said yes.
Kristine Cayne has won so many awards in Romance and Suspense, that I can't list them all here. She's a top author at Amazon and her willingness to join us was another coup.
Dana Delamar, another bestselling author, agreed to get on board with her awesome novel, which is book 1 in her bestselling series. And she agreed to help us with marketing, something she does as a sideline, along with editing.
Alicia Dean who was my editor for two books and writes multi-genre and writes for Kindle World. She heads up Authors Helping Authors and many marketing groups. She let us have her novel that weaves in a paranormal aspect. Wow!
Then I asked Pat White, the Harlequin Intrigue author who got me into this kooky business in the first place and she gave us her fun romantic suspense. I couldn't believe my luck.
Diana Layne had huge success with book 1 and 2 in her Mafia series and was ready to release book 3. Luckily she saw this as a good way to market and we got book 1 for the set. It's a Bestseller!
Bestselling author and Louisiana writer, Lori Leger, was convinced to lend us one of her many novels and willingly offered to do the formatting, something I didn't want to take on (even if I could) and didn't exactly want to pay hundreds for someone else to take on.
My critique partner, Christine M. Fairchild, is ready to release the much-anticipated Book 2 and let us have her first in the series--An enormous Bestseller! Suddenly I had her kick-ass thriller to complete the set.
Add in my award-winning, bestselling Romantic Suspense, we had ten tantalizing books of Passion & Danger.

Everyone began with a check of their formatting while I hunted for a cover photo. We had a huge decision to make that most women never give much thought to.

Hairy chest or clean-shaven chest??? This question occupied our emails and my mind for about two weeks while I polled women. I'd found an awesome photo that depicted our theme but he had a nicely hairy chest. Dare we?
In the end we decided on the picture of  gorgeous cover model, Harvey Stables with a sultry blonde, Amber, and had The Killion Group go to work on our cover.
Note: We needed a flat version too because of Apple and they supplied all the sizes and versions when it was done!

We decided on a marketing budget, put money in the pot and set to work figuring out what sites gave us the most bang for our buck.
Lori began formatting, careful to keep the file as small as possible because of Kindle's 3 KB rule for .99 books. We really wanted to offer this for .99 and as I type this I'm still not sure if we'll be able to reduce the file from 3.5 to 3. All photos of our covers had to go as well as back matter, front matter and such. Poor Lori. She kept the file large for Draft 2 Digital, a new uploading service similar to Smashwords because they can take a huge file. They will also do all the converting for you and even set everything up for CreateSpace. Having box sets in print is completely ludicrous because they'd have to cost over $100. but it's nice to know for single books.
We set a publishing date for May 17 and have given ourselves over a month to gain all the presales we can in that month. We anticipate a nice dump of sales on that day, chosen specifically because USA Today begins their weekly count on Sundays.

As I learn more about this process, I will let you know in installments, publishing every week about the journey to USA Today Bestselling Status. One thing I learned that was disappointing is that another box set comprised of List Authors is releasing the day after us, hoping for NY Times Bestselling status. (They start their count on a Monday). We are not so lofty in our goal--USA Today is good for now.
 We have marketing set up for the Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday although BookBub does not take multi-author box sets yet. We went with My Romance Reads, ENT and Kindle Books and Tips.
Check out our awesome trailer here...

If you're reading this, please consider buying our presale for your own enjoyment, as well as helping us realize our Indie Dream. Here's the current links with more to come:


Barnes & Noble


And here's a photo of very embarrassed me with Harvey Stables at a Romance conference. :)

Kim Hornsby is an Amazon Bestselling Author of Suspense and welcomes comments to this blog.

UPDATE: We did not reach USA TODAY Bestselling status but the box set of USA TODAY authors that launched on the Monday did and I'm still not entirely clear what day that publication starts counting because the week before us, the list was Sunday to Sunday and then it looked like several days were skipped and it went Thursday to Thursday. Not sure.
We attribute not hitting the list to some confusion about the start date, not having beefcake on our cover and not advertising it as hot hot hot romance. Our book might be too diverse with Sweet to Sizzling Romance and paranormal to contemporary suspense to mafia to police procedural.
We hit #1 Bestseller Status right away in Mystery/Suspense Anthology category and stayed there for ten days. We have stayed in the top 10 for 2 months only slipping for 3 days to 17,000 in Kindle ebooks. Then, like a tiny flame that wouldn't go out, we bought a few little ads and got back to around 5,000. Almost two months in, we changed the cover to have only the male model naked to the waist. Since changing the cover, we have slipped a bit to 7,000 and we need to buy another couple ads to get more sales. We kept the price at .99 but were told by other box set authors that it didn't matter much what the price was and vowed to change the price after RWA in July to $2.99. It was a huge hassle getting Amazon to give us .99 because the file is very large and they need that size to be $1.99 at the least.
For us, at this time of year, with loads of competition, maintaining our below 5,000 ranking this long has translated into selling about 4,000 downloads. On Amazon, we sell about 140 ebooks a week to stay at 5,000, 7 weeks later.
The things I thought would set us apart from the other box sets, and offer something unique to work to our advantage (our diversity) might not have worked for us, but against us. I read steamy to sweet romance, not erotic, like diversity as a reader as long as there is a mystery or suspense and would appreciate a set like this as a voracious reader.
What do you think? I'd be interested to hear your opinion! But before our books and donate to breast cancer and thymic cancer at the same time.

Dating Contest, Mexico and Cancer--How I Met My Husband

            Once upon a time, I won a man in a contest. You don’t see that every day – a man up for grabs. Actually it was a company contest to win a date with a man whose name was not divulged, but the newsletter called him ‘Dr. Timeshare’. He had a monthly column in the Timeshare Company’s publication. I know what you’re thinking. Oh, that explains everything. It was those crazy timeshare people. Here’s more fuel to that fire. I had to go to Mexico to claim the man. Kooky, lawless, Mexico. Puerto Vallarta would host my ‘Dream Date with Dr. Timeshare”.

            At the time, I lived on Maui and worked for the timeshare company. Why, you say, would I need to go to Mexico for a date when there are all those surfer- types on Maui? This story gets complicated, but let me divulge that when I won the date, I was almost unmarried to one of those Maui surfer types. Just substitute ‘scuba diver’ for ‘surfer’ and while you're substituting you might as well change ‘unmarried’ to ‘divorced’.

            I entered the dream date contest in a state of boredom one Maui afternoon while I waited for my next podium speech to a group of tourists who’d signed up for the timeshare presentation. I was the gal who gave the introductory talk about how we weren’t going to rip you off, just show you a better way to vacation. Consequently I worked ten minutes out of every hour and had fifty off to read newsletters, enter contests to find alternative husbands and such.

            To tell the truth, I actually thought the dream date contest might be a joke but with that truth-in-advertising law, I knew that a company couldn’t offer a week in Puerto Vallarta, plane fare and condo included, if they weren’t going to cough up the trip. It turned out that Dr. Timeshare was a flesh and blood, thirty year old man who lived in P.V., sold timeshare, and was single. He’d just come off four months of chemo and radiation for Hodgkin’s disease, was growing his hair back in and wanted a date. (These were details I found out later, in dribbles and bits, before, and after I met the good ‘Doctor’).

            I’ve now given away the fact that I won the contest and ended up in Mexico but first let me tell you that only two of us entered, and the other gal was his best friend’s wife whose entry was merely a joke. Mine was serious, stemming from a great need for fun after a marital breakup. My entry included my 8x10 headshot (did I mention that I was an actress/singer?) and I must say it was a smashing shot of my head. Those were the golden years. To illustrate that fact I must recount that Dr. Timeshare’s co-worker/friend was on Maui for business, saw me in a bikini commercial on TV, found out I’d just left my husband, was recently single and called the Doctor in Mexico to tell him he’d better hurry with that plane ticket. “She won’t be single for long,” he said.

            When the Doctor called me, I’d just signed on to do ‘Some Like it Hot” on stage and was going into rehearsals the next day. The first day I could fly to Puerto Vallarta was three months away and, being a cool dude, he told me that worked out perfectly for him too.

            I was single for the first time in three years but didn’t date anyone. At all. Not even flirt. You say that’s no great feat when my leads in the play were both gay but I had some offers outside of my theatre friends. A chef, a gardener, a musician. Then the Doctor started calling. Dr. Timeshare, that is. We spoke on the phone several times and it turned out we had mutual friends and almost met on Maui at least once. He’d even chartered my ex-husband’s fishing boat for a tournament but had to cancel. Kismet was already at work.

            Before I flew to my dream date, I tried to gather information about Doctor Timeshare, including his name. Roland. I’d been told conflicting information about his physical appearance but everyone agreed he was funny as hell and Canadian. Which is redundant, seeing all Canadians are hilarious.

            My first glimpse of The Doctor at the P.V. airport showed that he was handsome, poised and well-dressed. I eventually found him to be extremely polite (Canadian again), and such a sweet man that I decided to do more than have dinner with him that week. We had breakfast more than once, but I digress. Back to the airport.

            His Antonio Banderas Spanish impressed me like crazy as he helped me through customs in double time and together we drove to the timeshare resort to check me in.  He’d left a Smart car-sized bouquet of flowers in my condo. Nice touch. I met him in the poolside bar for a margarita as big as a goldfish bowl which was probably meant as an ice breaker but ended up being almost a leg breaker. When I got up to walk to the bathroom, I almost fell down a flight of stairs and on my return, the Doctor had a nice stiff cup of coffee waiting for me. More brownie points.

            During the week, he told me about his fight with cancer and I thought he was one of the bravest men I’d ever met. His outlook on life was one of optimism and exuberance and I found myself wanting to be a part of that life, that excitement. After seven days of laughing our heads off and falling in love, I went back to Maui without my new boyfriend.

            When people asked about the dream date, I smiled and said “It was dreamy.” Countless phone calls later (before cell phones and texting) we met in Palm Springs for a long weekend. We’d been apart six weeks – too long.

            “Do you ever want to marry again,” he asked me, “or are you done with that institution?”

            “No!” I said. “I want to be married. I just want it to be someone who wants the same thing in life as me.”

            “What’s that?” he asked.


            We married a year to the day we met -- December 4th 1991, on a Maui beach in front of a hundred people. By then Roland had moved to Maui, leaving his conga line lifestyle, so I could continue my career in entertainment. A helicopter flew over us to drop hundreds of purple orchids. Roland’s touch. We were blissfully happy, nauseatingly in love and unaware that cancer would resurface only a year later.

            When chemo was recommended, my brave husband endured weeks of it. He took a leave of absence from work, we moved into a little apartment to conserve money and held on tightly to each other, both afraid to voice what we feared most. He pulled through, but Maui wasn’t paradise for him after that, and we moved to Whistler, Canada where he set up a new timeshare company.

            When I got pregnant in 1996, we couldn’t believe our luck. But, just before our sweet son turned one, Roland was diagnosed with recurring Hodgkin’s disease. Third time.

            This time we headed to Vancouver to one of the world’s best Hodgkin’s chemotherapists. After buckets of chemo drugs and a stem cell transplant, Roland checked himself out of the Cancer Center in spite of the doctor’s warnings that he’d die with no immune system. He needed to get his counts up. Platelets were necessary before he even walked down the hall and out the doors from the bubble-like wing for stem cell transplant patients. Nothing I said could convince him to stay in that hospital bed and we headed home to Whistler one rainy day in November hoping his fear of hospitals wouldn’t ultimately kill him.

            He survived. After a year off work he was itching to get back in the working force and took a job with an upstart company in Seattle (not timeshare). I finally gave up all aspects of my performing career. No theatre, no singing in clubs, no radio or TV commercials. I settled in to full time motherhood with our son and planned our next child while my husband endured the commute to Seattle everyday from our suburban dream home. In 2002 we adopted a baby girl from Taiwan to complete our family and we settled into living the American Dream.

            As I write this, Roland and I are coming up on twenty-four years of marriage. Our kids are thirteen and eighteen. We’ve laughed our guts out over the years, cried a lake’s worth of tears and had our share of disagreements. We would probably get the prize for the messiest house on our street. Kids come and go, dogs track muddy footprints through the kitchen, sometimes I make a sit down dinner, sometimes we eat snacks on the run. But we’ve been cancer-free for over seventeen years and a day does not go by that I don’t thank someone for that.

            Our love has evolved into something I like to compare to a great timeshare. We’ve definitely gotten our money’s worth and done things we might not have done. There’s been no wishing we took a different route, spent our money differently, walked away while we still had the chance. Marrying Dr. Timeshare was the deal of a lifetime. Lots of fun and no buyer’s remorse.

Kim Hornsby is the Bestselling author of The Dream Jumper's Promise and Necessary Detour.