Building a box set shouldn’t be this hard..

So I’ve written a few books, but I’ve never self published a ‘3 books in 1’ type of collection/set deal. But now that I’m building a box set, I’m learning a whole new bunch of tricks and finding things I really should have fixed a few years ago..

Building a box set – a what now?

A box set, or book series all in the one eBook file or a collection or omnibus etc. Think a lot of books in a set. Or in a kindle sense, at least two books or more in a single file so you can dive straight into the next one (and then the next one) without having to backtrack/download anything else. Which is handy if readers are really digging your series (they can polish off all the adventures in one big hit over a weekend or two) and it’s usually more cost effective too – a single box set with everything is usually cheaper than buying all the books singularly (well at least it should be.)

And if you have your writing house in order already, putting together something like this is relatively easy. Collate your books, work out your table of contents, put in your back matter content and links and line up a snazzy new 3d box set cover like the one pictured here ready to upload to your favourite marketplace. I mean How hard could that be?

Well about that..

Building a box set – my adventures

So my first every eBook box set, I’ve gone for the three Adventures of Hack books I’ve written back in 2020 plus the prequel book from 2021, all in the one big hit. Normally $9.96 US for everything, I’m thinking a rough 20% off that price seems like a good price point, so around the $8 mark. Naturally this will also be in Amazon Kindle Unlimited (I get a good response from these books in there already) but I won’t verge into the printed version of this until there’s signs of people wanting a softcover.

The thing is…reviewing everything for the umpteenth time, I’m still finding things that need to be fixed. Yes I spent weeks editing these things and reading them out loud but reading them on Kenny the Kindle this year has highlighted things I managed to gloss over. (Can I just say how good these things are to review your own work?) There was the occasional spelling mistake that slipped by the keeper somehow but also correct words in incorrect places. These are things a decent editor would have picked up but with a budget of next to nothing, I did all of that work myself. Still, I’m fixing these now before the box set is realised I’m treating that as a positive.

-So there’s the mistakes and cluttered sentences to fine tune.

-Building a table of contents (more about this in a sec) revealed there were a couple of chapter titles in the wrong places, two chapters had the same number and in one part of the third book in the series, one chapter title went completely AWOL. Again, while not book breaking, it’s certainly something I needed to fix.

-Some of my social media contact details have changed since 2020 so they needed to be updated.

-Three books, 3 different fonts, various sizes. Of course I didn’t keep things universal from one book to the next, that would be logical!

-The kindle format on each book came out a little skewiff. Time to tidy that up!

-And I’ve never worked on a 3D cover before and decided to find a template to do the heavy lifting. Which I found eventually but not before asking the world wide web for some assistance. Then I took the complicated way in building it, only to find the shortcut soon after. Go me!

However now that I’ve crashed and burned through this process, here’s my guide to making it so much easier!

Building a box set – tips and tricks

Do some reading first. Seriously, I can’t recommend Mark Cokers work enough in the stupidly helpful Smashwords Style Guide which should be your go to guide when writing up eBooks and the like. Using Microsoft Word as I do, it’s got all the settings I needed for proper formatting but also explains how to use bookmarks and hyperlinks to easily create a Table of Contents (which helped me discover which chapter titles were missing along the way.
Oh and did I mention it’s free?
Download it, read it all first, load up all your books, read it again, follow the instructions, format to a tee, top job Mark!

Run spellcheck. Look there’s every chance your spellcheck is going to pick up everything that you know is correct (ie names, made up locations, slang words, cyberpunk terminology etc..) and depending on where you’re writing from, it may give you alternate spellings (ie UK to US English for example). But in amongst highlighting everything, it will also point out any errors or things it things look like one. Read them, review them, deal with them if you have to, hit save, do it again.

Read it on the big screen, read it on a small screen. I’ve always found reading things out loud is a big help because if you’re struggling to say it out loud, you could just imagine how much fun your reader is having trying to make sense of it themselves. But don’t limit the reviewing just to the one screen. As mentioned above, seeing things set out in small screen (ie Kindle form) does shift the focus slightly and may help you pick up anything you missed before. If you’ve got a kindle, you can email a Microsoft word file to review on it. This is beyond helpful before you upload your final box set masterpiece ready for the world

Bring the changes you make back to your original books. Picked up a few mistakes? Well don’t forget to update your original books so they’re now fixed too – no more reviews about bad spelling, score!

There are box set templates available. I’m just fine when it comes to making a 2D poster type covers, no problems. Add another dimension? Rather than attempt to skew things into a different perspective myself, I figured ‘There must be a template for this somewhere.’

There must be a template for this somewhere!

-Me, recently figuring things out.

And thankfully there is, you just have to search deep for them first. Once upon a time it seemed Covervault was the place for this kind of easy to use stuff, but after seven years in operation the creator named Mark has shut up shop. (Unfortunately this also hasn’t stopped all the thousands of links you’ll find pointing their way to a now empty web storefront.) Asking around on Reddit did net me the suggestion of Bookbrush which looks promising with their free 15 templates when you sign up but the one I ended up using after a lot of searching around was from Coversactionpremium. It’s a simple three book box set mock up that comes with a couple of PSD files ready to go.
And if you end up using this, don’t go the long way I did when all you need to do is:

  1. Load in the Photoshop action that it comes with the download and run the Starter Template action. This creates a fresh new clean template ready to load your images into, as opposed to me hacking apart the demo that also comes with things and wondering why it came out a horrible mess.
  2. Once you’ve loaded in your front cover and your spines, run the Render 3d action, sit back and watch the magic. All of a sudden, you’re literally building a box set!
Building a box set

Now hopefully you haven’t thrown anything out. When it comes to my projects, I have saved everything and I mean everything. Especially when it comes to cover design because hey, you never know when you’ll need various work parts again, like the background master files from covers that helped build the spines on this new box set. So we’re talking highest resolution backgrounds from files such as these, without all the rest of the jazz on them. With clear backgrounds it’s a lot easier to make a nicer looking spine on these things too.

Likewise when it came to putting the three versions of Hack on the new cover to represent the trilogy, it was a lot easier making copies of existing parts of Photoshop layers (copying them to a new layer) then it would have been trying to salvage them off three flattened images, going hard on the eraser to tidy things up.
Maybe I knew I might need various elements in the future?
Save everything, store it on a portable drive for safekeeping.

-Finally, go slow. While the thought of releasing your first box set may seem exciting (I’m counting the Lexus’s this release is obviously going to flood me with!) rushing things may lead to you overlooking various parts while building a box set so it’s best to take it at a manageable pace until it’s ready. I’ve found it super helpful to write (and update along the way) a to do list and tackle two to three things daily (ie Finish off ‘About the author’ section and ‘write a blog post about the hiccups you encountered.’)

POST BLOG POST EDIT: It’s been brought to my attention through Reddit that Amazon don’t like to call these things ‘Box Sets’ even if technically that’s what they are. Well okay then, easy fix. I’ll just change one thing in the Starter template:

Then run the Render 3d action again and now our box set becomes a collection. Sorted!

Don’t call it a box set, even if it looks exactly like one!

Right, that’s my self publishing tips for today, I’m off to finish up this box set and get it uploaded! (Links coming soon!) In the meantime if you found this page helpful in anyway and want to buy me a brew in thanks (coffee, beer, mead, it’s all good) the link is below and thanks for your support!

Update: The collection is go!

And not only is out it in the world now, but I’ve had a terrific response so far in terms of reads and sales (currently sitting in 4th place out of the 11th I’ve got for sale) in less than a month! If you’re keen on checking it out yourself, you grab the collection right here!

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