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The Road to the Bottom: 99 Cent Box Sets

sp_3dcover_200A guest post on David Gaughran’s site covers the new world of bundled box sets. A good idea on the surface, and very profitable, but also problematic. She addresses this in the post:

With the attention, of course, also comes the inevitable criticism: that 2012 was the year of the freebie, 2013 the year of the 99¢ book, and now 2014 is the year of the 99¢ box. All cheap marketing ploys that will devalue the written word and destroy an industry.

Pretty much. Next paragraph:

Our business ledger, of course, says otherwise. Despite having built our assisted-self-publishing micropress on the back of 1.3 million freebies and over 700,000 sales of value-priced titles, we’ve still managed to distribute half a million dollars in royalties in the short time we’ve been in operation.

The second paragraph doesn’t necessarily negate the problems in the first. Nobody’s arguing that 99 cent box sets aren’t profitable. It’s the very fact that they are profitable that is the problem. Why buy one book at 99 cents when you can buy 5?

There seems to be lots of cheerleading on the site about how exciting this all is. This is really an unsustainable model. Certainly they’re profitable in 2014. But when the market is saturated with 99 boxes, this will cease to work. Much like free books were once the ticket to the goldmine, so are box sets…temporarily. Count on it lasting about as long as the free revolution, and have a similar result: making it more difficult to sell a stand-alone book.