“Box set.” An unwieldy term, by any standard — two nouns that jostle along together without anything to link them into a meaningful concept. But, for some reason, that’s the term used to describe a set of books or music recordings with something in common (author, composer, performer, theme) issued together as a special edition.
“Boxed set” actually makes sense, referring to the fact that the separate works are contained in a box or slipcase especially designed for the collected edition. But it looks like “box set” is here to stay, for a number of excellent or dubious reasons.
Another term I’ve seen applied to collected editions is “bundle,” but that sounds blunt and indiscriminate. Does anyone really want books that come in bundles, like lumber? Or “omnibus,” which I’ve seen on single-volume print books containing a number of separate works? That sounds clumsy and menacing.
So box set it is.
The publishing trajectory that culminates in a box set goes like this: an author writes and publishes a novel. Then they write and publish another. And another, forming a trilogy, or even more novels, forming a series. Once the series is complete, the author goes on to create other novels or series. They gather a following (maybe), and eventually it makes sense to make the trilogy or series available as a set — a box set.
The box set may include a bonus of some sort, a story or two not otherwise available, or even the beginning of another novel. This is a good idea, because it may entice purchasers who already own the separately-published books. So might a new, striking cover image for the box set. Readers may not be able to resist the look of a spiffy new package to replace their dog-eared copies, and some new writing from an author they already like would be icing on the literary cake.
Ebooks are often sold as box sets (without an actual box, of course). A new, purpose-designed cover image is essential here. Taking the easy option of pasting reduced versions of the original covers together results in a muddled mess, not an eye-catching novelty.
Box sets may be something besides a collection of works by a single author. Several authors writing in a specific genre may contribute books from their backlists to form a set with a common theme — cozy mysteries or supernatural thrillers, for example. Box sets may also be created to support a charitable cause, in which case all or part of the proceeds go to that cause.
I have to admit, I always thought box sets (the physical kind) were a good idea that didn’t quite work. Anyone who really liked an author’s books would have them all anyway. Buying a box set for a friend would be a risk if they weren’t a fan and superfluous if they were. The only motive to buy a box set would be the spiffiness factor.
But here I am, about to publish a box set of the Herbert West Series. It will include all four novels, along with the first chapter of a new novel intended to be a sequel to the series. “Intended” because so far I’ve written only that first chapter. Putting it out there will give me incentive to write and publish the rest. That’s the idea, anyway.
The Herbert West Series Complete will make its appearance through Smashwords and Amazon, in ebook form only, on November 7th — Herbert West’s 130th birthday.
Image designed by Audrey Driscoll with Canva