The Humble Indie Bundle has done a lot to put independent and even some big studio software titles on many people’s virtual gaming shelves, but I haven’t seen all that many game bundle sites spring up in imitation of it. I can recall maybe one or two, but not more than that.
But once the idea jumped over to e-books, it seems as though you hear about a new e-book bundle every other month. Humble has done it not just once (raising a respectable $1.2 million!) but twice, Storybundle has done it a few times, and Snug Nugget, Tomely, Book Bale, to name a few others.
The latest one on the radar is Fiction Bundle, who emailed me over the last couple of days with some press information. (“Simply put, we intend to become the Humble Bundle of fiction eBooks,” the press information begins. Good luck with that, guys. You may have to settle for becoming a Humble Bundle of fiction e-books, given that there are several others already.)
Fiction Bundle’s buying process is similar to all the others. The bundles will feature 6 to 8 fiction works from a given genre. There will be a minimum payment of $6 with two more books that unlock at $10. There’s a charity donation and tip that can be adjusted just like Humble’s. As with most others, the works will be available DRM-free in MOBI, EPUB, and PDF formats. The site is also actively soliciting writers with works of at least 50,000 words in length to be part of future bundles.
The press information included the author and title list for 7 of the 8 books to be released in the “Chapter 1” bundle. It’s embargoed until December 9th so I can’t go into specifics, but I do notice at least two writers I’ve seen in more than one of the other e-book bundles. (They certainly are not, however, the famous titles such as Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or The Da Vinci Code that Fiction Bundle uses in its site graphic. Really might want to change that, guys. To the average reader who just glances at sites without reading so much for comprehension, that could come off as false advertising and hurt your reputation.)
What is it that makes bundling so much more popular among e-books? I can take a stab at a few possibilities. For one thing, as Michael Stackpole said when I asked him about his participation in Storybundle, it’s a great way of getting your books discovered by other people who might not otherwise have bought them. People buy for one book, then read another because it’s there and find they like it. That was a big factor in the early success of Baen’s monthly e-book bundles, too.
And John Scalzi said of his own participation in the Humble E-Book Bundle that it apparently didn’t affect (or at least hurt) sales of Old Man’s War, the title he’d contributed. So any money he got from the Humble Bundle was not instead of making a regular sale; it was bonus money.
Stackpole also noted that, even if he didn’t get paid as much for every book he bundled as he would have if he’d sold it separately, he was still getting a decent chunk of change come in all at once, which is always a help.
Another contributing factor might be that books, on average, take a lot less time than video games to complete. So people will be inclined to buy more of them. They don’t directly substitute for each other, either. Just because someone bought titles A, B, and C in Bundle Y doesn’t mean he then won’t need titles D, E, and F in Bundle Z.
Perhaps more importantly, authors are constantly trying to find new ways of getting noticed. The more books that get published, the harder it is for any one specific title to be noticed. Putting something in a bundle might just be an effective form of publicity. (The fact that a number of authors have kicked in titles to more than one bundle over the months suggests that it has been, at least for some—if it wasn’t, why would they keep doing it?)
The fact that the bundles do cost at least some money (generally, Humble’s been the only one who allows donations as small as a penny) means the books might have more perceived value than if they were given away free, so buyers will be more likely to read them than if they’re “freebies.” And it’s a way to get around the Amazon gatekeeper.
When these bundles first started coming out, I was skeptical that any of those that didn’t have the Humble brand power behind it could do well enough to get by. But Storybundle’s repeat bundles, and the emergence of all the others, suggests that maybe they do have some staying power. A year ago, Nate Hoffelder over at The Digital Reader thought they were just a fad, like Groupon and its clones, and would soon burn out. On the other hand, Groupon is still going strong, and apparently so are these bundles. It should be interesting to see how long they keep coming out.
Regardless, Fiction Bundle looks like it could be a reasonably good deal. The names aren’t as big as Humble managed, but they’re not complete unknowns either. They’re certainly inexpensive enough, not to mention DRM-free. And who knows? You might just discover the next author you really like that way.