I was just alerted to a rather peculiar special offer on the Kindle Store. Right now, you can download, for free, a boxed set of books for your Kindle, from a selection of authors, for nothing. With a gold “Amazon Bestseller” stamp on its (virtual) box, the At Odds with Destiny boxed set proclaims that: “each one of the novels in this boxed set is outside the box. Together, they have nearly 1000 five star reviews! Open this box at your own risk!” Five star reviews? Free? Should be a no-brainer instant download decision, right? Well, maybe …
After all, where does this handsome offer come from? Here are ten titles apparently from unrelated authors, in different genres, with only two things in common: Five-star review status on Amazon, and self-published origins. Actually, in the case of Aaron Paul Lazar’s Double Forte, the book seems to have originated over ten years ago in a project put out by Writer Beware-watchlisted publisher PublishAmerica, but since then it also seems to have acquired a more respectable publisher. The rest, though, as far as I can see, are all courtesy of Amazon Digital Services.
In some cases, such as Uvi Poznansky’s Rise to Power, you are actually making a saving with the boxed set (from 99 cents to zero, in this instance). In other cases, the bundled book is already free as a standalone. So as a reader, are you actually getting any benefit from this bundle? And as an author, is it worth you joining one? And who puts these together anyway?
For the readers, obviously these won’t cost you money – though if they’re marked up to even 99 cents, you might want to think again. But can you trust the five-star status that the creators claim? I read through the reviews of the titles in the bundle, and most of them seem to be from noted Amazon reviewers – but not actual reviews, or publications. You can take such recommendations with a pinch of salt – whether due to the reputed review-farming industry, or simply the dubious status of such reviews. Fine, word of mouth is supposed to be the best recommendation, but even so …
Also, boxed sets are usually supposed to have a common theme or reason for bundling, right? Like, a single author or a common genre, for example. Here, the set claims to share a common premise: “Finding themselves at odds with destiny, the characters in these stories fight to shape their future and define who they are.” Does that sound like a tenuous excuse for a bundle? Maybe.
For authors, even self-published ones, are you getting any real extra reach or exposure by bundling in with others, especially from unrelated genres? Fine, these may help you spread the word for promotional self-published titles that are already out there for free, but are your own merits likely to be lost in the bundle? I’d say that’s quite probable. Some of them may hook the reader on the series they come from, since as David Rothman has noted, series may be the way to go, but again, that’s arguable at least, given the interference and confusion that the rest of the bundle might create. Also, does the bundle itself enhance your credibility? Based on the caveats above, that’s a real question mark.
I’m digging into the origins of such bundles to see what I can run down. Meantime, do remember: Something free is usually worth what you pay for it – even if it’s only lost reading time.