The world needs more lady billionaires. So was the theory of bestselling authors Lucy Score, Claire Kingsley, Kathryn Nolan, and myself, Pippa Grant, when we set out to write a joint world series. Confession: We didn’t know if the books would make any money. We just wanted to show our support for strong heroines in the romance genre.
What happened next?
Four back-to-back launches that landed at the top of the Amazon charts and put all four of us on the Kindle Unlimited All-Stars list of top 100 books and authors during our launch months. Read on for the story of how we did it!
Planning the series
The four of us had been friends for a while, having met either online or at conferences, and we’d gotten closer because we loved each other’s books and had similar viewpoints on business. We’d been toying with the idea of writing a multi-author series when one of us commented to the others in early 2019 that the romance bestseller lists had so many billionaire heroes, but women could be billionaires too, so where were the billionaire heroines?
That was the moment everything clicked, and after a flurry of messages, we knew we’d found the theme for the joint series we’d wanted to write for a while.
We also knew it could be an uphill battle to get readers to love our idea as much as we loved it. As amazing as romance readers are, they can be super critical of heroines, especially powerful, successful heroines. But we were optimistic that since our writing styles were similar, since we shared a large enough fan base, and since all of our romantic comedy books had been well received up to that point, that our readers would be excited for a joint series from us.
Next came the hard work. In order for this to be successful, we had to do a few things.
Plan the backbone of the series
- Where our series would be set
- How our characters knew each other
- How each of us would handle the necessary cameos of the other heroines (and heroes, as applicable) in each of our books
- How to use both story and marketing to mitigate the potential turn-off of having strong heroines
- How to guarantee consistency of character dialogue and action across all four books with four different authors giving voice to each other’s characters
- What wouldn’t conflict with our other planned releases, both for writing and publishing
- Which author would release in what order
We planned everything over video chat, Messenger, and email, and we were in constant touch as we wrote our own books, built a series bible as we went along, and brainstormed world-building elements we thought would be fun to appear in each book for series consistency. Lucy drew a rough map of the neighborhood itself, as she was writing the first book and doing the bulk of the nitty-gritty world-building, and if we had questions about “would your character say this” or “is it okay if your characters does this,” we’d run it by each other. Several of us wrote our books at the same time, so it was super important to check in with each other and swap passages whenever they involved mention of each other’s plots or characters.
The four of us consider ourselves equal parts businesswomen and authors, so we also had a strategy inside the stories to encourage sell-through from one book to the next. In the first book, Lucy presented each of the next three heroines as characters her readers would want to continue on with, even if they hadn’t read the other three authors. In the last book, I incorporated the three previous heroines and their heroes so my readers who hadn’t yet read any of the previous books would want to go back and binge those, too. With four points of entry to the series, we wanted to maximize not just our marketing efforts, but also the stories to make readers want more of the entire world.
If you’re considering doing a joint world project with other authors, we strongly suggest making sure you have complementary storytelling styles and overlapping characters, or a setting so appealing that readers want to live there. Readers, especially in romance, love reading about secondary characters, and they love the escape that comes with a well-constructed story world. The first book also sets their expectations as they read, so consistency across the books is important. So is working with people you can count on for meeting schedules and working toward shared goals.
Launching the series
When it came time to execute, there were so many little details to work out. All of us already used Vellum (a program for interior formatting), three of us shared an editor, and we agreed we’d each publish our own books under our own accounts, in both ebook and print, as we did with all of our other books, so those book preparation details were easy. But then there were other considerations.
Release/preorder timing and distribution
Ultimately, we chose to release the books on Kindle Unlimited two weeks apart with preorders for the next book going live upon the previous book launch for three reasons:
- All four of us had other releases to work around, so releasing this series within a six-week window opened more space for our other releases.
- We wanted each subsequent book to build on the momentum of the previous book while also providing a boost to previous book(s) at a time when they might lose visibility in the charts.
- Historically, it was our experience that long preorders can negatively impact release day rank and visibility on Amazon since you’re spreading out sales, especially in Kindle Unlimited, so timing the preorders was important.
We didn’t want titles so different from one another the series would feel disjointed, but we couldn’t find a title style that fit each of our books. We probably spent more time talking about titles and throwing around power words, popular keywords, and tropes than we did about nearly any other aspect of the book production and marketing process. In the end, our titles reflected our individual stories and styles, and the cover designs pulled everything together.
We made an intentional decision to feature just the women. We knew that men on covers sold better, but we wanted the entire series to highlight the heroines, even if it meant lower sales. Branding was super important, so we wanted the same designer to make all of the covers. We ultimately opted for a cover designer who’d previously designed covers for three of us.
Some of us have higher regular prices than the others, so we settled on a special lower release price of $3.99, then raised prices to $4.99 a few weeks later.
At the time, I was the only one of us to indie-produce audiobooks and was working on expanding my entire catalog into audio. I wanted to do a simultaneous ebook and audiobook release, yet my book — published last — would be the first audiobook to launch. So we questioned how well listeners would respond to just the fourth book in a series. If my audio didn’t do well, there was little chance the other three would want to produce audiobooks, too.
Ultimately, my audiobook earned out within a month, and we’ve now produced all four Bluewater Billionaires audiobooks to make the whole series available to listeners as well.
Marketing the series
Early reader reactions to our announcement and teasers on social media were so positive, but the readers we interact with on social media are a small portion of our overall readership, and we didn’t know if our lady billionaires would be as well received by all readers. But we knew how to market books, and we threw everything we had into marketing these.
And though we all had a large overlap in our readerships, each of us still brought fresh readers to each other. If you’re doing a joint world series, the maximum benefit to everyone comes when you make an effort to promote all of the books everywhere possible. All four of us have gotten so many notes from readers who’ve said, “I’d heard I should try one of these other authors, but I didn’t do it until the Bluewater Billionaires, and I’m so glad I did! I didn’t know what I was missing!” A rising tide lifts all boats.
Once each book was available for preorder, we all made sure to add them to our BookBub Author Profile so that we would be eligible for the New Release Alerts that BookBub sends to each of our followers.
We also made sure to put links to our BookBub profiles in the back matter of all of our books so readers have a quick and easy way to follow us on BookBub to get alerts. And recommending each other’s books on BookBub is another great way to maintain visibility during launch.
All four of us have healthy subscriber lists, so when it came time for launch, we created a schedule for when we’d each send newsletters about each other’s books so that we could use the lists we already had to hold interest steady over a longer period of time, instead of all of us sending a newsletter on the same day.
We provided a boost to each other and maintained interest beyond the initial release day visibility, and it helped maintain rank and read-through for all four of us.
Back matter and front matter optimization
We developed a one-line teaser for each book and put the same page in the back matter of every book.
We also provided a list of the series order in the front matter of each book.
Social media networking
All four of us have active reader groups on Facebook, so we harnessed the power of reader excitement and watched it spill over onto Instagram and Twitter, too.
We also booked blog tours for an extra boost, and release day for all four of us saw tons of organic promotion from readers sharing screenshots of the books downloaded to their Kindles and popping into our groups squealing about the new books.
Paid advertising is something we all do for each release, and this series was no different. We’ve all run Facebook ads for years and dabbled in Amazon Marketing Services. We were each responsible for marketing our own books, with budgets we set individually at levels we were comfortable with.
That’s what worked for us, but creating a joint pool for release with the same amount designated for each release is also a method worth considering. Fun fact: A $50/day Facebook ad kept Crazy for Loving You in the top 3,000 on Amazon for nine straight months, and continued to drive readers to other books in the series. When I disabled the ad, rank dropped on all four books. All books benefitted from all advertising.
The Bluewater Billionaires series launched in late September 2019 with Lucy Score’s The Price of Scandal. Over the course of the day, it climbed the Amazon charts to number 11. Two weeks later, Claire’s The Mogul and the Muscle launched at number six. Two weeks after that, Kathryn’s Wild Open Hearts hit 17 — a personal best for her. She and her husband were at dinner crying tears of joy, and the people at the next table thought they were discussing getting divorced. Good times. And the final book, my own Crazy for Loving You, launched at number seven.
Four contemporary romances. Lady billionaire heroines. Women on the covers. And the readers showed up. Not only did the books launch well, but they held steady with regular readership, and every time one of us launched another solo, unrelated title, we all continued to see new people funneling into the series and discovering each of us as well. A year after launch, we celebrated by putting each book in the series on sale for $0.99 for a week. And once again, the readers showed up.
All in all, we called this a very successful experiment in both a joint world project and also in dipping our toes into an underserved romance niche.
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