Interview: Jason Chen on StoryBundle

What is StoryBundle?

StoryBundle offers collections of DRM-free ebooks where readers select the price they want to pay for the bundle, and can choose to donate a percentage of the portion of the proceeds to charity. At a certain price threshold, “bonus” books are unlocked. Readers download the books directly to their tablet, ereader, computer, or smartphone.

One of the current bundles is the NaNoWriMo Writing Tools bundle, a collection of a dozen books on writing. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to the Challenger Center for Space Science Education, a non-profit group created by the families of the crew of the Challenger shuttle. This bundle is only available through the end of November 2018.

Meet Jason!

Jason started StoryBundle in mid-2012 because he was seeing people bundle games and other things, but not books.

The Interview

How did you come up with the idea of creating

It’s hard to remember now, in 2018, but back in 2012 there were no book bundles and there were no box sets on Amazon! It was very difficult to find curated sets of books that were both high in quality and sold for a good price. Nobody was putting different authors together back then—as far as most readers knew—so I thought it was a very good market for people who wanted to fill up their ereaders.

So we took this idea for curated books, coupled it with quality authors and curators, plus made an easy delivery system that allowed anybody with essentially any electronic device capable of reading ebooks to enjoy the books, DRM-free!

How do you select curators to create bundles?

We pick our curators from authors we’ve worked with before. This is so that we know how their tastes run, how their promotional efforts go and if they can handle the job of curating, since it’s a totally different set of skills than writing and promoting.

Does StoryBundle put together bundles as well, or are they always managed by outside curators?

We started by curating the bundles ourselves, but as we’ve grown, we’ve moved to an almost 100% author/publisher curating platform.

Does StoryBundle participate in the selection of authors/books for bundles?

We leave most of the curating to the authors/publishers, but we do sometimes make suggestions or try and introduce authors to each other that make sense for different bundles.

If a curator wants to donate to a charity not on your current list of charities, is it possible to add to this list?

Definitely! We’re open to adding new charities all the time, and we work together with the authors to find one that makes the most sense for the bundle theme. And if they don’t have one specifically in mind, we have a lot of charities that we’ve worked with in the past that may fit.

What are the biggest mistakes you see some curators make?

By far the biggest mistake is that some curators think the curation is done after choosing authors to be in the bundle. I would say at least half of the job of curator is to promote the bundle, arrange for authors to promote and figure out how best to get the word out. Because the curator knows the theme of the bundle, how it was assembled and which authors are in it, they’re the best equipped to market the bundle and try and get as many eyes on it as possible.

Is there a limit to how many bundles can be available at any given time?

There’s no technical limit, but the practical limit is that we only launch one bundle a week that go for 3 weeks each. Technically there can be 4 bundles live at once. We’ve also found that it’s good to stagger the bundle themes, so they don’t overlap too much with each other. It’s really no good to have 4 sci-fi bundles live at once, because a potential reader wouldn’t pick up all 4 sci-fi bundles. Instead, we recommend doing a mix of bundles so that readers with different tastes can find at least one bundle they enjoy, and maybe a second in a different genre while they’re here.

How much lead time do you recommend to set up a Storybundle?

We recommend at least a couple months for new curators, but experienced curators with lots of connections can set it up in about a month. Of course the longer the curators have, the better, since it takes publishers often a few weeks to get the books approved to be in a bundle.

What is the minimum and maximum number of books allowed in a bundle? Is there an “ideal” number of books?

The minimum we aim for is at least 8, but there’s no hard maximum. Some bundling sites shove in as many books as they can find for every bundle, but we take the long view that we don’t want to de-value the concept of ebooks. Here’s our thinking: If you can get 25-30 books at once for a really cheap price, how likely is it that you’re going to finish all of them? Unlikely, yes? And how likely are you going to be to buy another bundle when you have 15-20 books in your backlog that you may want to read, but will never get around to? It makes it difficult for subsequent bundles to appeal, and if you’re pricing your books at just cents per book, what message are you sending to readers as far as how much you value those books? And to authors?

Long story short is that just because we’re combining books together in a bundle, we don’t de-value the individual book and we want to make sure we make this sustainable for all our authors and for us as well.

How long are bundles generally available for? Is there a set amount of time, or can this vary

We usually have our bundles for 3 weeks, but certain bundles, like the NaNoWriMo Writing bundles, go for 2 months to cover the ramp-up to NaNoWriMo and the month of November itself!

Promotion for bundles is primarily done by the curator and the participating authors. What promotional techniques have you seen people have the most success with?

There’s no one best way to promote a bundle, sadly, or else we would copy and paste the method for every bundle! A variety of things have worked for us in the past, such as involving the charity, getting different blogs to help promote, reaching out to author friends to signal boost, and even getting more notable people to talk about the bundle on social media.

What do you enjoy most about running StoryBundle?

This may be a sappy answer, but the thing I will take away when StoryBundle is over is the friends I’ve made along the way. Getting to correspond with authors has made some friends that I wouldn’t have imagined I would make before I started StoryBundle, and I’m sure these friendships will last when the site is over. It’s been great to get to see different authors’ writing processes from the outside, and I’m cheering for all of them to do well no matter where they’re selling their books!

About Jason

Before starting StoryBundle, Founder Jason Chen covered technology and software as an editor for and Before that, Jason was a software engineer, a student, and way before that, a fetus.

Find StoryBundle

Website | Facebook | Twitter | StoryBundle FAQ


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