Previously, I’ve discussed the pros and cons of various publishing plans, but one topic I overlooked was preorders. While traditional publishers almost always run preorder campaigns for their books, self-publishing authors must determine whether or not to offer one themselves.
First, let’s define what a preorder is. Allowing readers to preorder your book before its release date will allow you to start collecting sales (but no money) in advance. Amazon allows preorders anywhere from 2 weeks to 90 days, and some retailers offer them for even longer periods. Essentially, you’re allowing people to buy a book that will be released at a later date.
So, here are some things to consider regarding preorders:
- More time
As I’ve discussed previously, building more time into your publishing release schedule can be incredibly beneficial. The additional time can be used for marketing and promotion, for working on the next book in a series, etc. Delaying the release of your book gives you more time to prepare for that release (or for the release of your next work). Yet you can still be building up sales for your book during the delay.
On the other hand, it’s very important that you have the book and all the other essentials (cover art, interior design, etc.) finished well in advance of your release date if you’re doing a preorder. Why? Amazon has a 10-day deadline for submitting your final draft to KDP in advance of the release date. If something goes wrong at the last minute and you miss that deadline, Amazon may ban you from doing future preorders. Other retailers don’t have this penalty, but it’s definitely important to keep in mind.
- Buy links
Perhaps the biggest promotional advantage of having a preorder campaign is that it gives you links to your book for sale before it’s actually released. So, for example, let’s say you’re doing a guest blog post to reveal your book’s cover. You can include the links to buy your book along with the cover image and synopsis, which allows readers to pick up the book immediately before they forget about it. Anyone who’s reviewing your book in advance can do the same. Essentially, this ensures that your promotion is resulting in actual sales.
One of the benefits of a preorder is that it allows you to coordinate the release of your book across multiple retailers on the same day. As long as the final draft is submitted on time, each retailer will release it automatically on the date you select, as opposed to releasing it manually yourself. By setting a preorder date, you don’t have to do anything on the actual release day (aside from all of your promotional work, that is). Of course, if you only plan to use one retailer, then this isn’t an issue.
As I mentioned above, traditional publishers almost always use preorders, and readers often expect it. Having a preorder campaign can give indie authors a look of legitimacy and meet readers’ expectations.
Preorder sales can be beneficial when it comes to both bestseller lists and other sales rankings. Regarding bestseller lists, since preorder sales are reported on release day, they give you a better chance of hitting the list. Sales rankings across multiple retailers include preorder sales. And Amazon allows books to qualify as “Hot New Releases” throughout the preorder period (as well as thirty days after the release). These kinds of rankings can help improve a book’s visibility.
On the other hand, it’s important to note that different retailers credit preorder sales differently, and therefore they have varying effects on different rankings. Retailers don’t reveal how their algorithms work, but it seems that some of them credit pre-order sales on the actual release date. Amazon, however, counts them as each sale is made. Which means having preorder sales spread out over a long period won’t affect your Amazon ranking in the same way as having a lot of sales during release week would.
As with everything in publishing, there’s no right or wrong answer here, and what works for one person may not work for another. Knowing the advantages and disadvantages of both options will allow you to make the most informed decision for yourself and your career.
What do you think? Have you ever done a preorder campaign? Would you consider it? What are the pros and cons I missed? Let me know in the comments!
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