Preorders Revisited

A man is reading a book on a bench and the post title, "Preorders Revisited" is superimposed on the top.

Although I wasn’t impressed by my first pre-order experiment, I’ve grown to accept pre-orders as a good way to make sure everything is in perfect order at the retailers on release day.   I made changes in my pre-order strategy by including the pre-order on Amazon and by running the pre-order for a shorter period of time.

In December I ran a pre-order for a completely different reason: I wanted to delay a release until January, after the holiday busyness had settled down for readers.  The book was finished by mid-December, so I decided to try to generate income while I waited for a better launch time.

Of course, I always second-guess myself.  Would January really be better for sales than December?  January is when everyone’s credit card bills come in.  But then I reminded myself that December hasn’t been, for me, a good time to release.  Fewer people are buying for themselves in December and they don’t have as much time to read. And I’d hardly be tempting new readers with the 12th book in a series.

I had good results with the pre-order this time. I started the pre-order on December 18 and the book released on January 9th. I set it up for pre-order on all the different channels I could: KDP, Nook, Kobo, IngramSpark, Amazon, etc.

I set up the print edition on CreateSpace, but let it sit for a while after proofing it and before hitting ‘publish’.  I wanted the print edition to be more of a simultaneous release with the digital release (mostly to avoid questions from readers as to why the book was available in print and not in ebook).

Although common advice is to set the pre-order price lower than the price at release, I left it at $4.99, which is my usual release price (a pricing experiment at $5.99 on a release day last year did not go well).

I did end up having a glitch, and the pre-order period gave me time to get it fixed.  A lot of my readers prefer print, and the CreateSpace version wasn’t linking on the same product page as the Kindle version (although both were listed in my Amazon Author Central).  I was able to contact customer service and have it fixed (in fewer than 10 hours after reaching out to them).  It was a relief to have the problem taken care of before the launch.

As usual with a pre-order, it was nice having the buy-links ready ahead of time.  I put the links up on my website and added them to the newsletter draft I was writing for release day.

For whatever reason (maybe I’m simply wrong about December sales), the pre-order sales were triple the number for my second-best performer.  But I did do a couple of different things this time. I did some subtle pre-release promo by journaling the book as I wrote it (I’d pinned my journal at the top of my Facebook page).  When the book became available for pre-order, I pinned a different post, noting that fact.

I was a little worried that the higher than usual pre-order sales would mean a dip in ordering at the launch, but that, fortunately wasn’t the case. Release day sales were even higher than the accumulated pre-order sales.

Looking back over this post, I’m thinking this is something I’ll repeat again. I frequently have a book that’s ready to publish in December because I write 3 books a year.  And I’ll continue with pre-orders since they afford me the opportunity to get my ducks in a row (via buy-links, fixing glitches, and tweaking my newsletter). Many readers have also told me on Facebook, in comments on previous posts, and via email that they like pre-orders because they can order the book when it’s on their mind.  I think I’ll still keep the pre-order period short…a month or less is time enough.

For more on best practices with pre-orders, check out two posts on the BookBub blog:

17 Ways to Sell Pre-order Books  by Diana Urban

Should You Make a Book Available for Pre-order?  14 Authors Weigh In by Carlyn Robertson

Do you use pre-orders?  How have they worked for you in the past?

Is December Good for Releasing the 12th Book in a Series? A Workaround: Click To Tweet

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21 thoughts on “Preorders Revisited

    1. I think they can really be used to build excitement in readers, if used well.

      You know, it’s funny. I read online about all of these writers who were knocking themselves out to finish books for a December release. But when I’ve had them, they’ve been super slow-starters.

  1. I’ve got my latest (#3 in a mystery series) available on pre-order. Like you, I kept the pre-order period under a month.

    Having it there allowed me time to change the back matter in my other ebooks to reflect the new one, since I now had the URL for it.

    I could also change my masthead on my website blog and Facebook periodically (Same background, new promo lines: “Cover reveal”, “Now coming!” “Now available on Pre-Order”) to generate additional interest. I like the technique and will use it again.

    1. I think short pre-order periods are definitely better. I ran a long one and readers told me they were so familiar with the cover, etc., that they couldn’t remember if they’d bought it or not.

      Changing the back matter in the backlist is definitely a nice bonus, too. And good point about the website and FB promo.

  2. This is an eerily timely post, Elizabeth. I’m just trying to decide now whether I want to do a pre-order. My last one wasn’t exactly remarkable, and at first I wasn’t going to do that again. But lately I’ve been wondering if I should. Lots to ponder here…

  3. This post is timely for me, too. I’ll be self-publishing for the first time next week. There was so much to learn about doing the paperback and e-book that I decided not to add pre-orders to the information overload. I’ll figure it out for the next time.

    Elizabeth, many of your posts guided me through this process. Thank you very much!

  4. Pre-orders do give you links to the books much sooner though. Sometimes it takes a bit for a book to show up on a retailer’s site, too. We’ve had a couple titles really rack up the early sales either in print or ebook form, both from the authors promoting early and great reviews from the big pre-publication reviewers.

  5. I think I’d use pre-orders to shake out the bugs and get the URL in place…maybe write the announcement post and newsletter in advance. Great ideas! BTW, I wanted to read some of your journal entries to get an idea of how you use them…your other post is closed. Could you post the link in your reply? Thanks!

    1. Oops…wait…never mind. I missed the hyperlink in the post, sorry. So you just used Google Docs and a link to it? Would you do it the same way next time, or have you found something you like better?

      1. I think it worked well that way because I could update the file each day and add onto the bottom. I thought about hosting it on a webpage on my site (would obviously have helped with SEO), but didn’t really think it through. Next time, I think I *will* host it on my site (as a page, not a blog post) and then add to it each day. Why not build traffic as well? :)

  6. Awesome! I’m super stoked that the strategy is working for you! Actually, I think January sales are higher because everyone gets gift cards for Christmas, and then they’ve got cash AND time because there’s no more holiday crazy to deal with.

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