Smashwords has just announced they are allowing pre-orders for Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and the Apple iBookstore. Here’s the link for the details if interested. It’s in the beta stages which seems to imply that some snags could be possible.
I’ve heard a lot about authors wanting a pre-order option on various forums, so I’m guessing this is a welcome announcement. I believe Apple iBookstore has been allowing pre-orders already for authors who go directly over there, too. I’m not aware of any other place that does this yet. If you know of any, please comment. Keeping up with publishing trends is almost a full-time job. 😀
I think the pre-order thing is something each author will have to weigh the pros and cons on to decide if it’s right for them. I don’t think pre-orders are for everyone.
I have decided it’s not for me and here’s why.
1. I don’t like waiting when I have a book ready to publish because I have to let that book hang around my “To Do” list.
Once I get a book ready for publication, I want to get it out there so it’s no longer sitting in the back of my mind on my ever-growing “To Do” list. I want to publish the book and go on to the next one I’m working on. As I was trying to write my next book, I had trouble focusing on it because all I keep thinking about is on July 30th, I needed to publish my book on Amazon and B&N. (I use Smashwords for the other channels.) I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of work, but I go through page by page on the previewer in KDP and Nook Press (due to past errors in formatting) to make sure everything is as it should be, and this takes me about a full day. So that is one day I won’t have to do what I really want to do–write.
2. I have to spend the time leading up to the release date marketing the book.
I actually had two books in pre-order status for about a month, and while I wanted to focus on sharing what I was working on at the time with my readers, that month was dedicated to the already finished books. This wasn’t fun for me. I went into self-publishing so I could write and publish then go back to writing. I know there has to be some marketing, hence why I have an email list, a Facebook account, blog, a Twitter account, and some free books out. But I prefer to keep my marketing to a minimum. Yes, it means that I probably am not selling as well as I would be otherwise, but I want to write books I’m passionate about writing. If something drains my writing time, I tend to ignore it.
3. A month without a new release is a month that I lose momentum in sales.
In the long scheme of things, I realize delaying the publication of a book isn’t going to make much difference, but when I have a tax voucher due every quarter, getting that money in starts becoming more of a priority and less of a luxury. And each month counts, big time. That is the tricky part about making a living writing fiction. You need to pay the taxes on the government’s schedule, not when the money is finally in your account. These movies showing authors sitting in a cabin, typing away while they sip their coffee/wine and watch money blow in (while they climb that New York Times Bestselling chart) has never been my experience, nor is it the experience of any author I know. I write from the time I get up to when I go to bed. In between, I take care of the house and my family, manage bills, manage repairs, do doctor visits, deal with the schools, and other things that keep us all busy. Maybe it’s because I’m a wife and mother, but writing is not done in blissful isolation. The larger the tax vouchers get, the more important it is to see a certain amount of money make it into the bank account each month.
Now, some people see an advantage to doing pre-orders.
1. Allow time for sales to build up before the release date.
While your book is in pre-order, you can accumulate sales on the book that will build up, so when you hit the release date, it will be as if your book sold that many copies in one day. That will, of course, push you up in the sales rankings, and that is a great reason to opt for pre-orders. Better sales rankings means more exposure and that means you have the possibility to be seen by more people who would have otherwise never seen your book pop up on a chart or in an “Also Bought” list. More exposure means more potential fans means more potential of making money with your writing. Is a pre-order a magic tool? Nope. It’s one of many tools but not a magic one. You shouldn’t rely on only method for getting your books noticed. But this is one tool that could work in your favor, so it’s worth thinking about.
2. Gives you time to market your book and build up excitement for it.
It sounds like six to eight weeks is the ideal time frame to have your book in pre-order status. (At least that is my understanding.) So that give you about two months where you can build up excitement for the book’s release. I suggest doing this in more than the “I got a book on pre-order!” tweet or Facebook status. While this is fine to do once or twice, I wouldn’t bang people over the head with it by stating it over and over. What I did was offer sample scenes, character interviews, and even had characters from the two books I had in pre-order status debate each other. There are other ways you can build up interest in creative and fun ways. You need to find the fun things you can do that best fit your personality. The good news is there are multiple ways to get the word out about your book while making it not seem like a sales’ pitch. And when you’re in pre-order, you have time to experiment and expose people to your upcoming book. I suggest having a way for people to sign up to be notified when the book is released. While you might have a pre-order available on Apple iBookstore, B&N, Kobo or elsewhere, there are other stores where your book will be sold and you don’t want to alienate those readers.
3. You get to pick the release date and have everything ready to go on that day.
This could be a possible step saver. Mark Coker at Smashwords had someone do the work on getting the pre-order set up at the Apple iBookstore, so I don’t know the process to do a pre-order. I know people who have done it directly on the Apple iBookstore, and it sounds like it’s easy enough. It sounds like you don’t need the finished book to get the pre-order set up, but I recommend the finished book be up only because if a glitch happens, you’re covered. But it’s up to you on what you want to do. If you opt to have the finished book ready to go and put it in pre-order, then you can sit back and just wait for that release date to come up. You’ve already done all the formatting and uploading. So while your book goes live, you can be working on something else. You will only have to upload to the stores you didn’t do a pre-order at. I know that in itself is a huge time saver. While it’s nice to get the next book out, it takes about all day to work through formatting and uploading to different sites (while also tending to your non-writing life).
Those are the pros and cons I can think of with pre-orders. Anyone got any others they’d like to share? Have you done a pre-order and would like to share your experience?