Pre-Orders: Is It For You?

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.

Possible Cons

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.

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Now, some people see an advantage to doing pre-orders.

Possible Pros

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).

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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?

17 Comments

  1. If they had a pre-order option for Amazon, I might try it.

    1. Amazon might do it since they tend to do things to give themselves a competitive edge, and I would think this would do it. It’ll be interesting to see if they do it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they offer it to Select authors instead of non-Select authors.

      1. As in KDP Select? Yeah, I never did that thing. I’m still not really sure what if it would give me the benefits I’m looking for.

        1. I’m thinking Amazon might offer it to entice authors into KDP Select. Back when it first came out, it did boost a good number of authors in it, but in the last few months, it doesn’t seem to have the same benefit it used to. I never put my books in it because I have people who want to buy my books at B&N, Apple, Kobo and Sony. B&N, Apple and Kobo make up a good portion of my sales, though I will admit that Amazon still bypasses them all. It’s impossible to ignore how much reach Amazon has. But the income from the other places helps to stabilize things when there’s a dip in Amazon sales. So each outlet has its advantages (in my opinion).

          1. You’ve got a point there.

  2. I am not sure if I am comfortable with pre order anything. The unknown or impossible to plan for obstacle making delivery irrenderable is bound to lose customers and fan support. This especially true in new construction Miami condo market where collapse and bankruptcies leave purchasers out of their investment.

    1. I had thought of that, too. What if the book doesn’t go live when it’s supposed to? What if the whole book is given in the “sample” because of a glitch or a missed formatting step? (This happened to someone I know.) There are a lot of things that can go wrong with a pre-order.

      What a nightmare in Miami. Ick.

  3. M T McGuire says:

    I like the idea in that if say, 30 people pre-ordered my book I might end up with a little spike in sales which would get it through the glass ceiling of other writers and put it in front of people who actually read books, with no thought to writing them.

    However, I only sell books on Amazon, if at all so it won’t really help me. Won’t stop me doing it, of course. Especially as my Amazon sales have dried up completely, for the first time. I have had the odd strike out month before but not two in a row. So…. I’m thinking Amazon are probably about to implement another change or are playing with the ranking/marketing system in a way that will have the hardly selling indies giving up.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. You’re not the first person who has told me their Amazon sales have dried up. That’s a scary thing. Amazon seems to be changing things all the time. My sales on other channels aren’t as good as on Amazon, but I have noticed the other channels are more stable.

      And I understand what you’re saying about the book ending up with non-writers. There’s a difference in how readers look at a book, and I think their influence is more powerful. Maybe they get more excited about a book and are more passionate about sharing it with others they know. Or maybe others trust them more since they aren’t in the business. There’s something to it, though.

      1. M T McGuire says:

        Over here in the UK we’re blaming it on the fact we are having a summer. It does seem to have hit everyone though. I just assumed the select bias is kicking in. It is bound to happen sometime.

        Cheers

        MTM

        1. Summer is a harder time for sales. I have a harder time writing, so I can see why people aren’t reading as much.

          What is the Select bias? I think I know what you mean, but I want to be sure before I comment. 😀

          1. M T McGuire says:

            I just mean that there’s an assumption, not sure if it’s correct, that select members are given preferential treatment by Amazon in marketing. So I was wondering if they’ve finally dropped marketing on no select indie books, which would explain why I went from selling five or six books a month, pretty much guaranteed to nothing very abruptly and there has been no hint of movement for 8 weeks. This is quite unusual. My sales have always been a trickle, all I have out is a half complete trilogy, but they’ve never dried up for more than one month. Whatever it is that’s happened appears to have stuffed me completely.

            Cheers

            MTM

            1. I don’t know if it’s Select or not. Other authors have been seeing the same thing happen to them, but they are also non-Select authors, and I’m not doing as well as I normally would (and I’m not in Select either). There could be a correlation. I haven’t seen Select pay off in the long run for it to be worth doing. It seems that authors are hit hard after they take their books out of Select, but I also hear the free day promo don’t give the boost in sales post-free as it used to. It’d be interesting to know if Select authors (over all) feel that their sales are doing well compared to those of us not in Select.

  4. Katie Cross says:

    I don’t even have kids yet and I feel like I do what you do. Write all day, in between life, of course. Do you really publish every month? I’m just working on setting up to get my first book published, and I’ll be lucky to have a first draft on book two finished by October!

    1. I don’t publish every month. I work on more than one book at a time so I tend to finish two at the same time. That’s why it looks like I publish all the time. 😀 I’ve found that one book typically won’t do very well but the other will. (When I say “doing well”, that is for me based on my history of publishing books and how well those books have or haven’t done.)

      Some people write faster than others and some need to focus on one book at a time. What I like about self-publishing is that I’m not tied to someone else’s deadline. In some ways, the pre-order felt like someone else’s deadline and that bothered me. I don’t consider it a con, but I like to be the one who sets my release date. I guess Tuesday is the popular release date, but sometimes I publish over the weekend or on another day, and I haven’t noticed a difference in sales because of it.

      Sorry to ramble.

      I think if you’re getting a couple books out a year that you enjoyed writing, you’re doing an awesome job. 😀

      1. Katie Cross says:

        That’s good to know! I’m still new enough to writing with the intent to complete (I have one full manuscript with my editor for the second rounds now, and plan to epublish in Oct/Nov) that I’m not even sure of my process. I might try toggling two at once just to see if it helps my creative process not to be so stuck on one manuscript all the time. Thanks for the advice!

        1. I have to work on more than one book at a time because I get stuck in almost every book I write. It’s just one of those “not sure what happens in the next scene so I’ll wait until it’s ready” type of blocks. 😀 I’d get discouraged if I didn’t have something else to do while waiting.

          And yes, you’re doing awesome. I wish I was as organized as you when I started.

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