Are Pre-Orders Right For You?

I’m sure you guys have already gotten the KDP email announcing pre-orders for all indie authors.  If not, it’ll probably be coming in your inbox soon.  Basically, you can do a pre-order up to 90 days before your book’s release.

It’s up to you whether or not you want to do this.  But from my understanding, the pre-orders on Amazon won’t work like they do at Apple.

Apple will let all of your pre-order sales build up.  Then when the book is released, all of the pre-order sales adds to all the sales you make on your first day.  For example, let’s say you sell 20 books in pre-order, and you sell 40 books the day the book is released.  Apple will make it count your ranking as if you sold 60 books that day.  The higher ranking will give you added exposure and possibilities for getting noticed.  That’s the biggest benefit to doing pre-orders from a marketing perspective, in my opinion.

Amazon, however, doesn’t operate the same way with pre-orders.  So you might sell 20 books in pre-order.  Then the day of release, you sell 40.  For ranking purposes, it will look as if you only sold 40 books.  This makes you more vulnerable to a dip in sales.  If all your fans pre-order your books, then those sales won’t boost your ranking on the first day your book is available.  Quick note: You will still show on your dashboard that you sold 60 books.  You just won’t have this reflected on the Amazon ranking on your product page.  (I hope that makes sense.)

After studying up on what other authors are saying, this is my understanding of how the two systems (Apple and Amazon) works when dealing with pre-orders.  If I am wrong, please let me know.

Anyway, the question might be, are pre-orders worth it?  Only you can answer that question.  It might be worth it to you, or it might not.

Here are some things to factor in when looking at pre-orders.

1.  Pre-orders force you into a deadline

Deadlines are an awesome thing.  I love them because they force you to stay on track.  If you know you have to get the book done by a certain date, you’re more likely to do it.  Otherwise, it’s too easy to keep putting it off until sometime later.  To me, this is one of the most compelling reasons to do a pre-order.  I love deadlines and having things ready to go before they’re due.

The drawback, of course, is real life.  Something might pop up that throws you off track, like an illness or job loss.  To rectify this, you could have everything done and ready to go when you put something into pre-order.  But this requires a great deal of patience.

2.  Pre-orders allow you to promote more in advance since you have everything ready advance.

This can free up time working on the pre-release promotion of your book.  What type of promotion you do is up to you.  I mainly blog sample scenes, character interviews, and updates to promote my work before it’s released.  Some people prefer social networking sites to gain excitement for their book.  Some people do blog tours or look at running ads.  There is no right or wrong on this.  You should do what you’re comfortable with and enjoy.

3.  Readers might want to buy a pre-order instead of going back to your blog or social networking site or the bookstore to see if your book is out or not.

The argument can be made that new release emails notifying fans that your book is available will relieve them of the need to keep checking the sites listed above.  I’m on the fence about how effective the new release emails are.  I use MailChimp to send out information on new releases, and it seems that a little over half the recipients open them.  Less than half click on the links.  I don’t know if people are also following my blog and go through those links instead or what.  To me, it seems to be one of those “it doesn’t matter” promotional tools.  Perhaps if I didn’t regularly blog and announce new released on Facebook and Twitter, I’d see more of a benefit from it.  I don’t think it hurts to do it, and it’s not like it takes a lot of time to set up.

Others might have a better experience with new release emails.  Keep in mind that what works great for one person doesn’t always work the same for someone else.

But pre-orders are a way readers can reserve your book then totally forget about it until they get an email from the bookstore telling them the book is now ready for them to read.  If nothing else, having a book in pre-order will answer the question, “When will your next book be out?” that you might get from a reader.

4.  Pre-orders and rankings.

Given, Amazon doesn’t apply pre-order sales to the actual release date when calculating the ranking, and that could hurt your ranking (and potential sales) if you don’t sustain regular sales on day one of the book’s release.  But it’s also possible there might be an awesome rank in other channels on release day because of the pre-orders that built up.  If all your fans pre-ordered the book, you need people who are new to your work or on the fence about it to buy the book to keep your ranking up.

However, if you didn’t have pre-orders, then all of your sales start on the first day of the book’s release.  It might take time for the news of your book’s release to trickle through all the promotional avenues of your choice, and this could buy you a few days to weeks of steady sales, which could help with ranking and exposure.

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So will pre-orders help or hurt you?  I don’t know.  Sales are like a roller coaster as it is.  Things like time of year, promotions, ads, word of mouth, etc can effect your sales throughout the life of your book.  All I’ve learned from this business is that there are no guarantees.  You might write the book you believe will appeal to a wide audience.  You did your research.  You put in popular character types (ex. alpha hero), popular situations (ex. a scandal), got an attractive cover (one that is way better than your other books), and have a description with popular keywords in it.  But when you publish it, the book sinks…fast, and it never recovers.  Then you write a book you don’t think will appeal to many, and it does better than the one you thought would sell great.  I’ve had that experience several times.

What makes one book sell well and not another is a mystery.  People keep asking me for a magic bullet, and there is no magic bullet.  You write, throw it out there, and see what sticks.

Pre-orders is another promotional tool at your disposal.  You can use it or not.  If it works for you, use it.  If it doesn’t, then don’t.  Just like everything else in this business, tailor your strategy to what you enjoy and what works best.  If someone tells your what you’re doing is wrong, ignore them.  They aren’t in your shoes.