A Case for Pre-Orders

Whether you do a pre-order or not is up to you, but I thought I’d take time to discuss the advantages of them in case you’re wondering if they’re worth it or not.

Why do Pre-Orders?

ID 44483490 © Yuryz | Dreamstime.com
ID 44483490 © Yuryz | Dreamstime.com

Make things easier.

I had done some pre-orders last year, and I took for granted how much easier it made my life.  It wasn’t until I published two books this spring that I realized how much work goes into putting up a book on release day.  Worse, I was uploading directly to Kobo and Barnes & Noble instead of using Smashwords to take care of that for me.  I always upload directly to Amazon and Smashwords, even with pre-orders.  With pre-orders, I use Smashwords to deliver the books to all the channels that will take pre-orders (including Barnes & Noble and Kobo).  I have always used Smashwords to go to iBooks and the other channels.

Anyway, when I was uploading to Smashwords with my most recent book (after I had already uploaded to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo earlier that day), I looked at the clock and realized I had spent the better part of my entire day uploading to all these sites and making sure every page was there in the preview.  I had to go back and correct a couple of formatting errors, so that also slowed down my process.  Then Barnes & Noble wanted a smaller size book cover than the other channels did, which took some time to resize the image my cover artist had given me.

It was when I was uploading to Smashwords that I had a lightning bolt moment.  “This uploading to all these different sites sucks.”  By doing everyone at one place, I had saved myself a lot of time…and a massive headache.

Save on time.

When I was doing those pre-orders, I had the final version up and ready to go well before the release date.  All I did was plug the metadata information and manuscript into KDP (which had already been done ahead of time because of all the work I’d already done at Smashwords).  Then Smashwords distributed it everywhere for me.  So all I had to do at Amazon was upload there, and it took thirty minutes (including the time I took to make sure everything was formatted correctly).

Then I could send out the email list and post the information on my blog and update my website.  When I uploaded everything to all four sites on the same day, I was too tired to do updates or the email list.  I had to wait for the next day.

I got to be honest.  I love assetless pre-orders on Smashwords.  They are awesome time savers.  If you have no cover yet, you don’t need to put it up.  Instead, you can upload the metadata (the title, the description, the categories, keywords) and the release date.  You can also go back and change the title if you want.  My advice is to estimate further out than you expect you’ll have the book, though you can always push it back if you need to.

I hesitate to use Amazon for pre-orders.  I’ve heard some stories where an author didn’t do something right and they got banned from doing any more pre-orders for some time (it was a year, I think).  I know there are advantages to doing them on Amazon, but I’m afraid I would slip and risk getting banned from it.  So I’d rather just use Smashwords.  Smashwords is mistake proof, and for people like me who make mistakes from time to time, it makes me feel a lot better.

Build Up Sales Prior to Release Date

Kobo and iBooks will accumulate the sales and apply it to the release date.  So all the pre-order sales will show up as if they were made on release day.  That will add on top of the sales actually made on the release day.  This gives you better potential to show up on a category list at the store.

Amazon doesn’t do it this way.  Amazon will build up the sales up to the release date, but on the release date, you start back at 0.  It’s the actual sales you make that day that count for the day.  I’m not sure if I’m making sense on this distinction or not.  To me, this is a potential con to doing pre-orders over there, but I’ve heard some convincing arguments that pre-orders on Amazon can still be worthwhile.  (For example, your first reviews are more likely to be from fans who bought it on pre-order.)  So you’ll have to weigh the pros and cons and decide if it’s a good choice for you.  My publisher is going to try pre-orders on Amazon with two of my books, so we’ll see what happens.

In closing, I’d love to know your thoughts on pre-orders.

Do you see other pros I didn’t?  Do you see some cons?  (Though I didn’t list them, I know there are some cons.) Have pre-orders been worth it to you?  Was pre-ordering ineffective?  Any advice you’d like to give about doing pre-orders effectively?  The more input we have, the better we can help answer other people’s questions.

And if you have any questions, please ask.  I might not know the answer, but maybe someone commenting will and can answer the question.  As they say, “Two heads are better than one.”


Next time, I’ll discuss ideas on how to market a pre-order.


  1. lornafaith says:

    Thanks for this post Ruth… it’s a big help 🙂 I’ve been thinking of doing a pre-order for Book #2 in my historical romance series. I’ve never done pre-orders before, but I wouldn’t mind trying it. I don’t have the book cover ready to go yet, and I’m only in the editing stage right now, which will most likely take 3 months. But I think I’d like to try it.

    I do have one question for you Ruth … do you let your readers know when you put a book on pre-order, or do you just wait until the book is uploaded to let them know?

    1. I’ll tell them. I used to link to it whenever I made a post about the book, but recently, I found it easier to create a single page where I have the information about the book, the cover (if it’s ready), and the links where they can get the pre-order. I also include snippets of what the characters think of the book to add some humor and fun to it. So when I mention a book now that I’m working on, I can post a link to that page. I like to use book launch pages since they’re super easy to update: http://booklaunch.io (there’s the link if interested) All I have to do is go into edit mode on the page, and the changes automatically go the live one. If you’d like to see an example of one of my book launch pages, here’s my most recent pre-order: http://booklaunch.io/ruthannnordin/hiswickedlady

      I’m not saying you have to do a book launch page. The kind of thing I do could easily be done on a page on a blog or website that you can link to. But you can also just do a cover reveal post and add links to each site the book is on pre-order. That is also a good way of helping to promote the book in advance.

      I love the assetless pre-orders. I’m impatient, so when a book is ready, I want it out. 🙂 This way, I don’t have to feel like I’m waiting forever to get the book out there. This is yet another reason I love self-publishing. A big publisher would have me waiting for six months to a year to see my book out there. A smaller publisher, however, would have less wait time, so that’s not so bad.

      And if you get your book done early, you can always set the publishing date up sooner when you go through Smashwords. I’m not sure what Amazon’s rules are for that.

      1. Lorna Faith says:

        I really like how your book launch pages…. I can see that working well for pre-launch pages. So far all I have is one page on my website for all my books. So I need to figure how to do that better:) Thanks for the helpful tips on pre-orders… I’m going to try that for this next book !

        1. A few authors at an online conference kept talking about book launch pages, so I ended up checking it out. I love how easy it is to use.

  2. I’ll have to try using pre-orders the next time I release a book.

    1. It’s made my life so much easier. I feel strapped for time as it is. The nice thing about pre-orders is that they give me time to plan everything in advance and get all my stuff set up, so when release day comes, I can focus on letting people know the book is live. 🙂

  3. I like preorders because it stops the guesswork of when a book will show up at a retailer. for instance the anthology was approved today for the premium catalog, but when will I finally get the B&n, Kobo, & Apple links? with preorders it all goes live at the same time and I have the links ahead of time.

    1. I agree! It’s nice to have everything set up and ready to go on the same day. I don’t like making Nook, Kobo, or iBook readers wait for the book when I announce it’s out. I like having it available to everyone when it’s ready. That is a huge perk to pre-orders.

      I’m looking forward to the anthology. We ran into so much septic trouble I didn’t get to finish the story I was working on. It’s okay. I didn’t get far into it. 🙂 I am going to buy a copy on iBooks when it’s out. I have a new phone I can now read books on. (For years, I just had the old cell phone that only let you do phone calls. I’m finally getting with the times. lol)

      1. Whoo hoo! For the new phone! We’re talking about a summer/spring anthology so it might fit there (not sure if we’ll have a theme yet). It’s up everywhere except B&N and waiting on Amazon to price match so right now smashwords is the best. https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/579727

        1. Thanks, Joleene! I’ll go to Smashwords to get it. 🙂

          I’ll keep a look out for the next one. Got any idea what the theme will be so I can start brainstorming?

  4. Honestly, I can’t see the difference for me. When I’m ready to release a book, I just put it up, and it’s usually there the next day. I’m always afraid something will happen in my life that will cause me not to be able to get it done before the deadline, and there’ll be no book to release.

    What I do know is how much easier it is to go directly through Smashwords for all but Amazon. I’ve been doing B & N directly, but I think I’ll start using Smashwords for them, too.

    1. Sales-wise, I don’t see a big enough jump to really make them worth it. I get a small jump, but it’s nothing major. I think it’s the big names that make out the best with sales, as is usually the case. So I agree with you there. It doesn’t make much of a difference.

      With Smashwords, you can push back the deadline if you need to. That gives me more confidence in doing it. I would never do it if I couldn’t push the date back. Life is way too unpredictable.

      I heard Nook Press has been giving authors a lot of trouble. I recently pulled all of my books from B&N and Kobo to let Smashwords take care of everything. I figure I might as well simplify my life while I was cleaning house (so to speak). After I got moved in, I started cleaning up my online stuff. I still have a ways to go. Things are still cluttered. LOL

      1. Did you lose your reviews when you pulled your books and republished through Smashwords? That’s why I never changed to a federal ID number in place of my SS number. B & N won’t let you just switch your account over, you have to have a whole new account, and you lose your reviews.

        1. I think I did. It was like starting over. I hated it. Do you have a federal ID number now, or are you thinking about getting one?

          1. However, when I switched books from B&N to Smashwords, I did keep my reviews.

          2. I was going to get one until I found out I would lose my reviews on B & N. Amazon lets you just switch ID numbers, but B & N makes you close the old account and start over.

            1. I think if you replace the B&N book with the one at Smashwords, you can keep your reviews. Try one book with the lowest reviews and see if I’m right. If so, then that would eliminate that problem.

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