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?
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.