April 2022—Pre-Order Pointers
How you can make pre-orders work for your next self-published book launch
Hello, and welcome to my April Business of Writing Newsletter.
Book launches are changing.
Traditional publishers focus the majority of their marketing efforts on the book’s launch day and the following two or three weeks. After that, the traditionally published author is practically left to get on with marketing themselves.
Self-published authors know different. Not only are they always promoting their books, but they’re also doing it before it’s been published. What better boost to your confidence than seeing readers buy your book before it’s been published?
What Is A Pre-Order?
A pre-order allows readers to click on the Buy/Pre-order button on the retailer's website, so that when the book is published, it drops straight into their e-reading device without them having to do anything else. (They don’t pay for it until it is delivered to them, so they don’t pay for it until publication day.)
If a reader has discovered your books, devoured everything you’ve written, and then spotted your new book comes out next month, and is available for pre-order, then they’re more likely to snap it up, knowing it’s on its way soon.
How far in advance can you set up pre-orders?
It varies between platforms, but most will allow you to set a pre-order date up to a year in advance.
NOTE: Always set a pre-order date well into the future, for a date you can meet. If things are going well with the book’s production, you can always bring a pre-order publication date forward. Some platforms may allow you to push back a pre-order date once, but once only.
Don’t I need a book cover etc?
Check the platforms. Some are happy with the basic details, others want more information. Apple Books, for example, will allow you to set up an ‘asset-less’ pre-order (one without a cover and manuscript) but they insist those assets are uploaded a few weeks before launch. Amazon insists on the final manuscript being uploaded a few days before.
Advice from Elana Johnson
First, know who you are and what you can do. If you don’t know how many words you can write in a week, figure that out first. If you don’t have any idea how quickly you can write a book, then don’t set up a pre-order until you do.
Authors need a system for how they edit and proofread their books, too. Don’t know yours? Don’t set up a pre-order yet.
You need to have a stable of people on your team – or be willing to do it all yourself. If you don’t have an editor/proofreader scheduled, don’t set up the pre-order until you do.
If you don’t have a cover, don’t set up the pre-order.
There are a LOT of moving pieces from taking an idea to a product, and each one takes time and energy. Every author should know how MUCH time and how MUCH energy each task will take FOR THEM PERSONALLY before they set up a pre-order.
Because I thrive on deadlines, and I can write fast. That doesn’t mean it’ll work that way for everyone.
So, my best advice is to Know Thyself. Know what you can handle stress-wise, and what you can’t. Know what you can and can’t do in a day. Know who’s going to be helping you get the pieces – the cover, the editing, the formatting, the uploading – or be ready to do it yourself (more time and more energy spent when doing it all yourself).
Once you know all of the above, you should be able to pull out a calendar and determine a date where all of the work will be done, and the book can be uploaded and ready to release.
Then add a month.
Or six. It’s easier to move a pre-order FORWARD on any retailer than it is to move it back.
Advice from Conor Whiteley
Conor Whiteley writes SciFi novels and non-fiction psychology books and is a big fan of pre-orders. He loves them because they allow him to publish and forget a book until its launch day. He likes the baked-in marketing with pre-orders (platforms often email buyers of your previous books to let them know of your pre-order), and they free him up to start writing his next book!
If you think a pre-order would benefit you, I would say go for it. Remember to set it up a while in advance in case you make a mistake with the file, cover, or anything else.
But please — do not get stressed about pre-orders. I know there are some disaster stories in the author Facebook groups, but they are rare. Just upload the pre-order, sit back and relax.
Pre-orders are a great stress-free book marketing tactic, so use them!
And remember, if your “launch day” doesn’t go well, and you didn’t get as many pre-orders as you wanted. It doesn’t matter. No one will notice, care, or call you out. It is just what happens from time to time. So, experiment, relax and most of all enjoy it. Because that is what being an author is all about!
If you’re the kind of writer who needs a deadline to finish a project, then nothing focuses the mind more than a pre-order publication date!
Until next month! Keep writing.