When I published my first three novels, setting up a pre-order was not available to self-published authors. Since then, both Amazon and Smashwords have begun offering pre-orders.
This means up to three months before your release, you can already start selling books. Now for established authors, this might be a big advantage. The success for small-scale authors is typically not as good.
Smashword offers you the pre-order option which means your pre-order will be on their affiliates – Kobo Store, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.
There are several benefits to this. Because you determine the pre-order time period and launch date in advance, you are certain your book will be available on the release date rather than waiting for your book to go up at the respective retailers whenever it filters through Smashwords’ approval process.
This will help you in marketing as you will already have your purchase links available for blogs featuring your new release or to post on your own website.
But one of the biggest benefits is that all pre-orders get credited all at once on your launch date. This can pop your novel into the bestseller list for those respective stores. This of course adds to your exposure to potential readers. You can read more about this on Smashwords’ blog.
Unlike the method used by Smashwords, Amazon counts any pre-order sales immediately. This will affect your books ranking during the course of the pre-order and not have as big of an impact on launch day. For this reason, some authors feel it dilutes their sales during launch week and adversely affects chart position during what some consider a crucial period.
Another plus for doing pre-orders through either company is that reviewers can star leaving reviews (although not as verified purchases) before your book is released.
Now remember that if you are doing a pre-order, your book must be ready to upload to the respective sites. You can always upload a different version before launch day but remember that the first 10% to 20% of your book will be offered as a sample so you will want to make sure your work is well edited prior to uploading.
Are pre-orders worth it for new, unknown authors?
It makes sense that established authors would have the best possibility to sell their books as a pre-order. The Smashword blog suggests that with the appropriate marketing, a less established author can do well with pre-orders and see their book crack the top 10 or top 20 of their genre list if they can steadily collect some pre-orders.
While this may be true, I am not sure how many pre-orders (beyond friends and family) most newbie authors can accumulate. I know that I never pre-order a book, and if I did, it would probably be for an author in which I know what I am getting. (In other words, an established, popular author.)
So, The Heir to Alexandria, will be released next week. I did not offer it as a pre-order. I don’t feel I have the fan following needed to make pre-orders worth it with only three other full-length novels to my name. (I have read numerous places that authors need three to five books under their belts before they really begin to get traction.) Now perhaps after this, with the next book, I might give it a try.
If you want to read some more of the pros and cons of pre-orders, check out this blog.