Pre-Orders: Are they worth it?

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.

Smashwords

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.

Amazon

preorder amazonUnlike 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.

Book promoting during the holidays

I was searching for a topic to write about today when I came across this blog about promoting your book during the holidays and thought it was a great topic.

This author’s blog from last week was about promoting your book as a gift for others to give. She does a good job of describing the pitfalls of having someone buy your book as a gift. But as I read her blog, I was thinking that my books are only in e-book format. I would not expect someone to give my book as a gift. Yes, you can email someone a gift certificate for an ebook from Amazon or Barnes and Noble but it isn’t anything you can actually put under the tree.

I typically have not done much promoting of my e-books before Christmas. I usually wait until AFTER to offer my e-books at a discounted price. Millions of people will receive an e-book reader or tablet this holiday season and will be looking for fill it with books. And don’t forget all those people with gift cards.

Last year, I offered two books for free and reduced the price of my trilogy. I don’t think I received a lot of sales due to these promotions. Some of this could be the timing. After Christmas is a hectic time and there are many other authors out there hawking their own books. Does this mean I won’t be offering a discount again this year? Nope. I certainly will. (If you are interested in checking out my books, come back on Christmas Day to see which ones I put on sale!)

Other holiday sales hints

Here are a few other holiday sales ideas…

  • From author Kristen James – write a Christmas novella. She said she has written a few and published them in November. They are among her best sellers and do well each holiday season. If you write a series, perhaps you can take some of your characters and write them their own holiday story. (This won’t work for me but I like the idea.)
  • Bundle your books in a box set and offer them for less than they would be individually. Or perhaps get a few indie authors together and offer some of your books as a bundle,

No matter what option you do, I don’t think any indie author should take the holiday season off from promoting their books.