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Should Indie Authors Offer Pre-Orders? : Elizabeth S. Craig

Should Indie Authors offer Pre-Orders? : Elizabeth S. Craig


Elizabeth S. Craig

Most advice encourages indie authors to do pre-orders. But is it always a good idea? Author Elizabeth Spann Craig outlines her own pre-order experiment and offers seven tips for other authors. This session will give you a better sense of the pros and cons of pre-orders: both best practices and why pre-orders may not always work for you.

There’s a lot of online advice urging indie authors to offer their upcoming releases for pre-ordering. But is this always the right approach?

Potential benefits

Among the benefits Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, lists on his “Smashwords Ebook Preorders” page are buzz-building, ‘capturing’ the sale when readers are most interested, and merchandising opportunities with retailers like Apple.

Coker recommends listing pre-orders only with Apple iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo. These retailers offer assetless, metadata only, pre-orders, and the sales during the pre-order period accumulate, offering a spike in sales rank and visibility on the book’s release day.  Amazon, on the other hand, counts pre-order sales toward that day’s sales, which can hurt sales rank on launch day. And with Amazon, writers must upload a manuscript.

My own experience with pre-orders

Coker advised a long pre-order period to maximize sales. I set an upcoming series book nine as a pre-order in October of 2015 with a scheduled release in August 2016.

I didn’t set up my pre-order on Amazon, for the reasons listed above.  Some authors upload rough drafts as placeholders on Amazon, but I didn’t like the idea of a potential mistake resulting in the accidental publication of a draft.

Pros for my pre-order:  Awareness.  My readers are aware that I’ve got an upcoming release.  This is evident through emails and direct messages that I’ve received from them.

Cons for my pre-order:  However, this awareness of the book hasn’t translated into sales.  My readers purchase primarily through Amazon, where the book is not yet available.

Additionally, I’ve received many confused emails from my readers.  Some don’t understand why they see the book available for purchase on various retailers and not on Amazon. Some have seen the pre-order’s cover for so long that they’re unsure whether they’ve already read the book or not.

Seven Tips for Pre-orders

  1. Consider your genre and where you are in your series when determining whether you should offer your book as a preorder. Mark Coker states that romance was the most successful genre in terms of pre-order sales. Additionally, series status can matter. If you’re publishing the first book in a new series and trying to build buzz, participating in a pre-order and/or in Amazon’s KDP Select program may yield advantages at your launch. Or, if you have the first two books in a series completed but unpublished, you may see stronger sales by launching the first book and putting the second up as a pre-order soon after.
  2. If you do decide to offer a title as a pre-order on Amazon, consider publishing to CreateSpace during the pre-order period. Penny Sansevieri offers this tip in her post “The Best Way to Use Amazon’s Pre-order Feature”, stating that reviews placed on the print edition of the book will populate to the Kindle version offered for pre-order.
  3. Those publishing immediately to CreateSpace should consider Goodreads Giveaways to ensure reviews and exposure for the title.
  4. Update your published books’ back matter to hyperlink to the pre-order.
  5. When deciding the length of your pre-order period, consider whether you can meet a far-off deadline and whether you want to promote a pre-order for that long. Unexpected life events can interrupt our plans. And how long do you want to be locked into promoting an unreleased book, especially if you’re still writing it?
  6. Consider lower pricing on your pre-order. This gives loyal readers an incentive for pre-ordering and rewards their loyalty.
  7. Take the deadline seriously. Amazon, in particular, considers the pre-order a serious deadline. Writers must upload the finished copy ten days in advance to avoid having the placeholder/draft sent out to our readers.

Have you listed a book as a pre-order?  How did it work for you?  Any additional tips for indie writers?

#IAF16 Are pre-orders right for you? with @elizabethscraig #selfpub http://bit.ly/IAF-BEA-EC Click To Tweet

Click here to find out more about Elizabeth Spann Craig


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