Our thanks to Jim Azevedo, marketing director at Smashwords, for this guest contribution!
Ebooks released as preorders sell more copies than ebooks simply uploaded the day of release. Yet even as ebook preorders are a proven sales booster, most indie authors – to their detriment – still aren’t taking advantage of preorders.
In the 2016 Smashwords Survey released in April, we found that only 13.5% of authors were taking advantage of preorders. Yet we also found that this small subset of books were accounting for the lion’s share of our bestsellers. In fact, 7 of our top 10 bestsellers over the survey period were born as ebook preorders, as were 55 of our top 100 bestsellers.
In a nutshell, the small minority of authors who are releasing books as preorders are capturing the majority of the bestseller slots. Something interesting is happening here. Books born as preorders sell better. This means if you’re not releasing your next book as an ebook preorder, you’re probably leaving readers and money on the table.
In this article, I’ll teach you how to leverage ebook preorders to make your next book launch more successful.
What’s an Ebook Preorder?
A preorder is simply an advance listing of your ebook at major retailers that allows readers to reserve a copy of your book up to 12 months before the release date. When the book is officially released, the customer’s credit card is charged and the book appears in her device’s library.
Five Benefits of Ebook Preorders as a Book Launch Marketing Tool
- Preorders enable more effective advanced marketing: Most authors are communicating with their readers about upcoming projects. By providing a preorder link every time you share news about your upcoming book, you can capture a reader’s order at the moment you have their greatest interest and attention.
- Preorders signal commitment: When you establish a preorder, you’re making a commitment to deliver a book to your readers. This signal of commitment is especially valuable if you write series. A series with active preorders is more desirable than one without, because the preorders signal to readers that you’re continuing to support the series with new releases.
- Simultaneous release at multiple retailers: A preorder gives retailers time to process your book in advance so it can go on sale on the same day at multiple retailers. Readers appreciate being able to buy and read the day of release from their retailer of choice.
- Preorders can lead to better reviews: Your biggest fans are more likely to reserve a preorder. This means when your book goes on sale, readers who already love you will be the first to receive the book and the first to review it. From a marketing standpoint, early positive reviews will help drive the next wave of purchases after the book’s release.
- Fast track to bestseller lists: At iBooks, all orders accumulated during your preorder period are credited toward your first day’s sales rank. Essentially, this allows you to concentrate multiple months’ of sales onto a single day. This causes your book to rise higher in the bestseller charts, which then increases the discoverability and desirability of your book to new readers.
At Kobo and Barnes & Noble, your book receives partial credit for your accumulated orders, whereas at Amazon there’s no credit. This means that preorders at Amazon can actually cannibalize your first day’s sales rank. Because of this, some authors choose to upload to Amazon on release day so they can concentrate more sales on day one.
However, an Amazon preorder may still make sense given all the other benefits mentioned above. It’s also worth noting that Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBooks and Kobo allow preorder accumulations to rank in the sales charts just as if the book were already on sale.
Five Preorder Best Practices
As with any marketing campaign, great ideas are made better with smart planning and execution. Here are five best practices to help you get the most out of your ebook preorder:
- List your preorder as early as possible: The longer your preorder is listed, the more orders you can accumulate and the higher your sales ranking can be on launch day at iBooks. Review your publishing calendar for the next 12 months, and get everything up on preorder now. At Smashwords, you can upload your preorder up to 12 months in advance. You can adjust the date if needed.
- Establish your preorder listing before the book is finished: Obviously, if your book isn’t coming out for six or 12 months, it probably isn’t finished. That’s okay. Even if your book isn’t finished, you should still get the preorder listing up so you can start capturing orders. In 2015, Smashwords released a new preorder feature called “assetless preorders,” also known as “metadata-only” preorders, which allows you to establish your preorder listing at iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo before the book is finished. All you need is the basic metadata: title, description, price, author name, categorization and a projected release date.
Some authors even choose to establish preorders without cover images so they can turn the cover reveal into a separate preorder marketing event. It’s not uncommon for bestselling authors to be running multiple preorders at any time. As the release date approaches, you can adjust your release date if necessary. Your final manuscript and cover are due to Smashwords at least 10 days before the scheduled release date.
- Promote direct hyperlinks: Once your book is up for preorder, share direct hyperlinks to your preorder listing at each retailer. This puts your readers one click away from reserving your book at their favorite retailer.
- Leverage your other books to promote your preorder: After your preorder is listed at the retailers, update the back matter of your other ebooks to promote the preorder. Consider running price promotions on your other ebooks, including free promotions, to drive more readers to the preorder.
- Plan an aggressive, ongoing marketing campaign: Once you announce your preorder, don’t go dark. Spread your book launch activities–contests, giveaways, etc.–throughout the duration of the preorder period so that you’re building excitement in support of your book release every week.
Have you used ebook preorders to your advantage? Please share your success (or questions) below!
Jim Azevedo is marketing director at Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of indie ebooks. Learn more about preorders at http://smashwords.com/preorder