What is a pre-order?
Setting up a pre-order for your book allows you to make it available for sale on Amazon (and other channels) up to one year before the book is released. Amazon generates a pre-order sales page for customers to pre-order your book and receive it or ship it on its release day. Customers are charged for the book the day it is purchased. You receive your royalties per their regular royalty payment schedule after your book release day.
Why set up a pre-order for your book?
You’re ready to publish your book and are full of anticipation. Maybe you’ve heard of the pre-order option for making your book available early. There are many reasons to take this route — more time to find readers, generate anticipation, and line up reviews for your book launch. Who wouldn’t want those? But the pre-order option may not be for everyone.
The advantages of setting your book for pre-order
Because you already have an Amazon sales page, you can advertise your book pre-release and send readers to your sales page instead of hoping they’ll remember months down the road. If they take the time and energy to click on your sales page, give them an opportunity to act on their need.
Anticipation is a powerful driver. The lead-up to anything often generates as much excitement as the event itself. For early adopters, being first is important. It allows them to remain on the leading edge and spread influence to their followers.
Pre-orders contribute to your sales rank. According to selfpublishingadvice.com, sales rank is affected the day it is ordered. So by the time your release date arrives, you’ve already positioned yourself for better ranking and better sales.
Another big advantage of setting up a pre-order is the date itself. You’ll know and can prepare for the exact date of your book release. When you publish without a pre-order, your book is available at some point within about 72 hours of submitting your manuscript for publication to KDP or IngramSpark. With a pre-order in place, you can set up your email and social media campaigns in advance saving you time and stress during your all-important launch week.
The disadvantages of book pre-orders
To take advantage of the pre-order option, your manuscript needs to be mostly complete. That means your manuscript should just need final editing or proofreading before making your book available for pre-order. You’ll also need to complete interior formatting and cover design in advance.
In addition, your final manuscript must be received at least 72 hours before your release date for an ebook and at least ten days prior to your release date for print orders through IngramSpark. IngramSpark begins printing and shipping pre-orders in advance of your release date to make it available for bookstores and others to sell it the day of the release. If you don’t meet the deadline, the draft manuscript, with all its imperfections, gets released to your pre-order readers. You CAN change your release date or cancel it, but you won’t be able to use the pre-order feature for one year after you do, and it can disappoint readers.
For first-time self-published authors, timing the release can be tricky. Many new authors underestimate how much time it takes to complete the writing and publishing process. However, you can avoid the stress of a deadline by setting your release far in advance.
Of course, a long pre-order without a consistently high sales volume may have a negative effect on Amazon algorithms. Authors with a healthy following are better able to maintain consistent sales activity throughout the pre-order. The consistency may be a hurdle for first-time authors.
Pre- and post-release reviews
There isn’t currently a way for readers to post reviews on Amazon prior to the release date, but you can post editorial reviews through Amazon Author Central. You can also post pre-pub reviews on social media and in your email newsletter.
To create the momentum for your book, build a launch team of 20-40 people—your biggest fans. Ask your launch team to post their reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and other sites on your release day to propel book sales. Ask the team to send you reviews prior to the release to post everywhere your potential readers might hang out. Use the review as a call to action to entice readers to buy your pre-order.
How to use KDP pre-order
Register or log into your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account. Begin setting up your ebook. (Currently, KDP doesn’t facilitate pre-orders for print.) Enter your title information and other details. When you get to the Publishing Options section, click the radio button labeled Make my Kindle eBook available for Pre-order. Select a date at least ten days from the current date to release your ebook.
Upload the draft copy of your book and a cover. You don’t have to upload a cover, but with no preview feature, a compelling cover is your best shot at getting attention. Choose categories and pricing, and publish your pre-order. Make sure you upload the final version of your manuscript prior to the 72-hour deadline.
As soon as Amazon generates a pre-order page, send the link with compelling sales copy to your email list and followers on social media. Monitor pre-sales in your KDP account and play with categories if you aren’t getting the orders you expected.
How to use IngramSpark pre-order
Use IngramSpark to set a pre-order date for your print and non-Amazon ebook if you are not enrolling in KDP Select. (KDP Select is a 90-day commitment to sell your book on Amazon exclusively.) During the setup process, you’ll be asked to enter two dates: your publication date and your on-sale date. Choose a date for your pre-order and enter that date into both boxes.
Upload your draft manuscript and cover at that time. Then, be sure to upload the final versions AT LEAST 10 days prior to your release date.
Is the book pre-order option right for you?
The bottom line is that choosing whether to use the pre-order feature is more art than science. If you know you’ll have the book ready, have a decent following, and want to make the most of your pre-release momentum, a pre-order might be the right route. On the other hand, if you don’t have a huge following, you aren’t sure when your book might be completely finished, or you don’t plan to do a marketing splash, you might do just as well without it and avoid the stress of a deadline.
No matter which route you choose, set yourself up for success by building your email list and social media following to ensure that when you are ready to release your book, you have readers clamoring to read it.