Remember the days of Harry Potter mania? Practically every Barnes & Noble, Borders (RIP), and indie bookstore in the country had a release party for the latest J.K Rowling tome. Children, teenagers, and even parents clad in cloaks, crooked plastic glasses, and eyeliner lightning bolts waited for hours to get their hands on a copy of the latest book. I was a fixture in these lines, complete in my Hermione costume. We look back at these midnight literary festivities ten years later as a pop culture touchstone. However, to people in the publishing industry, this is the perfect example of how pre-orders can make your book a success.
I will first start by telling you that your book will most likely not be Harry Potter. However, hope is not lost! This does not mean that you cannot make your book successful through pre-orders with a little savvy and know-how!
What Are Pre-Orders?
First things first, here is the basic definition of pre-orders (also known as pre-sales): sales that accumulate before the publication date of the book. Knowing this tends to make people think, “This sounds awesome! How do I do it?” Well . . .
How Do I Allow Pre-Orders for My Book?
This is as easy as setting a future on-sale date. The publication date lets retailers know when a book will be entering into the market, and the on-sale date tells retailers when they can actually sell that book to their customers. Setting a future on-sale date allows you to start selling your book to retailers in advance of when they will actually sell it to readers. Although IngramSpark lets you set publication and on-sale dates up to 365 days in advance, we recommend setting them no more than six months out with three months being more typical for indie authors. The reason for these timeframes is that national chain stores, like Barnes & Noble, start ordering titles six months prior to publication date, and independent bookstores typically start ordering three to four months in advance. Because many indie authors publish quicker than traditional publishers, three months in advance is probably the ideal window. Keep in mind that if you give yourself less than a month from the time you set up and distribute your title through IngramSpark to the on-sale date, it is not much time to accumulate pre-orders. At the end of the day, whether or not you implement a pre-sales strategy should align with the overall marketing plan for your book.
Book Marketing for Pre-Orders
Speaking of marketing, this is the absolute key to a successful pre-sales campaign. It’s one thing to have the book available for sale; it’s another thing to drive readers to your book. Engaging your readers throughout the duration of a pre-sales campaign is incredibly important to accumulating sales. Utilizing social media, handing out advance reader copies, and obtaining book reviews are all useful in a strong pre-sales campaign. For example, getting a good review in a trade publication, a reputable blog, or a local newspaper will help your pre-sales campaign because you’re driving new readers to your book and igniting word of mouth, especially because your title is now recommended. Also, engaging in your regional reading community through indie bookstores, libraries, and book clubs is a great way to create buzz amongst local readers.
Bookstores and Book Pre-Orders:
If you are doing a lot of social media promotion or have a personal website where you feature your book, remember one, very important thing: be retailer agnostic! Spread the sales love. Why limit yourself to one sales channel for pre-orders? Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound all have the capability to offer pre-orders. IndieBound is perhaps the least familiar to those just starting out, but it's a site where readers can plug in a title and a zipcode and order a book directly from a local independent bookseller. IndieBound helps tie you to your local bookselling community, which is a good thing for any author. If you link out to IndieBound in your book marketing, indie booksellers will be more apt to notice your book. It is very easy to grab the link to the listing for your book for many retailers and put them all on your website and book marketing materials. You can even embed the links in your social media! Not all readers like to buy from just one store, so be sure to offer more than one buying option.
Book Pre-Orders Create Demand
Another thing I want you to remember is that demand is king. If there is a demand for your book, bookstores will be more likely to buy it. This is where your amazing family and friends come into play. Send your family and friends to their local indie or Barnes & Noble and kindly ask them to pre-order a copy of your book. Have their friends do it too! The stores will start to take notice. This is guerilla marketing at its best. You will be creating buzz via word of mouth while driving pre-orders.
We hope that one day you will have hundreds of people in costumes waiting in line to get their hands on your book. However, starting with setting future publication and on-sale dates in conjunction with a solid book launch marketing plan can capture readers and advance your book sales. Just remember to engage your readers while driving them to your book and you will be well on your way to becoming a pre-orders wizard.