The deciding factor in my writing an article on tips for pre-selling books on Amazon was the following scenario:
An author calls 1106 Design. He’s putting the finishing touches on his manuscript. He decided to work with us after researching options online. He loves our design samples and our business model; he’s ready to go.
Cause for celebration, right?
Well, in most cases, absolutely, but not this time. Why? Because this author had set up a pre-order on Amazon that was to start in less than a month.
Authors who set up a pre-order (also known as pre-selling) on Amazon often neglect to leave enough time before the pre-order deadline to prepare the book for publishing. In this article, I address the issue head-on and offer some tips for pre-selling books on Amazon.
Major publishers sometimes set up pre-orders as part of their sales strategies for popular authors. Major publishers also adhere to strict publishing schedules established more than a year in advance of a book’s release. They know from experience that book preparation is never as straightforward as it seems, so they allow plenty of time for editing, cover and page design, along with the inevitable rounds of revisions. Then follows time for printing and distribution.
In short, major publishers make a plan and work that plan so everyone involved can do their best work and avoid unnecessary chaos.
Indie publishers should emulate this practice. Instead, it tends to look more like this:
Indie publishers, who are understandably anxious to release their book, begin thinking about pre-orders as soon as, or even before they finish writing. Encouraged to do so by indie publishing self-help sites and with little or no experience with the book publishing process, some indie authors set up the pre-sale even before approaching editors and designers. By setting this false and inflexible deadline, they inadvertently create unnecessary stress for all, especially if the author’s preferred vendor can’t complete a quality job in time. Now the author has to scramble to find other designers and editors who may make promises they cannot keep.
All of this begs the question, “Why don’t I just move the pre-order date?” Because if the pre-order date is missed for ANY reason (including events outside of the author’s or vendor’s control), the author may be prohibited from selling books for a full year.
Nobody wants that!
So here’s our take: indie publishers who don’t have a platform—meaning many thousands of followers—shouldn’t set up pre-orders at all.
We know; it’s tempting to put yourself in the company of best-selling authors, but please, skip the hassle and the rigid deadlines. Nobody will find your pre-sale on Amazon unless you heavily promote the book and send people there. (If you don’t have an author platform, then you don’t have anyone to send to your pre-sale!) The intensity of effort required to promote a pre-sale is difficult to sustain when you’re in the throes of final production.
Here’s our pro tip: Do not set-up a pre-order on Amazon and lock yourself into an inflexible launch date. Instead, take all the time you need to produce a quality book. Blog weekly about the process from your website as each stage unfolds. Promote your blog through social media and connect with fans who will buy your book when it’s available.
Indie publishers who do have a platform are an exception to the above; they would do well to follow the lead of major publishers. Make that plan and set up pre-orders after the book has been uploaded to POD printers and you have approved a proof. The publication date and the on-sale date should be the same to avoid any problems with availability status at some retailers. (Read this article from IngramSpark for more information.)
Setting up pre-orders in this way will delay the release of your book for a time. On the flip side, you’ll get some much-needed cushion in your publishing timeline and you’ll be able to apply yourself fully to promoting the heck out of your pre-sale. And you avoid that nasty ban mentioned above.
Either way—new or established indie publisher—here’s another pro tip for stress-free, successful publishing: plan, plan, plan. When you work with 1106 Design, the “plan first” process unfolds like this:
- Have an idea of when you would like to launch your book, taking into account any personal goals, seasonal sales, etc., and leaving plenty of time for book marketing.
- Ask us for a proposal when you are working through your final self-edits. At this stage, the word count of your manuscript is unlikely to change much.
- Once you accept our proposal, we’ll help you plan a schedule that allows sufficient time for thoughtful editing, design, proofreading, revisions, and eBook formatting.
- Just like a traditional publisher, we’ll build extra time into the schedule for the unexpected.
- We’ll walk you through all the steps, each completed at the appropriate time.
We promise you’ll enjoy the process and be glad you remained in control of the necessary pre-press tasks instead of allowing these tasks to control you.