How do pre-orders affect release day sales?

What are pre-orders and why are they important?

Pre-orders are early purchases of your book that will be fulfilled on publication day. 

Historically, pre-orders have been viewed as a predictor of a book’s success by retailers. If your book is making waves before publication day, booksellers may increase their initial orders and provide your book with more exposure, which, in turn, may increase your odds of hitting bestseller lists. 

This is in part why marketing campaigns typically kick off months before publication day—because early buzz for a book can help alter its trajectory for the better!

How do pre-orders affect release day sales–and bestseller lists?

As it stands, the relationship between pre-orders and bestseller lists is far from linear. 

Pre-orders through booksellers and traditional retailers can often increase your chances of hitting a bestseller list, as these numbers count toward your first week’s sales. 

However, on Amazon, pre-orders are recorded the day of purchase, rather than on release day. So, any pre-orders you receive here will not count toward your ranking on publication day.

So, do Amazon pre-orders not count?

In terms of bestseller lists, pretty much, since lists from the New York Times and USA Today are usually based on your sales rankings for the first week of publication. 

However, you will still be paid for these pre-orders, of course, and they will still count toward Amazon’s internal rankings.

This is why some “Hot New Releases” you see on Amazon haven’t actually been released at all. If a book receives enough pre-orders to climb Amazon’s rankings, it can be named a Hot New Release, even before pub day.

What’s the best Amazon pre-order strategy for me?

For established authors, pre-order campaigns are usually a given. However, for debut authors, it may take a bit more thought to determine which strategy is best for you. 

Readers love the instant gratification of receiving a book right away. Amazon knows this, which is why they offer 2-day shipping and instant Kindle delivery for book buyers. This desire for instant gratification is also what makes pre-order campaigns difficult—for any author, but especially for debut authors.

New authors are faced with the unique challenge of getting readers to commit to purchasing a book by an author they’re unfamiliar with, and then waiting, weeks or even months, for that book to arrive. 

For a series author with a dedicated fanbase, however, pre-orders are more likely to come in, especially if the earlier books in the series have been well advertised and are selling well. When readers are hooked on your storytelling, they’ll be all the more eager to order ahead.

If you’re on the fence about setting up a pre-order, remember: since your book gets a sales ranking as soon as your pre-order starts on Amazon, pre-orders can actually weaken your sales charts for publication week on the platform. This, in turn, can reduce the amount of exposure Amazon is willing to give to your book at that time. Their algorithm has been shown to primarily help books that are already selling well by featuring those titles in bestseller rankings, also-boughts on other book pages, and in marketing emails.

For this reason, many debut authors choose to run a short Amazon pre-order campaign or skip it altogether.

How long should my Amazon pre-order last?

Many authors set their pre-order for somewhere between 90 days and two weeks before publication day. To determine what’s best for you, consider your marketing plan: how many weeks will you be doing outreach on social media, to your email list, and through advertising? You can tailor the lifespan of your listing to match you or your publicist’s efforts.

What about early reviews?

Amazon doesn’t allow reviews pre-publication day, which, like most things, can be a positive or a negative aspect of the site, depending on your vantage point. If you’re worried about how your latest book might be received—perhaps you took a risk and ventured into a genre your fan base isn’t used to seeing from you—then pre-orders can actually be to your advantage, because you won’t have a fast reader leaving a negative review and deterring others from buying a copy and coming to their own conclusion.

Recap: To pre-order or not to pre-order?

Although every author will have a unique strategy that works for them, here are some quick tips to help with your decision:

  • On non-Amazon sites, pre-orders are always a good idea, as they’ll count toward your first week’s sales, and set you up for success in myriad ways.
  • On Amazon, pre-orders are typically a good idea for series authors and authors with strong, established fanbases.
  • For debut authors, pre-orders can be worthwhile as long as you’re running them in conjunction with a predetermined marketing strategy, with a timeline and objectives in place.
  • If your goal is to sell as many copies as possible in a short few days in order to appease bestseller lists and the Amazon algorithm, consider skipping or shortening a pre-order campaign.

A pre-order strategy, while important, shouldn’t cause you tremendous stress. You can always chat with other authors and learn from their experiences, and be sure to monitor how your strategy performs so you can tweak it for your next release if needed. Trial and error is often the name of the game, so the more observant and curious you can be, the better!

Happy selling!

Best practices for influencers working with publicists

I’ve been a Bookstagram influencer for six years now. Throughout that time, I’ve worked with many different publishing houses, promoted books to my audience, reviewed some lovely and incredible new favorites, and made some strong relationships with publicists. The experience of working with a publishing house to help promote a book is incredible. I feel like I am really helping authors and their books get the recognition and love they deserve.

When I became a publicist, I finally got a chance to see what goes on behind the scenes. I love helping authors promote their books and one of my favorite ways to do it is reaching out to influencers and sending them books in exchange for a post. With platforms and communities like BookTok and Bookstagram, it is a great way to reach a large audience and share some buzz about an upcoming book!

While posting about a book isn’t required, publicists do send books to influencers in the hopes they’ll cover it on their page. There’s a silent exchange between the two groups that all culminate to one big goal: helping an author’s book receive some great coverage online.

Seeing how both sides of the email exchange work, here’s a few helpful best practices for influencers to keep in mind when working with a publicist:

Request books that you’ll want to read and promote

If you’re like me then you probably collect books that you hope to get to in the future. I’m always tempted by all the intriguing blurbs and authors putting out new books I haven’t heard of! But it’s also good practice to remember what you’ll actually want to share with your followers. Request the books you’ll have time to read and review and that will avoid the messy scramble to post when it comes time to post.

If you don’t have time to review the book, a spotlight always helps!

The best part of publicity is that there’s so many kinds. Reading and reviewing the book is always a great option, but life sometimes gets in the way. In those cases, you can always opt to do a spotlight instead! Include a little bit about your excitement for the book, share the book on pub day and congratulate the author on this occasion, or share the synopsis in your caption. The options are endless! You can also share a reading list of books on your TBR or maybe even a book mail post sharing your excitement for a new story.

Stay in contact with the publicist

While most publicists keep an eye out for all the coverage a book receives throughout the campaign, it’s always helpful to share the links with them. This extra step not only helps the publicist out, but also gives the publicist encouragement to share more books with you in the future. Building that working relationship with a publicist will come in handy when you see something you’d like to request!

It’s okay if you’re not able to post on pub day

As an influencer, I have a separate calendar I keep to coordinate all the books and their pub days. This ensures that I share or read the books by that date, but sometimes things fall through the cracks. And that’s okay! The great thing about publicity is that it is ongoing, and while a book may have already published, there’s always room for more promotion!

Share your post across multiple platforms

Another great thing about social media is how you can connect your platforms together. If you’ve posted your review on Goodreads, you can quickly send a tweet telling your followers! Why not also share your Booktok post on your Instagram account or even on your Facebook feed! The more eyes on a book, the better and all that social media sharing helps boost your follower count as well.

Avoid sharing negative book reviews with the author

Not every book is going to be for every reader and sometimes you’ll request a book that you didn’t like. That’s okay and that’s the brilliant part of being an influencer; people trust you for your honest opinion. If you do end up disliking a book, go ahead and share your thoughts. Just keep in mind that the author may not want to see it and avoid sharing those thoughts with them. Book reviews are mainly for readers to find out more about a book!

Are preorder campaigns “worth it” for authors?

Preorder campaigns are all about offering incentives for readers to purchase books in advance, usually in the form of some kind of bonus material, like exclusive swag and/or signed books. But are preorder campaigns “worth” the time and expense of doing them? New York Times bestselling author Joan He is known for her creative preorder campaigns for her YA novels Descendent of the Crane, The Ones We’re Meant to Find, and Strike the Zither. Today on the blog, we’re sitting down with her to discuss if the book sales and reader appreciation that result from preorder campaigns are “worth” the time, effort, and expense of putting the campaigns together. Plus, we get an inside look at some of the creative preorder campaigns she’s put together! 

Did you do a pre-order campaign for Descendent of the Crane

I did (details as to what it contained here: https://www.instagram.com/p/BteDNryng7Y/?igshid=YmMyMTA2M2Y=). 

My strategy at the time, that I didn’t realize was a strategy until later, was to make sure every item was high quality, and as tailored to the book as I could make it. I think personally illustrating the cards added a personal touch—something that I still try to maintain now, even though I outsource the art—because I want to make it feel like a gift to readers. 

I do think that it takes extra effort to remember to preorder something, as opposed to more organically finding it on a shelf. And I want to say ‘thank you’ for that! 

The other thing that made the campaign stand out was the robust international component. Even though these sales don’t help with US lists, readers are still readers when it comes to word of mouth. 

What role, if any, have your publishers played in your pre-order campaigns?

My publisher offered to help with the actual mailing, but I actually declined so as to keep my international component, which can be hard to do through publishers because of legal issues.

How effective do you find pre-order campaigns to be in your experience? Are the early sales “worth” the time and effort you put into promoting pre-orders?

I think the “worthiness” is probably the inverse of how much your publisher is doing. 

I do think Descendent of the Crane was more worth it in that readers might not have discovered it otherwise, in a Barnes & Noble per say, compared to The Ones We’re Meant to Find which had a more robust push from the publisher and better brick-and-mortar distribution. 

At the same time, I don’t think The Ones We’re Meant to Find would have listed [on the New York Times bestsellers list] without preorders—so hard to say. Also, for me, it’s always worth it because I genuinely enjoy making and designing the swag.

A preorder campaign probably isn’t worth the swag costs/time/effort, assuming you’re able to expend those of course, if you can’t figure out how to make yours stand out or if it’s just not something you want to do.