Self-Publishing Sunday: Pre-Orders

time-481444_1280Today I thought I’d talk a bit about pre-orders. Just so we’re on the same page, pre-orders are when you set up your book ahead of time so fans can order it before it’s published.

This was a pretty big win for self-published authors, because for the longest time, companies like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple, didn’t allow self-publishers to set up their books for pre-order. The fact that we’ve got this now is really awesome.

To ensure that self-publishers actually have a book together and ready for customers, companies want your file in advance of the publication date. Amazon requires it 10 days in advance, while other companies, have different lead times. This is really a fair compromise. While I’m one hundred percent rock solid when I say I’m going to do something, I know not everyone is like that. To prevent a bad customer experience, Amazon actually has a penalty for failing to turn in your pre-order. If you don’t turn it in by the 10-day advanced marker, Amazon cancels your pre-order and bans you from the privilege for a year. (Again, I think that’s totally fair, as Amazon needs to provide reliability to customers.)

While I love the availability to create pre-orders, I’ve decided I’m going to stop doing them. Why? Because I’m trying a new approach of writing quicker and publishing quicker. And when you’re writing a lot and publishing a lot, the advanced timing required of pre-orders can throw a monkey wrench in things. I’m barely getting things done on the timeline I set for myself, so the idea of adding in an extra 10 days just doesn’t appeal to me.

I’d planned to set up my new book, Scented, as a pre-order for July 6 publication. But, that’s really going to squeeze me on time, if I want to make sure the best version goes out. I could push back the release date, or simply skip the pre-order.  To me, skipping the pre-order made the most sense.

The other reason to skip the pre-order is because I’m not getting a ton of them. While I absolutely LOVED getting pre-orders for my book, they were inconsistent. This is only an issue because Amazon ranks your pre-order for book sales. If you get only a few pre-orders, or they all come two weeks before the book is released, rather than trickle in, your book, will end up with a pretty low sales rank on release day.

Now, if you’re getting a ton of pre-orders, I think it’s a very good strategy to use. It gives you some nice momentum for your book and allows fans to buy. I’ve got a little bit of time before I plan to release Contained, the final book in the Virus series, so if the timing works out, I might do a pre-order for it. But, again, it really depends on the timing, and what else I’m working on.

When you do pre-orders at some of the other vendors, the rank all accumulates on release day, so when pre-orders trickle in, that doesn’t matter. So, ifyou’re releasing wide, a pre-order at some locations may work well for you, though.

So, what are your thoughts on pre-orders? Yay or nay?

About RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist who now writes fiction. She's reported for the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, as well as the smaller publications Education Technology News and Campus Crime. She has two published novels, Life First and Second Life and blogs for Indies Unlimited and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. For exclusive content and first looks at her new work, sign up for the newsletter at
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2 Responses to Self-Publishing Sunday: Pre-Orders

  1. F. F. John says:

    Nice post. I like the idea of pre-orders and can imagine that they are nifty when an author has a healthy mailing list and engages well with her readers.

    I might try it someday if it makes sense. Best of luck to you.

    • RJ Crayton says:

      I’ve done a couple of pre-orders, and they’re definitely good if you’ve got that steady flow. They’re also helpful if you’ve got review posts out. But, if you’d like to publish quickly, they will put some distance between the final product and the publication date. I think it all just depends on what you want to get out of it.

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