To Pre-Order or Not – That is the Question

 

Image by Pixabay

Hi, SEers John here with you. Today I want to share some information I learned from Dave Chesson on pre-orders on Amazon. As you may know, Dave is the founder of Publisher Rocket, and he is one of the foremost experts on all things Amazon.

Used with permission

The question I want to answer is, do pre-orders help or hinder a book launch? Since I’m getting ready to launch Eternal Road – The last stop, I did some research on the idea of whether or not pre-orders are a good thing.

Here is what I learned. Pre-orders work like magic if you are an author with the following attributes.

  1. You are famous
  2. You have a large following
  3. You are a marketing genius with an iron-clad launch plan.

I don’t fit into any of those categories. So, I am subject to some of the facts of life of how Amazon views my book over time. Remember, Amazon promotes books that they believe are popular and relevant.

Image by Pixabay

How does Amazon judge a book to be popular and relevant? They look at the sales of that book over time. Books that are popular and relevant sell at a general rate that does not include huge spikes preceded or followed by periods of little to no sales.

In a typical pre-order situation, there is a period of time where there are no sales. It is interesting to know that Amazon counts the days of pre-order into the total days the book is available for purchase.

Pixabay Image

After the pre-order period, all the orders accumulated go out on the first shipping day. So, pre-orders are by their nature a period of no sales followed by a huge spike. To be in Amazon’s good graces, that considerable spike needs additional sales over time. So, if you are famous, have a large following, or have set up one heck of a marketing launch, you probably will get additional sales after day one shipping, and Amazon will decide you are popular and relevant. If day one is all you get, then the opposite will be true.

Pixabay Image

My belief is I don’t have enough marketing punch to pull off getting attention from Amazon, so a pre-order period will harm my efforts to gain the perception of being popular and relevant. It will be much better for me to launch the book on the first day and try through the launch plan to have steady sales during and beyond the launch period.

Pixabay Image

Of course, my situation is unique, and I’m not attempting to draw a generalized conclusion that fits your situation. Do you have any thoughts on this subject? If so, I would love to see them in the comments.

84 thoughts on “To Pre-Order or Not – That is the Question

  1. Pingback: To Pre-Order or Not – That is the Question. A Look at the Benefits of Pre-Order. | Story Empire

  2. This is good to know, John. I don’t do pre-orders as my publisher doesn’t believe in them, and I have never had sufficient interest in this point to devote time to researching it. I am delighted that you have done this for me and I will take your advice seeing as I am not Stephen King or Enid Blyton. [I live in hope just like us all]. Have a wonderful weekend and I’ll see you for SoCS and your walk around the neighbourhood.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. UH OH. I should have read this post a week ago, John. Before I put my book up for preorder., Lol. 🙂 I’ve done that with about half of my books and to be honest, I don’t know if it’s made any difference. What I’m doing differently this time is actually trying to organize a launch tour. It will be interesting to compare numbers. Thanks for the informative post!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sorry, I’m late to this party. This is a most interesting post, John. I’ve only tried a pre-order once and was terribly disappointed. I know for some, it works like a charm, but I think I’m like you, it’s not for me. Thank you for sharing what you learned!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I read something recently about Amazon’s algorithm for rankings and this seems to back that up. It was based on sales over time and a spike was lovely when it happened but having those same purchases spread out over a week counted for more. I’ve bought three books recently on pre-order and now I’m wondering if I’ve done the authors a disservice. I suppose, any purchases are welcome and those that generate positive reviews are gold dust.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    Do you usually offer pre-orders on your new books? If so (or not), you should check out John Howell’s Story Empire post today, and see what he’s learned. Very interesting stuff, indeed. As usual, please consider sharing this among your social media friends and groups so they can enjoy it, as well. Thanks, and thanks to John for sharing some info I was totally unaware of. Super post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Very interesting post, John. I’ve never done a pre-order, largely because as a reader, I want to be able to get my hands on a book as soon as I read about it and think it sounds good. (Even though it might be a while before I actually start reading it. Still, the choice of reading immediately or waiting is mine, and I like that.) Whether my reluctance makes any sense or not, I don’t know, but it has always been a factor in my decision not to do pre-orders. The information you’ve just shared makes me even less likely to do one in the future. The last thing I need is more work with little or no payoff.

    Very helpful post, indeed! Sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  8. This is interesting, John. I’ve always done pre-orders (partially because I’m too excited about the book to keep it under wraps! lol) but have to agree, it’s getting harder to keep those rankings up to what I term acceptable. I might need to rethink the order date.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Thanks, John. Your information was helpful.
    Forgive the wishful thinking….but at least I know who to enrol first!! I get cross when I compare the past with the present (not a good idea…especially in publishing.) I was commissioned – a miracle in itself – to write a book about running an hotel, as I had just sold a modest one in Bournemouth. First chapter was accepted and I was given a reasonable sum of money…(Kogan Page Ltd., London 1983 Factual publishers). On completion, I received another, more substantial amount, yet another when successfully launched. I, with several other authors was invited to a launch party; my book was reprinted as it sold so well..& I received royalties for several years, plus library earnings (modest but welcome.).I updated two of their books and wrote a second, which also did well. Unfortunately, ‘life’ intruded re a further writing career, until 2005. Oh, what a shock! As I then wrote a Memoir and a novel, (which Kogan don’t handle) I was at the mercy of Amazon. Oh, what a difference….I was in the NEW PUBLISHING WORLD…Now, obviously, older and a non-technical person, it’s a battle, but I would rather write than do anything else, except read! So that’s my lot…Have managed eight books all told and am on my ninth, but it’s a struggle financially and I’m determined to find a mainstream publisher for my present book. Hey ho!

    Liked by 4 people

  10. This makes a lot of sense, John. I was completely unaware, though I never tried a pre-sale promotion. Thank you for sharing your research, always helpful. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Thanks for this, John. You explained pre-orders in a practical, understandable way. When I self-publish, I don’t do pre-orders. But Kensington puts up my books for pre-order WAY ahead, in hopes that if someone reads book 4 and likes it, they can pre-order book 5 and know they won’t miss it. But it’s hard to keep the numbers decent for months before the book comes out.

    Like

  12. I’m with Mae on absolutely everything she said. My current publisher is doing pre-orders. I know I could never pull it off on my own. I do, however, know at least one indie author who has. But she’s the anomaly, not the rule. Great post, John.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. In the past, my publisher made all of my books available for pre-order. I don’t know that it made a difference for sales. I did most of my promo after the book launches. Looking ahead, I don’t think I will do pre-orders as an indie author. It just seems like too much work, and big point—I would rather get people excited about the book when it’s available so they can purchase it immediately. Otherwise there’s always the chance someone will think “oh, I’ll purchase it later when it becomes available,” then never go back. I’ve done that myself with a few titles, and don’t want to take that risk with my own.

    An excellent post today, John!

    Liked by 4 people

    • You hit a point that has happened to me. You get excited about a book and decide to order it later only to forget. I think a nice into with a call to action that people can see as a good idea is the way to go. This is also why I like the 99c limited intro price. Thanks for the complimant, Mae.

      Liked by 2 people

  14. I don’t have a choice, but I have noticed that too long of a preorder period hurts visibility. It also puts a ton of pressure on the author. The ideal period (for me) is around 30 days. Anymore than that, and readers seem to get frustrated.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Interesting to see this spelled out. I don’t do pre-orders these days based on my own observations. They didn’t really seem to help in the long run, and the added stress of meeting deadlines wasn’t worth it to me. Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

  16. Thanks, John. The older I get, the more anarchistic I feel. David & Goliath come too readily on my radar.. Always a model citizen when young -. when life was so much fairer – it strikes me that, at every turn of my attention “the great big greedy guys” are waiting to pounce. It’s happening in football (lunacy), the political arena (which Government is NOT corrupt?/liars) etc., Being British, we’ll hold out our bowls like Oliver, and ask – ‘Can I have more, please!’ Joke…

    Liked by 3 people

  17. This is a timely post for me as I hope to publish later this year and have considered doing a pre-order. Might have to think that through again. Like you, I’m not popular enough or have a big enough following to pull it off.

    Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 3 people

  18. I’ve done pre-orders since they became available to indies, but I might reconsider. I definitely fall into the bracket of spike and then dead in the water. The nice thing is that you get a pre-order link to share, while otherwise, you don’t get a link til you publish. Maybe the advice of pre-promo for indies needs revising. We might be better off publishing first, getting the link, and then promoting the book. I’d love to know what other’s think about this. Thanks for sharing, John 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Harmony, all but three of my books have been published and then promoted but, again, promotion seems to get harder. Companies like Written Word Media offer the same services, but they haven’t reduced their prices to reflect poor results. At least with pre-orders, you sell copies to people who will review. I have review groups on Facebook for all my recent books. They hold interest, are a source of advice on everything from covers to blurbs, and about a third of the members do actually buy and review. The result, as John has highlighted, is a spike and flattening off.

      Liked by 3 people

    • I intend to publish and get the link. I will have the launch material ready to go well in advance. I’m going to try sending the material early and then a follow up with the link for those first up. We’ll see how it works. Stay tuned. Thanks, Harmony.

      Liked by 2 people

  19. Thank you for raising this subject John. I too read Dave Chasson’s article. I had to admit in made sense, but I shall be reading comments as they come in with interest. Like D. L.Finn, I’m not happy with deadlines, so I tend not to put a book on pre-order until it’s virtually ready to go – maybe only two weeks ahead. I do it to give beta readers with ARCs “warning” that I need them to finish, so I can make any final corrections, keeping in mind what you upload 3 days prior to publication day is what readers get. I also set the price at 99 cents because most of them are then prepared to buy, so I get verified purchase reviews. I find also a short time of offering the book at pre-order price brings sales. Sustaining those sales over the vital first 30 days while Amazon are “watching” costs money, and few of the sites that used to produce excellent results no longer do.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You make a great case for preorder, Sarah. It does ease the stress of deadlines. At the end of the day if any book has big spikes and huge valleys Amazon is going to ignore it. A two week preorder to prepare is not a bad idea. Thanks.

      Liked by 2 people

  20. I’ve been doing preorders and had a lot of sales during and sometimes more after, but I find it stressful with deadlines. This information is interesting and I will be rethinking doing it next time. I don’t like how much power Amazon has to make these rules, its frustrating. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 5 people

  21. I’ve been doing preorders and had a lot of sales during and sometimes more after, but I find it stressful with deadlines. This information is interesting and I will be rethinking doing it next time. I don’t like how much power Amazon has to make these rules, its frustrating. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 3 people

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