No book required — the new world of ‘assetless’ ebook pre-orders

Ebook distributor Smashwords is now offering assetless pre-orders (no book or cover required) for indie authors and claims books launched as pre-orders in the last year earned over triple the amount made by books uploaded on day of release.

Smashwords started pre-orders two years ago for iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, but less than 10% of books released through the firm over the last year were set up as pre-orders.

Despite the small fraction of pre-orders, books that did start as pre-orders accounted for seven of Smashwords’ top 10 bestsellers and 67% of its top 200 best-sellers.

The company thinks the primary reason for low adoption of pre-orders has been that Smashwords had required authors to upload their full and final manuscript before they could set up a pre-order, but now they are accepting so-called assetless books — in other words, you don’t need a book or even a cover for a pre-order.

Smashwords is now accepting assetless pre-order listings at ebook retailers up to 12 months (in the case of iBooks) in advance of the official release date.

Apple’s iBooks has been accepting assetless pre-orders for some time from authors/publishers who upload direct.

Amazon’s Kindle store started accepting ebook pre-orders from self-published authors in August 2014 but requires ‘assets’, including a manuscript, although this can be a draft manuscript which still requires editing. A cover would obviously gain a pre-order more visibility.

A Kindle pre-order page can be created up to 90 days in advance of the book’s release date, but the final version of the book must be uploaded 10 days before the release date.

You can move the Kindle release date forward, although the final version will still have to be submitted 10 days before the new release date. A release date can be postponed once by up to 30 days or can be cancelled by unpublishing the book. However, if you do delay or cancel a pre-order, you won’t be able to list any pre-order for a year.

Apple’s iBooks also operates a policy of requiring the final book to be uploaded 10 days before the release date but pre-orders can be created up to 12 months in advance of the release date and it doesn’t require either a manuscript or a cover, just the metadata.

You can set up pre-orders direct with Nook, Kobo and Google Play but all require assets.

Ebook distributor Draft2digital offers assetless pre-orders but you’ll need to email them to get this feature enabled.

With D2D, Apple and Tolino will allow pre-orders up to a year in advance while Kobo allows six months and Barnes & Noble three months. Again, the final file must be uploaded to D2D 10 days before the release date. The firm doesn’t distribute to Kindle.

Smashwords, of course, also doesn’t distribute to Kindle, but is offering assetless pre-orders through iBooks, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Kobo. Smashwords CEO Mark Coker summarizes two of the main benefits of pre-orders:

1.  Pre-orders enable more effective advance marketing.

Most authors are communicating directly with their readers over social media as they write their next book.  An ebook pre-order allows the author to capture the reader’s order at the moment they have the reader’s greatest attention and interest.

2.  Fast track to the best-seller lists.

At iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, all orders you accumulate during the pre-order period credit toward your first day’s sales rank — you can concentrate up to 12 months of book sales into a single day for maximum charting potential. Currently, iBooks is the only Smashwords’ retailer that reports pre-order accumulation numbers in advance of the book’s release.

How to set up an assetless pre-order at Smashwords

You need a book title, description, price, release date and category of book.  No draft or cover necessary. Any details can be changed before publication at any time.

To set up an assetless pre-order, click to the Smashword Publish page and follow the instructions.

You can get more details about assetless pre-orders at Smashwords.

Pre-orders are the new free

Pre-orders for self-publishers at Amazon’s Kindle