How pre-orders can make you a self-publishing star

Pre-orders can take you to the top of the ebook best-seller lists.

Ebook distributor Smashwords says accumulated pre-orders credit all at once on the Barnes & Noble Nook, Apple and Kobo ebook stores on the day the book goes on sale, which can push a book into a best-seller list if they have achieved a reasonable number of pre-orders.

Smashwords gives the following example of how pre-orders work:

  • A book is listed as a pre-order for 60 days in advance of the official release date and the book at the Nook store, iBooks or Kobo accumulates 15 orders a day.
  • After two months of orders at that daily rate, there would be a total of 900 orders which would credit all at once on the first day when the book goes on sale.
  • All the ebook retailers’ best-seller charts are based on unit sales and all give greater weighting to sales credited during the most recent 24-hour period, so those pre-orders are treated like selling 900 copies in a single day.
  • With 900-plus sales at any retailer in a day, any book is going to be near the top of your book’s genre or category list and probably in the store’s top 10 or top 20 store-wide best sellers.

Smashwords points out that authors don’t need to build up 900 orders to get a boost from pre-orders as even 10, 20 or 30 accumulated orders will give you an advantage.

By landing higher in the charts, a book becomes more visible and discoverable by browsers.

Smashwords started pre-order distribution in July last year to iBooks, B&N and Kobo but the company didn’t think at the time that B&N pre-orders delivered the same first-day boost in the charts. It discovered recently this was not the case when Nicky Charles’ pre-order release, Betrayed: Book Two – The Road to Redemption, landed near the top of the charts at B&N – and also did the same same at iBooks.

The B&N sales reports showed all her pre-orders were credited on the first day and B&N later confirmed this was how they treated pre-orders.

It’s easy to use the pre-order option on the normal Smashwords upload page by picking a release date in the future.

Once your pre-order is loaded at Smashwords, you can now change the on-sale date self-serve from your Smashwords Dashboard.

The firm says pre-orders work best if you opt for a date that’s at least four to six weeks away as the longer you have, the more orders you should accumulate.

This also gives Smashwords more time to deliver your book, for the retailer to process and load it and for you to point readers to a retailer’s pre-order page.

Smashwords advises authors to upload their final ebook at least 10 days in advance of the release date to avoid panics. In reality, the ebook should be processed much quicker than 10 days but a buffer is recommended in case of unexpected delays.

Amazon KDP pre-orders

Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing doesn’t offer pre-orders as a self-service option for self-publishers but it can be available on request, although you’ll need to be at least a fairly well established author and publisher.

Amazon Publishing has been using pre-order promotions to push ebooks on its own imprints to the top of the Kindle charts in recent months.Amazon credits pre-release sales as they happen rather than on the day of publication, so this can give you general momentum if you have good pre-orders but doesn’t give you a publication-day boost.