Smashwords starts Presales — and it’s very different from pre-orders

Ebook distributor Smashwords is launching a new scheme called Smashwords Presales, which might sound just like pre-orders but is a way of allowing readers to actually buy and read a new book before the public release date.

The company points out that Presales provide readers early and immediate access to an upcoming book release, whereas pre-orders act as product reservations where the customer waits until the public release date to read a pre-ordered book.

The new facility can also be used as a prequel to launching exclusively with KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited as a book on presale at the Smashwords store can be removed ‘in seconds’.

One of the problems indie authors generally have with making a book KDP-exclusive after going wide is in ensuring that it’s not available at any of the stores where it has been on ‘wide’ sale, a process which sometimes takes weeks.

Smashwords says several New York Times and USA Today best-selling authors have expressed interest in running Smashwords Presales for future book launches and quotes romance novelist R L Mathewson, who says, ‘I’m planning to use Smashwords Presales to offer early releases to subscribers of my newsletter.  When I asked my readers how’d they feel if I were to begin offering presale access as a perk for signing up for my newsletter, the response was overwhelmingly positive.’

The Smashwords Presales tool is available now to all authors and publishers with upcoming releases on pre-order. You can activate a presale on the Smashwords Dashboard by clicking on the Presale Dashboard link and then clicking  ‘Create Presale” to configure and preview the elements of your presale.

You can start and stop presales at any time in advance of your general release date.  A presale does not have an impact on your general release dates at retailers and library platforms supplied by Smashwords.

Authors can run private or public presales.  With a private presale, Smashwords issues the author a private hyperlink to share with select readers or groups. The hyperlink leads to a secret landing page from which the reader can make their purchase. With a public presale, the presale is merchandised in the Smashwords Store and available to any reader.

Smashwords co-founder and CEO Mark Coker points out several possibilities for using presales, including:

  • Offering presale access as a loyalty reward for readers who subscribe to your private newsletter.  Your private newsletter is where most of your presales will come from.
  • Capturing customer email addresses. Authors and publishers must digitally sign a Smashwords Customer Email Privacy Pledge. The customer is then presented with the option to subscribe to your private newsletter.  Or, if they don’t want to share their email, they can add the author to their Smashwords Alerts subscription, which notifies the reader whenever the author releases a new book at Smashwords.  Captured email addresses can be downloaded any time from the Presale Dashboard and then imported into your private mailing list.  Email capture is only available during the book’s presale period.
  • Incentives for email sharing – Smashwords Presales enables authors and publishers to offer optional discount incentives for customers to share their email address. Authors can configure a custom, pre-set discount offer that is presented to the customer at checkout.  Once the customer agrees to share their email with a specific author or publisher, they won’t be presented with the incentive offer again for future releases from the same author.
  • Compatible with Kindle Direct Select/Kindle Unlimited Book Launches. Authors who plan to make their next ebook release exclusive to Amazon through KDP Select can run a private or public presale at Smashwords before enrolling their ebook in KDP Select.  Here’s how:  1:  Upload your book to Smashwords as a pre-order with a future release date, then immediately click on your Dashboard’s Channel Manager and opt the book out of all distribution channels, which will prevent your pre-order listing from appearing at other retailers if that’s your goal.  2:  Click on your Dashboard’s ‘Presale Dashboard’ and follow the instructions to create and launch your public or private presale.  3: When you’re ready to end your presale and move into KDP Select, click back to your main Dashboard, click Unpublish and confirm, and your book disappears from the Smashwords Store in seconds. This same technique can be used by authors that distribute wide but prefer to upload direct to the major retailers.

The technology, systems and methods behind Smashwords Presales are patent-pending and this is the first time in their 11-year history that Smashwords has filed to protect an invention as the company believes this takes the concept of presales to a new level.

They say the patent application describes a networked system that redefines the conventional timeline for how online retailers and distributors collaborate with product creators to bring new products to market.

The patent application covers the creation, management, distribution, and merchandising of presale product listings across the ecommerce supply chain.  It covers physical and digital products and services sold over ecommerce, as well as the early release of products and services fulfilled to customers via subscription, streaming media, in-store customer pickups at brick and mortar retailers, and other methods.

The company says Smashwords Presales address some of the most critical marketing and platform-building challenges faced by authors and publishers and those same product marketing challenges are shared by any individual or company using ecommerce to bring new products and services to market.

If they win the patent application, Smashwords aims to make the presales process available to product creators, retailers and distributors outside of publishing through licensing discussions.

The firm believes that the first major retailer or subscription service to adopt this will gain the ability to onboard a lot of exclusive product listings, and to harness the energy and excitement of early access.

Smashwords is one of the great survivors in the self-publishing business as it was launched way back in 2008 when Mark Coker realized that traditional publishing companies were failing to seize the opportunities offered by the internet and ebooks. Coker and Smashwords have proved to be staunch champions of indie authors ever since and it’s great to see them still coming up with new ways of helping indies.

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