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Book Marketing Tips: Should You Offer a Pre-Order for Your Self Published Book?

Updated on October 2, 2016
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is a self publishing expert, nonfiction book editor, author of 21+ books and eBooks, and a former trade newspaper editor.

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A common book marketing suggestion is to set up a pre-order offer for a soon-to-be-published book or eBook. It can be relatively easy to do with a self publishing platform such as Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). In fact, KDP asks you if you want to do a pre-order price during the setup process. (Check your self publishing platform for availability and details.)

But is doing a pre-order right for your self published book? Here's what to consider.

What is a Book Pre-Order Anyway?

When a self publishing platform allows a pre-order, orders for your book can be collected, paid and processed as they are received before the official publish date. Then when the book publishes, the books or eBooks are delivered to buyers.

Often, though not required, the pre-order book price is lower than the retail price that will be charged when it is officially available. This pricing strategy can help build sales momentum and reviews for the new book. Because a book is a unique offering, these discounts are not meant to encourage buyers to choose between competing products as one might expect with, say, toothpaste. Rather, they are offered as an incentive for existing and potential readers and fans.

Why Would You Want to Do a Book Pre-Order?

As just discussed, a book pre-order offer can help build immediate sales, even before the book hits the market. Additionally, a pre-order offer can:

  • Help quickly recoup the front-loaded initial investment in producing, marketing and distributing a new, front list title. Click here to learn more about front list and backlist titles.
  • Allow authors and publishers the opportunity to start marketing the book earlier since the production and distribution process can take a long time.
  • Self-published authors can determine how many print books to order based on pre-order interest.
  • Create excitement and anticipation for a hot title that can attract media attention and social media buzz.

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But Is There Really an Advantage to Offering a Pre-Order for Self Published Books?

While, as just discussed, there are benefits to doing a pre-order offer, for self published books, these advantages may be minimal. Here's why:

  1. Self published titles may have small, niche audiences. If the bulk of this audience takes advantage of a discounted pre-order offer, it can lower total sales revenues and/or royalties for the book.
  2. Since some self publishing platforms and services have minimal cost (sometimes even free!), there is little investment to recoup. So if a discount is offered for pre-orders, this would also lower total sales and royalties.
  3. In addition to decreased cost these days, the time to market for self published books has decreased, too, with the advent of print on demand (POD) and eBooks. Have the manuscript done? On some platforms, it can be published within as little as a week, sometimes within mere hours. So the need to create interest and orders while the book goes through the publishing and production process—as can be the case even today for traditional publishing—is just not there.
  4. Another time issue deals with the author himself. Once a pre-order is launched, people will expect the finished book to be available within a reasonable amount of time. So if the author is still writing the work, this can increase time pressure and may result in lower quality writing, editing and proofreading just to meet an availability deadline.
  5. We're living in the age of instant gratification! Delayed gratification can mean decreased interest. Plus, not all potential readers who see the pre-order offer will jump at it. They reason that it won't be available for a while and figure they'll get it when it publishes, resulting in lost sales if continuous promotion is not done. This increases marketing costs.
  6. There may be little pent up demand for niche, self published publications (as there would be for books by celebrity authors), especially if the author does not have an existing author platform or fan base. Merely offering a book via pre-order (discounted or not), will not immediately and automatically create an audience or media coverage if no one really cares.

Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.

© 2016 Heidi Thorne

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    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 13 months ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Lawrence! I don't think many of us have a throng of raving fans turning rabid for our next book. :) So, like you, I'll also keep on keeping on. Thanks for chiming in and have a wonderful day!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 13 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Heidi

      I reckon if I had a couple of thousand eager fans it might be worthwhile, until that time I'll keep 'plodding on'

      Thanks for the information.

      Lawrence

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 14 months ago from Chicago Area

      Flourish, interesting that you have never considered pre-ordering a self published book. I think that illustrates my point precisely! Thanks for adding that "customer" viewpoint to the conversation. Have a delightful weekend ahead!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 14 months ago from USA

      Very good run-down of the pros and cons. I have pre-ordered on "regular" books but never considered pre-ordering a self-published book; not sure I would do it on either side as an author or reader.

    • heidithorne profile image
      Author

      Heidi Thorne 14 months ago from Chicago Area

      Billybuc, I've never done it either, but have seen a number of authors friends do it. As I wrangled with the idea for a book I just published, I put myself through this thought process. Thus, the inspiration for this hub. Glad to see I'm not alone on the pre-order issue. Thanks, as always, for stopping by and adding your experience to the conversation! You enjoy the rest of your week, too!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 14 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I've never done it. Probably never will. But I really appreciate the in-depth analysis of it. Thanks, Heidi! Have a great remainder of the week.