Hit the Bestseller Lists with Ebook Preorders

Part of your book marketing plan can include pre-launch promotion items. In some cases, you’ll just be creating buzz or still building author platform. In other cases, you’ll be implementing tactical steps that actually drive your readers to your book before it is released, such as blogging a book. Anything that offers potential readers an opportunity to pre-order your book, helps your book on the day of launch—and can even make your book a bestseller on Amazon or some other platform.

Today, on Day 19 of National Nonfiction Writing Month (NaNonFiWriMo), Smashwords founder Mark Coker explains how to create a bestseller using specific ebook preorder strategies. These are phenomenal tips, and you’ll want to put them to use if you are writing an  ebook during the Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) Challenge—or any time.

However, if you don’t plan to write an ebook, don’t simply dismiss this guest post. The strategies Mark offers can be employed for indie print books and for traditionally published books. My traditionally published book, How to Blog a Book, received pre-orders for months before its release because my publisher made sure it was available on Amazon for presale. (It became a bestseller.) I blogged the book and constantly drove blog readers to the Amazon page in the process. This worked so well that I have done the same for my next book, The Author Training Manual; although it won’t be released until February 2014, people have already told me they have ordered a copy.

If you are working on a book proposal during the WNFIN Challenge, definitely put the tips offered by Mark in your marketing plan. And if you are writing a book during the Challenge, remember: Every book needs a marketing plan! Bookmark this post for the point when you are ready to create yours.

Hit the Bestseller Lists with Ebook Preorders

By Mark Coker

Ask readers to pre-order your book.Ebook preorders are one of the most exciting new merchandising tools to come along for indie ebook authors in the last five years.  A well-executed book launch supported by a preorder can dramatically increase discoverability and sales.

Back in July, Smashwords announced preorder distribution to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  In the last four months, several Smashwords authors have topped the ebook bestseller lists thanks to preorders.

Here’s How Ebook Preorders Work

When you upload your book to Smashwords, you’ll select a release date that is up to six months in the future.  Your book will appear as a preorder at the retailers above.  Readers can reserve a copy of your book in advance of its official onsale date.  When your onsale date arrives, the customer’s credit card is charged and the book appears in their account, ready to read.

A preorder offers the author multiple marketing and merchandising benefits.

Four Benefits of an Ebook Preorder
  1. Advantageous placement in bestseller lists – At Apple and Kobo, all the orders you accumulate during the preorder period credit to your book the day it goes onsale.  This causes your book to spike in the bestseller lists because bestseller lists are based on unit sales.  Since many customers use bestseller lists to find their next read, high placement will increase the discoverability, desirability and sales of your book.

Here’s an example:  Let’s say your book is available for preorder at Apple iBooks for two months in advance of the official release date, and you accumulate ten preorders per day during that two month period.  That means after two months, you’d have 600 accumulated orders, and all those orders will credit to your book on the same day it goes onsale.  If you get sales credit for 600 copies in a single day at Apple or Kobo, you have a shot of appearing in the top 10 or top 20 of their store-wide bestseller lists, and you’ll almost certainly hit the top 10 for your book’s category or genre.  If you had simply put your book onsale at these stores without a preorder, 10 sales per day would be unlikely to register on any bestseller list.  Realistically, it’s tough for most authors to accumulate ten preorders a day, although some authors accumulate hundreds per day.  Even if you can accumulate two orders per day for 60 days, you’ll still get credit for 120 sales on your release date, and that will give you great sales rank and increased visibility in your category.  Another option is choose a later release date so you have more days to accumulate orders.

  1. Capture the reader’s order at the moment you have their attention – Many authors begin marketing their books months in advance of the release date, yet without a preorder button they have no way to capture the reader’s order at the moment they have the reader’s attention and interest.  A reader may be interested in your book today, but two months from now they might have forgotten about it.  Preorders allow you to get the order when the reader stumbles across your blog, website or Facebook page, or at that moment when they finish another of your books and want to read more.
  2. Increased merchandising opportunities – Retailers routinely promote upcoming preorders.  Apple iBooks, for example, runs a regular front-page merchandising feature called Sneak Peeks where they provide free teaser samples of books available on preorder.  These are high-profile promotions reserved only for preorder books.  Simply by doing a preorder, your book becomes eligible for inclusion in these promotions, if you earn it.  How do you earn it?  The merchandising managers at the retailers monitor the preorder numbers for upcoming releases.  If your book is accumulating a lot of orders, they’re much more likely to give the preorder additional feature coverage in their store.
  3. Simultaneous availability at multiple retailers – When you do a preorder, it allows a retailer to load your book in their store in advance of the release date.  This means your book will automatically go onsale at Apple, Barnes & Noble and Sony on the same day.  If you were to do a release without a preorder, each retailer would load and list your book on different days, and this would frustrate your fans who want to read your book asap.

Preorders give your book preferential discovery, especially if you support your preorder with smart marketing and promotion.  Here’s how:

How to Do a Successful Preorder
  1. Budget for at least 1-2 months of preorder runway – As you plan your book launch, budget extra time for a preorder, even if it means releasing the book later than you originally planned. Even one to weeks of preorder runway can give you a slight merchandising advantage.
  2. Let your other books do the preorder marketing for you – If you have multiple ebooks published already, update all your books so they’re advertising your preorder at the back of the book.  At the back of each book, mention your upcoming book, and mention it’s available for preorder at select retailers.  Add a couple sample chapters to whet the reader’s appetite.  Once your other books are updated, consider pricing another of your books at FREE.  Choose your best book that appeals to the same target audience as your upcoming preorder.  At Apple iBooks, for example, free books get over 90 times more downloads than books at a price according to a Smashwords Survey we published earlier this year.  That free book, which has now been updated to advertise your upcoming preorder, then becomes a trojan horse that markets your preorder.
  3. Plan and implement an ongoing marketing campaign – A preorder without author promotion is like a car without fuel. Get out there and market your book!  Every preorder reservation you earn will give you an incremental boost in sales rank at Apple and Kobo on launch day.  Plan a series of marketing activities leading up to the release of your book.  Do something new and fresh each week.  Schedule it out.  One week, do a blog tour.  The next week, do a chapter reveal on your blog and promote it across all your social media channels.  The next week, hold a contest, and offer a prize which could be as simple as a coupon to get another of your books for free at Smashwords.  I’ve seen some bigger-name indie authors give away e-readers.  The next week, offer to record and publish on Youtube a short personalized video thank you message to the first ten fans who email you their preorder receipt.  If you’re doing a preorder with a long runway, offer to thank the first 200 fans by name in your book who email you their preorder receipt (As long as you upload an updated book file to Smashwords two weeks before the release date, you can add this acknowledgements section in your book in advance of the release).  Get creative!   Make it fun and all about your fans.  In all your promotions, provide a direct hyperlink to the preorder page for your book at Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.  Make it easy for readers to place their preorder!
  4. Consider offering preorder customers a special price – Let’s say you plan to price your book at $4.99.  Consider pricing the preorder at $2.99 or $3.99, and then promote to your fans that you’re making this discount available to all preorder customers as a special thank-you, and that a few days after the release you’ll increase it to the normal price.  This gives readers an incentive to purchase now rather than wait.  Then after the book officially goes on sale, increase the price as you promised.  Your fans will appreciate the special deal they received, and you’ll appreciate the boost in the charts.
  5. Make the sample sell the book – Retailers will automatically make the first 5-10% of your book available as a downloadable sample.  Grab your readers with those first pages so they can’t help but want to reserve their copy now, not later.
Reality Check

Although preorders are a powerful merchandising tool, they’re not a panacea.  You must still write a super-fabulous book, adorn it with a super-fabulous cover, and give it a compelling price.  Preorders work best for authors with established platforms, and who have ready ability to reach their fans.  They also work great for series writers.  But even if you’re an unknown author and you don’t write series, preorders will give you an incremental advantage that will help your book stand out more than it would otherwise, especially if you support it with smart promotion.  Take every advantage you can get.  Over time, as you build your platform, preorders will help you build on your success and make each new release more successful than the last.

Here are some additional resources about ebook preorders:

About the author

mcMark Coker is the founder of Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of self-published ebooks.  Mark is author of The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success (ebook publishing best practices), The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide (how to market any book for free) and The Smashwords Style Guide (how to format and publish an ebook).  Follow him on Twitter @markcoker or friend him on Facebook at http://facebook.com/markcoker

Photo courtesy of  faysalfarhan | stockfresh.com

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