I was excited to see that Amazon now allows pre-orders for KDP authors (Kindle Direct Publishing), which essentially levels the playing field even more between traditionally published authors and those who have self-published through KDP. In a minute, I’ll take you through the steps to get your book into pre-order but first let’s look at when and how this may benefit you.
On Amazon’s KDP/Pre-order information page they say that pre-order is great to start building buzz and, true, it is. Though there is one caveat to this. Over the years I’ve found that pre-orders aren’t as effective if you have no fan base, and even then, it’s iffy. So what’s the real benefit to the pre-order? Well, let’s break this down:
Newly published: If you’re a newly published author, the idea of a pre-order likely seems super enticing, right? Your book is up on the Amazon site as time ticks off to its release. It’s pretty exciting but I don’t know if I would spend a ton of time marketing to a pre-order page for the reasons I mentioned earlier: no one knows you (yet) so any marketing efforts you make to this page may be a waste of time. Yes, you can do a small push, maybe to friends and family and a mailing list if you have one but I wouldn’t spend a ton of time marketing to this page. You can, however, start playing with categories and keywords to see what spikes the book and what does not so you’ll be ready to go on launch day.
Already published: If you have a book out there (or several), and you’ve built a mailing list of fans, then pre-order may be a fun thing to do to build excitement for your upcoming book. I still think that most (if not all) of your marketing should be reserved for when the book is available on Amazon because that will benefit you so much more. What I’ve seen over the years is that unless you are JK Rowling or some mega-bestseller, it’s hard to drive significant numbers to your pre-order page. The other issue you run into is if a reader wants something now, they may not want to wait for your book to be ready and could end up buying something else instead. But still, this can be a lot of fun for fans who have been waiting for your next book.
Long vs. short: Regardless of the category you’re in, I don’t know that I’d stretch the pre-order time out to the full 90 days that Amazon allows because I think that since you aren’t spending a ton of time promoting the book, you don’t want it up too long. I’d recommend a month and that’s it. The other thing is that you need to be sure and hit the deadline you assign to the pre-order because once you select it (as we’ll see in a minute) you can’t go back. So pick a date that you know you can hit.
Promotion: To promote a pre-order I would buzz it to your followers and your email list. Again, if this is your second, third or fourth book, the interest is going to be stronger than if it’s your first. Still, you can start to drive some interest to the book or, at least, let your followers know it’s coming. We have one title we’re working with and we’ve done this with images, Facebook posts, Twitter updates, blog posts, etc., but it’s part of the entire conversation, so it’s not the only discussion we’re having with our followers.
Reviews: Keep in mind that you can’t review a pre-order book, so if you’re looking to get some early reviews for it, you may want to consider focusing on Goodreads which you can push for pre-order reviews.
Pricing your pre-order: For reasons I mentioned earlier, I would keep your pricing low – even if you plan on raising it later. Why? Well you’re competing with millions of titles on Amazon and your book isn’t ready (yet) so the immediacy isn’t there. If you want to entice an impulse buy, keep the pricing lower at first, once the book is live you can always raise it.
How to Set up your pre-order: First and foremost, in order to do this you need to be a KDP author, so your eBook should be uploaded into the KDP system via their back-end dashboard.
Once you select a date, the system will tell you that you must get the final book to Amazon no later than 10 days prior. Additionally, you need to upload a manuscript for them to approve before they’ll set up your preorder. It does not matter if this manuscript is pre-edited, they just want to see what you plan to publish. You’ll need a cover, but when I spoke to an Amazon rep she told me that it doesn’t have to be final, so if you’re still a month out with no cover (that happens more than you think) then you can leave it blank or put up a placeholder for now and go back in and add it later.
According to Amazon, the book can be any length so if you’ve written a novella you can use this, too. Right now there are no limitations on this, other than you need to be a KDP author and, clearly, this is for eBooks only right now.
So pre-order is great and fun and certainly a cool thing that self-published authors can do, but just be mindful of how much of your promotional sweat equity and dollars you spend. While it’s a great thing to do, most readers will prefer to buy a book they can get right away.
Reprinted from “The Book Marketing Expert newsletter,” a free ezine offering book promotion and publicity tips and techniques. http://www.amarketingexpert.com