Friday, July 26, 2013

Smashwords Introduces Preorder Distribution to Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo

Smashwords authors and publishers now have an exciting and powerful new merchandising tool:  Preorders at Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

Today we launched a public beta of our new preorder feature, available immediately to over 70,000 Smashwords authors and publishers around the world.

With preorders, Smashwords distributes a book to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo in advance of the official onsale date.

During the preorder period, customers place advance orders.  At some retailers such as Apple, these advance orders accumulate in the days and weeks prior to the official onsale date and then credit all at once on the date of release, which causes the title to spike in the retailer's bestseller lists.

I expect preorders to become an essential best practice for all professional indie authors, because the benefits are too significant to pass up.

Here's a quick summary of preorder benefits:
  1. Advantageous placement in genre and store-wide bestseller lists - All preorders credit on day one of the release, the onsale date.  This can cause the book to spike in the charts.  The advantageous placement in the bestseller lists increases visibility and discoverability, which builds buzz and sales.  
  2. Increased odds of hitting national bestseller lists? - Preorders can potentially increase an author's odds of hitting one or more of the major bestseller lists such the New York Times or USA Today because the preorder concentrates a greater number of sales into a shorter period of time.  Lest you find yourself salivating uncontrolably, stop!  Keep in mind that most authors will never hit these lists, preorder or not.  Preorders are simply a tool that give you merchandising advantage.  It's up to your book, your fans and your savvy marketing to catapult you onto these lists.
  3. Simultaneous availability - Your book is available on sale at these major retailers on the same day.  No more waiting days for your new release to appear for sale at each store.  With a preorder, we distribute your completed book in advance of the onsale date, and fans will be able to download it at their favorite store on the same day.
  4. Advance marketing - Authors can execute more strategic advance marketing campaigns to build buzz and accumulate orders leading up to their official release date.  Do chapter reveals on your blog or Facebook page.  Hold contests.  Run promotions on your other titles to build readership in advance of your big release.  Encourage your fans to mark their calendars so they can be the first to download and read your book.
  5. Your existing titles help market your preorder - The retailer will display your preorder title alongside your other books in their store.  If you have multiple titles on the market already, update your back-of-the-book "Other titles by" listings to advertise your upcoming release.
  6. Capture the reader's interest at the moment you have their attention  - It's one thing to tell the reader you have a new book coming out in a month or two.  Will they remember to come back then to find and purchase the book?  A preorder enables you to capture the reader's order at that moment they're buying all your books, or all the books in your series, or at the time they've stumbled across your web site or blog.
  7. Increased on-store merchandising - Your advance preorder also makes it easier for retailers to slot your book into special preorder promotions or genre-related merchandising promotions.  If a retailer sees that your book is experiencing a high rate of preorders, they're more likely to select the book for increased merchandising love.
Advance staging of book releases has always been a common best practice in traditional print publishing.  It's interesting now how some of those same best practices are migrating to the digital world.  Now indies can access the same tools.

We began testing preorders a few months ago at Apple, starting with the successful launch of Kirsty Moseley's Free Falling and followed by Abbi Glines' Forever Too Far.  Both titles hit #1 or #2 in Apple's largest markets.

In the last two weeks, following multiple successes with Apple, we expanded our testing to include Barnes & Noble and Kobo.

A partial list of Smashwords authors who have participated in our preorder beta, or who have preorders in process, include for R.L. Mathewson, Emma Hart, Claudia Hall Christian, T.M. Nielsen, Maree Anderson, S.H. Kolee, Lilliana Anderson, JD Nixon, Rebecca Forster, Quinn Loftis, J. S. Scott, Eve Langlais, Ambush Books, Elizabeth Reyes, Kristen Ashley, Marquita Valentine, Joseph Lallo, Ruth Ann Nordin, Chanda Hahn and Camilla Chafer.

Here are Some Quick Start Tips (more tips on our Preorder Help page
  1. The preorder option is available on the normal Smashwords upload page.  Simply select a release date in the future.
  2. The book you upload should be formatted to the Smashwords Style Guide, as usual.  The moment you upload, check for AutoVetter errors, and download your .epub to check the formatting quality. Don't let formatting problems delay your preorder!  If you need to make a correction, simply click Dashboard: Upload New Version  to correct.  If you're new to Smashwords and don't have the time or patience to do your own formatting, get it right the first time by hiring low-cost formatter from Mark's List.
  3. The book should be complete and either a final or a near-final draft, and not a work in progress.  The file you upload will be used to generate a sample of the start of the book which retailer customers will download and read, so make it solid!  
  4. Preorders work best if you select a date that's at least four to six weeks out.  The longer the time out, the greater your runway to accumulate orders.  This also provides ample time for Smashwords to deliver your book, provides time for the retailer to process and load it, and gives you several weeks of runway in which you can point readers to each retailer's preorder page.  A runway of four or more weeks also gives you time to make last-minute corrections (more on this below).  If your release is only a week or two out, you should still load it as a preorder because a couple days of preorder listing is better than none!
  5. Even if you have a release that's a couple days away, or even tomorrow, enter it as a preorder today.  Although the book may not make it to the retailer in advance of the onsale date, you'll at least get a headstart to get your formatting right, achieve Premium Catalog distribution, and allow the retailer time to receive, process and list the book.  Also, once you enter your preorder, you'll have the URL for your Smashwords book page.  Although the Smashwords store doesn't accept preorders, you can start building this URL into your marketing campaign, blog and website.
  6. Since you'll be uploading your book in advance of the onsale date, we expect that you may want to make last minute updates, cover tweaks and typo fixes.  This is fine.  Just make sure you upload your final final at least 10 days in advance of the release date to avoid last minute panics.  In reality, we and our retailers typically process updates much quicker than 10 days, but it's always good for you to budget in a buffer in case you run into unexpected delays with your editors or proof readers.
  7. Your preorder listings will likely appear at each retailer at different times, depending on shipment schedules (we ship daily to Apple and Kobo, twice-weekly to B&N) and vary by the processing speed of each retailer.  As each preorder page appears at each retailer, make it a marketing event and a cause for celebration with your fans, and provide a direct link to your fans on your blog, website and on social media.
I founded Smashwords to democratize publishing and give writers the tools and knowledge they need to become professional publishers.  Preorder capability is one such powerful tool.  I look forward to watching what our authors build with it.

Please share your feedback as you test this new feature.  I'll create a temporary email hotline at where you can contact the development team and myself to report bugs.

My thanks to the many Smashwords authors who participated in our private beta, and my advance thanks to you for participating in this rollout.  Good luck!

August 20 2013 update!  To learn more about ebook preorders, check out my post at The Huffington Post titled, eBook Preorders Help Indie Authors Hit Bestseller lists.  


Scath said...

Holy cows on crack. This is awesome.

Maree Anderson said...

I was thrilled to bits when iBookstore and Smashwords offered to set up a pre-order for my latest YA release, Liminal. I understood the principle of how it was supposed to work, but had no idea how it'd go in "real life" *g*, so I was a bit nervous that I'd do something to somehow screw it up. But honestly? Thanks to Mark and the team at Smashwords, iBookstore got everything they needed when they needed it, and the pre-order and eventual release on July 23rd went smoothly and without a hitch.

Best of all, I thought the pre-order would only be available at iBookstores AUS and NZL, but it was worldwide! So that was an awesome surprise :) I can't thank Mark and his team at Smashwords enough for giving me this opportunity to promote Liminal through iBookstore. It's been an exciting few weeks. And I gotta say, Smashwords rocks!

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting option. I'm planning to assemble all my short stories (now available as SHORT ebooks) into a 80,000-word collection with a professional cover to price t $2.99 USD. Setting that up as a preorder should give it a nice boost in sales.

Wicked Christa said...

I would be excited if I didn't write erotic romance and erotica, which Apple can hold up for 8 weeks in review alone. How to plan a pre-order around that?

gpstberg said...

Another great option for Smashwords authors.

I'm not sure if putting my next book on pre-order would generate a whole lot of extra interest in it, however.

For established authors, though, I can see this working wonderfully.

Unsettled Science said...

For writers of standalone books, this maybe not that big a thing. But for writers who already have a series, and are writing the next segment/installment, this could be awesome.

Rising Star said...

Finally! This is a huge bonus. Having a link to include with advance promo is so much better than without.

Shaun J. McLaughlin said...

Once again Smashwords leads the way. I will definitely try this for my next novel. Thanks

BFuniv said...

I've just published the first month of a twelve month series of daily reads at Amazon. I'd not used their exclusive deal as I prefer competition among retailers -- but I hadn't yet uploaded Long Trips To Nowhere (LTTN) to Smashwords.

As soon as the formatting for meat grinder is done, LTTN will be up, along with mention that preorder will be available at great eBook retailers for LTTN month 2 and beyond.

This is very cool. Thanks!

coolwriter said...

I see the benefits of preorder and can't wait to prep my latest book into the system! This is a win for Smashwords and for those authors who will take the time to use it.

Unknown said...

I am so excited about this! And just in time for the September release of my next book!

Shoshanna Evers said...

This is *perfect*! My tradpub books have preorder buttons, and it's helpful to readers who finish the first book in a series and want to immediately preorder the next book so they don't forget. And of course, preorder is helpful for the author! Thanks for doing this. :) Hopefully Amazon will jump on board soon for indies as well.

Alan Hutcheson said...

For someone who, like Douglas Adams, loves the "whooshing noise" deadlines make as they go by, this is about the best incentive to set and keep a timeline to get my next book ready.

Nicely done!

Alianne said...

This is fantastic! I plan to make very good use of it. One question though. What happens with the other distributors like Sony? Will the book appear on sale there immediately, or will it not ship until the release date?

dana e donovan said...

This is wonderful, Mark. Thank you for being the original champion of indie authors, and continuing to champion our cause. If you ever give up running Smashwords, it better be to run for president. You got my vote!

Gabriella West said...

Sounds great! I wish there was a way to figure out how many preorders there were--to gauge the interest in the book. That's not possible, is it?

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Alianne, for this phase of the beta, we're limiting it to Apple, B&N and Kobo. Once we work out any kinks, we'll consider expanding it elsewhere. thanks!

Gabriella, that's one of the pieces we still need to work out

Greg said...

Will it be possible to place a coupon on pre-orders -- half off, for example, -- and sell at regular price on the release date?

K Garcia said...

Thank you Smashwords for this announcement. You've made my day! I know that Amazon allows for pre-orders but ONLY for publishers which excludes all us indies that don't have publishers.

I will definitely use this feature for my upcoming book. Thanks for all the tips to on how to make your pre-order a success.

David Sheppard said...

I have two books coming out this fall, one under my name and another under a pen name. This is just in time, and I'm really excited about it.

Laurie Boris said...

A lot of potential advantages here for indie authors. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Joleene Naylor said...

Very interesting. I have had fans ask about pre-order before, so I may have to give this a try with my next book :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the this most informative post.I found this to be of interest to me. I hope to have my book formatted in the not so distant future. Blessings.

A.G. Claymore said...

I wonder if Kobo and B&N only load a pre-order title on it's release date? I loaded books two and three of 'The Black Ships' in October and book 2, the live one, is on Kobo, but book 3, the pre-order, is nowhere to be found.
The whole pre-order thing is great, but a lot of it depends on the downstream partners' ability to keep up.
So far, Apple is the only site to carry my pre-order.
I suppose it will take a while for the bugs to work out.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

I've just signed up to Smashwords and this article and comments have given me tremendous confidence I've found the right team to get my work published. Looking forward to it!!