Friday, February 21, 2014

Hit the Ebook Bestseller Lists with Preorders - A Guide to Preorder Strategy

Ebook preorders are one of the most powerful book launch tools for indies.

As I've blogged here previously, multiple Smashwords authors have hit the bestseller lists with the catalyzing assistance of ebook preorders.

But as many authors have learned, the mere act of doing a preorder does not guarantee a successful launch.  In this context, a good universal metric of success is for each new book you release to reach more readers in less time than your prior release (that's how you know you're building readership!).

Like any tool, you need to learn how to use preorders before you'll get the best results.  Several Smashwords authors have used preorders so often and with such success that they've become masters.

Preorders are a common checkbox item for nearly every title released by a traditional publisher, yet most indie authors don't take advantage of preorders.  It's a shame more authors don't use preorders, because in the battle for reader eyeballs preorders are a great equalizer.

Probably the biggest reason most authors don't take better advantage of preorders is because they either don't yet know about the tool, or don't know how to utilize it to its fullest effect.

I want to help you make preorders work for you for your next book release.

Earlier today, I published a presentation about preorder strategy on titled, Hit the Ebook Bestseller Lists with Preorders: A Guide to Preorder Strategy, and have embedded it below.

I hope you find it helpful.  I also hope you're share it with your friends, Tweet about it or review it on Facebook.

The presentation provides an introduction to ebook preorders, and then reveals specific recommendations for preorder timing and preorder marketing. Most of these ideas were inspired by my observations of what worked and what didn't work for your fellow Smashwords authors.

And this is where you come in.  If you've had success with Smashwords preorders, I want to hear from you.  Please blog about your success, embed my presentation in your blog post, and share the preorder tricks that worked best for you.  If you've received positive feedback from fans who appreciate the ability to place these set-and-forget preorders, mention that in your post.  Preorders aren't just for the benefit of authors, they're for readers too.  Then leave a link in the comments below and I might add the link to my list below.

One rule for submissions:  In order for me to link to your blog, you must provide some value-add, either in the form of personal experiences and lessons learned, or in the form of summarizing the presentation's key points in a well-structured blog post.  A summary of the points enriched with your own personal experience would be even better! 

Please visit the links of your fellow authors below.  They took the time to help your next book release be more successful, so please return the favor by acknowledging those who did a great job by commenting on their blogs. And if they do an especially great job, check out their books!
Indie Authors Share Preorder Tips, Tricks and Insights

Giacomo Giammatteo - How To Sell More Books: Smashwords Levels The Playing Field With Pre-orders
Anna Adams - How I Hit the iBooks Bestseller List with Smashwords Preorders 
Alicia Renee Kline - Why Preorders Should be Part of Your Marketing Strategy
Renee Benzaim  - Pre-Orders through Smashwords Can Benefit Both Readers & Writers
Stephanie Hurt  -  Smashwords Preorder – A Great Thing!
Sally Ember - Why Ebook Preorders Will Help My Next Book Land Higher on the Ebook Bestseller Lists
Gigi Galt  - Hit the Best Seller Lists With Pre-Orders
Heather Gartside - What to Expect: finding true love and perfecting preorders for my newly-born novel
Felipe Adan Lerna  - Question Mark @ the Intersections of Pre-Orders and Scribd Oyster etc
AH Pellett - Just Like Big Publishers, Indies Can Set up Preorders Too 
Tami Veldura - Introducing the Street Team


Maree Anderson said...

Ack! I left out some info and had to delete my comment. Let's try this again:

I had a great experience with helping Smashwords trial a preorder on iBookstore a few months back for a YA release Liminal. It was a surprisingly painless process :)

So when Mark asked about another release and I had one coming up, I figured I'd give it go, and try a preorder for Opal's Wish (the 4th book in my Crystal Warriors Series). Again, it was very easy. And I'm rapt that the preorder seems to be doing well on my local iBookstore (AUS/NZL) charts. Plus, in my experience Apple are very proactive and supportive of indie authors. So because the 1st book of the series (The Crystal Warrior) is perma-free, iBookstore NZL has promoted it in the Romance section on the rotating top-shelf banner. To say I'm stoked is an understatement :) And I have no doubt this is helping drive interest in preorders of the Opal's Wish.

I'm sold on preorders. And Smashwords really does make the process easy. So if you're unsure, I'd encourage you to Just Do It!

Jason Matthews said...

Loving the preorder concept. Now just need to write more books, lol.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Thanks for sharing, Maree. Congrats on your success!

Toni Kenyon said...

Thanks for continuing to provide information and valuable resources for the indie community, Mark. I'm a fellow New Zealand romance writer and I've watched Maree Anderson's Crystal Warrior series rise through the iBookstore ranks and I know a lot of that is down to the assistance SW has given her as an indie author. Kris Pearson is also another New Zealand author who does particularly well through the iBookstore and her success would not have happened without your company's support.
I'm a relative 'newbie' on the block, only having been published for fifteen months or so, but I'm putting the tools you provide into action and I'm seeing results.
I'm looking forward to implementing your preorder strategies and seeing what other authors have to say about the process.
Knowledge is power!

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Thanks, Toni, glad to hear it! New Zealand indies have been leading the charge since the beginning. One of our all-time most successful authors is Shayne Parkinson of New Zealand. She's been with us since March of 2009. Her first Smashwords book was the 1,105th title uploaded, back when we were mere pups! You can check out her interview here. Best wishes and good luck to you!

Stephanie Payne Hurt said...

I've just sent out a post on this article. Thanks Mark for the much needed advice. Here's the link to my post:

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mark! Love the whole pre-order concept. Thanks Mark for continually adding to our smashword toolbox.

Unknown said...

I had my doubts, but the slideshow was very inspiring! Going to give it a whirl for my upcoming release and see how it all goes.

Unknown said...

Here's my link. My post just went live:

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
adan said...

I haven't done a pre-order yet, though haven't wanted to a few times, and am sure I'll give it a go when the right title comes along.

I have though, posted a new article on my site that tries to give a different what-if slant on the subject, by incorporating what (little) I know yet about Scirbd's and Oyster's subscription services offered through Smashwords. I'm participating fully in both.

There's no "answers" in my post, just wonderings and musings.

But essential, I think, to going forward.

And it's a pleasure to be finding so many good things via Smashwords. Thank you guys :-)

Unknown said...

I have waxed poetically about the benefits of Smashwords preorders on my blog before, but here's my latest post:

Suffice it to say, it's really a useful tool, even if you don't hit the bestseller lists.

Karen Stefaniak Trask said...

I'm planning on implementing the pre-order strategy for my next book. Thanks to Mark and his team for all their hard work to give us the ability to do this!

Anonymous said...

Since I specialize in short story and essay ebooks that sell at $0.99 each, I use pre-orders as a way to schedule my ebooks in advance. This forces me to look ahead to the future as I want to maintain a six-week buffer (three ebooks). I'm expecting to have my 75th short ebook out by the end of the year.

I probably won't see a pre-order bounce until I come out with my short story collection (80,000+ words @ $2.99) next year. That will get the full marketing treatment.

Darren G. Burton said...

I like the idea of preorders, but how can you know for sure that a retailer is going to have the book listed and for sale by the actual launch date, let alone prelaunch? I had some books that only recently appeared on iBooks after more than 12 months of waiting. Of late, Kobo seems tediously slow at listing new books as well. I'd love to do preorders, but without knowing if and when a particular retailer is likely to upload the listing, they are kind of hard to rely on.

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Darren, since a preorder means an advance delivery of your book, you'll dramatically increase odds that your books are delivered and ready for purchase when the book goes onsale. You write erotica, so you can always expect some delay in appearing at Apple. I don't know the story behind your 12 month delay, but that's almost unheard of. Sounds like there was some problem. If it takes more than two or three weeks for an erotica title to appear at Apple, check for tickets in your Dashboard and if you don't have tickets, contact our support team and ask them to investigate.

Darren G. Burton said...

Hi Mark. Thanks for the response. Apple seems to be a lot quicker the last few months at listing new titles (not all of my titles are Erotica. I actually have about 60 titles that are non-erotic). It still doesn't answer my question regarding preorders though. If I set a preorder for a book to be released on say the 1st of April 2014, how do I know it'll even be listed on retailers by that date, let alone be listed as a preorder prior to the launch date???

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Darren, because 99.999% (or some insanely high percentage) of our titles will arrive, unless the book can't achieve Premium Catalog approval, or there there's a specific distribution glitch (which our support team can help fix) or the retailer flat-out doesn't allow the content category or cover image. Give it a try. At a minimum, such as for preorders uploaded only one week out in advance, it'll give your titles a head-start so retailers have time to get them loaded and ready for sale on the same day. And if you implement proper preorder strategy and are blessed with a bit of good luck, the preorder can do very well for you.

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Elizabeth said...

Amazon should participate, but that's a completely different topic for a different post.

I think one thing I like about the preorder method is being able to check that the book has been listed on other sites. Currently, my preorder is listed on Barnes & Noble, but not on iTunes (not sure about the other sites). Since it isn't due out until May, it gives me time to notify customer service.

isplashdog said...

Great post, Mark. I've put up a link in my blog. I talked about how I really had no idea about how books made it to the top of bestseller lists on the first week out. Now I know. Thanks again. My post can be found at

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mark. Another very helpful post!

Unknown said...

Thanks Mark! This was a very useful slideshow and it reenforced some plans I made last night. I went ahead and jumped forward with them.

Here's a blog post I put up regarding a marketing street team, what I'd ask of them and the benefits they'd get for joining. I've embedded your slideshow at the end and encourage people to create their own street teams!

Please include me in your list, I've seen fan street teams really boost an author's success over the long term, not just on release day. People are more than welcome to follow the format I've laid out.

Wntell said...

I can see how this would be very useful for established authors, but would the pre-order option make sense for someone publishing their first book?

Dovetail Public Relations said...

Hi Wntell, while it's easiest for authors with established platforms and multiple published (and selling) books to leverage preorders, even first-time authors can benefit. A well-orchestrated preorder on a first release will give the author an incremental advantage, and since you're competing against 2 million other books, you want every advantage you can get. The size of the advantage comes down to the breadth and depth of your platform (your ability to reach readers), and the overall desirability of your book to potential readers. Before you release your first title, read my free Secrets book. It'll give you a lot of best practices ideas. Many of those ideas serve as foundational elements that will make every preorder more successful. One message I try to hammer home in Secrets is that there's not any one single magic bullet that will launch a book into bestsellerdom. A strong-selling book must excel across multiple characteristics, and at the same time the author needs to avoid the many common mistakes that can diminish or derail the prospects for an otherwise promising book.

Wntell said...

Mark, Thanks for your response! My current plan is to co-release/publish my novel once it's finished later this year with around 4 free short stories and a short story collection (not free). I thought releasing them all simultaneously would increase readers linking back to and hopefully buying the novel and story collection, but perhaps with preorders, I could start publishing the free stories now with a pre-order option. My fear would be readers that pass on the pre-order option and never come back once the novel is available.

Unknown said...

Wntell, Have you thought about using the free stories as incentive for people who pre-order?

ie: send me a screenshot of your preorder confirmation and I'll send you free.

You can release the collection for 99c, that way only the people that preorder the novel get it for free (incentive to order) OR you can release the two together, but those who preorder the novel will have access to the collection early; whenever they sent you their confirmation.

Unknown said...

*send you the collection of stories free*

Wntell said...

@Tami Veldura

Thanks Tami- good suggestion! I hadn't thought of that option. Seems like this can get complicated. I guess you just need to try different things and see what works.

Rachel Amphlett said...

I'm using Smashwords' pre-order strategy for the first time with my third novel, "Before Nightfall". General feedback across social media seems positive to date - hopefully this will all translate to sales on June 5th. Wish me luck!!

Unknown said...

Hi Mark!
I had a very nice experience with pre-orders for the release of A French Princess in Versailles. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us indie authors, Mark.
Here's my experience:!How-I-hit-the-iBooks-bestseller-lists-with-Smashwords-preorders/c1rfv/C11D7BD8-3FCD-44E3-905C-1E02BCD3BF60