Let’s talk about pre-orders. If you spend any time exploring Amazon’s Book Department, you know that major publishers almost always offer their books for pre-ordering — sometimes as much as six months to a year in advance of the publication date. if you order the first book in a series from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you are almost certain to get an e-mail inviting you to pre-order book number 2. Now Kindle Books, Apple iBooks, and B & N Nook Books are also offering pre-orders. Why? What’s in it for the author or publisher? And what’s in in for you, the reader?
Take a look at the reader first, using my upcoming book as an example. it’s August, and “Yankee Reconstructed” won’t be available until January 3, 2016. Why would you want to order it now? Well, first, there’s the simple matter of forgetfulness (and that’s something that happens to everybody, not just us seniors.) Between today and January comes that whole holiday season, with all of its distractions. And when January arrives, you’re going to be exhausted, even if not hung-over. Will you remember to order my book on January 3rd? Probably not. But if you have pre-ordered it, it will arrive, just in time to fill that empty void that follows the holiday season.
You’ll find cost-savings, too. Most pre-orders carry a reduced price tag. My “Yankee Reconstructed” is available for pre-ordering at $4.99. On January 3rd, the price will be $5.99. What’s even better, you don’t have to pay a thing until the book ships. So order it in August, and by the time your bill arrives in January, you won’t even notice that you’re paying for it.
Here’s another advantage. Let’s suppose you have a history-loving friend who enjoys historical novels, and you want to give her a book for Christmas. She might really enjoy my novel set in the period of Reconstruction, but it won’t be out in time for Christmas. With a pre-order, you can ask me for a Christmas card that will announce the “gift-to-come.” It will have a picture of the book, the date of arrival, and a place for you to sign your name. Problem solved, and you don’t even have to wrap the gift.
But let’s be honest. I get more out of a pre-order than you do, at least in the short term. And to understand why, you have to understand the methods by which “Best-Seller” lists are compiled. Every company has its own algorithms, but the idea is the same. The more copies a book sells, the more copies it will sell in the future. And since most of these lists are compiled every week, if not every day (or in the case of Amazon, every hour), the most recent sales take on an enormous importance.
Here’s an example. For several days in a row, last month, my current offering “Damned Yankee” sold one copy each day in the Kindle Book Store. Its ranking among the Top 100 — U.S. History — Civil War — Books about Abolition wavered around #90 to #97. That’s OK. It’s in the top 100 and has been there for months. But on one rainy Sunday afternoon, for reasons unknown, it sold seven copies within a couple of hours. And its rating in the top 100 jumped to #13. That put it on the first page of pictures of those “best sellers.” For the next several days, sales blossomed — not 7 every day, but 2 or 3, rather than 1.
Now, think about pre-orders. They don’t get charged — or paid for — until the day of publication. So for several months, the pre-orders can pile up. And if 20 people have pre-ordered the book, it will zoom to the top of its category ratings when those sales all hit the cash register. So WHEN you buy a book matters more than the simple act of buying it.
That’s why pre-orders are so important to authors. They are one of the kindest gifts you can give your favorite author.