Why Pre-sale?

Pre-order for books is a fairly new tactic, now wholeheartedly embraced by Amazon, iBooks, Smashword and other on-line sellers. My newest Zack Tolliver, FBI novel Under Desert Sand will be placed on pre-order at Amazon.com immediately after Easter. In this article I will discuss what I feel are the advantages and disadvantages of using pre-order for the author––and for the buyer.

I have placed books on pre-order with Amazon Kindle twice before, with mixed results. The first book I tried was CAT. I hyped it a lot and sold several copies before its actual publication date. Later, I put my new, experimental (for me) mid-grade book Payu’s Journey up for pre-sale. I sold just one (thanks, mom). But to be fair, that sale represented a large portion of all sales for that book as the month went on (Payu did not sell well as an Ebook – more about why in another article).

On the whole, I found the results discouraging, perhaps not good enough to warrant the preparation, hype, and angst as the deadline approaches. But I’ve learned some things since then, which I will share. But first, I’ll examine the benefits to the buyer/reader, thus raising the immediate question: are there any? It’s not as if in this digital age there won’t be enough copies to go around. Yet, after some research and listening in chat rooms I found a few reasons to purchase on pre-order:

1. The memory factor. How often have you read about a great new book and decided to buy it, only to find it is not yet available? The months go by toward publication and the book slips from mind – opportunity lost. Now you can pre-order the book, and then forget about it. Most stores will Email you when the book becomes available.
2. Price. Often (usually) the price offered at pre-sale is lower. Amazon guaranties the price will be the lowest for the book during the pre-sale period all the way to midnight on release day. This means if you pre-order a month in advance at one price, and two days later the price dips on pre-order, that’s the price you’ll ultimately pay. Often (as with my books) the price on pre-order is the lowest for the book, ever.
3. Convenience. If it is a book you know you will buy in any case, buy it on pre-order and “git-er-done”.
4. Shelve it. The beauty of digital books is unlimited shelf space. Pre-order the books you know you want and let them accumulate. Never be without that bedtime reading.

The benefits for the author are clearer, even if some are misunderstood. Here are a few:

1. Visibility. Visibility is king, and pre-order raises visibility for your book immediately.
2. ASIN. On Amazon, your book is assigned an ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number). With the ASIN, you can create links from any URL to your book, simplifying the task of finding it for potential readers. You can also use it to create a link to the review page for your book, to simplify (and hopefully encourage) that process.
3. Preview. Pre-order on Kindle offers you a preview of how your book description will look on your page, which you can change if need be at Author Central later. You can preview other components as well, and make changes quickly after the book is released.
4. Coming Soon. Your book is shown through the Coming Soon filter, offering extra visibility.
5. Momentum. If your book sells many pre-orders, it can begin life with a strong sales rating, and good momentum.(Fair warning: if not, the opposite is true.)

There are concerns, and some disadvantages and several risks to authors offering pre-orders. They will be topics for future articles in this column. All these concerns can be overcome with due diligence and preparation. Particularly, Amazon’s ever-adapting algorithm works harder to benefit the author utilizing pre-sale, by increasing the book’s visibility more than ever before. Just how much more, and how effectively, are two questions I hope to answer after the pre-sale of Under Desert Sand is complete.

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