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Almost every traditionally published book goes up for preorder before it comes out. However, the advice surrounding preorders can be confusing. Some indies say preorders are critical. Others say having a preorder for your book can hurt sales. 

Should you set up a preorder for your book? Are preorders a good idea or a bad idea? Who is right?

The short answer is that they are both right. Preorders can help or hurt, depending on what kind of author you are. To know whether they will help or hurt you, you need to understand the pros and cons of preorders. 

Pros of Setting Up a Preorder 

1. It forces you to delay the launch and build anticipation.

Indie authors commonly make the mistake of launching their book as soon as it is ready. They put their book on Amazon when the final edits are done and the cover is ready. That approach kills the opportunity to build anticipation. It is a terrible mistake because when you’re focused on cover revisions and manuscript edits, you can’t concentrate on having a good launch. 

2. Readers love preorders.

Brandon Sanderson sells more than half of his copies as preorders. By the second day of his book launch, he’s already sold more copies of that book than he will in the future.

3. Preorders help with inventory management. 

A traditionally published book is less likely to go out of stock on launch day if it has had a strong and long preorder window. With Amazon’s new procurement guidelines, this is more important than ever. 

One traditionally published author sold out of his book by 10:00 AM on launch day. It was very discouraging because his book was out of stock for the rest of his launch. If he’d had more preorders, the publisher would have believed in his book more and printed more copies.

4. Strong preorders help your publisher believe in your book. 

If your publisher believes that your book has legs, they will be open to investing more money in marketing. Weak preorder sales can diminish their excitement about your book.

5. You’ll have time to fix and optimize the Amazon page. 

Indie authors, especially first-time indies, can use the preorder window to ensure their Amazon sales page is effective. If you don’t know what A+ content is or how to add or attract endorsements, you need a long preorder window. Use the preorder period to make your Amazon page shine.

6. You’ll have a longer window to give media interviews. 

A strong media campaign is especially helpful for nonfiction books, but it’s also good for fiction. 

If you are doing radio, podcast, or YouTube interviews, you want to be able to direct listeners to a place where they can click to buy the book immediately.

Don’t count on listeners to remember your book two months later when it goes up for sale. It’s difficult to fit all your media appearances into your 30-day launch window, so having a long preorder window makes it easier to attract media interviews. 

For example, Jordan Peterson has a 285-day preorder on his book We Who Wrestle with God.

It doesn’t come out until November 19, 2024. That long window allows him to attract media attention. With every interview, he can point listeners to a link where they can purchase the book.

7. You’ll have more time to sell books without being judged by the number of ratings and reviews. 

A long preorder window is particularly helpful for brand-new authors. If you don’t know where your first 100 reviews will come from, they may not come at all. Your book may be doomed to a low number of reviews if you don’t have a strategy for getting a lot of ratings. 

During the preorder window, people can’t judge you by the number of reviews because Amazon forbids reviews on preorders. That also means you can’t be review-bombed by bots or trolls.

8. It’s easier to hit bestseller lists like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. 

Traditionally published books typically have a long preorder window because it makes it easier to hit bestseller lists like the New York Times and Wall Street Journal lists. Both lists count all the preorders on release day. Every sale Jordan Peterson makes during his 285-day preorder window will count on release day, which will likely put him on one of the big bestseller lists. 

9. It’s easier to hit the iBooks bestseller list.

Apple iBooks counts your preorders twice in terms of hitting a bestseller list. It counts the preorder as a sale on the day it happens and on launch day.

10. You’ll have time to practice marketing in a low-stakes environment. 

Again, one advantage of the preorder is that people can’t leave negative reviews for a book during the preorder window. You can see your data, determine what’s working, and make changes to your marketing before your book comes out.

11. You’ll have a long window for being a #1 New Release.

Your book can be labeled as a #1 New Release throughout the preorder period, not just on release day. Jordan Peterson’s book is currently labeled as a #1 New Release, even though it doesn’t come out until November. 

This screenshot was taken on March 19, eight Months before the book’s release. Notice the #1 New Release badge. 

12. A preorder window makes you an official Goodreads Author sooner.

You can’t put that author badge on your Goodreads profile until you have a book for sale on Amazon or available for preorder. If you are currently unpublished but want to start working on your Goodreads profile, make sure your book is up for preorder.

Making your book available for preorder gives you time to plan your launch without having to work on your book. Delaying the launch is one of the best ways for an indie author to boost sales. A preorder still allows people to buy your book, but it gives you time to launch it right. 

Why wouldn’t you do a preorder?

Cons of Setting Up a Preorder 

1. It’s harder to hit an Amazon bestseller list. 

Unlike the big bestsellers lists and iBooks, Amazon does not count preorder sales on release day. On Amazon, the preorder sale counts on the day it is preordered. Amazon’s policy on preorder sales is a disadvantage, particularly for authors who sell all their books on Amazon. 

Certain indie authors make all their money on Kindle Unlimited and, therefore, really need to rank on Amazon’s bestseller list. If they have a long preorder window, they won’t be able to rank there, which can hurt their sales in the long run.

Also, Amazon KDP currently doesn’t support preorders for paper books. If you want to make your paperback available for preorder, you need to go through Ingram Spark, which adds complexity. 

I’ve heard some buzz that KDP Print may be adding paperback preorders soon. Some authors have access to the beta. In the future, Amazon KDP print may allow you to place your book for preorder. Check the current rules for KDP preorders.

2. Your commitments must be kept. 

Overpromising can ruin your brand and reputation. If you say your book will be available on November 19 and it’s not, you may land in Amazon jail. You get one delayed preorder release per career. After that, if you delay or cancel a release, you go to Amazon jail for a year, where you are forbidden from creating any new preorders. 

My Recommendation on Preorders

There is a kind of indie author with a few thousand people on their email list who buy their book the moment it goes up for sale. That author can easily hit the Amazon charts if they avoid a preorder. 

For example, indie romance authors who depend on the Amazon list rankings to attract new readers would be wise to avoid a preorder. But for nearly everyone else, the pros of a preorder far outweigh the cons. 

Unless your strategy specifically calls for high placement on Amazon’s charts. I recommend a six-month preorder window.

Yes, six months. 

It will allow you to take a deep breath and give you time to make the launch happen correctly. During those six months, you can still sell your book.

You can adjust that window since you’re an adult and it’s a free country. If you’re doing a Kickstarter campaign, you may want to make it longer or shorter, depending on your campaign. But having your book available for preorder will likely help you.

Preorder Tips

Finish your book before you start your preorder.

Finishing keeps you safe from Amazon jail and lets you focus on your book launch. Launching a book takes time, energy, and focus. Don’t make the mistake of trying to plan a launch while doing final edits on your book and revisions on your cover.

Pick your preorder date strategically.

Once you pick your preorder date, you will be locked in. Choose a date that works for your schedule. Most traditional books launch on Tuesdays, so you may want to avoid Tuesdays unless the date is memorable or related to your book.

You may also want to avoid weekends because many people spend less time on the internet on weekends, and you’ll get less attention. But if the date is memorable and it happens to land on a Saturday, you could make it work.

Choose a date that works for you specifically. As far as which months are better for releases, big industry trends only matter when you’re selling tens of thousands of copies. If it’s your first book, simply choose a date that’s convenient for you.

You can create a preorder with a “Cover Coming Soon.”

Here is the preorder page for Brandon Sanderson’s upcoming Stormlight book. Notice how the cover says, “cover to be revealed.”

The “cover to be revealed” allows him to start getting sales for his book without announcing the cover. It also allows him to plan a big cover reveal event in the future.

Use the preorder window to make your Amazon page shine.

Check out the following episodes to find out how to optimize your Amazon page.

I have an episode called From Book Blurb to Bestseller: How to Craft Compelling Amazon Pages With Dave Chesson.

Create a launch plan around your release date.

If you want help creating a step-by-step launch plan for your book, check out the Book Launch Blueprint. This year will be the seventh and final year of the Blueprint, and registration closes on April 12, 2024. 

Register for the Book Launch Blueprint today.

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