Publishers will tell you that one of the best ways to build momentum for your upcoming book is to encourage pre-orders from readers. What’s the big deal about pre-orders?
Pre-orders are stockpiled and then counted officially as sales the first week your book releases.
That means your title will burst onto the book world scene like a race horse out of the gate. These sales are built up over months of readers pre-ordering. But the books are all shipped during the first week. That means the chances of your book being on a national best-seller list are the strongest at the book’s release. Especially because pre-order sales will be combined with sales from readers who buy the title when it releases.
Establishing a book as a hit its first week can be a momentum boost.
Readers might have thought about buying, for example, Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments but hadn’t pre-ordered the volume. The first week of release, it sold 125,000 copies, making it the fifth biggest hardcover fiction launch since Nielson Bookscan started keeping track of such numbers in the early 2000s. On seeing the headlines and other news coverage The Testaments received its first week, potential buyers might well make the decision they need to read the book so they can be part of the societal conversation. As a result, during the title’s second week it sold more than 111,000 copies.
Now, Atwood’s book was highly anticipated as the followup to The Handmaid’s Tale. So it stands to reason the momentum would continue in week 2 for The Testaments. Not to mention that the book was embargoed, which means copies would not be available for readers until the date and time set by the publisher, which also helps to build excitement. All of Atwood’s fans could get their hands on the book on the same day. And, like Harry Potter releases, bookstores created Handmaid events that started at midnight the day of release.
Why some books’ sales don’t grow after the release.
Some books surprise us by popping up on best-seller lists when first released. These often are titles that benefit the most from the stockpiled pre-orders. A British article about pre-orders, which you can read here, took a look at UK books that had large pre-orders because they were written by individuals with a huge online presence. But those titles nose dived their second week. That’s because their fans, the most obvious people to purchase the books, had pre-ordered them. So the biggest demand for the books was like a solar flare–burning very bright but not for long.
Here are the numbers the article writer assembled for these social-media-centric books:
Hinch Yourself Happy
Week 1: 160,302
Week 2: 61,210
% fall: 61.8%
Pinch of Nom
Week 1: 210,506
Week 2: 122,073
% fall: 42%
Even with the precipitous sales drop from week 1, both of these books still performed well in week 2. That’s because week 1 created momentum, which is the whole idea behind pre-orders.
I recently wrote a blog post on the concept of an author focusing on velocity (aka momentum) rather than sales numbers in which I presented some ideas on how to generate pre-release enthusiasm. You can read the post here.
What compels you as a reader to pre-order a book? Have you ever focused on driving pre-orders when you promoted one of your titles?
How book pre-orders can create sales momentum. Click to tweet.
Why authors should focus on pre-orders for upcoming book releases. Click to tweet.
Yes, my dear, please buy my opus
(though you haven’t held it in your hands)
and join in the glowing focus
of congnoscenti what understands.
My words will spark the conversation
and will provide the perfect foil
to change the village and the nation
(did someone just say, ‘snake oil’?).
I’m not an avaricious pig
(though I do prefer the ring of ‘swine’),
but I believe in thinking big
and laying hold to that what’s mine.
Do please buy, and make it speedy;
a payment’s due on my Lamborghini.
Kristen Joy Wilks
I very rarely pre-order a book, less than once a year. But if I have loved all the other books in an author’s series and I know that some reader-friendly event is coming up (a long car drive, camping, etc) at the same time as a release, and I get $ to spend on a book but the book I want isn’t out yet … that will push me into pre-ordering. The stars kind of have to align for me to do it.
Sounds pretty much like the stars AND the planets need to align for you. I pre-order when I find out about a favorite author’s upcoming release and know I’ll want to read the book. That way I won’t forget about the book by the time I’m looking for my next reading experience.
Janet, thank you for this information. I have to really love the author to pre-order at the full price. When Laura Frantz releases a new novel, I will gladly pay full price. But sometimes I see books being offered at a discount rate if you pre-order, and if I know I’ve enjoyed the author’s work in the past or if it’s a friend’s debut novel, I’ll go ahead and order it. I really loved the new release by Amanda Dykes, Whose Waves These Are. I’ll definitely jump at the chance to pre-order her next novel.
Mary Kay Moody
I’m with you, Shelli. And Amanda’s new book IS available for pre-order ~ though I don’t know why Amazon doesn’t have the cover. It is stunning, I think. You can see it on my or her FB page if you haven’t seen it. And how is yours progressing? Excitement awaits!
Mary Kay, mine is coming along. Working so hard on it. Thank you for asking.
The more book launches I’ve taken part in the more I see why this is so important for the author. This makes it more clear though. So helpful even as the reader to know.