Pre-orders can be useful and other genre groups and individuals use it to great benefit. But, you need to know why you’re using it and also what the state of your fan base is to maximise your pre-order benefits.
Some Things We Know about Pre-Orders in Amazon
Firstly, pre-orders pull day one (1) sales away from your launch. The more sales you have, the better rank you’ll likely get. This is important since a good rank can help visibility and thus sales.
I say can, because you have to understand why indie authors care about rank so much. Rank by itself means nothing (since it is all relevant. If everyone else in the world sold 1 copy that day and you sold 2, you’d rank 1 on Amazon theoretically (if they only counted 1 day sales which they don’t) ).
So. Rank is relative. It is also specific to country sites (Amazon.com (US) rank is not the same as UK Amazon and it’s different for Canada, etc.).
Now, the reason why rank is important is because rank CAN increase your visibility in a few ways. They are:
– display in the Bestsellers category for your book (Top 100 only)
– display in the New Bestsellers (again, only Top 100)
– the bestseller tag (i.e. if you are no.1 in any of your categories).
Now, don’t get confused between rank and sales. Higher ranks means you show higher on these listings (since you are outselling others); but it doesn’t necessarily translate to higher sales.
However, higher SALES can mean more visibility via also boughts (i.e. your books show up as ‘Customers also bought’ books on more books) and also on keyword searches (it depends on sales per keyword).
Next, we know that some portion of pre-orders translate to day 1 rank. We don’t know how much, if it’s a straight % or a rolling number and a % total, or what. My assumption (as of writing this in Feb 2021) is that it’s a rolling number average of your pre-orders per day plus a certain % your total pre-orders goes into your day 1 rank.
It could be that a shorter pre-order to focus sales quickly can actually help, especially if you
can hit up multiple newsletters, etc. to stack a ton of pre-orders quickly.
This is UNLIKE places like Kobo where your rank is the total number of pre-orders you get.
Fan Base Considerations
If you are new author, you need as many sales on day one as you can get. The more interest you can build up BEFORE the book releases, the better. If you can interest people enough to be hungry for your work on release, you might be able to get them all to buy on release. If you spread this number out over a long pre-order (say a month); you might not get any real bump in rankings.
For example, let’s say you do social media posts. Each social media posts interests… say 10 people per day. Over 10 days, you have a 100 people interested in your book. If you had a pre-order, you might get 30% of them to buy from you. So, 30 sales. But only a small % of that number, say 10% of the 30 sales shows up on your rank, registering you 3 sales when your pre-order goes live. Of the remaining 70 people, 50% forget about you and the other 35 buy from you immediately.
You now have a total of 38 Sales registered for rank purposes in Amazon.
If you did not do a pre-order, you have 100 people interested, of which 50% forget about you. Now, you have 50 sales coming in on day 1 of your order. Your total number for rank purposes is 50 sales.
That means you WILL rank higher than if you had a pre-order. However, you will also have made fewer sales (with a pre-order example, you had 65 sales).
It’s possible that with your better rank, you end up on the top 100 list, you end up getting a yellow bestseller marker, which drives even more interest and reminds those 50 who forgot about you to buy. Or it might not.
For most new authors, I recommend you skip long pre-orders since your rank will be hurt even further. A short pre-order can be useful (especially if you are using things like paperbacks, hardcovers, category optimisation, etc.) but it’s often better to do a ‘soft’ pre-order launch.
If you’re established and have a big fan base (see Eric Ugland as an example or myself to some extent), we can rely on our fans to pick up the book on day 1. So pre-orders only
mildly affect our sales. Remember, not everyone will pre-order.
What Pre-Orders Do with an Existing Fanbase
A pre-order basically allows you to catch people who are reading the series now (and want to make sure they get the latest book) or die hard fans. Long pre-orders are really good for the first group in particular, since you grab them right after they finish reading. Or pre-orders when you do a rapid release to keep them grabbing the next book.
From my experiments, a long pre-order (3+ months) do NOT affect readthrough to the same extent as sliders/hooks/cliffhangers in previous books do. What a long pre-order does is actually advance sales, bringing customers who might have read your book in say, month 2 of release into month 1 since they have pre-ordered the book and have it in their library.
It also has minimal effect on shifting KU readers to book sales (around 3-5% in my experience). This can be a large number, depending on your book prices/KENP ratio, but it’s low.
Putting your book up early lets you link paperbacks and hardcovers (and audiobooks if you are doing a simultaneous launch).
You also can check and adjust categories for your book during the pre-order stage. This can be helpful if you are trying to get the yellow Amazon bestseller tag.
Also boughts can be created during the pre-order stage. This is important, but only works if you can make people buy your work as a pre-order. Otherwise, no also boughts will be created.
A short pre-order (7-14 days) can help generate sales, link up books, fix categories and keywords and ensure you don’t have to worry about Amazon messing with your files or taking too long releasing. It does mean people can find and buy your book, but with a shortish pre-order since the rollover is a %, you might be able to stack a high enough rollover pre-order number to help.
Kindle Unlimited borrows affect rank. At what ratio or %, we do not know. However, if you have a large KU base, a long pre-order might not affect your rank much either (as a large number of your readers will wait till it’s time to get your book in KU).
Like the business blog post? Want to support me writing more of them? Want to read ahead (2 weeks) of others? Become a Patron and choose the $2-tier to be able to read the business posts only and ask questions about the business side of writing.