Blast off!! Launch your books with pre-order campaigns.
Updated: Apr 17
Screenshot from Amazon on January 18, 2022
If you want to boost the success of your book launches, consider using a marketing campaign based on pre-orders.
A pre-order campaign almost always produces a spike in the Amazon sales rankings on the official release date and often results in continued high sales rankings for several weeks.
One good example is Canadian author and financial journalist Andrew Hallam who used a pre-order campaign for Balance: How to Invest and Spend for Happiness, Health, and Wealth, which is his fourth book. Here are the early results from his pre-order campaign:
· On the official release day of January 18, 2022, the book zoomed to #1 in his Amazon niche category surpassing the new release by mega-bestselling financial author Dave Ramsey. (See that screenshot above.)
· It was high in the overall Kindle book sales rankings on the first day and remained high for more than a week.
· It accumulated 22 very positive reviews in the first 10 days and more than 100 favorable reviews in the first four weeks.
· Almost eight weeks after the official release, the print version still ranked in the top 100,000 in overall sales on Amazon. (See footnote re non-Amazon sales.)
Sometimes, pre-order campaigns can produce high sales rankings on Amazon before the release date.
One example is New Yorker Maud Newton’s debut book Ancestor Trouble, which has become one of the highly-anticipated books of 2022 in the USA. As you can see by clicking that link from the publisher, people can pre-order the book online from nine different booksellers including Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Walmart, Target, and independent bookstores and booksellers.
Even before the release date, all three versions rank high in Amazon niche categories and in the top 200,000 overall. The reviews posted by people who read the book as soon as Amazon delivers it will help even more. All of that will help sell more copies.
Here are three other examples of current pre-order campaigns:
· The seventh book by Australian author Megan Norris, The Messiah’s Bride, is benefitting from pre-order PR activity in Australia that began far before the release date. I don’t see it on Amazon USA yet, but it will likely appear soon.
· DV Berkom, based in the Seattle area, is using a pre-order campaign for Fatal Objective, the 12th book in her Leine Basso thriller series. It’s scheduled for release in June and already ranks high in its Amazon niche category.
· The second book by Mazey Eddings, based in Philadelphia, won’t be released until September of 2022. The pre-order sales for Lizzie Blake's Best Mistake have already boosted the forthcoming title into the top 100 in her Amazon niche category, where her March 1, 2022, release ranks in the top 10 in the same niche category
Amazon has a good overview of how indie authors can create a pre-order status for a new title. (You should note that Amazon doesn’t offer pre-orders for paperback versions.)
If you’re interested in more information about how to use a pre-order campaign, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has published what it calls The Ultimate Guide to Preorders for Indie Authors.
Personal perspective: Simply offering a book as a pre-order is not enough. Authors need to publicize the book for several months before the release date. That’s akin to the months of preparation at NASA before a successful launch.
A pre-order period of several months gives more time to create favorable buzz about the book, including distributing advance copies to get blurbs and reviews.
All of that goes into the book description online and in trade journals, which helps generate news media interest and can lead to news media and podcast interviews surrounding the official release date.
Hallam started his PR campaign more than six months before the release date. He had some advice from his hybrid publisher but did all the work himself. The major part of his pre-order marketing campaign relied on podcasts, and his website has a growing archive of the podcasts.
Newton and Norris and Eddings are benefitting from multi-pronged publicity campaigns backed by their traditional publishers. Newton also began posting frequently about the pre-order in July of 2021 on Twitter and Facebook and Medium—eight months before the release date. And she is using her newsletter on Substack and her literary blog to promote the pre-order.
Berkom, who has USA Today bestseller status, is a self-published author and oversees marketing by herself. Her PR campaign for the latest title began five months before the June 27 release date with a cover reveal in her February 27 newsletter and a link to the pre-order offer on Amazon.
So, how many authors use pre-order campaigns? Here are some interesting results from a recent survey of ALLi members:
· 51 percent of members always use pre-orders
· 23 percent sometimes use them
· 22 percent haven’t tried yet
· just 4 percent said never
Footnote: Sales rankings from Amazon are a publicly-visible indication of sales success, but they show only part of the picture for any author. The more comprehensive NPD Bookscan service reports point-of-sale transactions for Amazon and bookstores and retailers such as Walmart and Target, but those data aren’t publicly available.
And some authors, including Hallam, have developed an additional lucrative market by selling many thousands of print copies direct to businesses that give books to employees and customers as rewards and incentives. His hybrid publisher even prints short-run special editions tailored to business clients who want the logo of the company printed on the book cover.
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