A pre-sale period gives you an opportunity to build a foundation for your book’s success.
Without spending theme time and energy to make sure that foundation is ready, your book sales will suffer.
The best time to promote your book is before it is available to be sold.
Smart authors know that their pre-sale period can make or break a title and even start developing a strategy for targeting the market before their book is complete. They understand that being “best to market” beats being “first to market.”
The most successful authors are not thinking weeks in advance, but months.
It can be argued that your pre-sale period is so important, it should be the centerpiece of your book marketing and promotional campaign.
There’s a lot to do in your pre-sale period.
Technically, your pre-sale period is the time between the moment you hand your book over to retailers to when it’s actually available to be shipped to readers.
First-time authors often see this time as a chance to relax. You’ve finally finished your book and shipped it to retailers. It’s time to take a break, right? Wrong. In fact, as an independent author, you now have a whole new series of responsibilities to take care of.
For example, if your book will be available on January 1, you need to make sure all the distributors you’ve enlisted to sell your book — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc. — know that your book should become available on that date. It’s your responsibility to make sure all your partners have their ducks in a row.
To complicate matters, each retailer has its own schedule and process for handling the ingestion of new books. Some are on a weekly schedule, others are monthly. Because this involves the shipment of a physical book, there is a lot of prep work involved to set up an inventory number in each retailer’s catalog database.
If you don’t work to make sure everything is good to go for your book’s launch from a logistical standpoint, your sales will suffer.
If you’ve put in the work, as your book enters the various retailers’ systems, your listing will start appearing on retail websites around the globe — usually two to three weeks after you’ve finalized your files. This is when the critical part of your pre-sales period really starts and when the work you’ve put into getting everything set up for your book pays off.
It’s at this time that readers are able to purchase and pay for your book. This is exciting, but there’s a practical payoff: the longer your book is available for pre-order, the more time you have to send readers to Amazon and the other stores to accumulate orders. All these pre-sale orders count as sales on your release date, which gives you a good chance at cracking some top-100 bestseller sub-genre lists on sites like Barnes & Noble and Powell’s when that date comes.
Your pre-sale period is critical for your success on Amazon, but for different reasons, as your pre-sale numbers do not increase your chances of becoming a bestseller on Amazon. Amazon counts pre-sale orders on the day your book is actually ordered, not all combined on the eventual release date.
That’s unfortunate, but there’s a reason why your pre-sale period is important as a self-published author on Amazon (and every other retail outlet): inventory estimates.
During the pre-sale period, Amazon uses its inventory algorithm to build a sales forecast for new titles. Amazon takes into account things like product page views, adds to wish lists, and actual orders. This data is used to compile a two-week inventory model.
The more traffic you can send to your book product page, the more copies of your book Amazon will order and restock.
Essentially, this is a way of proving to Amazon that you have a following and that your book will be successful, which helps your book become successful. Titles that are in stock will be listed on Amazon as “Available” and will ship immediately.
If your book product page receives little traffic in the pre-sales period, Amazon will likely not stock any inventory of your book at launch. On your Amazon page, your book will be listed as “Available To Ship In 7 to 11 Days,” because Amazon knows that most new books will, at some point, see some sales.
If some period of time passes and still no traffic goes to your page, Amazon might move it to “Temporarily Out of Stock,” which is the online equivalent of walking into your local bookstore and finding that your book is not on the shelves. Your readers can still purchase your book, but they’ll have to be patient.
This hurts you badly as an independent author who is depending on Amazon to help your book sell: you need your book to be there when your growing base of readers go looking for it.
Here are some ideas to help build buzz around your release.
Plan out a multi-week pre-order period with a different promotion each week to help build interest.
Hold contests, do chapter reveals, conduct giveaways, and host your own blog tours.