Preorders: What They Are and Why They Matter

pre·or·der
verb: order (an item of merchandise) before it is available, with the understanding that it will be shipped later.
noun: an order for an item that has not yet been made commercially available.

If you’re an avid reader, odds are you’ve preordered a book. When you purchase a book before it’s on sale to the public, that’s a preorder. (Remember the good old days of Harry Potter midnight release parties? *nostalgia*) So what’s the big deal? Why are preorders so important? I’ll give you three reasons.

  1. Preorders count toward first-week sales. That’s right—every book that’s purchased from the moment the book is announced counts toward first-week sales. With the publishing marketplace more competitive than ever, the number of copies sold in those early weeks can be make or break. If a retailer doesn’t see a book performing, they have millions of other options to choose from.
  1. Preorders can translate to bestseller lists. Don’t get me started on the recent shake-up on the New York Times bestseller lists. (I know, you weren’t trying to.) But even with the lists dwindling, preorders remain an important tool for hitting bestseller status. Like I said in point #1, preorders count toward first-week sales, and most bestseller lists are weekly. Ergo, if you get a ton of preorders, you will have a ton of sales in a single week, giving you a shot at hitting the covetous bestseller list.
  1. Preorders can influence stock. Preorders are also a good indication about consumer interest in a book. If a lot of people preorder a book, retailers are more likely to order more copies to keep in stock. If there aren’t many preorders, retailers may choose to stock fewer copies.

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If you’re an author with a book on the way, start thinking about how you can drive preorders for your book. Here are three ways you can increase preorders for your project.

  1. Create bonus materials. Oftentimes, preorders are incentivized with giveaways—like extra chapters or fun promotions—that encourage early buyers to get exclusive content from the author. Think of ways you can reward the early bird fans who want to buy your book. Digital giveaways are usually free giveaways, so I recommend starting there.
  1. Be available. Online retailers like Amazon and Barnes & Noble often have landing pages for almost every book, but your title may be harder to preorder from a physical store. Visit your local bookshop and ask if they will allow customers to preorder the book. Also check to see if discounts are available for your book online or in stores.Certain retailers will also provide low price points for preordered books, sometimes giving discounts up to 50% off the regular price. Many retailers make these decisions independently, but if you’re selling your own book, consider offering a preorder discount.
  1. Make the ask. Encourage people who are planning to buy your book to preorder it instead of waiting for it to be released in stores. I’m mainly talking about family and friends here, but you can also reach out to readers via your social media, blog, website, radio station, etc. Explaining the benefits of preorders—for the author and the reader—can help move the needle!

If you want to learn more about preorders, check out the links below:

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