Creating eBook Bestsellers: Plan Ahead with Pre-orders

Now that we are back from BEA it’s time for a recap! Kelly Peterson moderated a rock star panel that dished the tips and tricks of creating an ebook bestseller.

Meet the panel stars:

kelly panel

  • Erin Gorham, Digital Account Manager at HarperCollins, is one of the smartest people you’ll ever meet.  She had great tips to share with both publishers and authors.
  • Nathan Maharaj, Director of Merchandising at Kobo, oversees an international team in eight languages and a dozen countries.  He had great perspective about how to really make merchandising count!
  • Susan Ruszala, President of NetGalley, spoke about review copies and how NetGalley reaches nearly 200,000 bloggers, reviewers and librarians.

The biggest takeaway? A four-part comprehensive marketing plan is key:

  • Pre-order
  • General Merchandising
  • Discount Marketing
  • Free Books

These four areas make up the foundation of success owned by big publishers. But small publishers and independent authors can take advantage of these approaches too.

In today’s blog, we’ll dive deep into Pre-order. Check back for additional articles on General Merchandising, Discount Marketing and Free Books.

Go Long

The length of the runway is key. Erin’s recommended best practice is to make your titles available at least six months prior to on-sale. The longer the better! While sales spike in the two months prior to release, those extra months just give customers even more opportunity to find the title. Plus, as Nathan pointed out, retailers factor in those sales when deciding what to promote. And since pre-order sales are all counted on release day, they help drive bestseller status.


Build the Buzz

Having a long pre-order runway also gives the retailers time to build excitement for the title with pre-order marketing.  Those placements can roll right into General Merchandising, so it gives retailers more of a chance to leverage the assets they make, like banner ads, in different ways.


Test the Waters

Pre-order sales are a great way to tell what is working with a marketing campaign. Using NetGalley to test the metadata and reader response is even better. As Susan remarked, most books offered on NetGalley are not yet for sale, which enables the publisher or author to process and respond to reader feedback.  Receive a lukewarm review? Did the description not lure in a lot of readers? Then fix it. Erin frequently uses this time to make adjustments on a title to ensure a successful launch. INscribe’s advice? Build a group of readers who will spread the word about your books, and share your NetGalley widget with them.  Ask them to schedule a review that fits best with your schedule:  staggering works for long term buzz, but sometimes releasing numerous reviews simultaneously works beautifully.

The Millionaire’s Secret Baby

Nathan mentioned that genre fiction does best in total pre-orders.  We definitely see the same thing!  Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy, Mystery and Thriller all lend themselves to repeat purchases.  Those readers read more than the average bear, so they’re more willing to try new authors.  If you are trying to break into these genres, keep in mind that building your pre-order plan is even more important!

millionaire's secret

Work the System

Pre-orders are counted twice in some retailers’ algorithms.  That means your book will show up more often in the “Customers Who Bought This, Bought…” areas of those sites. This is one of the most clicked areas on any page; customers like recommendations catered to their tastes.

people who bought

Deliver the Goods

Because pre-order is a contract with their customers, all retailers need to know the asset is going to arrive in plenty of time.  At INscribe Digital, we request that assets be delivered a month before release.  This gives cushion for fixing failed files, processing time on the retailer end, and some room to spare ahead of release day.  Why is that critical? If the file is not there to be delivered, then customers paid for a product but DON’T GET IT.  The one-two punch of a digital order gets interrupted. As an author or publisher, pre-order is a tremendous asset to you–but you must be prepared to fulfill that promise, both to your retailer partner and your readers.

We believe in pre-orders.  Smart execution of the pre-order is key…so make sure you leave plenty of time for your book to grow sales before its release. We’ve seen them contribute to big success for many of our titles. Now it’s your turn!