Have you launched a book and found it difficult to sell copies? Maybe you tried paid advertising and lost money, or posted about your new book on social media, but heard crickets? If so, it could be time to rethink your launch strategy.
Many traditionally published authors include a 2-3 month pre-order phase. Selling copies to readers before the book comes out generates anticipation and excitement.
I work with clients who want to get their books on the NY Times and other bestseller lists. I tell my clients to promote their book before publication to sell as many copies as possible in advance.
Indie authors can apply this approach too. If done well, the pre-order phase sets a solid foundation of book sales leading into your launch week.
What is a pre-order campaign?
A pre-order is a sale before the book is available. You are asking readers to buy your book early and trust that you will deliver the goods.
Traditional publishers create an Amazon pre-order page months in advance.
Indie authors–you can also list your book as a pre-order on Amazon. You upload the cover, book description, and a manuscript. Note that your manuscript doesn’t have to be final until closer to the publication date, giving you time to make the finishing touches.
You must choose a release date with Amazon (up to 90 days in advance), so be sure the publication date is one you can hit. If you miss it, Amazon will block you from doing pre-orders for one year.
Pre-orders will count toward your Amazon sales rank. You’ll find the KDP pre-order page here.
You are asking the reader to buy something they won’t be receiving for weeks, even months. This is easier for authors whose books are highly anticipated (think George RR Martin’s next Game of Thrones book).
For those of us who are lesser known, how can we sweeten the deal for readers and make it enticing to pre-order? The solution that works for many authors is to bundle your book sale with other valuable content.
If you have a large online platform, consider selling the book as a pre-order directly on your website. You’ll need an e-commerce tool to capture direct sales and a way to distribute the books. For paperback or hardcover books, you’ll need to capture the shipping address at the time of purchase. Then, work with a third party to ship the books to customers. Be sure to factor in taxes and the cost of shipping each book when you determine your sales price.
Pricing is up to you, and you may need to experiment until you find what works. While some authors ask for the publisher’s full retail price, others give away the book for the price of shipping. I’ve seen all kinds of approaches and what works depends on the author and his or her specific goals.
On Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), you control the price. If you want to drive a high volume of pre-orders, you could price at 99 cents. When bundling free books, consider pricing higher and letting readers know the total value they are receiving is greater (e.g., Receive $15.99 in free books for only $2.99).
How does a pre-order campaign work?
Send your readers to a book landing page that describes the book and the many bonuses for ordering early. Capture the orders, then have the books shipped (work with third parties) or distribute copies another way.
There are many ways to get readers to your landing page: email campaigns, social media, guest blogs, affiliate campaigns, advertising, and more.
Authors need a website landing page where readers can learn about and buy the book. Here are the components of a successful book landing page:
Clean, simple design with a title that lets the reader know that the page is about your book.
A professional 3-D image of the book at the top of the page with the author’s photo or a designed banner.
A few bullets of copy that signal the benefits to readers.
How readers can order the book (a call-to-action button works best).
A video if you have one—a trailer or video of the author greeting the reader and describing the book.
A description of the bonuses the reader will receive for pre-ordering. Include the dollar value of each item and the total value of everything. Each bonus should have a small 3D graphic to represent what it is—ebook, webinar, course, etc.
Another call-to-action button below the bonuses.
Sales copy describing the problem the book solves, benefits to the reader, or the promise of what they will discover (fiction).
Endorsements from other influential authors (quotes with high-res photos).
Testimonials from other readers (if applicable).
An author bio.
A final call-to-action button at the bottom of the page.
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