Is it really 3 months since amazon opened the pre-order option to Indie writers? 3 months since I was excited enough to blog about it? 'One Sixth of a Gill' was duly published on November 1st and in the afterglow of post-publication, did pre-ordering add to the fireworks? Is it a good idea?
|To pre-order or not to pre-order
-2. Get editorial reviews (positive quotes and permission to use them) from readers who like the book and, preferably, have some status either to do with the subject or the book world.
-1. Approach professional bloggers/reviewers who often require months' notice pre-publication. (e.g. Foreword - 2 months in advance to even be considered for a free review) Use your editorial quotes in your formal request for review. You can still get professional reviews at a later stage; the going rate is $80-$400. Yes, this world is so crazy you can pay $400 for a 450 word review - more than most authors ever make for writing a novel. Yes, I think that is outrageous.
1. You need a near-finished version of the final ebook and your polished, perfect jacket. You can change both before D-Day but your cover is your book's image, literally, so changing it is not a good idea. Amazon requires proof of life in the form of an ebook file that is a book-to-be, if not the final edit, or it won't be accepted for pre-order. I don't know whether anyone has had a book rejected but I wouldn't risk it.
If you do upload a new book jacket you must re-click on pre-order (2nd page) not save as draft or the new jacket won't appear. Whenever you re-click on pre-order the project is locked for 24 hours and 5 days before D-Day the whole project is locked, full stop, in launch position and no change possible.
2. Set your publication date. I liked having a date to focus my marketing and it made the online party planning easier. My goodreads giveaway finished on 1st November; my facebook launch was on 1st November; reviewers of advance copies were asked to post on or after 1st November. Your book needs to be uploaded in its final version a week before publication date or amazon gets cross and withdraws pre-order rights for a year. Apparently, the same applies if you try to play games with the publication date to up your rank by combining pre-orders with launch-day sales; I don't play games so I don't know.
My big problem with the publication date was with the print book. I could not control this exactly in the same way so I published it ahead of e-book D-Day. This highlighted all kinds of interesting consequences (see below)
To decide on a date make sure a) you'll have the book in its final state and b) you'll have completed all the buzz build-up you planned - make a list backwards from D-Day.
3. Your pre-order book gets its amazon page. Great! You can - and should - put editorial reviews and link to your amazon author page. Make it look good because this is a reader's first impression of your book. You can use the page to approach bloggers and reviewers but they are more likely to read (and review) your book if they read reviews on your page. Yes, the dreaded catch 22 - hence the -1. stage in planning - get some review comments first, even before pre-publicity.
Look at your page as if you don't know it. Let's assume you have a great jacket and blurb, and that genre is obvious. Many readers like to 'Look inside' - stop there. No 'Look Inside' until publication date. Great blurb - no, wait. It looks awful. It has lost all formatting so there's no spacing, no italics/bold and the main bit of your blurb drops below 'Read more' so if readers can't be bothered to click on it they've missed your irresistible hook.
Go to amazon author central on .com and re-format so your description looks good, so your editorial quotes look good, so your author comment looks and so your dog looks good! You get the idea. Then, with a large pillow to hand, go to amazon.co.uk It all looks completely different. Either cry into or bash your head against the pillow (depending on temperament) then adjust via amazon.com author central - again. The changes there feed into .co.uk but not vice versa. I once spent happy hours creating a new author page on amazon.fr (as I live in France) to discover that I'd created my twin - another me, with the same name. It took me many anguished emails in franglais to murder the evil twin. Be warned!
One really good feature on the book page was the row of books along the bottom with amazon's 'readers who viewed this item also viewed...' Not only did it pretty up the page but it gave me an early indiaction as to where my book fitted into amazon's categories. Speaking of which, I had time to contact amazon and get the book into the right categories before D-Day.
4. What about the print book? I used Create Space this time and wanted to bring out the print book on 1st November. Neat! Er, no. Impossible, more like! Amazon does not allow mere Indies to have a pre-order facility for print books, even via create Space. Bad show, amazon! There is a workaround using Amazon Advantage but my brain had more than enough to worry about so I passed on that. As soon as I read that there had been a hic on timing and delivery, I thought, 'Nope.'
So I brought the book out a bit early but didn't publicise the fact, except to a couple of early reviewers. I asked amazon to link paperback with ebook and hey presto! the pre-order ebook now had reviews showing (otherwise not possible until publication date). Also, the ebook now had a 'Look Inside' facility - showing the print interior until the ebook was live. Useful!
If amazon doesn't review its policy re pre-order for print books from Indies and/or posting of reviews on Indie pre-order books (both option are available to the big publishers, who are happily using amazon's ring-fenced Vine review system to get advance reviews on pre-order pages) then I would seriously look at publishing the print book first to get all the material I want on the ebook page.
5. Party all-day! The facebook launch party on my author page was a great success and there are still stragglers lying around, drunk and happy :) Gatecrash and take a look if you want to see what a real party looks like. I loved the way amazon released the ebook at midnight in each different amazon time zone - it was like New Year's Eve (but then I had overdone the champagne). To see so many people drop by was fun.
I feel a bit foolish as there are so many clever, bestselling Indie writers out there crunching numbers and giving advice on how to work the system but perhaps my bumbling methods can offer a different viewpoint. The pre-order option organised my lead-up to publication and I think that's important. and I have definitely had a boost to sales of all my books in the last couple of weeks.
It usually takes me two or three years to write a book. 'One Sixth of a Gill' simmered over many years.That is the kind of writer I am and the kind of book I write, so any marketing techniques will have to fit my workflow, not the other way around. I'm never going to take advice like 'write a book every 90 days' but if you do, there are further tips in two excellent blogs, which will suit you.
If you want an analysis of pre-order's impact on ratings and ranks, Angela Quarles is much better at all of that than I am; here's her clear report on using amazon pre-order for a debut author. Another helpful blog on the subject, especially if you write books a lot more quickly than I do, is Susan Kaye Quinn's. Susan also has a neat way of gaming the system re print books - and in this case, I'm not against gaming!
As for me, I'm off back to the 12th century...