Should You Pre-Order Novels?

How Your Choice Affects Your Favorite Author

From a reader’s point of view, the benefit of pre-ordering is generally that you receive the book to read on day one, without having to remember to go get it. Even books pre-ordered on Amazon are shipped so that you receive them on release day. That’s all fantastic, but from an author’s point of view, things are a little more complicated…and the long-term effects can make it back to the reader. I’m going to explain how this works for both audiobooks ordered via Audible, and e-books/print books pre-ordered via Amazon. Despite both companies being owned by Amazon, the answers are polar opposites. Here’s why.

AUDIBLE – When you place a pre-order on Audible, it doesn’t affect the sales rank right away. All of those orders stack up and “go live” on day one of a book’s release. If you sell 1000 copies in the months before release, and another three hundred on day one, Audible’s algorithms sees your day one sales as 1300, which can propel you onto the bestseller lists, can help you get a lot more exposure, increases sales, and kick things off in a big way. This is ideal.

Should I pre-order audiobooks? YES!

Your pre-order helps our release day efforts in a big way, and even a brief stint in the top 100, or at #1 can alter the trajectory of a novel’s success in positive ways.

AMAZON – The way Amazon handles pre-orders is the exact opposite. The moment you place your order, the purchase affects the book’s sales rank. An author might still sell 1000 copies in the months before release, but that trickle of sales won’t have any meaningful impact on sales rank or exposure. In some ways, they make it harder to hit bestseller lists. Your day one total sales might be 1300 still, but Amazon sees that figure as 300, not as 1300. Big difference.

[UPDATE!] While my original source of information on this subject was an Amazon author rep  who advised (a few years ago) me to not do pre-orders, which was reiterated recently by a publisher, I have now heard from a few indie authors who say that Amazon just recently changed how they treat pre-orders, counting them towards day one sales. If true, this is awesome and changes my recommendation for both e-book and print editions.  If someone can confirm this for me somehow, I’ll alter the article further to reflect this change.

Should I pre-order e-books from Amazon? NO! [UPDATE] But maybe… YES?

Buy them on release day. You still get them instantly, but you’ll make a positive impact on the book’s overall success, just as you do when posting a review. If you’re a forgetful person and you don’t want to miss ordering the novel, go for it. It’s still a helpful feature for many people.

Should I pre-order print books from Amazon? MAYBE. [UPDATE] But maybe… YES?

Print books take time to ship. If you want to read the novel on day one, you should pre-order it. The other consideration with print book pre-orders is that Amazon stocks physical books (in part) based on pre-orders. If there aren’t any, it’s POSSIBLE (but kind of unlikely these days) that there will be a delay in shipping if the book is out of stock.

The long-term effect of these things is cumulative. If no one pre-ordered on Audible, and everyone pre-ordered on Amazon, the negative effect would likely be noticeable to the attentive author, who tracks the sales of every book, in every store, and who compares them monthly, even though he hates numbers and… ahem… Essentially, the longer-term effect of pre-ordering habits at different booksellers can positively or negatively effect authors’ livelihoods and their ability to keep writing. In the day of algorithms affecting automated recommendations, the life of a full-time writer is in the hands of her/his readers. Pre-ordering (or not), posting reviews, and good ol’ fashioned water-cooler conversations sell far more books than any ad that I can buy, any funny video I can make, or any blog post I could write about any other subject.

All that said, please go pre-order THE DARK at Audible, RIGHT THIS SECOND!

And if audio isn’t your thing, snag THE DARK at Amazon on July 13th (or now, if you’ll forget)!

2 Comments

  1. jane greer

    i signed up for newsletter but did-n get my copy of the unity. wasnt in my spam either love your books. waiting on famine follow up.

  2. music

    What could possibly sweeten the pot further than hanging out with the likes of five bestselling authors

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