All About Pre-orders | Words Count
Relearning the Book Business: Should I be pushing for pre-orders? How, why, and who benefits? Are there any drawbacks?
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All About Pre-orders
My debut collection of stories is coming out this year. The last time I had a solo-authored book published was 2015—eight years ago. In that time, so much has changed. It feels like I’m learning the book business all over again, and I am.
So I’m inviting you to learn along with me as I research, ask my friends and colleagues basic questions, and figure out tips and tricks to navigate the current publishing landscape as a debut short fiction author.
First up is the question of pre-orders. It’s that time in the spring publishing season when writers and publishers are asking (sometimes begging) readers to pre-order their books.
My book is coming out in September, so I thought I would research pre-ordering books and find out what it’s all about.
Should I be pushing for pre-orders? How, why, and who benefits? And are there any drawbacks?
Many writers myself included don’t understand how pre-orders impact them, their publisher, or booksellers. Author Fawn Parker says that she only started pre-ordering when she learned why it's important, but before that as a reader she didn’t preorder books.
I also never pre-ordered books. Why would I buy a book that isn’t out yet and won’t be out for months? I’ll order it when it comes out, I used to think or I’d buy the book at the launch and get the writer to sign it.
Once I became a published poet, I still didn’t understand the point of pre-orders and never pushed them for any of my books.
However, many people in the publishing industry think pre-orders matter a great deal—particularly for debut or small press authors and indie bookstores.
I crowd-sourced about pre-orders on social media and got responses from authors, publicists, presses, and bookstores, which I’m excited to share.
It turns out that pre-orders are a little more complicated than I realized.
Print Run Decisions
One practical reason pre-orders are important is that they give publishers a sense of how many books to print.
Kirby—poet, essayist, SMLTA columnist, and publisher of knife | fork | books—has this to say about pre-orders:
From a publisher’s point of view, pre-orders give us an idea of how something might be received. They give us an idea of how many copies to print. They help pay the front money towards the publishing of the book. With enough pre-orders, a publisher might print a larger run, which will make a book more available to readers.
Luciana Erregue-Sacchi, who founded and runs Labernito Press, also thinks pre-orders are important. Speaking from the point of view of a micro press, Erregue-Sacchi says, “Post pandemic printing costs and supply chain issues make it critical to calculate printing runs.”
Book Ordering Decisions
“I have seen countless times an author get excited, tweet/share the Indigo page for their book and the indies are left in the dust.” —Anjula Gogia, Bookseller
Bookstores appreciate pre-ordering because it helps them decide how many books to have available in their stores once the book is published.
“Pre-orders help indie shops know which books will be in demand,” says author, publicist, and editor, Heather J. Wood. Without pre-orders for instance, "Indigo won’t order copies of the book.”
Toronto bookseller Anjula Gogia says Another Story Bookshop loves pre-orders because it drives business to their store that is actually guaranteed. Another Story uses Bookmanger software which means they don’t receive the money in advance, they charge when the book arrives. But the guaranteed sales are important.
Gogia is frustrated when authors direct their pre-orders to Indigo when they first share their book. “I have seen countless times an author get excited, tweet/share the Indigo page for their book and the indies are left in the dust.”
Sales and Publicity for Authors
For writers pre-orders not only help with sales, but also they can create a buzz around the book, which could lead to more publicity down the road and once the book is launched.
Heritage House’s Marketing & Publicity Coordinator, Monica Miller, asks authors to promote preorders among their friends/family/interests. Miller has been told by sales reps that it can help move the dial when a bookseller (or chain) gets requests for a book pre-release. “I don't know if there is a threshold at which these numbers change,” she says, “but for me, it is something tangible I can tell the author to do early on to promote their upcoming book.”
What’s in it for the Reader?
Writer and editor, Sanchari Sur always pre-orders books by their favourite authors, “I want to have that writers' new work in my hands asap.”
For readers, pre-orders also ensures you get the book. I recently had the frustrating experience of wanting to read (and still want to read!) Hannah Black’s much buzzed about novella Tuesday or September or The End that isn’t available as an e-book, at the library, or in any store. I have no idea if there will be another print run, and I wish I had preordered or even ordered it when I had the chance!
Author Alexander Chee pre-orders as a reader and mentions pre-ordering to readers. “It’s like getting presents from future me.”
Another benefit for the reader is price. Pre-orders are often listed with a pre-order sale price, so you can get a better deal if it’s a book you are planning to purchase anyway.
The Problem with Pre-orders
Poet and KPU Associate Dean, Billeh Nickerson, doesn’t love pre-orders. For Nickerson, they take some of the fun out of the launch. “I find it so anticlimactic. You have a book launch, but folks have already ordered.”
For his own books, Nickerson doesn’t push pre-orders because he makes more money on the book if he sells books directly at readings and events. “Why should I subsidize big book chains or online stores?”
Nickerson would feel more comfortable about pre-orders if he know more indie bookstores were benefitting and getting the sales.
As an events organizer, Angula Gogia says that Another Story Bookshop doesn’t sell nearly as many books as they used to during launches — partly because people are pre-ordering and purchasing elsewhere.
Pre-orders are even impacting how events operate. Gogia explains that the whole question of pre-orders and events is tricky and some booksellers are reconsidering hosting events because sales are low, and they end up losing money after staffing.
Gogia doesn’t expect all events to make money. Independent bookstores across the country have a deep commitment to supporting small presses, local authors and are rooted in community. “But it would be nice to make some money … If you are an author and are launching your book at an indie bookshop please drive your orders to that specific bookseller. It means a lot to us.”
Sometimes pre-orders aren’t always available on the publication date which is why novelist, blogger, and reader Kerry Clare doesn’t tend to pre-order books unless they might not be in stock otherwise. “I'd much rather go into a shop and just pick it up.”
Another option that is free (we can’t pre-order everyone’s book) and very helpful for authors and presses is requesting an author’s book at your local library. This helps ensure that there are copies available when the book comes out and libraries will have a sense of the numbers that they need to order.
Not only does requesting a book help an author get copies into a library but also borrowing an author’s book at a library turns into actual cash (in Canada) for the author through the Public Lending Rights Program.
If you are a new author, be sure to sign up for for the PLR program as well as for Access Copyright.
Where Can I Buy Your Book?
“Where can I buy your book?” was the number one question I got from friends and acquaintances about my pervious publications. In the past I was very nonspecific and would just say you can order online or at your local bookstore and left them to figure it out on their own. However if an author wants people to buy their books and have readers support independent bookstores, I now think it’s important to be more specific.
Thanks to all the tips and information that everyone has shared, this time around I’m planning to do the legwork for readers by providing links to my favourite indie bookstores on my website as well as a link to Bookmanger, a platform for bookstores that readers can use to find local indie bookstores in Canada and the US.
I will also be reminding readers that requesting a book at their local library is another free way they can support authors they like!
Authors: How to use Bookmanger to Direct Readers to Independent Bookstores
Authors can use Bookmanger to direct readers to local bookstores by searching for their own book on the site and using that link (instead of Indigo or Amazon) in all their social media bios, Linktr.ee, etc.
When readers click on that link, a SHOP LOCAL button appears which will take readers to their local bookstores that have or can order your book.
I’m planning more posts for my Relearning the Book Business series.
Please let me know what other aspects of the publishing and book world would you like to know about?
Issue #23 of Send My Love to Anyone
An Excerpt from The Stories Whiteness Tells Itself: Myths and Our American Narratives by David Mura
The Return of the Owl by Kirby
Relearning the Book Business: All about pre-orders by Kathryn Mockler
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