A few weeks ago, my book Crow's Rest showed up on Amazon as available to pre-order in paperback, and of course I had to tell everybody about it. But once the squealing was done, all kinds of questions about what pre-ordering does (and does not) mean for the book and author came up.
Firstly, I had to explain to a few less-publishing-savvy friends that pre-ordering it now means that they still won't get the book until it comes out in May 2015. So the inevitable followup question became "what are the advantages of pre-ordering it then?"
I had some vague recollection of being told publishers use those pre-order numbers for things, but I didn't really have a concrete answer to that question (still learning so much about the actual publishing process!). So I asked around among my fellow Fearless Fifteeners, and got the emphatic answer that yes, pre-orders are crucial for any book! Those numbers are used to:
- determine whether the publisher may be interested in your next book
- determine how large that initial print run should be (and possibly whether they should also print a hardcover version)
- to gauge how much buzz the book is getting, and therefore whether it merits some extra swag or promotional budgeting
The exact explanation from my publicist, Jennifer Allis Provost, on that last point was:
Basically, once you've landed a publishing contract you've convinced someone to invest months (sometimes years) and thousands of dollar in your work, with no guarantee that you will sell a single blessed copy. Yep, that's why it's so hard to make it past the submissions stage; since publishers don't have crystal balls, they have no idea what will take off and what will tank.
What changes their mind? Pre-orders.
Let's say you're a debut novelist, and the publisher has assigned you a publicist, done some marketing, and whatever else is involved in their standard package. You know who the publishers go "above and beyond" for? The titles with hundreds or even thousands of pre-orders. Those pre-orders tell the publisher that the author is willing to do her part to get the word out, and do everything she can to make that title a bestseller.
So as a reader, all that pre-ordering does is reserve a copy for you, and to make sure you get it close to the release date.
But for the author, that pre-order is a really great thing to have on their side! Having a better understanding of how this works has prompted me to go through my Goodreads Want to Read list and actually follow through with pre-orders on the titles I'm really excited about.
Feel free to share some titles you're excited for, that you've pre-ordered, in the comments!