Preorder book sales can be an essential driver of a book’s early success — a higher volume of preorder sales can build buzz and lead to more reviews, bigger retailer orders, and even placement on bestseller lists. But driving those sales is a tough proposition. How do you reach the right readers and convince them to buy?
To gather more insights for our partners, we interviewed Jason Short, Director of Digital Sales at HarperCollins Christian Publishing. In this Q&A, Jason shared the experience of the marketing teams at HarperCollins Christian with marketing preorders and using BookBub Preorder Alerts to effectively drive early sales.
1. Why is it important to put marketing dollars behind preorder books?
The publishing industry has definitely changed to focus heavily on the preorder phase of a book. For many publishers, it’s imperative that retailers see the customer interest and demand early in the lifecycle of a book. This encourages retailers to order more copies. Sometimes that means publishers need to get a book out in front of a lot of people months before they will ever see it on physical bookshelves, and the easiest way to do that is to invest a portion of our marketing dollars in the preorder phase.
2. What are your goals when promoting a book that’s available for preorder?
Preorder goals are often determined by the size of the author’s platform and the book’s sales forecast. If the title is considered a top-tier title, then our approach to our goals will be as follows: author tribe awareness, author tribe conversion, and enthusiastic/informed reader conversion. An “author tribe” is an author’s most loyal readers, who are often evangelists for their books — we want to engage the core author followers/fans with the first wave of awareness marketing to make sure they buy the book (as they are the best to spread news via word of mouth). This strategy helps retailers gauge the excitement and anticipation for the book’s release and gives them better insight on their initial orders.
For books that are not top-tier, the strategy is similar, but on a smaller scale. The preorder campaign will depend not only on the author’s fan base, but may also have to include the author’s influencer sphere. This is again done to ensure that the retailers are bringing in a fair amount of stock and not just the bare minimum.
3. What would a typical preorder marketing plan include?
The goal for preorder campaigns is to not only show enthusiasm for a book, but to show it consistently. Retailers no longer want to see a flood of preorder sales a week or two before the book release — they would rather see consistent engagement over a 90-120 day period.
- Book Announcement: If the author is extremely well known, this will at times include a media partner. Otherwise we ask the author to announce on their own social media platforms.
- Cover Reveal: For top-tier authors, we’ll do a cover reveal in advance of the launch. This too has the possibility of a media partner depending on the author’s fan base.
- Sneak Peek: We give the author’s most rabid fans a sample of the manuscript usually about 90 days in advance of the on-sale date.
- Intermittent Social Media Posts: We ask the author team to begin sharing quotes from the book and vary the messaging from a soft sell message (just mentioning the book title) to a hard sell message (“Preorder Now”).
4. What are the primary challenges of running marketing campaigns for preorder books?
One of the biggest challenges to preorder campaigns is really motivating fans to click that preorder button well in advance of the on-sale date. Many customers prefer to wait until the book goes on sale or until they can read reviews from fellow readers.
5. You recently ran a BookBub Preorder Alert to promote If I’m Found by Terri Blackstock! Why did you decide to use this tool?
Several factors played into this. For one, Terri Blackstock had a nice following already on BookBub, so that made the option attractive. Also, this was a key release during the month and we were looking for additional opportunities to increase our preorder numbers. The idea of reaching out to a targeted list of readers who already had indicated that they wanted news about the author was very appealing.
6. What were the results of this campaign? Were you happy with the results?
Our BookBub Preorder Alert had a CTR of nearly 10%! This really indicated to us that quite a few of Terri’s BookBub fans were intrigued by the preorder alert and messaging. We were hoping to see a few more conversions from clicks to sales (around 5% of the total clicks resulted in purchases). However, we are eager to test BookBub Preorder Alerts with additional titles as well as possibly sending an alert paired with a promotional price, since we know the BookBub consumer is price conscious.
Editor’s Note: This promotion generated 2,214 clicks and about 132 sales, and dozens of BookBub subscribers bookmarked the book for later. If I’m Found was priced at $8.99 when the Preorder Alert was sent.
7. If there was one typical preorder marketing strategy you could throw out the window and never use again, what would it be and why?
I don’t think there is a specific strategy I would throw out the window. With that being said, I would say that it is important to know the audience of the book. If you start sending preorder messaging to some audiences too soon, they will become bored by the time the book actually comes out. If that happens, we may sell one book but we will not have created a fan, and therefore we lose the chance of word-of-mouth marketing. So I would say every strategy has its place — just be sure to know your audience.
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