For a traditionally published author, a hefty number of preorders can increase a print run and create a sense of excitement around a new release. Early buzz may convince the publisher’s marketing team to take a book more seriously, and invest more time, creative brainpower, and marketing dollars into nurturing a potential bestseller.
For a self-published author, a swell of preorders can trigger algorithms that alert retail sites like Amazon to a book’s presence. This makes it more likely that the book will appear in “hot new release” lists, which can increase not only preorders, but post-publication sales and even name recognition.
Finally, because many retailers count preorders on release day, a large number of preorders can land an author on a bestseller list early in their new book’s sales cycle, whether traditionally or self-published.
However, preorder marketing efforts don’t always guarantee preorder sales. When promoting a book, there are so many factors at play: the uniqueness of a book, whether it’s a series or standalone, the dynamic of the author’s platform, the promotional budget, the author’s marketing prowess, and more.
Regardless, the months before a book releases are a golden opportunity for creating awareness. First, let’s cover how to set up a preorder for success:
Before you spend time and money marketing a preorder, clean up the online hotspots your future readers will visit most often.
- Your author website should look professional, feature your latest polished book cover, and provide readers with links to your book’s preorder page on each retailer. Include a preview of the book — one chapter at least — to hook potential readers. Invite folks to sign up for your newsletter and follow you on book discovery sites like BookBub.
- Your author page on retailers and book discovery sites should be up to date. Some sites like BookBub let readers follow an author and get alerts when that author has a new book available, so thread some interesting details about yourself into that bio to encourage more readers to follow you.
- Your book’s retailer product page should be designed to grab attention but never appear over-formatted.
It’s amazing how many authors will have 17 different font sizes on their Amazon page, put reviews in the description section and the book’s description in the reviews section, and it matters. Readers rely on the book’s Amazon page more than any other source, and since a decision to preorder a book is dependent on what happens when a reader gets there, you need to make sure it looks professional, and has an excerpt and well-written book description.
— M. J. Rose, bestselling author and creator of AuthorBuzz
Pro tip: Compare your content (all of the above) to that of bestselling authors in your genre, including the layout, type-sizes, photos, etc.
Also, be sure to claim your books on retailers and book discovery sites. It’s a step that many authors miss. (Learn how to find and claim your book on BookBub here.)
Six months until release day
Now it’s time to hone your preorder marketing strategies. Ideally, you’ll have 3-6 months before a book’s release to brainstorm, experiment, and implement a promotional plan.
What’s worth your time? Here are 11 strategies to consider:
Connect with existing fans
1. Carefully curate social media content
Share your publishing journey across your author platform — blog, Facebook page, Twitter profile, and so on — and build excitement among your fans.
Pro Tip: Don’t just share sales links. Share your milestones — your cover reveal, a great early review — in a way that makes others feel invested.
Be earnest. It’s exciting to publish a book. Let others feel that. I recently had a client post a preorder link to her forthcoming business book, a debut. She mentioned in her post that preorders can potentially tell a publisher the book’s potential. In that, she educated her audience in her heartfelt request. The audience realized they were part of her journey, too, and that most definitely led to preorders.
— Ann-Marie Nieves, Owner of Get Red PR
Also, don’t let your most important posts go unseen; pay to boost posts on Facebook to maximize your exposure when it matters most.
2. Draft a newsletter
You know you have a true fan when someone signs up to allow you into their inbox with regularity. And while you should never abuse that invitation, it’s a good idea to drop a few newsletters before your book’s release — starting about 4-6 weeks before the release — to stimulate preorders.
Include an excerpt, preorder links, and some compelling inside information about the book and/or your personal connection to it — perks that make your loyal fans feel special. Don’t undervalue this step, as basic as it may seem.
Avoid depending on third parties — book reviewers, social media, publishers, anyone! — to reach your audience over the long term. If you want to future-proof your career, build methods of directly engaging with your readers in a way that you own and control. And by far the best method, in today’s digital media age, is email.
— Jane Friedman, editor of The Hot Sheet
3. Cultivate a street team
A street team is a group of loyal readers who help an author spread the word about their books. In exchange for this loyalty, and valued word-of-mouth efforts, they’ll often gain access to special perks — free books, exclusive contests, sneak-peeks, and behind-the-scenes looks.
Bestselling author Kerry Lonsdale fostered a team of loyal readers primarily through her newsletter, which she began over a year before her debut released. Through the newsletter, she encouraged readers to join a secret Facebook group, where she provided fans with exclusive content. In return, those fans helped to spread the word about her book. Additionally, this group has led to “advanced reviewers,” who have early access to the book and leave reviews where they can, generating early interest in Kerry’s work.
The moment my book cover is available for an upcoming release, I start promoting heavily. I encourage my street team to chat up the book on social media. I create Facebook ads and keep them running through release day, changing the ad every few weeks. And finally, I try to get as many people as I can to read the NetGalley/ARC and review the book.
— Kerry Lonsdale, author of Everything We Keep
4. Level-up your back matter
Do you have access to the digital files for your backlist books — or contacts with access to those files who are willing to help? Add some information about your prerelease in the back of your existing digital books, including the first chapter of your new work and preorder links to all online bookstores.
When asked how they discovered the book they were reading, 20% of those questioned said they’d just finished a previous book by the same author. You can maximize this potential by helping your readers connect the dots. Do this, and each book you write in essence becomes an ad for the next book.
— M. J. Rose, citing a recent AuthorBuzz survey of 150K readers
5. Send Preorder Alerts to your BookBub followers
BookBub’s Preorder Alerts will notify your existing BookBub followers about an upcoming release, for the price of 2 cents per US follower. Note that you need at least 1,000 followers to use the service. Here’s how you can boost that number:
- Share the link to your BookBub profile on your website or blog (try a prominent position, like via a banner), your newsletter, and on your social media profiles — Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
- Run a contest — alone or with a group of authors — giving entrants a chance at a prize if they follow you on BookBub.
- Run a BookBub Featured Deal to raise awareness of your books and brand.
When you use the Featured Deal, readers may see you for the first time and follow you [on BookBub]. Then you’re on your way to making your account mean something.
— M. J. Rose
6. Drive traffic to retailer sites rather than your author website
This is a tough one for some authors, who have beautiful and well-developed sites, but do you really want to create additional distance between your would-be reader and a sale? Your website is still useful as your public face, and for providing deep-dive info about you to fans and intrigued potential readers. But eliminating clicks by linking to the retailer product pages can increase the ROI of your marketing campaigns. There are also additional benefits:
Retail sites keep track of how often a reader visits your book’s page even if she doesn’t order. That leads to an increase in your book’s visibility because the site will be more likely to put the book on ‘also viewed’ lists and/or do Facebook ads and email reminders for the book.
— M. J. Rose
And when readers preorder, your rankings improve, and a surge in sales may find your book on a “hot new releases” list and visible in your chosen categories.
Find new fans and help them find you
7. Consider your book’s particular audience
Some books will appeal to one niche audience over another. When that’s the case, run marketing campaigns targeting that specific group of people.
When Nora Bradbury-Haehl was building preorder buzz for her nonfiction book about surviving freshman year of college, she targeted a specific audience.
We connected to freshman retention/first year experience professionals, residence life folks, etc. We worked with our publisher to get bulk order discounts for groups we knew would be interested in the book, and then publicized those rates to those folks ourselves. We had contacts in national organizations for college campus ministry and parochial schools and were able to put those offers out. We wrote for their newsletters and included our contact info and some freebies in the articles—a downloadable list of tips, with permission to share.
— Nora Bradbury-Haehl, author of The Freshman Survival Guide
When publishing fiction, think creatively when determining your niche. My second novel, for instance, involved a character with a sensory condition called synesthesia. I reached out to a synesthesia message board, and with the blessing of its manager was allowed to run a giveaway there.
8. Find reviewers through NetGalley
NetGalley is a book service that authors, PR folk, and publishers use to distribute digital copies of new books to librarians, professional reviewers, and bloggers. NetGalley is a go-to for traditional publishers and can be used by self-publishing authors as well. (See pricing information here.) It’s worth exploring the site to see how it might help you.
- Users can rate whether your cover is enticing or not.
- Reviewers can leave their public opinion of your book on NetGalley.
- Reviews can be shared across a wide range of social media venues with the click of a button, allowing a much bigger range of potential influence per review without the reviewer fatigue.
9. Discount another of your books
Nothing attracts new readers like a slashed-price book sale, and putting one book on sale can be an effective way to raise an author’s profile.
Make the book $0.99 or even free, put an excerpt and sales links in the back matter, and time the sale to run just prior to a new release.
— M. J. Rose
Promoting the sale through BookBub is a strategy both indie authors and traditional publishing houses use all of the time to alert readers to an author who may not have reached bestseller status. An author who was under the radar for the average reader can see a huge spike in sales or downloads, even enough to hit a bestseller list.
10. Create an Instagram campaign
Instagram isn’t just for cute cat pictures. Authors and publishers can increase exposure for their upcoming releases by running creative Instagram campaigns. For example, Amazon Publishing runs #bookstagrammer campaigns for its authors frequently, reaching out to book reviewers and bloggers on the site, sending them ARCs, and asking them to post pictures to boost preorders.
I always try to create a sense of urgency in my ads and posts, via tone and phrasing. I think for marketing to be successful for preorders it has to feel urgent.
— Kerry Lonsdale
11. Ask for help from influencers
Send your book to authors with high profiles, who may be willing to shout out for your book, which they’ve naturally read and loved.
If a bestselling author agrees to send a recommendation through her newsletter, or talk about your book to her fans on social media, it really can move copies. And if she is going to do it over Facebook, ask her if you can cover a $50-$100 boost.
— M. J. Rose
The process of obtaining blurbs can help you connect with someone who genuinely enjoyed your book and is happy to help. Just don’t have your publicity team ask — or worse, send the blurber a posting schedule — as it can be off-putting. A personal and flexible approach is best!
Be creative and persistent
Since preorders aren’t available to read immediately, regularly reminding readers and followers about a book’s upcoming launch can help increase the likelihood of a sale.
The more people see the book, even subliminally, the more they’ll remember it. As people become more awake to it through repeated exposure, it will start to feel like an important book.
— M. J. Rose
Be creative, and be persistent, even if it’s uncomfortable for you.
I forced myself to view the author side of my life as a business with my books being the product. You just do it because it’s part of your job, and if you didn’t put yourself out there, you’d fade away. Readers will forget about you.
— Kerry Lonsdale
And remember that even if you don’t drive as many preorder sales as you’d hoped for with your current book, your efforts will strengthen your marketing skill set, which will help you with your next book. There will be a next one, right?
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