There are several benefits to making a book available for preorder. For example, driving preorder sales can help a book hit various bestseller lists, as many retailers count all preorders as launch day sales. Preorders also help build buzz and momentum for a new book, which can help lead to word-of-mouth sales later. But how can you convince readers to buy a book when it isn’t available to read yet?
To get your gears turning, we’ve compiled a list of 17 ideas for promoting preorders. While this is by no means an exhaustive list of every way to sell preorder books, we hope these strategies used by fellow authors (and publishers!) can give you some inspiration.
1. Link to the preorder in published books’ back matter
An ebook’s back matter is a great place to promote a book that’s available for preorder, especially if the preorder is a subsequent series book. This lets readers order it as soon as they finish the previous book, without having to remember to buy the new book when it’s available for download. For example, Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese linked to the preorder of Phoenix in the previous two books’ back matter:
In After I Fall, Jessica Scott included an unedited excerpt of the next book in the series, Catch My Fall, when it was available for preorder. She also included a link to a preorder page both at the end of the excerpt and in her full book list.
2. Offer free swag for preordering
A popular strategy amongst both authors and publishers is to offer a free swag pack to readers who preorder. Although some authors have seen mixed results from providing an extra incentive for preordering, the idea is to give readers an additional nudge since they can’t get the instant gratification of reading the book right away. In these promotions, readers usually need to email a copy, screenshot, or picture of their receipt to receive the swag.
For example, Tiffany Schmidt blogged about her tiered preorder offer — preorder one copy of Hold Me Like a Breath to get a swag pack including gummy organs (relevant to her book’s plot), a sticker, a signed bookmark, and a personalized note. Preorder two copies to receive all that plus a free necklace!
Offering swag packs in exchange for preordering can be a great way to encourage readers to spread the word on social media, since they’re often excited to receive the freebie. Julia Ember got some great responses to her swag pack for The Seafarer’s Kiss.
Publishers often use this strategy to drive preorder sales as well! Here’s one great example from Griffin Teen — they offered free themed tattoos for readers who preordered The Star-Touched Queen.
3. Send a digital gift pack to readers who preorder
For authors on a budget, sending swag packs via mail can get expensive, so a great alternative is to send a digital gift pack to any reader who preorders. For example, Megan Crewe offered a digital gift pack including a booklet with author commentary, an exclusive short story, a high-res poster, and other bonus content to anyone who preordered A Mortal Song. She promoted this giveaway on social media:
4. Run a BookBub Preorder Alert
A Preorder Alert is a dedicated email announcing that one of an author’s books is available for preorder. They’re highly targeted since they’re only sent to the author’s BookBub followers, and at only $0.02 per eligible follower, they’re a cost effective way to promote a preorder! For example, Carrie Ann Ryan sent a Preorder Alert for Inked Expressions to her 12K followers. This $225 campaign generated an estimated 350 book sales, helping drive at least $1,200 in revenue!
5. Send a long excerpt to readers who preorder
Sometimes readers hesitate to preorder a book since they want instant gratification from their purchase. Offering several chapters of a book before it’s released in exchange for the preorder is tantalizing for readers who can’t wait to read! Lysa TerKeurst sent the first five chapters of her book Uninvited to readers who preordered.
6. Send a deleted scene from a previous book to readers who preorder
For authors who’d rather not send an excerpt from the upcoming book, another idea is to send a deleted or bonus scene from a previous book. This could be an enticing incentive for that book’s biggest fans! For example, Katie McGarry offered readers a bonus scene from Pushing the Limits to readers who preordered Walk the Edge.
7. Build an author street team or fan club
Many authors create an online community for their most loyal fans to congregate — often as a street team or fan club via a private Facebook group. Participating fans often become loyal advocates for the author and help create word-of-mouth buzz. As such, these communities are a great place to announce that a preorder is available, like Megan Erickson did in her Facebook group Meg’s Mob.
In addition to encouraging fans to preorder, there are plenty of other creative ways to build buzz for a preorder book in these communities. For example, in the Kate Canterbary’s Tales group, one of the admins posted an image members could swap in as their Facebook profile picture.
According to Kate Canterbary, these private communities are a great way to generate real sales. “Building and cultivating this community of readers has earned a great deal of engagement and excitement for my books, and that has translated to higher sales in several ways. First, this loyal corps of readers buy new releases, particularly preorders. Second, they’re some of my best and most authentic advertising as they frequently recommend my books to others.”
8. Promote the preorder with the cover reveal
If you can arrange to have a book available for preorder in time for its cover reveal, linking to a page where readers can preorder their copy can be a great way to jump-start preorder sales. Colleen Hoover linked to a page on her author website where readers could navigate to their preferred retailer’s product page to preorder Without Merit:
J. Daniels also included preorder links in her cover reveal post for Bad for You, but linked directly to each retailer product page:
9. Discount an older title and cross-promote the preorder
Discounting a backlist book or box set — and linking to the preorder in the discounted book’s back matter — can help attract new readers and drive preorder sales. For example, Melissa F. Miller made the sixth book in her legal thriller series, Irrevocable Trust, available for preorder 30 days prior to launch. Halfway through the preorder period, she ran a $0.99 BookBub Featured Deal on the box set of the first three titles in the series. She also discounted the second volume box set so readers could catch up on the entire series. In the front and back matter of both box sets, she included a link to preorder Irrevocable Trust.
As a result of the BookBub promotion, the first box set hit the USA Today bestseller list, introducing loads of new readers to the series and boosting preorder sales. Read more about Melissa’s preorder marketing strategy here.
10. Update social media header images
An author’s social media images — such as on Facebook and Twitter — offer a great branding opportunity for a book available for preorder. Updating a Facebook page’s cover photo also makes it appear on fans’ newsfeeds (as determined by Facebook’s algorithm), so it can be a great way to notify fans of a preorder’s availability. For example, Philippa Gregory promoted her upcoming novel The Last Tudor in her Facebook cover photo.
In Sandra Brown’s Twitter header image, she has a direct call-to-action to preorder her upcoming novel Seeing Red.
11. Remind readers to preorder via a countdown
Social media gives authors the opportunity to regularly remind fans of an upcoming release and build buzz. For example, each week in the leadup to the launch of The Knocked Up Plan, Lauren Blakely posted a fun countdown image on her Facebook page including preorder links to each retailer where it was available.
She also updated her page’s cover photo with a different countdown image — also with retailer links in the image caption for anyone who clicked on it.
12. Create a video
Video is a great way to grab readers’ attention and engage with them in a personal way. Shoppers who watch videos are 1.81 times more likely to purchase than non-viewers, so creating a video to promote a preorder could potentially help drive sales. Debbie Macomber posted a creative video previewing her new coloring book Come Home to Color in order to promote the preorder.
13. Run a BookBub Ads campaign
BookBub Ads allow advertisers to market any book at any time to BookBub’s millions of power readers — including preorders and full-priced books! These ads appear at the bottom of BookBub’s daily emails, and many authors and publishers have promoted preorder books via this platform.
CD Reiss ran BookBub Ads for Separation Games, the sequel to Marriage Games, to let her fans on BookBub know that her new sequel was available for preorder. She ran this campaign during the four days prior to the book’s launch and specifically targeted her own BookBub followers. Read more about her BookBub Ads strategy here.
Here are just a few more examples of preorder campaigns on BookBub Ads:
14. Send an email to subscribers
An author’s mailing list is filled with people who’ve already opted in to receive communication about an author’s book, so letting them know about the preorder can help drive sales. Some authors send their subscribers an exclusive look at the first chapter to get them excited. For example, Heather Sunseri sent a heartfelt email to subscribers notifying them that Covered in Darkness was available for preorder. She included the first chapter in the email itself, so subscribers could get hooked right away! Here’s what the intro of this email looked like:
After the excerpt, Heather included a link to read the first seven chapters of the book, as well as retailer links so readers could preorder the book right away.
15. Run a contest (with no purchase necessary) to boost buzz
Running a giveaway or contest can grab readers’ attention and build buzz for a preorder, and getting creative with the prizes can make the giveaway even more enticing! For example, this swag gift set promoting Leigh Bardugo’s new release, Crooked Kingdom, included branded socks, a pin, a temporary tattoo set, a signed poster, and a sample chapter — a much more enticing prize than any one of these items by itself!
To enter, participants simply needed to follow the blog and comment on the post. The blog post included the copy: “Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of Crooked Kingdom and claim your pre-order incentive before September 26th!” Note that preordering the book was not a form of entry — the goal of the giveaway was to build buzz for the preorder via free entries, which in turn could lead to sales later.
16. Drive early reviews by giving away ARCs
While users can’t review preorder books on some retailer sites (e.g. Amazon), they can leave reviews on other sites, on their blogs, or on social media, so it’s possible to start getting reviews while a book is still available for preorder by giving some readers advance copies. Some authors run fun giveaways on their blog or social media profiles to provide ARCs to their most loyal fans. For example, Julie James ran a giveaway for her book The Thing About Love on her Facebook page, and included preorder links in the description for people who wanted to order their copy right away!
Catherine Ryan Hyde ran a similar giveaway on her blog, where readers needed to comment to enter to win an ARC of Allie and Bea.
17. Offer to donate to charity for each preorder
Another creative incentive is to offer a donation to a relevant charity for each preorder. When Arianna Huffington launched her book Thrive, she and Crown Publishing partnered with DonorsChoose.org. Readers who preordered the book before a specific date received a $26 DonorsChoose.org gift card to donate to the public school classroom project of their choice. You can see more details about the promotion here.
What other preorder marketing strategies have you used or seen? Let us know in the comments below!
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