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Amazon Pre-Orders

Late last week I got the following email from Amazon:

Hello,

We’re excited to announce that you can now make your new books available for pre-order in Kindle Stores worldwide. With a few quick and easy steps you can create a pre-order page up to 90 days in advance of your book’s release date–your pre-order product page will be created within 24 hours. When you make your book available for pre-order, customers can order the book anytime leading up to the release date you set. We will deliver it to them on that date.

One advantage of using pre-order is that you can start promoting your Kindle book pre-order page on Author Central, Goodreads, your personal website, and other places ahead of its release to help build excitement for your book. Also, pre-orders will contribute toward sales rank and other Kindle Store merchandising ahead of release, which can help more readers discover your book.

Visit your KDP Bookshelf to set up your new book for pre-order.

Best regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team

Finally! Amazon’s exclusion of self-published authors from being able to set up pre-orders for their books was one of the biggest differences between indie and traditionally published works. Everyone knows basically how pre-ordering a book/movie/game works normally, but here’s how it generally works for an self-published book.

  1. Click “Publish” in Amazon KDP
  2. Wait an indeterminate period of time (usually a few hours, but there’s no guarantee)
  3. Watch your book pop up on Amazon
  4. Buy a copy of your own book, because until the first copy is purchased your book won’t get a sales rank
  5. Wait an indeterminate period of time for a sales rank to show up
  6. Tell people your book is on sale (sales prior to the sales rank existing do not help your sales rank, which is crucial for discoverability)
  7. Get an email from Amazon KDP saying your book is available in the Kindle store (this happens independently of Step 4-6, but always well after Step 3)

The major sticking point here is that you have  no predictability. When people ask when my next book is coming out, I hedge. It’s not that I don’t want them to know, it’s that I don’t know! I can shoot for a target date, but I could be off by possibly as much as two days, just from Amazon’s system. Also, if my editor gets back to me a few days early with final copy editing, I don’t sit on the book for those extra days (I gain nothing by waiting). Even when my book first goes on sale, I’m stuck in the awkward position of wanting my readers to get their copies, but not wanting the sales to go uncounted so that more people find out about it via bestseller lists.

Now, I’ll have the option of setting a book for pre-order, and organizing what was once all guesswork and waiting into a preset release date. Readers who want the book now-now-now-now-now will have the ability to get it delivered to their device at midnight on release day.

Here’s how it works, according to Amazon’s own help page on the program:

How it works
You’ll list your book as you would with any other KDP book. When you’re adding a new book, on Step 4, “Select Your Book Release Option,” you will choose “Make my book available for pre-order” and set a date in the future. That’s it.

Though your book isn’t available for download yet, we’ll still publish a product detail page for it within 24 hours of approval. Customers can order the book anytime leading up to the release date you set and it will be delivered to them on that date. However, customers won’t be able to download sample content for pre-order books.
You can list pre-order books in all marketplaces except Amazon.com.in, where pre-orders are not currently available. Your book will release at midnight local time in each marketplace.
Requirements
When you list a book for pre-order, you’ll need to upload the final version or a draft manuscript of the book file for review. Typically, a draft manuscript would be something like a complete book that might still need copyediting and proofreading. We won’t show the version to customers, but we’ll need to preview the content for compliance with our Program Policies before creating the pre-order detail page. It will go through the same review process that any other KDP book would. Your final version must be uploaded 10 days before the release date you set.

So Amazon is protecting themselves (as best they can, of course) from flaky authors who can’t deliver on their pre-orders. Amazon wants a draft in advance, and they want the final version 10 days ahead of time. 10 days feels like a bit much to me, but it may just be that Amazon is buffering for an influx of newbie pre-publishing authors and a bevy of problems with the early batches of pre-ordered books. It would be nice to see that come down to ~3 days, once the program has been running (hopefully smoothly) for a while.

The only downsides I see are:

  • The 10-day waiting period (i.e. when your novel is done but readers can’t have it)
  • No longer being able to fly by the seat of my pants and push a novel out early when I beat deadlines

I can live with that.

Fellow authors: Are you excited by the new pre-order program? Afraid of what it might mean for indie publishing?

Readers: Are you looking forward to being able to pre-order from your favorite self-published authors? Skeptical? Are you going to wait and see how it pans out, or jump on board?

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