Learn How to Make Preorders Work for You
This page describes the Smashwords preorder system and process, and provides guidance for how Smashwords authors and publishers can maximize the effectiveness of this powerful ebook merchandising tool.
We're excited about preorders. We think the early adopters of our preorder system will yield a significant discovery advantage over other books. We also believe that staged book releases that include an advance preorder period will become a new professional best practice for the most successful indies.
Which Smashwords retailers support preorders? - We're currently distributing preorders to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.
What's a preorder? - Preorders make it possible for retailers to accept customer orders for your book in advance of your official "onsale" date. During the preorder period, your sales will accumulate. When your book goes onsale, the retailer charges the customer's credit card and makes the book available for download.
Advantages of doing a preorder - Preorders yield several important advantages:
Setting up a preorder is EASY! Just follow these simple steps:
Can I update my book while it's up as a preorder? - Yes. Simply upload the new version or metadata changes as you always have via your Dashboard.
Where can I learn more about preorders? - Here are three more resources to help you plan your preorder strategy:
Huffington Post - eBook Preorders Help Indie Authors Hit Bestseller Lists.
Write NonFiction Now - How to Hit the Bestseller List with Preorders.
Keep in mind that a preorder is simply a tool, and it'll work best as a tool if you're also implementing other professional ebook publishing best practices. For a good summary of ebook publishing best practices, read Mark Coker's The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success and The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide.
Will my preorder be available at Smashwords? - After you upload your preorder, we'll create your book listing page at Smashwords, but the book will not be available for order until your onsale date. If you set sampling, however, your sample will be downloadable. The primary purpose of our preorder support is to help our authors list their books as preorders at Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.
What can I do do make my preorder more appealing to readers? - Give your readers an incentive - a call to action - to place their preorder now rather than waiting for the official onsale date. If you plan to price your book at $3.99, consider offering it for preorder at $2.99, and let your fans know that shortly after it goes onsale, you'll raise the price to the normal $3.99. When the book goes onsale, adjust the price at Smashwords and then allow at least 1-5 days for the price to update at each retailer.
My book's not complete yet. Can I upload a draft? - We don't recommend this. The book you upload should be a complete Smashwords-formatted book. If you want to upload a near-final advance copy of your book (such as the typical Advance Reader Copy [ARC] or Uncorrected Proof), that's okay as long as it's properly formatted, but remember that readers will be able to download a sample of the beginning of the book, usually the first 10%, so be sure that it's solid and edited! If you need to update your book in advance of the release date, please upload your final final to Smashwords no later than 10 business days in advance of the release date to allow adequate time for the book to be updated at retailers. Rather than cutting it close like this, and to maximize the potential preorder benefits outlined above, upload a final at least 4-5 weeks before the onsale date.
My release date is within the next week. Should I do a preorder?
Yes. The advantage of uploading the book as a preorder now is that you'll receive fast-tracked review for the Premium Catalog, and you'll give retailers a head start to get your book loaded in their stores so it's ready at all preorder-capable retailers on or near the official onsale date. Even if you upload your preorder just seven days in advance, there's still a chance you get a couple days of preorder time at the retailer, which could give you a modest first-day sales bump benefit especially if you heavily promote the preorder once it's live at each retailer.
Can I price my preorder at FREE?
Unfortunately, no, though we think that would be a great idea! None of the retailers support preorders priced at free. If they ever add this support, we'll gladly support it too.
Do preorders work best for established authors, or for new unknown authors? - Established authors with multiple books already on the market that are selling regularly, especially if these books are updated to mention their upcoming preorder, will do the best with preorders. However, even less established authors can use preorders to increase their visibility, because the accumulated orders will cause the book to pop higher in the charts than it otherwise would. If you can accumulate even a few orders a day over a one or two month preorder period at a retailer, you're likely to land in the top 10 or top 20 of your genre list. All indie authors start as unknowns. The process of getting known takes consistent and methodical ongoing effort. You need to employ multiple best practices, as outlined in The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success and The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, while at the same time avoiding mistakes that can undermine your success.
I changed my mind and don't want my book to be a preorder. - If you want to release your preorder book right now, cancelling the prerelease period, use the "release now" link under that book's release date in your Dashboard.
How do I change my release date? - If you want to release earlier or later than initially planned, contact our support team via the "Comments/questions" link at the top of the page and we can change your onsale date. At this stage of the beta, date-changing is not yet self-serve. Please give us the URL of your book in your message so that we can easily tell which book you're writing about (the URL of your book is the address of your book's page on the Smashwords site and it looks like https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/[number]).
Can I change the price of my preorder before the onsale date? - We don't recommend this. At Kobo, they offer their customers a low price guarantee, so their customer will get the book at the price at which they reserved the book, even if you increase the price. At Apple, they will prompt the customer and ask if they're willing to pay a higher price (this will likely cause you to lose orders).