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Smashwords Presales 

Thrill your readers.  Grow your platform.

Readers love early releases!  This FAQ helps authors and publishers get the most out of this exciting patent-pending tool.


What is Smashwords Presales?
Smashwords Presales makes it easy for authors and publishers to create, launch and manage custom presale events.  The feature utilizes patent-pending technology as described in our Smashwords Presales launch announcement December 3, 2019.

How are presales different from preorders?
At Smashwords, we love both preorders and presales.  They serve different functions.  Think of a preorder as a reservation.  The reader preorders a book that will be released in the future.  When the book’s general release date arrives, the reader’s credit card is charged and the book is released to the customer.   Preorder customers must wait until the book’s public release date before they can purchase and read the book.  A presale, by contrast, allows select customers to purchase and receive the book early, BEFORE the general release date.

How is a Smashwords Presale different than ticket presales?
Most people are familiar with ticket presales for concerts and other live ticketed events.  With ticket presales, customers are able to purchase their tickets early, before the tickets go onsale to the general public.  However, unlike a Smashwords Presale, where presale customers receive and enjoy the ebook earlier than the general public, presale ticket customers can’t enjoy the ticketed event until it happens in the future.  In other words, a ticket presale is really more akin to a preorder - a reservation - with the exception that customers must pay for the presale ticket when they take possession of that ticket because the ticket itself has value in that it entitles a person to attend this event in the future, and often in a preferred seat.

Can I use my Smashwords Presale to build my mailing list?
Yes!   You can use a Smashwords Presale to build your mailing list on two fronts:  1.  Use the promise of presales to grow your mailing list 365 day a year, even when you're not releasing a new book.  When you're advertising your newsletter on social media, in your book's backmatter, and on your website, as a perk to attract potential subscribers, promise that subscribers will be the first to learn about your future presales so they can purchase and read your next new release before the general public.  Watch your most loyal readers go wild.  This will help you attract, reward and retain your most loyal readers. 2.  When you're setting up your presale, you have the option to enable email capture in your Smashwords Presale shopping cart.  Once you enable this option, readers will be presented with the option to subscribe to your private newsletter.  It's completely permission-based.  We even give you the ability to configure a custom incentive discount in exchange for the reader sharing their email address with you.  Captured email addresses can be downloaded from your Presale Dashboard.  

Please explain the anti-piracy pledge
We depise pirates.  Yet much piracy is accidental piracy, a result of enthusiastic readers sharing your book with fellow readers.  When you're setting up your presale, you have the option to require that in order for a reader to gain access to your presale, they must first digitally sign our anti-piracy pledge.  This pledge reminds readers that your book is licensed for their personal enjoyment only, and they are not allowed to share it with other readers.  While the pledge cannot prevent all piracy 100% (the only 100% reliable method of preventing piracy is to never publish; not even DRM can stop a committed scoundrel), it provides a friendly but firm reminder of the reader's legal and ethical obligation to respect the author's intellectual property.

Why did Smashwords create Smashwords Presales?
A high percentage of a new book’s first year’s sales is earned in the first few days following release.  This is because there’s always an excitement surrounding a new book release, driven by the author's marketing as well as existing superfans anxiously awaiting the next release.  This means there’s a tremendous amount of energy tied up around that single public release date.   Think of that single public release date as an atom.  Smashwords Presales splits that atom, thereby allowing the author to unlock the energy and direct that energy in a new direction to that author’s benefit.   In this way, authors can exchange something of value (early access to the book) for another thing of value (the reader subscribing to the author’s private mailing list, or agreeing to an anti-piracy pledge).   We think this is an important step in helping authors and publishers build sustainable marketing platforms they control rather than having that future relationship mediated by a retailer.  When you build your private mailing list, you have direct access to your most loyal fans.  Build a platform you control!

Do you have online presentations about Smashwords Presales where I can learn more about presales strategy and marketing?
Sure!  The following introduction to presales was presented by Mark Coker on February 14, 2020 at the San Francisco Writers Conference.



How do I set up a Smashwords Presale?

Here's how:

  1. Upload your book as a preorder.  If you haven’t done so already, upload your final manuscript to Smashwords as a preorder with a future release date.  Or if your book is already set up as an “assetless” preorder, upload the final manuscript via your Dashboard.  The preorder’s future release date should correspond to the date at which you plan to release your book to the general public at major retailers.
  2. Click to your Dashboard’s Presale Dashboard.  You’ll find it in the upper right section of your Smashwords Dashboard.  The Presale Dashboard displays a listing all eligible preorders from which you can activate a presale.  Presales can be started and stopped at any time in advance of your preorder’s public release date.
  3. Click “Create Presale” and follow the simple instructions to set up your presale, preview your landing page before launch, and then when you're ready, launch your presale with a click.

What’s the difference between a public presale and a private presale
When you set up your presale, you can choose to make the presale public or private.  A public presale is visible and discoverable to all visitors of the Smashwords Store.  Choose this option if you want all prospective readers to have access to your presale.  A private presale is visible only to customers who possess a secret hyperlink Smashwords will provide you.  Share that link with readers or groups that you want to grant presale access to, such as your newsletter subscribers, or private reader groups.  


Please Note:  The information below links to Amazon’s terms for your reference and is believed accurate.  Amazon’s terms are subject to change without notice.

I plan to enroll my next new release in KDP Select, which requires 3 months of exclusivity.  Can I use Smashwords Presales?
Yes.  Run your Smashwords Presale BEFORE you enroll your book in KDP Select.  This way, you won’t violate Amazon’s exclusivity requirements (View KDP's Terms & Conditions).  

My new release is already enrolled in KDP Select as a preorder.  Can I use Smashwords Presales?
Maybe, but check with Amazon first.  If your book is already on preorder at Amazon, AND it’s enrolled in KDP Select, according to Amazon, your KDP Select term doesn’t actually begin until your book releases on your book's actual release date.  In Amazon’s own words (source: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201499380 ):  “KDP Select. You can enroll your pre-order book in KDP Select, and the KDP Select term will begin on the book's release date.”   Therefore, it might be possible for you to  start and end your Smashwords Presale BEFORE your book’s KDP Select release date.  

Can I skirt Amazon’s exclusivity requirements by running a private presale while my book is for sale under KDP Select?
No.  Don’t do this.  This would be sneaky and unethical, not to mention you’d be violating your KDP exclusivity agreement with Amazon.  Although we’re not big fans of KDP Select (it strips authors of independence), such shenanigans could jeopardize your KDP account status and earnings at Amazon.  If you’re bristling under the restrictive yoke of Amazon exclusivity, consider avoiding KDP Select in the future.



What is the single best way to market my presale?
Promote your presale on your private mailing list.  This is where most of your presale sales will come from.  Subscribers to your mailing list are your most enthusiastic, most dedicated readers, and they’re also the readers who will most appreciate you granting them the ability to purchase and read your new book before anyone else.  Whether you set up your presale as public or private, be sure to let your newsletter subscribers know about your presale before anyone else.  In this way, you’re rewarding your readers for their loyalty.

If I run a private presale, can I still promote it publicly?
Yes, and there are good reasons to consider this!  A private presale feels more exclusive than a public presale, and such “specialness” can increase reader enthusiasm and urgency.  Many authors will configure their presale as private and then then actively encourage their readers to share the exclusive hyperlink with their friends on social media.  In this way, readers feel like they’re sharing something more exclusive and special (because it is!!!).


Does the Smashwords Store report presale sales to national lists?

Of the three major American lists - USA Today, New York Times and Wall Street Journal - Smashwords currently reports all Smashwords Store sales to the New York Times.  Accumulated presales sales are credited to your sales talley on the date of the preorder's public release.  In addition to the NYT list, Smashwords presales also credit toward a title's rank in the monthly Smashwords/Publishers Weekly bestseller list that's published each month in Publishers Weekly.