I think of all of the book launch strategies we’ve ever done, the pre-order is one of the most misunderstood. When it comes to how to sell books on Amazon – you can’t beat a short, but well-planned out pre-order.
I talk to a lot of authors who don’t do a pre-order because they have no following (yet) or it’s their first book and have been told pre-orders aren’t a good idea. But it’s important to understand the secondary reason for doing a pre-order on Amazon: Early Optimization.
How to Sell Books on Amazon with Early Optimization
Once your book goes live on Amazon, it can take the Amazon bots thirty days or more to “learn” your book. And by learn, I mean knowing where your book belongs. This creates a problem because while Amazon is learning where your book belongs, the optimization clock is ticking. I’ve talked a lot in prior blog posts and on my podcast about how important the first thirty days on Amazon is to your book’s success, meaning you don’t want to waste a single day
During pre-order, it’s typical for authors to pop their books onto Amazon with a launch date set into the future and then they wait and wait. Sometimes authors will ping their mailing list or tell their friends. And honestly only one of those strategies is really worth doing early on.
Confused? Then let’s dig into this more, starting with how long your pre-order should be.
Set the Ideal Time Frame to Optimize Pre-Orders on Amazon
I see a lot of pre-orders with long windows. Sometimes as far out as a year – meaning the book sits on Amazon for months and months, just waiting for the launch day. To be fair, some authors can pull this off, but most cannot. If you’re a big, household name with a massive following, sure you can have a pre-order that’s fairly long. Avid fans will most certainly wait for your book. But for the average author, even if you have a few books under your belt, I really discourage long pre-order windows.
The issue, again, is the optimization on Amazon. The longer your book sits on Amazon with no real movement, the farther down the sales rank it sinks.
Generally, when we work with authors who are ready to put their book up for pre-order, I tell them to keep the pre-order to thirty days. Yes, that’s it. Just a short one-month window that will allow you to boost the book, send traffic to the page, and grab Amazon’s attention.
Amazon Pre-Orders Are Not the Same as Increased Book Sales
Yes, you read right. It’s not about book sales. Pre-orders are about optimization.
When we work on pre-order campaigns with new authors, or authors who have a small or non-existent following and no social media presence or website traffic to speak of, I always tell them to leave their book sales expectations at the door. Pre-order optimization is about building highways to your book so readers can find it when it launches.
So, plan on a shorter pre-order, as I said one month, tops. Because the other reality is this: most readers don’t really want to wait months to get a book. And if you’re pushing people to a book that won’t be available for a long while, you could be sending people to your Amazon book page, only to have them find another, immediately available book, they can get right away.
Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Pre-Order Visibility
So you’re getting ready to launch your book: you upload it to Amazon, set the pre-order date for thirty days, and now what? Well now is the time to kick your pre-order strategies into high gear. Here are a few things you can do:
Notifications: So when do you tell friends and family about your book? Honestly, I’d wait on this till post-launch. The reason is twofold; first, if your friends and family aren’t your buyers, then sending them to your page likely won’t result in a sale. And even if it does, it can mess up your algorithm. Let me explain.
You have a military thriller that you’re launching and invite all your family to go buy a copy! Your Aunt Sally, who normally only buys quilting books, is so excited to help you out she buys your book. Great right? Well, sort of. Now Aunt Sally’s buying history is following your book. Meaning your “also boughts” may start to show some of the quilting books Aunt Sally has purchased. This also messes with your Amazon optimization.
I did a full blog post on that topic which is in the resources section below. But for now limit notifications to your reader email list, if you have one. Those are already pre-qualified buyers, but ideally, I’d hold this notification until you’re two weeks out from launch day. The reason is that while all of the strategies mentioned here are good, you want to compress certain ones, like your email list, to the two weeks prior to launch which helps to really juice your book page because of all the qualified traffic.
Amazon Ads: I love doing Amazon ads, but here again I like to do these in that sweet spot, the two-week window prior to book launch.
eBook Promotions: You don’t have to run an eBook discount for these to be successful; you can run an eBook promotion at full price during the pre-order. The idea here is that you want to get this book in front of the right readers who will click over to your page and possibly (pre) order the book – but remember, as with all of the strategies mentioned, this is less about book sales and more about traffic.
Goodreads Giveaway: I love doing Goodreads giveaways both pre-and post-launch day. If we’re working with an author, we’ll schedule a giveaway one or two weeks into the pre-order – being mindful of the fact that giveaways run a week, and it’s good to get one in just ahead of your book launch. I also love to run these post-book launches, too, and often I’ll do two of them!
BookBub Ads: This is such a fun strategy – doing the ads, not the pricey newsletter placement (which is awesome, but harder to get). Your BookBub ads are your supporting cast to help bolster your other strategies, like a Goodreads giveaway or your discounted eBook promotion.
Amazon Optimization: While I love doing Amazon optimization, your book does not have to be fully optimized, at least not initially. Add in keywords that seem appropriate and come back to this in week 1-3 of your go-live date on Amazon. The reason? Yes, good keywords absolutely matter but holding them until the book launch date, which seems counterintuitive, does add another layer of boosting during the crucial “new release” stage.
Depending on how well your pre-order went in terms of traffic to your book page, and what your launch day strategies are, you could sit on that new release list for quite a while, and that’s kind of the point because it does give your book that added boost but evaporates as your book ages. So, to sell books on Amazon, adding keywords and categories just post-launch gives your book yet another kick, bumping up the optimization again.
When it comes to how to sell books on Amazon, being thoughtful about the timing of your strategies is as important as the strategies themselves. And not using every tool in your toolbox at the same time is important, but so is being smart about your pre-order strategy, planning for success with some simple actions, and thoughtful but impactful promotion.
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These are super tips Penny, so thank you for your wonderful work. I am certainly learning a lot about pre-orders. I think this strategy seems rational and possibly effective, well more effective than other strategies. I love the BookBub Ads idea too, along with Goodreads Giveaway. Now to work ladies and gents…