I am so excited to participate in the Local Author Event at the San Diego Central Library. This library is a beautiful piece of architectural work, and has just recently been opened this year. It is so heartwarming to have the support of the community, particularly for ‘Indie’ authors. Hopefully this will further open the ‘doors’ for more local bookstores and eventually the national ‘chain’ stores.
Smashwords authors and publishers now have an exciting and powerful new merchandising tool: Preorders at Apple iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo.
Today we launched a public beta of our new preorder feature, available immediately to over 70,000 Smashwords authors and publishers around the world.
With preorders, Smashwords distributes a book to Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo in advance of the official onsale date.
During the preorder period, customers place advance orders. These advance orders accumulate in the days and weeks prior to the official onsale date and then credit all at once on the date of release, which causes the title to spike in the retailer’s bestseller lists.
I expect preorders to become an essential best practice for all professional indie authors, because the benefits are too significant to pass up.
Here’s a quick summary of preorder benefits:
- Advantageous placement in genre and store-wide bestseller lists – All preorders credit on day one of the release, the onsale date. This can cause the book to spike in the charts. The advantageous placement in the bestseller lists increases visibility and discoverability, which builds buzz and sales.
- Increased odds of hitting national bestseller lists? – Preorders can potentially increase an author’s odds of hitting one or more of the major bestseller lists such the New York Times or USA Today because the preorder concentrates a greater number of sales into a shorter period of time. Lest you find yourself salivating uncontrolably, stop! Keep in mind that most authors will never hit these lists, preorder or not. Preorders are simply a tool that give you merchandising advantage. It’s up to your book, your fans and your savvy marketing to catapult you onto these lists.
- Simultaneous availability – Your book is available on sale at these major retailers on the same day. No more waiting days for your new release to appear for sale at each store. With a preorder, we distribute your completed book in advance of the onsale date, and fans will be able to download it at their favorite store on the same day.
- Advance marketing – Authors can execute more strategic advance marketing campaigns to build buzz and accumulate orders leading up to their official release date. Do chapter reveals on your blog or Facebook page. Hold contests. Run promotions on your other titles to build readership in advance of your big release. Encourage your fans to mark their calendars so they can be the first to download and read your book.
- Your existing titles help market your preorder – The retailer will display your preorder title alongside your other books in their store. If you have multiple titles on the market already, update your back-of-the-book “Other titles by” listings to advertise your upcoming release.
- Capture the reader’s interest at the moment you have their attention – It’s one thing to tell the reader you have a new book coming out in a month or two. Will they remember to come back then to find and purchase the book? A preorder enables you to capture the reader’s order at that moment they’re buying all your books, or all the books in your series, or at the time they’ve stumbled across your web site or blog.
- Increased on-store merchandising – Your advance preorder also makes it easier for retailers to slot your book into special preorder promotions or genre-related merchandising promotions. If a retailer sees that your book is experiencing a high rate of preorders, they’re more likely to select the book for increased merchandising love.
Advance staging of book releases has always been a common best practice in traditional print publishing. It’s interesting now how some of those same best practices are migrating to the digital world. Now indies can access the same tools.
We began testing preorders a few months ago at Apple, starting with the successful launch of Kirsty Moseley’s Free Falling and followed by Abbi Glines’ Forever Too Far. Both titles hit #1 or #2 in Apple’s largest markets.
In the last two weeks, following multiple successes with Apple, we expanded our testing to include Barnes & Noble and Kobo.
A partial list of Smashwords authors who have participated in our preorder beta, or who have preorders in process, include for R.L. Mathewson, Emma Hart, Claudia Hall Christian, T.M. Nielsen, Maree Anderson, S.H. Kolee, Lilliana Anderson, JD Nixon, Rebecca Forster, Quinn Loftis, J. S. Scott, Eve Langlais, Ambush Books, Elizabeth Reyes, Kristen Ashley, Marquita Valentine, Joseph Lallo, Ruth Ann Nordin, Chanda Hahn and Camilla Chafer.
Here are Some Quick Start Tips (more tips on our Preorder Help page http://www.smashwords.com/preorder):
- The preorder option is available on the normal Smashwords upload page. Simply select a release date in the future.
- The book you upload should be formatted to the Smashwords Style Guide, as usual. The moment you upload, check for AutoVetter errors, and download your .epub to check the formatting quality. Don’t let formatting problems delay your preorder! If you need to make a correction, simply click Dashboard: Upload New Version to correct. If you’re new to Smashwords and don’t have the time or patience to do your own formatting, get it right the first time by hiring low-cost formatter from Mark’s List.
- The book should be complete and either a final or a near-final draft, and not a work in progress. The file you upload will be used to generate a sample of the start of the book which retailer customers will download and read, so make it solid!
- Preorders work best if you select a date that’s at least four to six weeks out. The longer the time out, the greater your runway to accumulate orders. This also provides ample time for Smashwords to deliver your book, provides time for the retailer to process and load it, and gives you several weeks of runway in which you can point readers to each retailer’s preorder page. A runway of four or more weeks also gives you time to make last-minute corrections (more on this below). If your release is only a week or two out, you should still load it as a preorder because a couple days of preorder listing is better than none!
- Even if you have a release that’s a couple days away, or even tomorrow, enter it as a preorder today. Although the book may not make it to the retailer in advance of the onsale date, you’ll at least get a headstart to get your formatting right, achieve Premium Catalog distribution, and allow the retailer time to receive, process and list the book. Also, once you enter your preorder, you’ll have the URL for your Smashwords book page. Although the Smashwords store doesn’t accept preorders, you can start building this URL into your marketing campaign, blog and website.
- Since you’ll be uploading your book in advance of the onsale date, we expect that you may want to make last minute updates, cover tweaks and typo fixes. This is fine. Just make sure you upload your final final at least 10 days in advance of the release date to avoid last minute panics. In reality, we and our retailers typically process updates much quicker than 10 days, but it’s always good for you to budget in a buffer in case you run into unexpected delays with your editors or proof readers.
- Your preorder listings will likely appear at each retailer at different times, depending on shipment schedules (we ship daily to Apple and Kobo, twice-weekly to B&N) and vary by the processing speed of each retailer. As each preorder page appears at each retailer, make it a marketing event and a cause for celebration with your fans, and provide a direct link to your fans on your blog, website and on social media.
I founded Smashwords to democratize publishing and give writers the tools and knowledge they need to become professional publishers. Preorder capability is one such powerful tool. I look forward to watching what our authors build with it.
There have been many comments, questions, and criticisms of the status of “Indie Authors” . . . those vagabonds who dare to eschew the services of traditional publishing in favor of taking the reins and publishing their beloved manuscripts on their own.
Unless you are Stephen King, James Patterson, or Edgar Allan Poe, it is a very tough road to plow to get your hard work acknowledged by the mainstream publishing houses. But, it is not an impossible dream to pursue, and there are hundreds and even thousands who are doing just that.
In reading and talking with fellow authors, there are all types of horror stories about the vultures who lurk in the shadows, waiting to pounce and prey upon the eager first time novelist. Those vultures have a name . . . and the name is ‘vanity’. Vanity publishers are those who seek to take advantage of the uninformed, yet eager to get their work published, authors.
They offer a plethora of ‘services’ . . . proofing, editing, marketing, distribution to major booksellers, like Barnes and Noble . . . e-book ‘formatting’, cover design, and visions of sugar plums and dollar signs glowing in the eyes of the author. UNTIL, that is . . . they send you their contract outlining how much they want YOU TO PAY THEM!
Having one’s novel picked up by a traditional publisher (the reputable ones that actually offer an advance, even though it may not be in the millions of your dreams) is a feather in the virtual cap of any author, but it still requires work on your part, particularly in the arena of marketing and promotion.
“But”, you say, “Aren’t THEY supposed to do all that for me?”
Well, yes, they do, to some extent, but in today’s economy, and with the influx of thousands of manuscripts waiting to be discovered, even the ‘big houses’ don’t have the money to invest in more than basic promotion and marketing . . . unless of course you ARE Stephen King . . . whose books practically sell themselves by virtue of his name alone. I once commented that even if his books were written in Crayola, people would buy them, solely because of his highly regarded reputation as an outstanding author.
In light of the fact that you must not only be secure enough in your own skill as an author, you must also be savvy enough to know that you will need to be willing to promote your own work. Blogs, internet sites, local venues, targeting your specific audience, and going after them like a dog on a bone. You cannot expect that your masterpiece will sell itself without a little assistance on your part.
If you are A) not lucky enough to be picked up by a traditional publisher; or B) you wish to go the “Indie Author” route, it will definitely take time, dedication, and extra work on your part to boost recognition and thus, sales of your novel(s).
WARNING: RUN, do not walk, away from any ‘publisher’ that asks you for money upfront to publish your work. Nine times out of ten, the promises they dangle in front of your starry-eyed gaze will fall by the wayside as soon as the check is cashed, and all for things that you can accomplish just as easily on your own.
There are several fantastic sites that offer the same services for FREE, and with good proofing and editing on your part, and/or with the help of a trusted colleague, you will be able to put out a top notch product. While you can’t always rely on ‘spell-check’ to catch little nuances such as word substitution (as in reign instead of rein), simply having another ‘set of eyes’ go over your manuscript prior to publication, offering minor editorial suggestions, like your POV, grammatical errors, or typos, will be a huge benefit in the long run.
CreateSpace offers publishing services for free, including setting up your book cover design, placement on Amazon as both an e-book as well as a ‘hard copy’.
Smashwords offers free publication as well, although some have noted that is a little more persnickety to work with. (Patience will work wonders in dealing with their ‘vetter’ program). With Smashwords, your e-book will be made available to online book retailers: Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, Apple, Diesel, and libraries as well.
Between these two venues, the fledgling author has an excellent chance at promoting their work on many sites, and at no cost initially. Of course CreateSpace offers ‘extra’ perks for a price, but are not bound by any contract to accept or use those perks unless you so choose.
If you do your homework, (and who doesn’t LOVE homework?), you will even find traditional publishers who will allow you to submit your manuscript in conjunction with self publishing, as long as you research thoroughly, and read their submission guidelines carefully. Many do not even allow dual submissions.
With publishing on Amazon, you will need to pay close attention to their offering of KDP, which requires exclusivity. They do not want your work to be made available on any other site, and if you want to limit yourself to Amazon only (which I do not recommend . . . solely for purposes of greater exposure) go ahead and use KDP. Various authors I have dealt with have noted that it is of no real great benefit as opposed to the exposure attained by having their book available on multiple venues.
With the multitude of internet sites, blogs, and promotional venues available, marketing is made much simpler than back in the ‘old days’ of pounding the pavement, and making multiple phone calls. Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, LinkedIn, Book Daily, Tumbler, Goodreads, just to name a few are excellent sources to interact with, communicate with other authors, garner readership, and make SALES happen!
Yes, it takes a little more time and effort, but once you are established, and the networking almost takes care of itself, as your audience grows, you connect with your target audience, and VOILA . . . before you know it a strange thing happens, you find people seeking you out, connecting with you . . . reading your blogs, watching your book trailer(s) . . . and BUYING and REVIEWING your book(s)!!!
I consider myself extremely lucky with the background that I have in photography, graphic design, typography, and having worked in the printing and advertising industries for over 30+ years. I create my own book covers, layout my books to the specs required by CreateSpace and Smashwords, and create my own media kits and marketing materials. It is a lot of work, but it is costing me nothing more than the ink for my printer, and printing materials for business cards, fliers, book marks and postcards.
Note that the ‘vanity’ publishers, and yes, even CreateSpace and Smashwords are what are considered P.O.D. (print on demand) publishers . . . and so far, the only ‘brick and mortar’ bookstore that I’ve come across that will NOT carry P.O.D. books, is Barnes and Noble. That should not be, nor is it for me, a deterrent . . . Their comment to me was if I went through a publisher “Lightning Source” that distribution would be accepted through them. That, my dear author friends, is NOT guaranteed, AND Lightning Source IS also a P.O.D. venue, that charges you for the very services that you can accomplish for free through the aforementioned sources!
Believe in yourself, have confidence in your novel. Target your reading audience. NETWORK, and do a lot of ‘self-promotion’. Offer up excerpts on your Facebook author page, your blog, on Goodreads, etc., just enough to ‘tease’ the reader into wanting more. If you do not have the tools or desire to produce your own marketing materials, there are much cheaper alternatives than paying $3k to $4k for unquestionable work by a ‘vanity’ publisher. They will promise you the moon and stars, and you will get left with a lump of coal.
A group on Facebook for authors of all genres to post a link to their video trailer to promote their novels, movies, etc.
Share your masterpiece, visit other author’s links, like, comment, and exchange ideas and ‘how-to’ ideas.