Some authors prefer not to set up pre-orders on Amazon because it can hurt their sales rank during launch week. The pre-orders are spread out according to the time of purchase and don’t accumulate to give a big burst in sales rank. This can hurt visibility within Amazon’s stores and limit how high your book can climb during launch week.
I believe that for about 90-95% of authors, however, a pre-order makes sense as most are not chasing sales rank or author rank in a way that’s dependent on getting every last bit of juice during launch week. There are a lot of benefits you gain when putting your pre-order up earlier, especially for authors without a massive audience.
I typically do a shorter pre-order (2-6 weeks only) and use the pre-order time to handle lots of little tasks that can take days to complete—sometimes up to a week!
Here are my reasons for setting up an Amazon pre-order:
Reason #1: I Want a Deadline
I like to have a deadline for getting things done and a pre-order helps me do that. You have to upload your book at least three days before the publish date, though Amazon prefers ten days.
To stay sane, I usually make sure I have my first draft done at least before putting the pre-order up. I write fairly clean, so this means that I know I can get it done on a tight deadline if needed.
Reason #2: I Want To Link to the Book in Other Places
I like to get blog posts, emails, back matter, and other pieces of marketing in order and it helps to have a link ready to go. Once you publish your pre-order, your link will go up on Amazon within a few hours.
Note: You can get around having the pre-order link by using a free Plugin called Pretty Link and WordPress (the self-hosted one, not the blog platform one). Simply create a link URL and point it wherever you want for now. When you publish your book, replace the new link through the plugin.
Reason #3: I Want To Add the Book to My Author Page
You can add your book to your Amazon page (and create your Amazon page if needed) here: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/ (account required)
It usually takes anywhere from a few hours to a day to see the book added. However, the book can take up to five days to appear on your author page, which means if you leave it to the last minute, during launch you wouldn’t necessarily be linked to all of your other books.
Additionally, your author page is linked to your Amazon followers, which is linked to emails to your Amazon followers that tell them about your new book. No one knows exactly how Amazon’s follower feature works, but I prefer to have this all lined up before launch week just in case!
Reason #4: I Want To Write, Test, and Tweak My Description
Book descriptions are a really important sales conversion factor on your page. I like to get my first version up and keep tweaking until I have something solid by release date. I often get to test and tweak the book description through my blog, email list, and other places first.
If I don’t have to get my book description done for my pre-order, I usually put it off until I get to that box on the publishing page… oops.
Additionally, if you have your pre-order done, and your book linked to your author page through Author Central, you can format your description through Author Central ahead of time. A well-formatted description improves sales conversions. So does all the other extra content you can add through Author Central—Reviews, From the Author, About the Author, etc.
Reason #5: I Want To Get My Ads Set Up and Tested
AMS ads are a great way to test copy because there are so few variables. When you find something that works, you can roll out that same copy to Bookbub and Facebook to test it there. Since you have to come up with images for these other two platforms, having solid, tested copy can help you stretch your ad dollars.
AMS ads are also a great way to test your target books and authors. This is super useful on Bookbub and also gets you further along on Facebook (though Facebook targeting is still very different).
If you collect data on this during the pre-order, you’ll have a good sense of what’s working and what’s not by the time you release your book.
You can get started with Amazon ads here: https://ams.amazon.com/
Reason #6: I Want to Populate My Also Boughts
Your Also Boughts tell you the health of your book and how well it’s targeting your ideal audience. If you see books that are similar to yours in the Also Boughts, you’ve probably taught Amazon who your ideal target audience is.
The Also Boughts are also what drive Amazon’s recommendation engine, and linking closely to someone else’s book means that you are in their Also Boughts, too.
You can check this through a free tool called Yasiv here: http://yasiv.com/
Also Boughts are also linked to recommendation emails, and while again no one knows exactly how Amazon’s recommendation emails work, you want those recommendation emails to go out as soon as your book is available and in the weeks following.
Reason #7: I Want To Make Sure My Categories Are On Point
I recently had a friend who writes fiction but had a bestseller tag on launch in a random nonfiction category about the environment—Gah.
It turns out Amazon made a goof and put her book in the wrong categories. This means that she lost visibility in her actual categories during that first day or so of launch.
Once your book is up, you only need one sale to start seeing your main categories. (If you need to, you can purchase your book yourself to get this rolling.) Your categories will appear within about 24 hours (usually sooner) and you can check to make sure you are in the categories you wanted.
This also gives you a chance to contact Amazon and request more categories if needed, so you are set up for visibility in the right places at launch.
You can learn about categories here: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200652170
You can request categories on that same page using the Contact Us button.
Reason #8: I Want To Get My Series Page Created and/or Updated
Your Series page is a special page on Amazon that has a list of all the books in your series. This list also shows up on each of the product pages for your books in that series. It is a really important feature that helps your sell-through rate.
You can learn more about Series pages here: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G201757800
For some reason, Amazon still creates Series pages manually and requires you to manually request it as well.
You can do this here: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/contact-us?topicId=productPagePrint&subtopicId=series
It usually takes them about two days to get your Series page up, though the technical team says it can take up to a week. They won’t do it on weekends, so if you put your request in Thursday night you’ll usually be waiting until Monday midday at least.
I also try to have three books from the series either done or on pre-order. It makes your series page and Amazon author page look better. That said, you can get a series page once you have at least two books in the series on Amazon.
Reason #9: I Want To Get My Paperback Linked
I usually just publish the paperback a week to a few days before the pre-order date. I don’t do a pre-order for the paperback. I send Amazon a request to link the ebook and paperback, which again takes them a few days. Amazon sometimes also links it automatically, but I put in the request either way.
Then, I start to collect reviews on the paperback. Hopefully, the paperback and ebook link up just in time to show a few reviews on launch day, without anyone noticing that the book is technically already out in paperback ahead of schedule.
You can request Amazon to link your books here: https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200652220
Note: You can request to link to your audiobook, too. I don’t get my audiobook out right away because once it’s out, you can’t make changes to your book without it costing a lot of time, money, and headache. Or, you can but then you lose Whispersync, which can really hurt your sales. This is especially bad for a non-fiction book. I prefer to wait a bit before I lock in the content of my book for good.
Reason #10: I Want to Put Out Evergreen Marketing Content Ahead of Launch
For my non-fiction especially I’m often creating videos and blog posts that launch before my book is out so they can start to gain momentum and rank in Google’s search engine algorithm. These often include a link, which ideally goes somewhere since this content is already live. Having the pre-order up is critical and you might as well capture those extra sales, even though they are early. Otherwise, the person who watched your video or read your blog post might forget to come back and buy once the book is launched.
If you do Amazon pre-orders, what are your reasons? Anything I missed?
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Thank you, Monica, for this insightful and truly helpful set of tips! I know I will be referring back to it very soon.
Thank you, Monica – this has been really helpful!