Let's Talk About Pre-orders

When you pre-order a book from, let’s say, Amazon, your incentive is usually the price, often offered at a substantial discount. This is a boon to publisher and reader alike: we get advance sales that help us gauge interest (print runs can increase if the advance demand is strong enough) and, of course, as a reader you get the benefit of reduced retail price and of being one of the first to get your hands on a book you want.

But ask yourself this: How did you know a book you were interested in was available for pre-order? Is it because you are a super-fan of the author and you make a point to stay on top of their new releases? Or did you read about the book somewhere, maybe in The New York Times or Publishers Weekly or the like? I’ve no doubt there are diehard fans out there who follow their favorite authors, but I hazard to guess that the majority of us learn about books from reviews, be they on a blog or in a trade magazine or newspaper.

Attention from critics and media outlets is so important to the publishing industry that there are salaried teams of people (publicists, marketing departments) working full time to ensure a new book is recognized by the media. This is no different than any other commercial venture: all products fight for recognition in the public sphere, and most companies have PR and marketing teams to boost awareness of their goods.

But what if you don’t have the budget for a PR department? What if you are ANTIBOOKCLUB, and you have zero funding other than physical book sales and whatever I can hustle on the side when I’m not working my day job?

For ANTIBOOKCLUB, a pre-order is an entirely different call to arms. It doesn’t simply justify marketing expenses—it literally funds the production of the book. The more pre-orders that come in, the more likely we can break even on cost. This not only serves us in the short-term on a per title basis, but, looking ahead, with enough advance sales, we can publish more books, more often.

One of my greatest challenges is making readers aware of our books. When you don’t have money, it’s incredibly difficult to catch people’s attention. For us to thrive, I ask our readers to be dedicated super-fans: sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know about new books and goings-on; follow us on social media; and, crucially, pre-order a book when you see it go up on our site.

Questions or thoughts? Let me know by leaving comments below. Also in the comments, what sort of topics about ANTIBOOKCLUB or book publishing are you interested in learning more about in future posts?

Next in this semi-regular series: What it means to buy books new vs used . . .