If you’re a traditionally published author, your book will likely be set up for pre-orders nine to 12 months in advance. This means that anyone will be able to find your book through online retailers and place an order but the person ordering your book will not receive it until it ships on your publication date.

Pre-orders are important because they signal to retailers that there is interest in your book, so that retailers bring your book into the warehouse. In most cases, your publisher will establish an initial print run of your book, and books will be printed and distributed to retailers. 

A good goal for most first-time authors is to get a minimum of 100 pre-orders on Amazon. 

If your book has very few pre-orders, retailers may not stock your book—or stock enough of your book, which can cause issues during launch week. You’ll need to communicate with your publisher to get information about your progress with pre-orders because your Amazon Author Central account will not show that data. You will, however, be able to see the progress of your sales rank in Author Central during the pre-order period, which can tell you what early promotion drives orders.

If you’re hoping to land on a major bestseller list, you’ll need to drive as many pre-orders as possible to various retailers (not just Amazon). 

To fuel interest and excitement, we recommend that you:

  • Focus on one-to-one outreach with your closest connections who may be willing to pre-order. Encourage them to share your message with their connections to expand reach.
  • Add all possible retailer links to your book page on your website to promote all paths to purchase. 
  • Share various retailer links through emails and social media posts to help distribute your sales to various retailers. Include excerpts or key findings from the book to build excitement around the messaging. 
  • Partner with independent bookstores or send sales to Bookshop.org. This may increase your likelihood of landing on the USA Today bestseller list, which favors independent bookstores. 

For Amazon specifically, you’ll be able to rank as a bestseller from the time your book is available for pre-order through your launch week and beyond. Orders on Amazon influence your Amazon sales rank at the time the order is placed, so your rank will go up and down over time depending upon how many books you sell compared to all books on Amazon and all books in your category. 

For this reason, it’s helpful, if you are doing a major push for pre-orders, either through email or an event, to look at your book page on Amazon intermittently, as the bestseller banner may appear briefly.

Because your book may be offered for pre-orders in several editions at once (print, ebook, and hardcover), any pre-orders affect Amazon sales rank for each edition. You may want to focus your pre-order campaign primarily on print pre-orders, which are most important as it relates to retailers ordering physical stock into their warehouses. Also, most bestseller lists focus on print books. 

You can also prioritize bulk pre-orders, which most authors begin outreach to organizations for six to nine months in advance of launch. If you’re working on bulk pre-orders, we recommend partnering with a bulk retailer like Porchlight Books, BookPal, or Bulk Buy, as these retailers offer discounts for your orders and report your sales to Bookscan. 

As an added bonus, Porchlight has a monthly bestseller list, so if you send a large number of pre-orders to Porchlight, you may make their list, providing additional exposure for your title. The Porchlight Bestseller list is derived from books that have been ordered and shipped, so if you secure a large number of bulk pre-orders, you could land on the Porchlight list during the month your book is released. 

If you plan to work with a bulk retailer, it can be helpful to reach out to coordinate with them, as they may be able to provide unique approaches based on your campaign and goals, including creating a custom landing page for your potential bulk sale customers. 

You can entice bulk orders by:

  • Creating incentives for individual and bulk pre-orders to attract early orders. These incentives can be outlined on your website, or shared in a PDF. 
  • Craft custom offers for specific customers.
  • Fold in a bulk order to another business or speaking opportunity. 

Note: If you expect to generate large quantities of bulk pre-orders, you’ll want to keep your publishing team updated to ensure that the initial print run is sufficient to fulfill those early orders. 

In all, prioritizing pre-orders for traditionally published books is a crucial step in your launch plan. Find opportunities to engage your network and push bulk orders to ensure optimal success come launch day.