Smashwords Preorders

SWpreordersIt’s been about a year since Smashwords began beta-testing its preorder feature, and it’s been live for everyone for six months, give or take. Mark Coker was excited enough about rolling out the feature to everyone that he even put together a PowerPoint presentation on leveraging it to your best advantage for your new release.

When I saw that PowerPoint, I got all fired up about using it for the release of Undertow in March. So I did a whole bunch of stuff suggested in the presentation: I uploaded the book file a couple of weeks early, set the introductory price low (99 cents), mentioned the availability of preorders prominently on my blog and Facebook page, stuck the info in a newsletter, and sat back and waited to hit the big-time on release day.

What I had missed in my excitement was that Smashwords doesn’t take preorders on its own site. The preorder feature is only available for Smashwords books at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iTunes. And I sent everybody to Smashwords.

I did end up with a few sales at Smashwords from people who bought the book on launch day. Thank goodness I was smart enough to include the launch date in all my posts and in the newsletter. I also pushed the date in the run-up to my release party on Facebook – as well as the erroneous preorder information, thereby looking like a dope to all the party-goers when I explained that I had misunderstood how the process worked.

But as for hitting the bestseller list anywhere? Yeah, no. Didn’t happen.

The whole process, and the result, was so underwhelming that I didn’t try offering preorders when I released Scorched Earth in June. Now that I have a better handle on the process, I may try it again in the future. But it just seems so complicated. I want one link, you know? “The book will be released on X date, but you can click here, lock in your early-bird price of 99 cents, and it will be delivered to you on launch day!” Not, “The book will be released on X date, but you can preorder if you go to Retailer X, Y or Z right now….” I guess I could set up a one-click system myself with a page on my website with links to the all the retailers participating in preorders. But wouldn’t it be nice if someone did it for me?

So that’s one item on my preorder feature wish list: One click to rule them all. Another would be an automatic price increase function, so that I could set up a preorder (or even launch-day) price of 99 cents, and it would automatically pop up to list price the next day. I discovered about a week after Undertow launched that I had forgotten to raise the price at Smashwords. It would have been great if I could have just had Smashwords do it for me. Automatic price increasing is certainly possible; Amazon does it with both of the KDP Select sales tools. And it would seem to me to be a fairly simple thing to implement, although I admit that what I know about programming would fill a very small paper cup.

Speaking of the Zon, it doesn’t do preorders at all, of course – or anyway, not for most indies. That’s #1 on my preorder feature wish list.

Has anybody else used the preorder feature at Smashwords? How did it work for you?

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

23 thoughts on “Smashwords Preorders”

    1. As much as people sometimes bemoan Createspace, they are relatively easy to navigate compared to Smashwords, Lulu and other sites. Plus, there is the easy-in with Amazon and distribution. Hard to say no to all of that in favor of more complex interfaces and distribution.

      1. But if you’re looking to put out an ebook, I wouldn’t send it to KDP via CreateSpace. And if you want to get your ebook into places like B&N, Kobo and iTunes, you either have to deal with an aggregator like Smashwords or upload your book on each individual platform — which makes it a hassle.

        1. Yes, which brings up the “Select” program issue, where you either have to commit to Kindle for 90 days (I believe), or use Smashwords and other services. I really wish that Amazon would relax their policy on that, though I understand why it is in place. Which would you recommend then? The Kindle Select 90 Blood Contract, or trying an ebook (version) on the open market first?

          1. 🙂 You can do to KDP without committing to Select. I’ve done it both ways — launched on exclusively on Select for the first 90 days, and launched across the board. Not sure which has been more beneficial, to be honest; either way, it seems, I need to run promotions in order to sell a decent number of books.

  1. It seems Smashwords is more often Crashwords for many writers. Too much hand-holding required to get through all the hoops. Mark Coker is extremely obliging and helpful, but I always found it challenging for the fainthearted!

  2. My experience with pre-orders was last October after the option was first available. I was hugely disappointed by my pre-order sales. Until there are promotional services like BookBub, ENT etc., for authors to promote pre-order links, I don’t see any reason to use it again.

    1. Agreed, Kim. Unless you have a substantial mailing list where you know you can get the word out, there aren’t many places where you can let folks know that pre-ordering is available for your book.

  3. Thanks for posting this, Lynne. I was thinking of doing a pre-order for my next book and would have probably done the same thing you did 😀

  4. I’ve received Smashwords coupons for review copies that end the day the book comes off pre-order. Not only does it not accomplish what the author thought it would, but there is NWIH (an acronym so this won’t be NSFW) that I’m going to remember to come back the single day the coupon could actually do me any good to redeem. That’s one book that won’t get reviewed.

  5. I thought about doing the preordering, but my main problem with Smashwords is that it takes so long for price changes to take effect at the retailers it distributes to. I’d be more inclined to do a preorder at Smashwords only, and set it to go to full price on release day, (having the release day price be the one that actually gets distributed and shows up several days later when the book finally gets to other retailers).

    1. I agree, RJ — that would be the ideal solution. Smashwords seems to be upping its game in that regard recently; it used to take weeks and weeks for changes to update to retailers, but now it’s only a couple of days in most cases. Still, that’s a couple of days at the wrong price.

  6. Thanks for sharing, Lynne. You’d think someone would offer the one button thingy, at a small remuneration wouldn’t you.

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