You may recall from my post last month on my disastrous attempt to use the Smashwords preorder feature that I wished Amazon would allow indies to take preorders. Well, the Zon must have been listening to me (she said with no undue modesty whatsoever), because now it does.
We’ve been hearing rumors for the past several months that Amazon was offering preorders to selected indie authors. (The grumpier among us were heard to complain that the Zon might be doling out the feature only to selected stars. Now it appears they were simply beta-testing it. Take that, curmudgeons!) Late last week, the feature went live for everyone, with very little fanfare, considering how high a priority it was for me – that is, for all of us. KDP simply sent an e-mail to its authors, and set up a Kindle preorders FAQ in the help section of the site.
It’s simple enough to set up your book for preordering. When you’re ready to publish a new title, go to your KDP dashboard and click the “Add New Title” button, as usual. But now, on the first screen, you will see a new option partway down the page: “Select Your Book Release Option.” If you click the “Make my book available for pre-order” radio button, you get a box in which you must enter the release date for your book. That date must be at least ten days, and no more than 90 days, from the date you’re setting up the preorder.
Under the “Upload Your Book File” section, you will see another new question. Here, you must tell KDP whether the file you’re uploading is the final version of your book or a draft manuscript. Interestingly, if you’re uploading a draft, you need not submit a book cover right away. But you can go ahead and set your price, and within 24 hours, KDP will generate a product page for your book. Your readers can then preorder your ebook from that page, with the assurance that it will hit their Kindles on release day – just as if they were preordering a book from a Big Five publisher.
The Zon has set aside a special report page for preorders so you can track their progress. You won’t be credited for the sale of those preorders, however, until release day.
This can be a big deal if you care about rankings. If you get a lot of preorders, your book could make it onto the Hot New Releases list, which is some very sweet virtual real estate indeed.
Of course, there are some rules. KDP is allowing preorders only for brand-new books, and they must be original content – no public domain works allowed. The Zon will be reviewing even the draft manuscripts to make sure they comply with the usual policies. And you need to have everything – final manuscript and cover – uploaded and ready to go ten days prior to your release date.
What if you’re not going to make your date? Hey, it happens. The Zon will let you select a new date that’s up to 30 days later than your original date – but you can only do that once. (You can also reschedule your release for an earlier date, but it still has to be ten days after final manuscript submission.) If you have to, you can cancel the preorder by unpublishing the book. But if you either delay or cancel, the Zon will ban you from using the preorder feature again, for any book, for a year.
Indies who like to work down to the wire may not find much appealing about this new program. I mean, if the book’s ready to go, why wait? Just publish it and let people buy it already. But for those who think strategically about sales rank on release day, preorders ought to be a huge help. And now that KDP is on board, we can offer preorders to all of our readers, no matter which retailer they buy from. That’s pretty exciting. I might just be persuaded to try preorders for my next book.