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Pre-Order Campaigns and Why You Need One

First thing’s first. Amazon is the absolute worst, and in no way do I appreciate or condone the way they run their monopoly. Nor do I appreciate the way they’ve replaced so many of Seattle’s treasured landmarks—among my favorites was a bar/venue/laundromat called Sit & Spin, where I wiled away many a collegiate afternoon drinking milkshakes and chain smoking—with whatever the fuck these things are.

Nevertheless, it is (unfortunately) equally true that most people—again, not me, just so we’re clear—get their books from Bezos, Inc. So if you happen to have a book coming out soon and don’t want to see that dreaded “Temporarily out of stock” or “Usually arrives within 1–2 months” message on its Amazon page come pub date, you must launch a pre-order campaign.

So, what the hell are pre-order campaigns? In the simplest terms, it’s a promotional campaign that you launch 6–8 weeks prior to the book’s release date to drum up sales so that online retailers place orders and don’t run out of inventory right out of the gate. THAT’S when the dreaded “temporarily out of stock” message appears, which will almost certainly cost you sales. Amazon has trained people to prize convenience over everything else, so waiting 2–3 weeks for a book is a non-starter. (Why it doesn’t occur to these people to drive to a fucking bookstore is a separate tirade, but WHY DOESN’T IT??)

So what kinds of things should you actually be doing in order to run a successful pre-order campaign?

    • Run a giveaway for signed copies! People love free shit. How many times have you eaten a free sample of some food at Costco you don’t really like just because it’s free? I rest my case.
    • Create pretty quote cards using pithy quotes from your book to share on social media. There are tons of free programs you can find to make these. (I heartily recommend Canva, because you get a ton of very attractive photos FOR FREE, and it’s incredibly intuitive and easy, even for someone like me, whose crowning artistic achievements are probably the photos I took on a trip to Paris a few years ago which all prominently feature my thumb.) Of all the marketing content I create, quote cards are BY FAR the most successful in terms of engagement.
    • Conduct Facebook Live streams where you answer questions about the book and take comments, or put out a call for questions on Instagram and answer them in your Instagram Stories.
    • Share photos and videos of anything and everything book-related. Did you get galleys in the mail from your publisher? Create an unboxing video. Have you (or your publisher) just decided on the final cover for the book? Take a picture and show everyone! Did you have some postcards created to hand out at an event? Take some pictures of those babies. Visual content—video, especially—does VERY well on social media, so keep that in mind and crank it out accordingly.

One thing to keep in mind while you’re posting content is to always remember to include a call to action to pre-order the book and always, always, always include a link. The fewer steps it takes someone to get to your book page, the more book sales you’ll have, and the happier everyone will be.

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