Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Do Ebook Preorders Work? Part 2

A few months ago I wrote a blog post about preorders. I experimented with three preorder titles, curious as to how they'd perform.

Here are some of the topics I addressed back then, and my results.

1. Deadlines. I wanted to light a fire under my ass and get some work done. On one hand, why invite extra stress into your life? On the other, consider what motivates you.

Joe sez: Well, the fire was lit. And I burned hot. I wrote three novels and two novellas in less than six months, and I definitely felt the stress. As the deadlines neared, I beat a personal record--over 27,000 words in three days. And the words were good words, most of which I kept.

So deadlines did push me write over 250,000 words in only a few months. While it wasn't the most enjoyable writing experience I've ever had, I think the works turned out well, and since launching LAST CALL two days ago my panic attacks have almost stopped. :)

Verdict: Deadlines do force you to get words on the page, but only if you work well under stress.

2. Sales. I've had many writers ask me: What's the best time to launch a new book? My answer has always been the same: When it's finished. At the same time, if a book is going to be out on a certain date, why make people wait to buy it? And if fans want to buy something right now, why make them wait until later, when they could possibly forget?

Joe sez: I still think that you shouldn't make people wait to buy something. If they know it is going to come out, let them preorder it.

But preorder dates don't work as well as they could, for reasons I'll continue to disclose.

With Blu-ray, you can pre-order it on Amazon even if their is no set release date. I can see how they couldn't happen for KDP authors--it is bad customer service if readers pre-order books that take years to--or never--come out. But this would be a cool feature to have. I know my next Jack Daniels novel is WHITE RUSSIAN. I don't know when it will be finished, and I'm not committing to a crazy deadline again. But it would be nice to have readers be able to pre-order this title even without a release date set.

Verdict: I still would like readers to be able to order a book the moment they hear about it, but I don't think the pre-order system as currently configured is worth it.

3. Buzz. I believe that sales are about what you have to offer, not what you have to sell. The goal is to find people looking for the kinds of books that you write. So, when I'm pimping a title, I usually only do it around launch day, or if the book is on sale.

Joe sez: I haven't seen added sales benefits to pimping more often. In fact, I see downsides.

I announced preorders, I reminded people about preorders, and I announced on launch day. This constant promo has cost me some Twitter followers, and instead of having a big one-time boost in sales that would get me on a lot of Top 100 lists, I had a few smaller boosts. 

It's tough to compare recent numbers with numbers from the past because KU has changed KDP so much. But my gut is telling me that preorders lost me some of the visibility that a bigger launch would have had.

Verdict: I think less marketing over time, and a stronger marketing push on launch date, may be the way to go.

4. Sales. While slow and steady sales help your book attain, and keep, a decent ranking on Amazon, nothing beats a book launch without preorders for getting the best initial rank. But how much does getting high ranks and showing up on bestseller lists help raise sales?

Joe sez: All in all, I have about 6500 preorders for those three titles. That's a decent chunk of change, priced at $4.99 and $5.99. But I didn't peak on the bestseller lists like I'd done with previous titles.

Could it be my brands are losing their popularity? I don't think so. Sales remain solid--I'm still averaging about 180 sales per day and 140,000 KENP. And when I release a new title, there is a big boost. 

But my feeling is I'd get a bigger initial boost without preorders.

Verdict: Seeing preorder sales accumulate is nice. But I don't know if they help in the long run.

With or without preorders, I think a comparable number of readers are going to find my books. But I think if a substantial chunk of readers all bought on the same day, rather than sales being staggered over weeks and months, that would raise visibility on the bestseller lists.

Then again, having a book for sale for a longer time seems smarter than having it for sale for a shorter time. 

They're probably some equation for this. What are the number of eyeballs on a title ranked at #3000 for two months vs. the number of eyeballs on a title ranked at #15 for three days?

Going with my gut, my next few releases won't have preorder pages. Then I'll be able to compare data in a more meaningful way.

What have your results been?