This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Trying Out Amazon Preorder

            Between the publication of my second mystery novel, Wash Her Guilt Away, last April and the publication of the third, Not Death, But Love, last month, Amazon introduced a new promotional tool for authors — the preorder. Although I’m not normally a cutting-edge sort of guy, I decided to give it a try.
            Preorder allows an author to put the book out there on Amazon as a coming attraction up to three months before actual publication. Interested readers can reserve a copy, which is downloaded to them on publication day. For the purpose of counting sales for book rankings on Amazon, the preorders are counted the day they’re recorded. For the purpose of paying the author, they’re counted on publication day.
            A book can be placed on preorder if it’s not quite done, but if the final copy isn’t submitted to Amazon a week and a half before publication, there are penalties. Like losing all the preorder sales. I knew I could make the deadline, so figured I had nothing to lose.

Not What I Expected

            My initial expectation was that the book up for preorder would sell about as well as the two books already up on Amazon, but that turned out not to be the case. The first month that Not Death, But Love was up on Amazon, the only buyers were myself, my wife, Linda, and two friends. I concluded that unless you’re a big-name author, you won’t sell many books in March to people who won’t be receiving them until the end of May.
            The next month picked up a bit, and when it got to be about two weeks before book publication date, the pace quickened. Ten days before publication, I sent a blast email to a large group of people I know and saw an immediate surge in sales.
            Not until the book went live did I get a breakdown of where the sales had come from. Most were from the U.S. (I’m guessing half to two thirds were people who knew me), but I also got preorders in the U.K. and Australia, where I don’t know anybody.

A Good Marketing Tool

            From the sales standpoint, I’d have to say the preorders were a bit disappointing, but they still helped somewhat. The unexpected bonus of trying this out was that it enabled me to do some test-marketing about how to present the book.
            When I first put the book up for preorder, the tag line on the book description was, “She was writing a family history, and her murder became the final chapter.” I tried tweeting that with an image of the book cover and a link, but I also tried out several other taglines. One of the alternatives came in head and shoulders above the others in terms of being re-tweeted and favorited.
            The winning tag line was “A Paean to Books, A Reflection on Love, and a Police Procedural With No Police.” That’s currently the leader to the book description on Amazon, and in spite of or because of it, the book is selling well compared to my previous efforts. In any event, I decided that the people had spoken and went with their decision. Well, the people who use Twitter, anyway.