California Dreamin’ Writers Conference 2017, Part Three

How to Hit Bestseller Lists with E-Book Preorders presented by Jim Azevedo of Smashwords.

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Disclosure: Jim is a very silly person and I moderated this panel. I had so much fun, I cannot begin to explain it all. He’s a businessman with an eye for statistics, he’s an entertaining speaker, and he’s a rock star. True story, he drums for a band called The Rivals in the San Francisco area that was named a Top 5 local band finalist by Bay Area alternative rock station Live105.


You may remember that I sat through a panel by Mark Coker of Smashwords that covered pretty much the same topic. In spite of my scintillating blog post, the preorder option continues to be underutilized. Jim showed us a graphic called The Power Curve. Picture an L with a long bottom section and a C next to it. The top section represents successful self-published books, the middle scoop is most authors who are doing good. Then the tail at the bottom is where the newcomers are. Many of the successful books started with preorders. The Smashwords folks like to say, Born as a preorder. Golly!

With Advanced Orders, the reader gets to submit their credit card info, but they are not charged until the book is released. So it’s like having access to the express lane.


It works best if you can promote months in advance. (This topic will be covered in a future blog.) Better advanced marketing will reach more readers and capture the sale. Fans can set & forget. Better Buzz Building, that’s what we need here.

Why use preorders? It signals a commitment to your fans. Both of them! You commit to new readers to deliver new title by a certain date. There’s risk and reward here because if you don’t release on time, you will lose the trust of those people. If uncertain, create a buffer. Set date for October 1st. Then if you get it out Sept. 1st. Fans will love you.

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A preorder also signals to fans, especially if you are writing a series, that you will deliver the next story. As a reader, I know I hate getting into a series and then get left hanging waiting for the next book. (Susan Squires excepted because I will wait forever for the next Magic book)

Why is this a Fast Track to the bestseller list? The bestseller lists are based on recent unit sales. Because preorders don’t charge until release day, and you can have 50 or more orders waiting for that day, Bam! Your stats are up and might hit that list. Amazon doesn’t play that game but with Apple iBooks, all accumulated preorders count as a full sale. It can cause a spike that will look odd later on, but it’s worth it.

Want better reviews? Fans and super fans are most likely to place preorders, be the first to read, the first to review, and will write strong, positive reviews. Especially if you used ARCs, Advanced Reader Copies.


Preorders give the readers same-day availability. I know my husband uses preorders for the books he likes, and he loves to find that he got the title after he pretty much forgot about it. Just like Christmas or Hanukkah or Diwali or any other gift-giving holiday.

Preorders Increase Merchandising Opportunities. That’s right, you can market bookmarks, tote bags, t-shirts, lunch boxes, key rings, and lots, lots more. Facebook parties, Twitter campaigns, and setting up book signing tours. So much to do.

Advantages include that it’s Automated. The on-line stores list preorders next to existing titles.

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Smashwords promotes hot preorders. If they see the preorders are piling up, they will give it a boost. And if you do a BookBub promotion, let Smashwords know and they will help. Smashwords does distribute to USA Today’s best seller list.

So here’s the mantra from Jim and Mark: Ebooks born as preorders sell better. In fact, 7 of the top 10 sellers on the day of the talk were born as preorders, and 5 of that 7 were romances. Really, romance readers love to be able to preorder.

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Are you planning your preorder yet? Jim said it’s worth it even if you only have a few weeks before release. Three months, however, is ideal.

Timing is key to so much of your success. The topic has come up for the anthology which has a volume coming out in a few weeks. Time to schedule the preorder, but what day should be used for the release? Here is Jim’s advice: Avoid Tuesdays. Saturday and Sunday are the best ebook sales days. A Monday release maximizes the odds of hitting the best seller lists. Early in the month will also maximize your odds. Holidays are good unless it involves sitting down with your family for dinner. So not Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Passover, and so on. Actually, those days aren’t totally bad as long as you avoid the actual day. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are good days.

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Go for the Rolling Thunder – Not just one burst of publicity. Keep it going. Link to ALL the retailers who will have your book.

Mobilize your fans, as a street team. What is a street team? Back in the early indy band days, fans would learn that a band was coming to their town and flood the area with posters advertising the concert. That’s what started street teams. Authors need street teams to help spread the news of a new release or an appearance or a contest, whatever. These people are your best fans and will help you in exchange for sneak previews of a future book or the chance to name a character. Acknowledge your street team in the back of your book. But set a firm deadline for street team members who do stuff for you.

There are lots of things you can utilize for promotion. Create a Smashwords coupon that lets the holder get your book for free. Set the price lower for preorders, advertise that the price will go up. No one wants to pay more if they have the chance at a deal.

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So you got your preorder lined up, and you are working on your next best seller. How do you keep fans interested and waiting? In the back of the current release, put peek at your next book. Simple! And if you need more ideas, I know Jim would love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.

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