One thing that is always a little intimidating to indie authors is setting up pre-orders. So, let’s take a stroll through the wonderful world of self-publishing platforms and their preorder processes! Much like part 1 to this series, Author Resources: Self-Publishing Platforms, this post will focus primarily on Amazon, IngramSpark, and Draft2Digital.
For Amazon, you can only set up pre-orders for your ebook. They don’t allow physical pre-orders yet, so if you want to put up a physical pre-order, you’ll have to use either IngramSpark or D2D. But for now, let’s go through how to set up your Amazon ebook preorder.
Using your KDP dashboard, create your book and move through the title setup process.
Once you get to “release date” you will select a date in the future. Amazon allows you to put your ebook up for preorder up to one year in advance.
If something happens and you need to adjust your pre-order date, you can always move it sooner, but moving it farther out may cause issues. You’re allowed to extend it by 30 days without penalty. However, any extension beyond that will result in your “losing” pre-order privileges for one calendar year.
Read more about Amazon’s pre-order process here.
Go through your title set up. You can see a step by step guide in this post.
Put your publication date AND your on-sale date for the future. You can do it up to 365 days in advance. Once you finalize your title set up and hit the big publish button, IngramSpark will automatically push pre-order buttons to all of it’s retailers.
It does require you to upload a file, so I recommend at least having a complete, but potentially unedited, manuscript. Then, and this is the important part, you have to UPDATE your manuscript at least 10 business days before your on-sale date.
IngramSpark starts fulfilling their pre-orders 10 business days before the on-sale date. Now, I highly highly recommend not working to the last minute and getting your finalized file up at least 14-21 business days before your on-sale date.
If you have international or substantial numbers of pre-orders, they might start fulfilling even sooner, so it’s really important to get your finalized file updated as soon as possible.
Now, the drawback. IngramSpark charges $49 for the initial title set up. And $25 for a change fee if you need to upload a new document. This can get expensive. As such, most authors will wait to put up their physical pre-orders until the finalized manuscript is ready to avoid the change fee.
However, if you’re a member of the Alliance for Independent Authors, you can get up to 5 free uploads/changes a month for Ingram. This will help save you some money! IngramSpark also runs regular promotions for free title uploads, so be sure to subscribe to their newsletter.
Again, I only recommend using IngramSpark for print books. Their whole ebook thing isn’t great. If you want to go wide with your ebooks, keep reading for the D2D pre-order instructions!
If you need more info, read about IngramSpark’s pre-order process here.
Draft2Digital pre-order is like a love child between Amazon and IngramSpark. I recommend using D2D to set up only ebook pre-orders if you’re planning to take your ebook wide.
Like both Amazon and IS, you can set your pre-order date for up to a year in advance. Similar to IS, you have to upload your final files at least 10 business days in advance. Similar to Amazon, D2D doesn’t require you to pay for upload or changes to files.
Once you set up your title and your publication dates, D2D will push out pre-order links to all the digital retailers you select. D2D functions on an opt-in basis, meaning you get to control which retailers you distribute to.
The only caveat with D2D, they aren’t compatible with the GooglePlay store. If you would like to get your book listed on GooglePlay, you’ll have to go directly through them.
A final note: If you plan to list your ebook for pre-order directly through Amazon, make sure to un-check that storefront on D2D, otherwise it will result in duplicate listings and make the Zon bots mad.
To get more information, read about D2D’s pre-order process here.
Other Retailers/Going Direct
By using platforms like IngramSpark and Draft2Digital, you are ultimately giving a portion of your royalties up to them in exchange for them facilitating listing your books on their retail partner sites.
Some retailers do allow you to go directly to them to list your book, including Kobo, Barnes & Noble, GooglePlay, and Apple iBooks. If you would like to “cut out the middle man” and list your book for pre-order on these sites directly, you will get higher royalties, but it may be more work for you in the long run.
In case you do, here's a quick and dirty for the ones I have experience with:
Kobo is by far the most author-friendly publishing site there is. The same rings true for preorders. Not only do they have this extensive help guide, their interface just makes it really, really easy to set up a pre-order.
You can set your pre-order up to a year in advance and there's no charge to upload your book. When you're choosing your release date, simply pick a date in the future, and check the box that says "Allow for Preorder."
The biggest distinction with Kobo comes with your file. It's highly recommended to upload a final-ish version of your file, because every book on Kobo, including preorders, has a preview that is visible.
If you choose to not upload your final file at the time of setting up your listing, your file should at least have your first three chapters.
Like Kobo, for Google Play you'll need a "final-ish" placeholder file to set up your pre-order, if your final manuscript isn't ready. Other than that, it's free to upload, and pre-orders can be set for a year in advance. Title setup will be familiar to the ones before.
Google Play's distinction comes with the Google algorithm and your book's metadata. It's much more extensive than other sites, and thus, takes some time to understand the fields and the nuances as you upload.
I'll be making a post solely for Google Play here soon.
Barnes & Noble Press
B&N Press works remarkably like D2D regarding set up. Add your book, input your metadata, upload your file if you have it or leave it blank if you don't. Pre-orders can be set for a year in advance here as well.
B&N's little quirk comes with it's categories. Unlike every other platform in this post, B&N doesn't use BISAC categories...they use their own. So this will take you some time during set-up to find the right categories for your book.
This guide was not intended to be a comprehensive step-by-step guide to setting up your pre-orders. Instead, it was intended to give you an overview of the process and a high-level “this is how it works” understanding.
I hope it was helpful, and if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out!