One of the most important goals in marketing your book is generating pre-orders. But getting those pre-orders can be challenging—not only must consumers be aware of your book well in advance, they must also be excited enough to part with their money, long before they can get their hands on your book. That’s a tough sell for any product. Most consumers, aside from early adopters of new technology, would rather just wait until the item is available, and pick it up then (if they’re still interested). There’s no good reason at all for them to buy it early—unless you give them one.
Most pre-order promotions can be extended into your launch week to stimulate sales in that all-important first month of sales. But as with any time-sensitive offers, you don’t want to let it run on too long. Scarcity works as a motivator!
Here are three ideas to boost your pre-orders:
One of the easiest (and cheapest) ways to generate pre-orders is to offer a free ebook to every reader who pre-orders a physical copy of your book. It costs you nothing to give away ebooks, while readers benefit in two ways: They get two editions of your book for the price of one, and they get the ebook weeks before the physical book is available. An added bonus for you is that you can ask people who receive a free ebook to prepare an Amazon review to be posted on launch day, giving you an early boost in Amazon’s review-powered algorithms, and giving browsing book-buyers a positive impression of your book at a critical time.
How it works: You promote the offer to your network and the public through your newsletter or social media accounts or by running paid online ads. The customer places a pre-order for the book, then emails you (or your marketing team) a screenshot of their receipt or other proof of purchase. You compile a waiting list of pre-order customers, and once the ebook has been produced, you send it out to them by email. Because your ebook will go on sale to the public at the same time your print edition becomes available, it’s best to end this type of promotion upon the book’s publication date.
What it costs you: Nothing, except for the cost of ads, if you choose to promote the offer that way.
Things to consider: Distributors like Amazon apply digital rights management (or DRM) to ebook files that makes them impossible to share. However, ebook files that haven’t gone through a distributor’s DRM software can be shared, copied and, yes, they could even be pirated and widely distributed for free. For this reason, some publishers choose not to release non-DRM copies of their ebooks. Others take the position that the buzz-building effect of this practice is worth the risk. Pirated ebooks are nowhere near as widespread or widely sought as, say, pirated music. Most readers still buy books, or borrow them from a library. Ultimately, the choice is yours.
Product or service bundles
If you aren’t comfortable sending out non-DRM copies of your ebook, consider bundling pre-orders of your book with other offers, such as a discounted or free item from your regular range of products or services. This might include a free coaching session, a discount on your most popular service package, or a gift from your product line.
As with all special offers, you’ll want to be sure to place limits on the freebies you commit to giving out. You can do this by limiting it to the first 100 orders, placing a time limit on the offer, or giving away something scalable that costs you very little or nothing to send out, such as a downloadable companion workbook or access to an exclusive video.
How it works: As with an ebook giveaway, readers send their proof of purchase to you or your marketing team. You determine the delivery logistics and are free to set the terms of your offer, but be sure to make them clear when promoting or publicizing the offer.
Things to consider: This type of bundle works best when the book’s content is tightly linked to your product or service. If the reader is not interested in the book but orders it just to get the freebie, that’s not the worst outcome since it still counts as a sale, but they’re unlikely to become a vocal advocate of the book. Worse, if they’re only interested in the book and not your product or service, your offer may not motivate them to buy it early.
If you have a strong online following or are in-demand as a speaker, coach, or workshop leader, consider hosting a free webinar as a thank you to readers who pre-order your book. Your webinar doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive, but it will take some organizing. You can run the webinar yourself or hire a marketing team to plan and run it for you. Either way, the content of the webinar must come from you.
How it works: As with the first two strategies, readers send their proof of purchase to you or your marketing team. In return they receive a code to register for the webinar. Run the webinar after the promotion window has closed, usually on or soon after your publication date.
Things to consider: It’s not always easy to motivate people to sign up for webinars, even free ones, because they require a time investment. It’s doubly challenging to get them to sign up for a webinar and buy a book! This type of promotion works best for experienced webinar hosts with an engaged audience who has already expressed interest in attending online events. It also helps if you’ve got strong existing web presence, good traffic on your site, and a team to manage it. Although your webinar could be hosted on any number of free or low-cost platforms, you will get better attendance if you can promote it through a landing page (a web page or website created specifically to promote an offer or sell a product), or manage signups on a website with a custom URL, both of which call for specialist knowledge and technical know-how to execute well. If you’re new to the world of online marketing, consider hiring a specialist to design your landing page. You can also simply post the details of your book launch offer on your blog or social media platforms.
Many authors have found these tactics to be helpful, but you’re not limited to these three options. There are an infinite number of ways to conduct a pre-order campaign— don’t be afraid to experiment, think creatively, and leverage your particular strengths and assets.
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