News for Authors

All About Pre-Orders

by Phil Stamper-Halpin with Julie Cepler|September, 2017

From Apple launch events to Netflix viral campaigns, creating early buzz for a new product in any industry is key to its initial success. Read on to learn more about how marketing/media campaigns in support of pre-orders can help capture that early buzz in the book world.


Why are pre-orders important?

For an author, pre-orders can alert retailers and consumers that they should pay attention to your book. From the bookseller perspective, the pre-order quantity is a good early indicator of a book’s success, and can lead to retailers increasing their initial orders.

Additionally, pre-orders can have a ripple effect in the broader publishing industry, and a pre-publication buzz campaign in support of pre-orders can build anticipation for your book launch, allowing you to carry momentum through the weeks following your on-sale date. That said, pre-orders are simply one piece of the puzzle when it comes to your marketing and publicity campaigns, and should be treated as such.

Note also that if hitting a bestseller list is a goal you and your marketing team are working toward, pre-orders are a great way to increase your chances, as they count toward your first week’s sales.


How do pre-orders help build buzz for a new book?

This is a common question, and the answer depends mainly on how active your following is. For authors with previous books and an established fan base, pre-order announcements can be your first communication touchpoint with dedicated fans who will help you spread the word. Your social media followers and newsletter subscribers are likely to be some of your biggest fans, and thus most likely to pre-order your next book.

For example, the second book from Mindy Kaling, WHY NOT ME, was launched at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and the pre-publication phase included a gift-with-pre-order promotion, offering her favorite licorice and a WHY NOT ME pin to readers who pre-ordered the book. (If you have ideas to do something like this, be sure to speak to your publishing team to consider and to incorporate all best practices and legal requirements associated with gift-with-purchase promotions.)

For a debut author, early pre-orders can be more challenging since readers may be less inclined to purchase a book they don’t know much about. In that case, seeding excitement and information about your book on social media, offering review copies for online consumer reviews, early buzz from booksellers, and traditional media can all help drive pre-orders, and your publishing teams will help with ideas on these fronts as well.


How else do authors benefit from marketing campaigns that support pre-orders?

When you’re working with a more involved fan base—pitching the campaign to your social media followers or newsletter list, for example—marketing campaigns that support pre-orders give you the chance to test early messaging.

For eager email marketers, this can also give you an opportunity to experiment with your newsletter list. Are you wavering between two pitches for your book? Segment your list and do some A/B testing to find which resonates the most with your fans.


What are other ways for authors to build buzz for their books?

There are many ways for authors to increase visibility for themselves and their books. From blog tours to fan conventions, not to mention growing your following on social media, nearly everything your marketing and publicity teams do helps build buzz for your book.

Starting a newsletter is another great way to keep in touch with fans. Social media posts can be easily missed by your readers, so the ability to email them directly is key as you work toward milestones such as the launch of a marketing campaign, your cover reveal, publication day, and beyond.

It’s also important to connect with booksellers. Bookstores love to support local authors, so visit your local store often to show your support, interact with them on social media, and share your enthusiasm with the booksellers to get them excited about your book. These encounters might benefit from coordination with your local sales rep, so make sure to keep your Penguin Random House team in the loop.

As with any marketing plan, reach out to your marketer with ideas for campaigns that support pre-orders, so they can advise you on the campaign, share new ideas, or amplify your campaign once it’s live.


Julie Cepler is Vice President & Director of Marketing for Crown, Hogarth, Broadway, Tim Duggan Books, Crown Archetype, and Three Rivers Press.

Phil Stamper-Halpin is Senior Manager, Publishing Development & Author Platforms for Penguin Random House.