The importance of preorders for a self-publisher
You may have already spotted that Brand Brilliance is now open for preorders from the sneak peek in this post. So many of you have ordered the gift sets and many of you have told me via email and Instagram that you've already preordered and seriously, I couldn't be more grateful. So much time, love and energy has been poured into the making of Brand Brilliance and I cannot wait to get this beauty into your hands! Victoria (my new designer) and I are really enjoying designing the Gift Boxes (more on that soon) and I know you are going to love them. I'm not sure I ever really understood the significance of preorders until I published How to Style your Brand (HTSYB). In a way, you could see them as a cynical tool to create a big sales-spike so that, as with the record-industry of old, a book 'crashes in at number one' and becomes an overnight bestseller.
How to Style your Brand has sold so consistently (it's been the number one bestseller in its category on Amazon.co.uk since its launch in May 2015) that I'm genuinely not worried about the big sales spike. In my experience, if you write a good book that adds value to your readers and inspires them, it'll sell well. And when you create a book that energises people so much that they want to share it with their friends and followers, as HTSYB has done, then you really don't need to worry about sales gimmicks.
So why the preorders? Well, on the one hand, preorders give big retailers an indication of how well a book is going to do. It encourages them to give a book shelf space, or in the case of the online retailers, they'll sometimes promote a book they believe to do well.
But more importantly than that, preordering ensures that you'll get the book quickly.
Preorders go some way to helping manage your stock
I'm not sure if you remember from when I launched HTSYB but we sold out within six weeks. The books take twelve weeks to print, so we had an awkward gap of about eight weeks when How to Style your Brand was sold out. I was fielding a lot of impatient and frustrated emails from readers anxious to get their hands on the book and it was a pretty stressful time. This might seem like a 'nice problem to have' (HTSYB seems to be a story of 'nice problems to have') but actually I found it really hard to deal with. I hated the idea of letting people down, I hated the idea of people wanting to get their hands on the book and not being able to. So... this time I have put a few measures in place.
I have ordered 5,000 books instead of 2,000. I'll be 'on it' much more with my distributor to see how quickly titles are shifting (you usually just wait for the monthly sales report) and I have my printer poised to do a second reprint. But here's the rub.
I paid for the books in January but I won't be paid for the wholesale orders placed in May (the month of the launch) until July. That's a long time to be funding 5,000 copies. And until I get the bulk orders in, I can't fund another print run. I would also be crazy to order more until I have an indication of how sales are going to go, however confident I might be in the book. I pay for storage space by the palette on a six-monthly basis with my distributor, so even if I sell all 5,000 books within a week, I'll be paying for that amount of space for 6 months. So I do need to be a bit careful about how many copies I order. And that's before you think about the cashflow element.
What I really need is an insight into how well the book is going to sell, but that's pretty hard when my biggest client is unable to provide that information until the 11th hour. No one seems to be able to give me a definitive answer as to how Amazon works - and they sell most of my books. Last time, Amazon ordered 83 copies a couple of weeks before the launch of HTSYB. I was gutted. I'd anticipated I'd sold 300-400 copies just based on the feedback I'd had leading up to the launch, so that initial order was pretty crushing.
In the event, it turned out that their initial order with me was not reflective of the initial preorders they had received on site. Very quickly those orders increased to around 500 or more in the first week. Isn't that strange? You think you'd order enough stock to cover the orders you had in the bag and more, but this doesn't seem to be the way they operate. It was highly stressful to say the least! And it makes stock control so incredibly difficult. For some reason, Amazon will not give you any visibility of how a title is selling until they choose to place an order with you. I really don't know why, but that's how it seems to be.
There is a very good chance that this first print run will sell out again. In a way, I really hope it doesn't. But of course, I'd quite like it to at the same time! So, if you've preordered, whether that's direct through me or via Amazon, Thank You. Your support means the world!
If you're yet to preorder, do consider ordering your copy sooner rather than later. When you preorder through me, you'll have peace of mind that you will get your hands on the book as quickly as possible. You're also helping me bridge that payment gap between the wholesale 60-day terms and the initial investment in the print run. From your perspective, that means that I am a little closer to being able to fund a second print run before I've been paid for the first. It also means that even if the sales go astronomically crazy, I'll make sure you get your books. I don't know how many books we'll sell. I have a feeling that we are going to sell a lot based on the initial feedback I've received, and the success of HTSYB, but until those orders start coming in, I just don't know!
I'm keeping tabs on your preorders, and yours are the first I'll fulfil. It might take us a few days to package up those beautiful gift boxes, but I will certainly make sure each and every order that comes through me is delivered as soon as I possibly can. Can't wait to get this book out there and see what you think!