Does it really matter if you order a book online before its official release date? Before its “book birthday” as they say in publishing? Well, maybe not to the reader, who’s happy to get the book they want to read when they want to read it, but pre-orders can make a huge difference to a book’s success.

How does a pre-order change the odds compared to a regular order?

Simple. Enough pre-orders give a book a big boost on the best-seller list the week it officially becomes available. Here’s how it works.


Author Benefits of the Pre-Order

  1. Higher best-seller ranking. When you pre-order a book, it doesn’t count toward the best-seller list. How can it? The book isn’t available yet. But all those pre-sales, whether it’s one or one thousand, count the day the book is officially released. That can create a big leap on the best-seller list. It looks like a huge one-day sales number. Basically, the more books sold early, the better the book’s chance of landing on the best-seller list that week. And best sellers tend to sell more copies come weeks two, three, four, etc.
  2. More positive reviews. More sales mean more reviews, and if the book is good, more good reviews. More good reviews lead to more sales.
  3. Greater visibility. When a book is selling well, potential readers see it on the best-seller list, whether it’s The New York Times or Amazon. That could mean placement on Amazon’s list of Hot New Releases, or a solid blurb in Publishers Weekly.
  4. More interviews and press. A book on the best-seller list, even if only for a week or two, generates more interview opportunities for an author. The book will probably be written about more online and in print. Both, of course, increase the likelihood of sales.


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And all of this good fortune begins with a good run of pre-orders. The best news is that this is now true for just about every book. Not so long ago, only traditional books benefited from pre-order. Self-published books simply weren’t eligible to be pre-sold. As the author, you hit “Publish” and a few days later your book was ready, and then readers could happily buy it. Now, self-published books can also have a lengthy pre-order period. This means on the day it’s released, it can land way up on Amazon’s best-seller list, too. And, as point number one says, that can lead to way more sales.

So, it’s true. In publishing, early success leads to continued success. If book one sells well, a publisher is much more likely to put out book two. Soon, that author might even have a career.

But it starts with you. If you’re going to buy a certain book anyway, or support a certain author, or you want it shipped to you the day it’s released, or you just want to help out an author (maybe even your favorite author), then order it early. Pre-orders can make or break a book launch, and a bad launch can break a book’s success. So, don’t wait. Your pre-order can be a huge help to an author’s career.

You just might put him or her on the best-seller list!




This guest post was contributed by John Briggs. John has been a writer for nearly 20 years, starting out in newspapers and eventually spent several years as a nationally syndicated children’s TV critic. His book, Leaping Lemmings, is coming out Sept 6th, 2016.