We all know that sales are good for an author. I mean, of course we do. Sales get money to the bookstores, the bookstores pay the publisher, the publisher pays the author. Or in the case of self-pubbed authors, sales get money to the distribution channel (Amazon, Kobo, etc) and then the distribution channel pays the author. The former is how it works for my Powder Mage novels. The latter is how it works for my Powder Mage short fiction. How those two benefit me in different ways is a whole new blog post. Some of you know that my second book, The Crimson Campaign, is coming out in two weeks. That means that sales are on my mind a bit lately.
What most people don't know, and what I certainly didn't know before getting into the industry, is that even with all other things being equal some sales are more important than others. Pre-orders land in this "more important" category. These are any purchases made before the official release date of a book and can be made for ebooks, hard copies, and sometimes (but not always) audiobooks from major publishers.
Why are pre-orders important? The most obvious reason would be bestseller lists. Pre-orders count toward first week sales that often determine whether a book winds up on a bestselling list, a possibility that can be huge for any author. Aside: first week sales also land in the "more important sales" category for this same reason.
Pre-orders also affect what happens behind the scenes. A large number of pre-orders can cause a vendor (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million) to go back to my publisher and ask for another order of books. That's before the book is even out. How cool is that? That order could be 200. It could be 2000. Doesn't matter how small it is, another order is fantastic. In addition, notes will be made about how well these books seem to be selling. My publisher can go to their other vendors and say "Hey, X just ordered another 300 copies of Y, which means you'll probably have a high demand as well. Can we send you more?"
It's a snowball effect. It can cause sales to grow and as we established before, sales are good for an author. And remember that we're still only talking about pre-orders. The book hasn't hit shelves yet and it's already gotten both booksellers and publishers excited for it, and when booksellers and publishers get excited about a book they will push it all the more to the book-buying public.
If one or more vendors order more books this can cause a novel to get a large first printing or to go back to a second printing. This means that the book has sold better than expected even before it comes out and guess what? Both publishers and booksellers take note of this as well. I was told last week that The Crimson Campaign has already gone to a second printing, and I walked around all day with a grin on my face.
All of these facets spin together to make pre-orders a huge part of the business. They're good for bookstores, publishers, and most especially for the authors whose living depends on their books selling well.
If you have an author whose book you're planning on buying and you can afford to put the money down ahead of time, please pre-order their book. This could be one of my books or books by any author you would like to give an extra boost. Here are the books that I've pre-ordered this summer: Sworn in Steel by Douglas Hulick, The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin, City Stained Red by Sam Sykes, and The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler.
If you want to read a bit more about this, Kevin Hearne talks about pre-orders over on his site as well!