January: Pre-Order Pros & Cons, New Features, 2020 Industry Review

Pre-order campaigns, new workshops & features, tools for writers, 2020 publishing in-review, the ethics of publishing, and tea that smells like pie.

Hey y’all, I’m testing out affiliate links, meaning if you buy anything using one of my links with an asterix (*), I earn a little something. All earnings from affiliate links this season will go to the Carl Brandon Society, supporting speculative fiction writers of color and greater diversity in the genre. I also encourage you to buy from your local indie where ever possible. TY!

Greetings readers & writers,

It’s been a rough week, what with huge political upheaval, the ongoing pandemic, and just a general sense that we are all holding our breath. Take a few moments to let that breath out for now, long and slow. Get some fresh air. Eat a piece of fresh fruit, if you have some. Tend to your pets or your plants. Read a poem.

You’re still here. You matter.


I got a question during a consult recently, about pre-orders and pre-order campaigns. Timely, as we’re at the top of the year and there are many fine books releasing soon!

A book officially goes on sale on what’s known as the publication or “pub” date. This date is designed to focus marketing and publicity efforts to really push a book into the public eye. A pre-order is a book sold/ordered before its pub date, though readers will not receive their book until the pub date itself. A pre-order campaign is a marketing strategy that encourages pre-orders by offering rewards, swag, and/or bonus content, sometimes with proof-of-purchase, prior to the pub date.

Pre-orders serve two functions: as a proof-of-concept for new titles, which can generate interest among retailers and media outlets, and to increase the odds of a book reaching best-seller lists. Sales of pre-ordered books aren’t counted towards bestseller lists until the week the book releases, so a successful campaign can help rocket a book to the top of a list. There’s a great break-down of pre-orders benefits on Penguin Random House’s Author Blog.

Publishers often view pre-orders as pre-cursor to a book’s success (especially in genres like YA) and will sometimes throw more marketing dollars at a book that’s pre-selling well. This can be a double-edged sword. Pre-order campaigns work exceedingly well for writers who already have a strong platform or track record. They’re much harder (and not always worth it) for debut authors still building an audience.

For self-published or indie authors, pre-orders have a more direct impact: they can help determine initial POD print runs or gauge the success of e-marketing. Some self-publishing platforms allow for special pre-order pricing to incentivize early sales. Authors have also turned to Kickstarter to get the upfront costs of a book covered.

If you decide a pre-order campaign is right for your book, here are some quick tips to get you started:

  • Consider your budget. Do you or your publisher have the funds for physical swag (aka cool book-related mementos)? For shipping? What kind of ads/online promotions can you afford to promote pre-sales?

  • Work with a bookstore. Consider working with a local indie! Direct readers to that particular store to organize the order processing and shipping of books/swag. This also allows you to send out signed copies!

  • Affordable giveaways. Can’t afford enamel pins? Offer incentives that don’t require anything out-of-pocket: free bonus book-related content; an exclusive podcast or video; a live Q&A; a book-related playlist, etc.

  • Create a landing page. I love this Twitter thread by author Claribel Ortega on creating a pre-order page for her book Ghost Squad*. Have a webpage where you can direct people to ordering options and how to collect their pre-order bonuses.

Readers, what’s in it for you? A pre-order means you’re putting in a vote of confidence for the book by supporting the author upfront; you’ll be among the first to receive the title upon publication; you’ll likely snag a first edition; and if there’s a pre-order campaign involved, you’ll receive cool swag to boot.

The second issue of Books, Marketing, & More each month will now contain an interview with an author who is publishing right now, on how they’re navigating the shifting landscape of book marketing. They’ll share their new books, firsthand experiences, and out-of-the-box thinking when it comes to marketing. Stay tuned!!

Have a book releasing this year? Reach out if you’re interested in participating!

Upcoming (Virtual!) Seminars

Not available these dates? Connect with me for one-on-one coaching that fits your schedule!

Book a marketing consult today!

There are many ways to write and publish a book. Work on what you can do with your own hands, and let the rest of it happen the way it’s going to happen. You just might end up surprised. —Kate McKean, from her newsletter Agents & Books

Writing/Marketing Resources

A team of veteran publishing consultants have put together a free and detailed report on “COVID-19 and Book Publishing: Impacts and Insights for 2021” that covers topics such as the economy of publishing, book sales, library lending, and digital technologies. Publishing expert Mike Shatzkin has a thoughtful reflection on this report, with additional areas to analyze.

One Stop for Writers is an in-depth online resource by the writers of The Emotional Thesaurus* that provides tools for crafting believable emotional responses and backstories for characters; developing story and structure; and prompting idea generation. It’s subscription service, but they offer some basic access for free.
You can also buy the books their databases are based on!

Learn more about writing-as-a-business from Brandon Sanderson with the first (several) Writing Excuses podcast episode(s) of 2021: Your Writing is Your Business

Book blogger @VickyCBooks shares a quick tutorial on how to create custom book images with a little photo-editing for use in social media marketing (make sure you’re using images you have rights to!)

Industry News

ICYMI: 2020 Publishing News Retrospectives
Diversity in Publishing

The New York Times published a very visual article highlighting the predominance of white writers versus writers-of-color on the bestseller lists for the past 68 years. While not news to those pushing for change in the industry, this reporting connects the dots for adult readers between representation at the publishing level and the kinds of stories published.

Book News

In light of the recent violent attacks on the U.S. Capitol, Simon & Schuster dropped Sen. Josh Hawley’s non-fiction title, citing their “larger public responsibility as citizens.” Who should be published and the obligations of publishers is an ongoing conversation; check out Mya Nunnally’s essay “Crying Censorship: The Ethics Of Publishing The Problematic” for some earlier examples. For different points-of-view about Hawley’s book cancellation, check out these two opinion pieces: “How Simon & Schuster Managed to Make Josh Hawley Look Almost Sympathetic” {Politico} and “Josh Hawley’s Lost Book Deal Isn’t Orwellian. It’s a Consequence {Teen Vogue}.


When MEM Tea had their Black Friday sale this past fall, I stocked up on my usual favorites (Blood Orange Hibiscus anyone?) as well as a few new-to-me varieties.

On these cold but sunny winter weekends, I’ve been enjoying their Apple Berry herbal tea blend. With juicy pieces of dried apple and elderberries, cinnamon and chamomile, it smells like a slice of apple pie in a cup.

Take care of yourselves. Wear a mask. Protect our democracy. Let me know about upcoming events, marketing campaigns, and projects so I can help signal boost!

Happy writing!

Writer & Marketing Coach
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