Recently I had the honor of attending my first Novelists, Inc. conference. It is a “must-attend” annually for me from here out. My head is spinning with ideas and information that will change strategy and tactics for me, in big and small ways, and I’ve blogged on specific topics several times already. This week I’m sharing my thoughts on pre-order strategy.

Once upon a time in a writing career far, far away, I could do pre-orders through Smashwords aggregated onto Nook and Apple. And no others. Wow, was that only a few years ago?

Now the only major player who doesn’t take direct upload pre-orders for indies is … you can guess this … come on … Nook/Barnes & Noble (big raspberry), but you can still aggregate pre-orders to them via Draft2Digital or your favorite aggregator.

Undoubtedly, the bestseller ranks are crowded with authors whose books participate in pre-orders. But if you’re wide distribution, the strategy is much more complex than just “slap it up on Amazon ninety-days before release.” (That, by the way, is the entirety of the strategy if you are KDP Select. Skip to the next blog post.)

So, before we talk strategy, here’s something cool to know:

Apple iBooks—now clearly the #2 ebook retailer after Amazon Kindle—rewards you in its algorithms every time someone clicks on your book page, whether they buy or not. Amazon actually detracts from your ranking in its algorithms if someone clicks on your page without buying. Hmmm. This opens a world of good possibilities with Apple.

Something else cool to know: real humans select who Apple promotes, and they look at things like whether you give them exclusives (even temporary ones), and how many clicks you are driving to iBooks. So anything you can do to give Apple an exclusive and to drive clicks is good. Be sure you do things like use their affiliate program, have links to iBooks on your website, and to mention them in social media ads.

Apple also counts pre-orders double in its rankings calculations, whereas Amazon does not. (Kobo double-counts, too. Go Kobo!)

In these days of domination on Kindle by the Amazon imprints and the page stuffers in Kindle Unlimited (with exceptions for some fine and blessed authors, but the talk at most author  conferences is about dwindling Amazon Kindle sales for the rest of us), I think it behooves wide distribution authors to do everything they can to court the retailers where they have sales growth potential.

My strategy thus is about courting Apple as well as maximizing my pre-order potential on all the other sites. See image above with “iBooks only” buttons? Yeah, those exclusives are me courting Apple. Those exclusives won’t be forever, but, for a period of time, they will be. And that helps me woo Apple.


  1. One year before release: I put up a pre-order on Apple, without the final cover, and with NO EBOOK FILE. this is totally legit to do, by the way. Here’s one without its final cover and no ebook file–just a placeholder cover and a place for devoted fans to pre-order way in advance. I’m only just now writing this novel.

2. When my cover is ready: I put up my cover and announce a cover reveal, linking exclusively to Apple (with my affiliate link, because Apple let’s you use it anywhere and everywhere) on social media, my website/blog, and in my newsletter. Here’s one ready for a cover reveal!

3. When my first chapter is ready (copyedited, please): I upload a sneak peek to Apple and announce the release of the sneak peek, linking exclusively to Apple (with my affiliate link, because Apple let’s you use it anywhere and everywhere) on social media, my website/blog, and in my newsletter. See “Sample” in image below? That’s where readers download the sneak peek.

4. At least 30-days after the sneak peek and when I have three chapters ready to go, I upload to Kobo. Kobo automatically releases the first three chapters when you set it to pre-order. Kobo also gives you double algorithmic credit for pre-orders.

5. At the same time, or in 30-day increments thereafter up until 30-days before my Kindle pre-order date, I release pre-orders in this order.

  • Barnes & Noble Nook, through Draft2Digital
  • Google Play
  • Smashwords
  • Any others

6. 90-days before release: I put up my Kindle pre-order, which is when Kindle will let you.

For 1-6:

  • Don’t forget to include a top notch, voice-y, edited, emotionally compelling book description with each pre-order.
  • Be sure to research and utilize the best SEO keywords in your metadata at the time you set up your pre-orders.
  • Categories count, so choose your best categories when you upload your pre-order.

7. After all retail pre-orders are set up, I run a BookBub Pre-Order alert for my individual full-length novels.

8. During the period of Apple exclusivity after cover reveal and sneak peek, consider Facebook and BookBub ads, if you’ve got the know how and if you’ve got the budget.

9. Each month in my newsletter and on my website, I add the newest retailer pre-order to my announcements.

10. Consider promoting a bonus-content giveaway through your newsletter, blog, social media, and some BB and FB ads to encourage pre-orders. Cheryl Bradshaw explains how to do it here.

11. And big #11: make dang sure you get your book in the hands of advance readers so that you can ask them all to leave reviews when the book goes live.

By the time my book is released, I’ve had a year of driving look-see hits (and possible buys) to Apple and other major retailers, and maximized the potential to brand my new book before my most important audience, my subscribers and social media contacts, with interesting announcements and content, and the inclusion of their favorite retailers.


Pamela Fagan Hutchins, winner of the 2017 Silver Falchion award for Best Mystery (Fighting for Anna), writes overly long e-mails, hilarious nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?), and series mysteries, like those in her What Doesn’t Kill You world, which includes the bestselling Saving Grace and the 2015 and 2016 WINNERS of the USA Best Book Award for Cross Genre Fiction, Heaven to Betsy and Hell to Pay. You can snag her newest release, Bombshell, if you’ve already run the rest of the table. She teaches writing, publishing, and promotion at the SkipJack Publishing Online School (where you can take How to Sell a Ton of Books, FREE) and writes about it here on the SkipJack Publishing blog.

Pamela resides deep in the heart of Nowheresville, Texas and in the frozen north of Snowheresville, Wyoming. She has a passion for great writing and smart authorpreneurship as well as long hikes and trail rides with her hunky husband, giant horses, and pack of rescue dogs, donkeys, and goats. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound (if she gets a good running start).

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2 Responses to Pre-Order Strategy to Maximize Ranking and Promotability Potential

  1. Cindy says:

    Some great advice, and it indicates how organised you need to be long term to make a sucess of being an author.

    • Eric says:

      Yes. Just as an example of that, here’s Pamela’s next year, month by month (there are more granular plans, of course, to get the detail in). 2018 PFH Monthly

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