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Gigi Will Know: Are launches and pre-orders worth the time, effort, and expense?

There are a lot of things that have to happen in order for your book to get any pre-orders.

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Dear Gigi,

The last book in my series will go live soon, so for the past few weeks, I’ve promoted it at $.99 for pre-order with fabulous graphics in my newsletter, on Facebook and Twitter, on my large writers’ group, and in my personal email group…but with disappointing results. The information has gone out to hundreds, perhaps over a thousand, but I only have eight pre-orders. In your opinion, are launches and pre-orders worth the time, effort, and expense?

—Baffled Bonnie

Dear Bonnie,

Hey, remember that thing people used to say about party planning? Invite all you want, but only assume 30% of the folks will say yes? That’s what I was thinking about when I read your details, so in general, I think you’re probably in about the right place. The sales funnel is never very turnkey: folks have to see the Facebook post on their feed or check the page, or they have to see your tweet as it goes zipping by like one of my deadlines. For your newsletter, your recipients have to see it in their mailboxes first – and it might even end up in that “Promotions” file that Gmail has set up for everyone now. Then the folks who get your newsletter have to be in a mood to open it, click the link, and pre-order your book. (Clicking that link to spend money is pretty hard, too. That’s not a judgment on you or your work, it’s just a fact.)

There are a lot of things that have to happen in order for your book to get any pre-orders. But you specifically addressed numbers, so I asked another expert, just to cover our bases.

Jane Friedman, an absolute goldmine of information in the self-publishing book world, said, “You can calculate an expected number of pre-orders based on earlier sales figures as well as the size of a writer’s platform (primarily the number of newsletter subscribers in this case).” What she’s saying is that the only numbers you can really depend on here are the people who are signed up to your actual newsletter. These folks, she said, are likely the ones who are “waiting for the next book – period. That’s why the best success should come from an author’s newsletter subscribers, who are presumably the interested ones here. The newsletter needs to mention the pre-order and/or launch a few times at least.” (I assume you did this, rather than depending on a one-off note.)

She went on to note that Facebook and Twitter aren’t likely to have much effect, with one other caveat: If you really sense that you should have more pre-orders (social media has been known to sell a few copies here and there, after all), then you should take a hard look at your graphics. You mentioned you’re happy with them, but Friedman suggested that you engage in some A/B split testing, and I agree with her. (That’s where you test out one graphic or creative treatment with one part of your mailing list and another style with the other part of your list.) This can be a really valuable way to see what’s working and what isn’t with your readership.

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I like the whole launch and pre-order exercise, by the way. It gives us a good ego boost to see folks liking our posts – and even if it doesn’t result in sales, writers get good practice talking about their work. Win-win.

Promote on,

—Gigi

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