How to run a successful book preorder campaign

Our guest blogger today, Diana Urban, is the industry marketing manager at BookBub, where she manages the BookBub Partners Blog. She was previously the head of conversion marketing at HubSpot, and is an expert in inbound marketing, content marketing, and lead generation. Diana is also the author of three young adult thrillers, and is writing her fourth novel. Follow her on Twitter at @DianaUrban.

(Editor’s note: I highly recommend subscribing to BookBub’s Partners blog — use the email form in the upper right to get it delivered to your inbox.)

How to run a successful book preorder campaign

By Diana Urban

Making a book available for preorder can be a great way to build buzz and drive word-of-mouth sales for an upcoming release. It can also help you hit a bestseller list, since many retailers count preorder sales as release day sales.

But driving sales for a book that isn’t immediately available to read can be a challenging task. To help you brainstorm how to convince readers to buy early, we’ve put together a list of ideas for running a successful book preorder campaign. I hope these strategies implemented by fellow authors can give you some inspiration!

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1. Run a BookBub Preorder Alert.

One of the easiest ways to let your fans know that you have a book up for preorder is to send a BookBub Preorder Alert. This is a dedicated email announcing your book’s availability, with retailer links to the preorder. Only your BookBub followers receive these emails, so they’re highly targeted and cost-effective (at only $0.02 per eligible follower). When Carrie Ann Ryan sent a Preorder Alert for Inked Expressions to her 12,000 followers (at a cost of $225), she sold about 350 copies and generated at least $1,200 in revenue.

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2. Add a link to the preorder in an already-published book.

By linking to the preorder in the back of a previously published book, readers will be able to order the new book right after they finish reading, without having to remember to buy it later. For example, Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese linked to the preorder of Phoenix in the back matter of their previous two books:

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3. Discount an older title and cross-promote the preorder.

Once you’ve updated the back matter of a previous book, discounting that book can help attract new readers and drive preorders. After Melissa F. Miller made Irrevocable Trust (a sixth-in-series book) available for preorder, she updated the back matter of her box set of the first three books in the series to include a link to the preorder. Then she ran a $0.99 BookBub Featured Deal on the box set, which went on to hit the USA Today bestseller list. This introduced tons of new readers to the series and boosted preorder sales. You can read more about Melissa’s preorder marketing strategy here.

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4. Offer freebies for preordering.

Many authors offer giveaways to readers who preorder. This gives readers an extra incentive for preordering; they may need an additional nudge since they can’t get the instant gratification of reading the book right away. In these promotions, readers usually need to email a copy, screenshot, or picture of their receipt to receive whatever the author is giving away. This might include:

  • Free swag packs: often includes books, bookmarks, personalized notes, or other swag
  • Digital swag packs: often includes booklets with author commentary, exclusive short stories, or high-resolution posters
  • Long excerpt: offer several chapters of a book before it’s released
  • Deleted scenes: provide loyal fans with deleted scenes of a previous novel

For example, Tiffany Schmidt ran a preorder offer where she gave away swag packs with relevant items (including candy, a sticker, a signed bookmark, and a personalized note) to everyone who preordered Hold Me Like a Breath.

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5. Build an author street team or fan club.

Many authors create a street team or fan club via a private Facebook group to garner reviews and word-of-mouth buzz. Fans who join often become advocates for the author in exchange for sneak peeks and exclusive content. These groups are a great place to announce that a preorder is available, like Megan Erickson did in her Facebook group Meg’s Mob:

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6. Promote the preorder with the cover reveal.

If you can have a book available for preorder in time for its cover reveal, linking to a page where readers can preorder their copy in the cover reveal announcement can help you get early sales. J. Daniels included preorder links in her cover reveal post for Bad for You, linking directly to each retailer product page:

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7. Run a BookBub Ads campaign.

BookBub Ads let you market any book — including preorders — at any time to BookBub’s millions of power readers. These ads appear at the bottom of BookBub’s daily emails, and many authors have promoted preorder books via this platform.

When CD Reiss wanted to let her fans know her new sequel (Separation Games) was available for preorder, she ran a BookBub Ads campaign promoting the preorder. She specifically targeted her own BookBub followers and ran the campaign during the four days prior to the book’s launch.

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Here are just a few more examples of preorder campaigns on BookBub Ads:

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8. Email your subscribers about the preorder.

Some authors send their subscribers an exclusive look at the first chapter of a book that’s available for preorder to get them excited and encourage them to buy. For example, Heather Sunseri sent an email to subscribers notifying them that Covered in Darkness was available for preorder. She included the first chapter in the email itself, a link to read the first seven chapters of the book, and retailer links so readers could preorder the book right away.

Here’s what the intro of this email looked like:

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9. Update social media header images.

An author’s social media header image — such as on Twitter and Facebook — offer a great branding opportunity for preorder books. In Sandra Brown’s Twitter header image, she had a direct call-to-action to preorder her upcoming novel Seeing Red.

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10. Give away ARCs to drive early reviews.

Some authors run fun giveaways on their blog or social media profiles to provide advance reader copies to their most loyal fans. This helps to drive early reviews for a book and build buzz online. For example, Julie James ran a giveaway for her book The Thing About Love on her Facebook page, and included preorder links in the description for people who wanted to order their copy right away.

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Still have a question about a successful book preorder campaign? Ask it in a comment. 

Tip of the Month

I like to share a “Tip of the Month,” a free resource or tool for authors, on the last Wednesday of the month.

If you’re looking for an agent to represent your book to publishers, you’ll love this month’s tip. It’s AgentQuery.com, a free, searchable database of literary agents. The site also offers AgentQuery Connect, a free social networking site.

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It can be one of the tools you use to connect with just the right agent for your book. As you might know, other options include referrals from author friends with representation, looking in the acknowledgements of books that are similar to yours, and searching through the Guide to Literary Agents 2018.

Happy hunting!

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  1. What about if you’re a debut author with no budget, no backlist? How would you suggest they go about targeting pre-orders?

    1. Nicole, several of these tips don’t require a backlist or budget. #4 is just one example — scroll down from there to find more.


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