Setting Up Pre-Orders with Five Online Book Stores
It was a process that still left me anxious, even though I've already done it once before: preparing my ebook for pre-orders online. But this time the process was more complicated than before because I decided to sign-up with four new retailers I've never worked with before. This post covers my journey.
When I launched my first book in the summer of 2021, I was convinced it would soar in popularity for all sorts of reasons. It had a great cover, beautiful chapter illustrations, a cool map, and an exciting story. But perhaps one of the biggest factors that I thought might lead to runaway success was the fact that the book would be made available "for free" through Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program. Boy was I wrong!
Now, before I begin to detail my journey, let me be clear -- Amazon's Kindle Unlimited program can be awesome for some authors, especially if they have a number of books already out there. But for me, with an epic fantasy novel (a very very long first book) as an unknown author, it ended up amounting to roughly 40 additional book sales in a year. Barely even worth mentioning, though still more than a lot of first time authors sell.
The sacrifice I had to make as an author was committing to an Amazon-only deal for ebook sales for 3 months in exchange for access to all of the readers in the Kindle Unlimited program, plus some additional perks. In hindsight, I probably should have done what I'm doing this time--launching without Kindle Unlimited, then signing up for it shortly after release.
That is why I needed to sign-up with four new retailers this time around.
Barnes & Noble (Nook)
To get started here, I needed to sign up for a Vendor Account with Barnes & Noble. Overall, this retailer is tied with Amazon at #2 for ease of sign up and getting an already published ebook out. They're also #2 in terms of ease of getting a pre-order set up.
While all the retailers will ask you to submit your bank account info (for payments) and your tax information (for revenue reporting purposes), Barnes & Noble had the fastest turnaround times for me with regards to actually approving my account and letting me add new books. I was up and running within a few hours of first signing up.
The UI was clean, intuitive, and easy to navigate. And I was able to add my already-published e-book relatively easily, although the UI did request that I make some changes to my formatting -- apparently it found some issues that I didn't encounter over at KDP.
For Book One, I did have to go and see the book sample in their store once it was published within a day or so, and that's when I discovered an issue where the cover wasn't showing up properly in the snippet. This required a quick re-upload of everything to fix.
For the Prequel, I'm still waiting (as of writing this) several hours for the Pre-Order to go live. Initial review of the content happened within a few hours, but even though the UI says it's available for Pre-Order, the actual publishing of the new ebook page on the website is taking several hours more. (Compared to Amazon below.)
Overall, I've found the Barnes & Noble experience to be the cleanest of them all, even though it does have a LOT more steps than KDP.
I hit a few stumbling blocks with this one. First, I needed to create a new Apple ID for my author name to avoid having my real name and personal e-mail address be associated with the book instead of "S.C. Selvyn." This was tricky as I didn't want to sign out of two of my personal devices: one to create the account and one for multi-factor authentication.
When I finally did create my Apple Connect account, it took about two business days for Apple to approve my initial signup--by far the longest of all five vendors. Then I was allowed to submit more information. I then hit a new snag during the digital W-9 process because the UI wanted me to sign as "S.C. Selvyn" instead of my real name, and then once I changed it on Apple ID (a completely different site from Apple Connect... le sigh) it looked like it had transferred over, then it didn't. So now I have a support ticket in. Le double sigh.
The plus side is that I am now able to proceed with uploading my first book and my pre-order. Doing that next, I'm finding the process to be fairly straightforward, although I did have to find and log into a *third* website just to start adding books.
I'll update this post as I make progress with uploading Book One and the Prequel.
Overall though, this one is ranking at #5 for ease of sign-up and #4 for pre-order support.
This was probably the easiest retailer to sign up with and the fastest to actually publish Book One, with a same day turnaround time. Their interface is simple and easy to use, but the big drawback here was that they don't appear to support e-book pre-orders. So I'll keep looking into that.
Overall, I'm ranking this as #1 for ease of signup and getting a published book out, but #5 for getting a pre-order out since I can't seem to do that without providing a final epub file.
I was really hoping this would be the easiest one to sign up for, but it's actually taking longer than all the others to get anything done. I was stalled by about a day due to a now-resolved bug that prevented me from verifying my bank account. Then setting up both of my books was a breeze. The problem now, though, is that I've been waiting days for my existing book and my pre-order to get approved.
To be continued on that front.
Google is currently sitting at #4 for ease and speed of getting an existing book out and #4 for ease and speed of getting a pre-order out.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
So far, KDP has given me the fewest overall hassles in terms of updating my existing book and getting the pre-order out into the world. I submitted my book for pre-order at around 7:30am on a Friday, and by 9:30am it was visible on Amazon.com, with a final e-mail saying publishing the book was actually done being added to the marketplace an hour later.
I did encounter a problem where the formatting of the product description was messed up--it was showing HTML tags, apparently because I copy-pasted the content and didn't check the source--so that took an additional 2-3 hours to get fixed, but otherwise, the process went very smoothly.
Overall I'd say this is #1 for ease of getting a pre-order out and #2 for ease of sign-up and getting a published book out.
Learn more about signing up here.
The Ultimate Goal: A Bookbub International Deal
For any new author, a Bookbub deal (national or international) can be a game-changer in terms of exposure to new readers. There are two main problems though:
You're competing with a lot of other authors for attention.
You have to spend hundreds of dollars (or maybe even over $1,000) if your book is selected for a deal and promotion.
My first attempt or two at a BookBub deal were not successful, unfortunately. I suspect that part of what was working against me was going with a KDP-only approach for my e-book. After all, why should BookBub promote a book that's basically "free" to so many of their subscribers?
That's why this time, going wide (at least for launch) is so important. I'm essentially taking a two-pronged approach to BookBub with my second release:
Try to get a BookBub deal for the Prequel to announce it's launch.
Try to get a BookBub deal for Book One to get more attention for the Prequel prior to launch.
Now, that said, am I worried about the high cost? Absolutely, but I'd deal with it because I've heard that BookBub deals typically pay for themselves. And the more you're willing to discount your book (preferably to $1.99, $.99, or free), the more likely it is that you'll get chosen (supposedly) and the less you'll have to pay (though you'll also make less, too).
As I sit here on the day my prequel is officially available for Pre-Order, I'm simultaneously excited and exhausted. I was hoping that two days was enough time to get things squared away with all five vendors, but I'm left with Book One available on only three of the five sites, and the Prequel available only on Amazon. There are definitely a lot of lessons to be learned here for me and anyone else who's never done this before, so I hope that this post one day proves useful in helping some other aspiring author to avoid the same pitfalls I did.
Until next time, enjoy your adventures through the Ildarwood :-)