On my previous post on Kindle pre-orders, it didn’t occur to me to mention how to get around two important obstacles:
- Book reviews: The book isn’t live yet, so how can customers review it?
- Look Inside: Kindle pre-orders don’t show a Look Inside, so how can customers preview it?
Fortunately, there are solutions to both problems.
Kindle customers can’t review your Kindle pre-order because they haven’t received the Kindle e-book yet.
But there are two ways around this problem.
- Publish a print edition, e.g. with CreateSpace. Launch the print edition first. Once the print edition is live on Amazon, customers can review the print edition.
- Send out advance review copies. Enter editorial reviews for your book through Author Central. Generally, these should be from sources that may command respect from customers, such as an indie magazine or an expert in the field.
Two questions to ask yourself before you do this:
- Do you really need reviews?
- Will you be able to get reviews in time for them to matter?
I kind of like not having any reviews on the Kindle pre-order. Those are the only few weeks where you won’t be sweating your reviews! Enjoy them while they last.
Nobody can post a good review (unless you use the print edition suggestion), but nobody can post a bad review either. Here’s your chance to get several sales without reviews influencing customers.
(Don’t worry about authors trying to take advantage with books that stink. If they don’t deliver on customers’ expectations, there will be a flurry of returns and bad reviews when the book goes live.)
Do you really need reviews? Too many authors seem to be review-crazy. I think they see many other books with several reviews. Plus, when a book isn’t selling, a natural question is whether or not having some reviews would help.
But let’s look at this from the customer’s perspective. Suppose a book has 5 to 20 glowing five-star reviews. That might seem suspicious, like those reviews were recruited by friends and family.
(This brings me to another point. Amazon is pretty effective at blocking friend and family reviews, so if you’re planning to get people you know to leave reviews for your Kindle pre-order, you’ll probably be disappointed if you go to all this trouble just for that.)
Customers are familiar with the variety of reviews that usually include some crazy remarks typical of Amazon products. The best way to get reviews may be the natural variety of good, bad, and neutral reviews that come from strangers who discover your book and feel strongly enough about it, one way or the other, to share feedback.
Will you be able to get reviews in time for them to matter? If you’re relying on the sale of paperback books to get reviews to show up on your product page, first you need several people to read those books. Will you be able to sell many paperbacks by the time your Kindle pre-order is ready? Or do you plan to send out advance review copies?
PRE-ORDER LOOK INSIDE
Unfortunately, pre-orders don’t show a Look Inside at Amazon. That’s tough because the Look Inside can be a valuable selling tool.
Fortunately, there are ways around this, too:
- A print edition works for this, too, as customers can view the Look Inside of the print edition. (I guess you could even mention this in the Kindle description.)
- Include a sample at the end of your description. Heck, you get 4000 characters. Use them. Put the beginning of your story at the end of your description.
- Post the Look Inside portion of your book in PDF form on your author website.
Something else that may matter is that Kindle pre-orders get a sales rank (once you get a sale).
Better sales rank helps with exposure on Amazon, and shows customers (who look for it) how well (or poorly) your pre-order is selling.
If you can get many pre-orders, these help you cultivate a healthy sales rank before your book is actually released. But if you struggle to get pre-orders, you already have a history of no sales when your book goes live.
For your pre-order to be worthwhile, you need to launch your pre-order with ideas for how to get initial sales.
Authors who’ve published previous books and who have grown a fan base have a clear advantage if they are able to effectively announce their pre-orders to their fans.
Give readers an incentive to visit your author website. Mention this reason in your book (e.g. something free that they will find there). Then give them a reason to follow you (e.g. something else they can get for free, like a short story or nonfiction booklet). You can start an email newsletter with such an incentive, for example.
Once you have a fan base and a way to announce your new releases to them, this can help you stimulate pre-order sales.
Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
- Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
- Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
- Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order
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