Authors have learned that pre-orders create excitement and greater sales for their books. But CreateSpace does not offer a pre-order function for selling print books on Amazon. What!? It doesn't make sense, but that's the way it is. There are two solutions. One of them is a ridiculous workaround, so this post is about how to use the sensible option. Let's take a look.
The ridiculous option: Open an Amazon Advantage account ($99), populate your listing with metadata, claim your book, confirm your orders, cancel your orders, approve the print proof 4 hours in advance of your official publish day, reconfirm your orders with 0 units, close and cancel the title, transfer the pre-orders, and close your account a month later. Wow! Are you exhausted, yet?
The sensible option: Use IngramSpark to distribute your print book as a pre-order in the Amazon and other stores.
I asked Robin Cutler, Director of IngramSpark at Ingram Content Group, for details on how to distribute your book with pre-order status to Amazon and the other retailers they serve.
Q: I understand that IngramSpark distributes pre-orders to Amazon and other online print book retailers. Can you tell me how this works?
A: Pre-orders make it possible for Ingram’s 39,000+ retailers, libraries, schools, internet commerce companies and other channel partners to order the book in advance of your official On Sale Date. Pre-orders are only available for titles that are in production and set up for distribution at IngramSpark.
The On Sale Date is the date when retailers can start selling your book. If the On Sale Date is in the future, IngramSpark will collect these orders as pre-orders.
The Publication Date is date on which a retail consumer or library may take possession of a product.
Once distribution is enabled, information about your book goes into the Ingram catalog so that Ingram’s retail and library customers (including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, IndieBound, and other online retailers) can start placing orders for your book.
Your book will be printed ten days before the On Sale Date so that pre-orders are received on time.
Let's break it down
Let's go through it again step-by-step.
- 1Open an account and upload your book.
- 2Add your book metadata.
- 3Specify your ON SALE date - this is the preorder date and the date retailers will start selling the book.
- 4Specify your PUBLICATION date - this needs to be sometime before the ON SALE date and is the date that the book will actually be shipped. (You should upload the latest and final version of your book interior and cover 2 weeks before this date.)
- 5Upload your book files and wait until they're validated (2/3 business days).
- 6When the book is ready, click the ENABLE button.
Q&A with Robin Cutler
Q - Is there any additional cost associated with pre-orders?
A -The setup fee of $49 (for print and ebook) will be waived with your order of 50 books within 60 days. Most authors print 50-100 books to send out for ARCs [Advanced Reader Copies] (or should), anyway.
Q - What about digital book pre-orders?
A - Ebook pre-orders work just like print except you can make changes up until the day before. Because there is no printing involved, the ebook will be delivered either to the reader or retailer on the On Sale Date.
Q - How long in advance can I set the pre-order?
A - I would recommend setting the On Sale Date at least three months in advance, which is typical of traditional publishing. But IngramSpark will allow you to set up an On Sale Date as far in advance as 365 days.
Q - What if I need to upload a new version of the book (to correct errors) before the pre-order date? What’s the cutoff date? (10 days before, or 15, to be safe?)
A - IngramSpark recommends uploading revised files no later than 15 business days prior to the On Sale Date. Keep in mind that pre-order shipments may be delayed if the revised files fail validation when uploaded.
Q - What if the author is getting close to the pre-order date and realize that the book isn't going to be ready. Are there consequences to delaying the pre-order?
A - We do require that content files be uploaded and that the title is turned on for distribution before preorder functionality is enabled. So if the date is coming up and the author wants to upload a new file, or feels more comfortable just pushing out the date, they can do that up until 10 days prior.
They can also turn off/on distribution very easily at any time, but keep in mind when they do this, the availability will change on the retailer sites. If they do this too much, retailers (such as Amazon) might always list their book with availability that isn’t ideal [such as the out of stock message].
We don’t ban authors, but at the same time, it is always to their best advantage to make sure all their metadata is as perfect as possible BEFORE they turn on distribution for the first time. We send data feeds on updated information out all the time but we don’t have any control over when retailers update their own sites with that new information.
Also, if authors want to upload revised files, they can do that too, but we will charge a $25 revision fee for the file upload after the title is live in the system.
Q - How many copies of my book can I order to use as ARCs [Advanced Reading Copies] once the book is uploaded? (CreateSpace limits authors to 5 proofs per order.)
A -We do not have a limit on the number of copies that can be ordered, and we encourage authors using ARCs to promote their books in advance of publication.
To order ARCs, you will see that the On Sale Date is highlighted in yellow and a new Override On Sale Date option will be available. Select that, then order your copies. Finally, select Hold Until On Sale Date to hold printing again until 10 days before the On Sale Date.
Q - So, you know one of the reasons authors like to go direct with Amazon is because they make more money...
A -Well, this isn’t exactly true, but I do know that authors think this. There is no direct distribution fee applied. Rather, what the author earns is dependent on what discount they provide when setting up their title. For print, they can set a discount of anywhere from 30-55% off. [Bookstores require 53% plus returns to stock books, but online retailers are happy with 30%.] So if they set a 30% discount, authors will earn the opposite of the discount, or 70% minus the cost of printing. So the formula is:
List Price - Discount - Print Cost = Publisher Compensation
[See my post on Comparing IngramSpark and CreateSpace publisher compensation and royalties. I was surprised to find that distributing to Amazon using IngramSpark would be more profitable.]
Authors are using both [IngramSpark and CreateSpace] platforms today and they live fine side by side, as long as the author doesn’t turn on CreateSpace's expanded distribution. Also, the author should use the same ISBN [purchased from the Bowker ISBN agency] and the same PDF files [for the paperback edition] in both places. If the author is looking for a one-stop platform, I think IngramSpark is the best choice. If selling to bookstores and libraries is important, then IngramSpark is really the only way to do that.
Q - Many authors complain about Amazon’s POD print quality. When IngramSpark delivers a book order to Amazon, does Amazon print it using their equipment or is it printed on IngramSpark’s printing equipment?
A - If Ingram is fulfilling an Amazon order for an IngramSpark title, we do the printing. If the title was also set up with CreateSpace, then it is likely that the Amazon order went to CreateSpace to fulfill.
Thank you, Robin!
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Want to learn more all book distribution from Robin Cutler? You can order an MP3 of her 45-minute talk from the San Francisco Writers Conference, here.
My post titled Book aggregators and distributors: A short primer.
A complete, step-by-step guide to publishing your book along with help in choosing the right combination of distribution tools and services is provided in my Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors, 4th Edition.
Need more help? Check out my online courses on self-publishing!