Thursday, November 05, 2015

Indie Publishing Paths: What’s Your Release Plan?

By Jami Gold, @JamiGold

Part of the Indie Authors Series

As my previous posts in this series have made clear, there’s no “one right way” to be successful as an indie author. The many options we need to consider won’t necessarily lead us to make “right” vs. “wrong” choices, as several of the paths can lead us to success.

To find the right path for us, we need to figure out our goals and priorities. Then once we’re ready to put our book up for sale, we need to decide on the where (such as whether we use a distributor or we sell direct through a retailer or go exclusive with Amazon’s KDP Select), the when, and the how much.

Today, let’s talk about our options for when:
  • Option 1: Will we put our book up for sale right away?
  • Option 2: Will we delay publication of our book?
  • Option 3: Should we use preorders?

At first glance, we might jump at the chance to put our book up for sale right away. The sooner we publish our book, the quicker we’re making money, right? *smile*

But that’s why it’s so important to know our goals and priorities. Some options might delay our income but result in a larger release splash later. Some might look more professional. And some might make it more likely that we’ll create lifelong readers.

There’s no wrong answer—and no guarantees. We can choose a plan to fit our priorities and still not reach our goals. In other words, picking the right plan gives us a chance to meet our goals, but nothing is a given. However, by understanding the pros and cons for each, we might have a better understanding of the best match for us.

Option 1: Putting Our Book up for Sale Right Away 

Why We Might Want to Put Our Book up for Sale Right Away

The first reason we’ve already touched on, as it’s the most obvious: We can’t start making money until our book is for sale. So if one of our priorities is to make money in the near-term, we might want to publish immediately.

If we’re on the Artist-Author side of the spectrum, we might not prioritize income or building a business out of our writing. In those cases, we might not agonize over when put our work out there and just do it right away so we can focus on the next story.

Or if we have readers eagerly awaiting our next book, we might want to keep them happy with a quick release schedule. Managing complicated release schedules might be one more thing threatening to take away from our writing, so we don’t worry about timing.

Option 2: Delaying Our Book’s Publication 

Why We Might Want to Delay Putting Our Book up for Sale

On the other hand, we might want to coordinate our book releases. Maybe we have a novella coming out this month in an anthology, and we want to wait and give our novel its own “release month.”

We might not have another book ready for a long time or be a slow writer, so we have a strict release schedule to spread out releases and prevent too much dead time between books. Or this book might be part of a series that we want to release on a once-a-month or similar schedule, so delaying gives us time to get the rest of the series ready.

If we have a large platform of readers and hope to hit a bestseller list, we might delay for a week or two to announce our release date in advance and build up anticipation. Then when release day actually comes, we can hope enough readers jump on it within the first couple of days so we march up the bestseller ranks.

Or our reasons could be related to other aspects of our publishing choices. We might have a big blog tour scheduled or we might want to give professional reviewers a chance to read it before release. In those cases, we might have to delay our release for several months, depending on the requirements of the bloggers or reviewers.

Option 3: Setting up a Preorder for Our Book

Preorders allow us to start collecting “sales” (but no money) anywhere from about 2 weeks to 90 days in advance with Amazon (other retailers allow for even longer). In some ways, using preorders is a mix of the other two options.

Rather than publishing right away or delaying sales, we’re taking advantage of the scheduling flexibility of delaying while still allowing for sales right away. As this is a more complicated choice, we’ll dig deeper into why we might want to use preorders—and why we might not.

Why We Might Want to Use a Preorder for Our Book

Most importantly, preorders give us buy links. If a blogger or reviewer mentions our book before our release date, readers can pick it up right away before they forget about it. Or if we mention our upcoming book in the backmatter of a current book, our readers can buy our next story right away.

It’s so hard to get readers’ attention that once we have it, we might want them to be able to take action (like clicking a buy link). In other words, any early promo we do or receive can actually lead to sales and not just create nebulous excitement that doesn’t result in anything.

For example, I’ll admit that I’ve never understood the concept of cover reveals before buy links are available. If people hear too much about our book before they can buy it, they might be sick of it before it releases. Or if our book sounds interesting, by the time it’s up for sale, they might figure they picked it up previously and tune out the rest of the message.

Another important consideration is whether we have a goal to hit an official bestseller list, such as USA Today or NY Times. Preorder sales are reported on release day, so if we’ve accumulated the sales to qualify, we might have a better chance of hitting a list.

Preorders help our book’s release day ranking on non-Amazon retailers’ sites as well. However in Amazon’s favor, preorders allow our books to qualify for “Hot New Releases” throughout the preorder period and the first 30 days post-release. If our preorder sales are strong enough to put us on the “Hot” list, that’s a lot of bonus visibility. Preorders also allow for “Also Bought” suggestions to be established by our book’s release day.

In addition, traditional publishers use preorders, so preorders can make an indie published book seem more professional. And with a schedule we determine ahead of time, we don’t have to stress over trying to coordinate release dates across retailers.

Why We Might Not Want to Use a Preorder for Our Book

The pros and cons for preorders change depending on our distribution method (which is why we discussed those options last month). Specifically, Amazon handles preorders differently from the other retailers.

First, we can be banned from doing Amazon preorders in the future if we miss our deadline for submitting the final draft to KDP at least 10 days in advance. (I always aim for 2 weeks in advance to avoid extra stress.) Other retailers currently don’t have as harsh of consequences for changing our release date.

Secondly, preorders are “credited” to our sales ranking at retailers differently. Non-Amazon retailers seemingly give us credit for preorder sales on our actual release date. (No retailers reveal how their algorithms work, so we can judge only by author anecdotes.) That means if we’ve built up a lot of sales at a non-Amazon retailer, we could receive a sizable bump on their bestseller charts on our release day, as up to a year’s worth of preorders are suddenly processed.

In contrast, preorders at Amazon are counted for Amazon’s bestseller ranks as each sale is made, not on our release date. So the same number of sales made over a long preorder period wouldn’t get the Amazon algorithms to kick in the same way as if we make a lot of sales in our release week without a preorder set up.

I hope with all of these choices, it’s obvious that the path that’s right for one author won’t necessarily be right for another author. Our specific goals and priorities are far more important to finding the right option than just blindly following what another successful author did—especially as the “rules” can change from week to week.

There are great reasons for all of the above options, so none of them are outright wrong. They can only be wrong for us and what we’re trying to accomplish. And it’s only by thinking about our goals and our priorities that we’ll know the best fit for us. *smile*

After escaping Area 51 armed only with a ukulele, Jami Gold moved to Arizona and decided to become a writer, where she could put her talent for making up stuff to good use. Fortunately, her muse, an arrogant male who delights in causing her to sound as insane as possible, rewards her with unique and rich story ideas.

Fueled by chocolate, she writes paranormal romance and urban fantasy tales that range from dark to humorous, but one thing remains the same: Normal need not apply. Just ask her family—and zombie cat.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks | GooglePlay | Kobo | Additional Retailers

About Pure Sacrifice, part of the Mythos Legacy series:

A shapeshifting unicorn desperate to save his race...

The last guardian of his kind, Markos Ambrostead must keep the chosen Virgin hidden and untainted. But when an attacker breaches his protective magic, he’s forced to reveal himself to defend her life.

A tenacious woman who refuses to be ignored...

Celia Hawkins wishes the world would get a clue and stop treating her like she’s invisible. Only one man notices her, or is that her imagination? After narrowly escaping an attempted rape, she demands answers from her mysterious rescuer—starting with why he’s been following her.

Rules were made to be broken...

Markos can’t risk being tempted by the Virgin, yet emboldened by his attention, Celia’s determined to become his friend. Maybe more. Maybe much more. Now he must hold onto his crumbling willpower to maintain her purity—or his tribe will become extinct.

Amazon | iTunes | Google Play | B&N | Kobo | Additional Retailers


  1. Well, wishI would have been able to read this post before I released. I know there's no wrong or right way, but every minute I second guess my choice and worry it won't be a money maker. I'm an artist at heart, but since I've released I feel that the sales (and highly coveted reviews) are the only things that will validate my talent. I know I'm a good story teller...just hope others will come to that conclusion, too.
    Nearly finished with Ironclad Devotion and loving it!
    Thank you for your wisdom and have a great weekend!

    1. Hi Tamara,

      LOL! Well, I wish I could say that the self-doubt will go away, but it hasn't for me. :/

      I constantly have to remind myself that I'm planning for the long-term and to not "judge" myself based solely on today (or this week or this month). For my sanity, I just plain try not to think of numbers very much. So definitely try to avoid attaching your sense of validation to things you can't control, like sales or review numbers.

      For example, you can control putting out a great story. So focus on the feedback praising your storytelling. That will tell you what a great job you're doing. :)

      And on that note... LOL! Aww, thank you! I'm so glad you're enjoying it. :D

  2. Hmmm I think the delaying and preorder strategies are very cool, especially in terms of making a big splash on one day and possibly hitting bestseller lists (for non-Amazon sites, at least). I like the argument of putting buy links at the end of the book, because indeed, readers may forget about our stories if we don't prompt them to action asap. Especially as our emotional bond with a book we loved may fade somewhat over time, due to the "out of sight, out of mind" effect.

    Yet, I think I will still do the immediate release option once all the books in my series are done and edited. This is because I have a number of friends and acquaintances who have asked to read my story, and I'm already taking an amazingly long time even to finish the first draft. So if my friend sees me post on social media about my book, they might go: "Oh, good, I can finally read it after X years of patient waiting!" And then: "Oh, it's just a preorder or anticipated release. And I thought I could get the book at last...Ah, Serena is really trying my patience, so annoying!" Lol.

    1. Hi Serena,

      I have mixed feelings about all the strategies, so I understand the debate. :)

      Even though I used preorders for my books so far (and they worked perfectly for my purposes), I'm still on the fence for them in other situations. This is definitely a "think it through for your own goals" decision. :) Thanks for stopping by!

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  4. I was just agonizing over these very options yesterday so I'm very thankful you have made this available. From the things you've outline I think I'm going to readjust my plan a little bit. I have a short story I think I'll set up for pre-order as all I'm waiting on is the cover, while my novel I think I'll delay a bit until the sequel is closer to finished.
    Now, I just have to remember your other post about getting ourselves out there. ^^

    1. Hi brohne,

      Please let me know if you have any questions or if you want to bounce ideas off me. Even in my epic-length posts, it's hard to lay out everything to think about, but I'm happy to discuss specific situations too if that would be helpful. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  5. I'm with Tamara - the things I wish I had known before releasing my first book. Hmm. Oh well. I'm learning. :)
    I like the way you tackled the reasons for releasing right away, delaying a book release, and using pre-orders. Excellent tips!

    1. Hi Tyrean,

      Oops! Sorry for not seeing your comment earlier! (I've been doing NaNoWriMo this month, so I'm rather scattered. LOL!)

      I'm glad these tips helped. The choices that I made THIS year worked for me, but they might not work for me next year, so I've put a lot of thought into the pros and cons. :) Good luck with your books, and thanks for stopping by!