KDP Preorders

kindle preorderYou may recall from my post last month on my disastrous attempt to use the Smashwords preorder feature that I wished Amazon would allow indies to take preorders. Well, the Zon must have been listening to me (she said with no undue modesty whatsoever), because now it does.

We’ve been hearing rumors for the past several months that Amazon was offering preorders to selected indie authors. (The grumpier among us were heard to complain that the Zon might be doling out the feature only to selected stars. Now it appears they were simply beta-testing it. Take that, curmudgeons!) Late last week, the feature went live for everyone, with very little fanfare, considering how high a priority it was for me – that is, for all of us. KDP simply sent an e-mail to its authors, and set up a Kindle preorders FAQ in the help section of the site.

It’s simple enough to set up your book for preordering. When you’re ready to publish a new title, go to your KDP dashboard and click the “Add New Title” button, as usual. But now, on the first screen, you will see a new option partway down the page: “Select Your Book Release Option.” If you click the “Make my book available for pre-order” radio button, you get a box in which you must enter the release date for your book. That date must be at least ten days, and no more than 90 days, from the date you’re setting up the preorder.

Kindle preorder

Under the “Upload Your Book File” section, you will see another new question. Here, you must tell KDP whether the file you’re uploading is the final version of your book or a draft manuscript. Interestingly, if you’re uploading a draft, you need not submit a book cover right away. But you can go ahead and set your price, and within 24 hours, KDP will generate a product page for your book. Your readers can then preorder your ebook from that page, with the assurance that it will hit their Kindles on release day – just as if they were preordering a book from a Big Five publisher.

The Zon has set aside a special report page for preorders so you can track their progress. You won’t be credited for the sale of those preorders, however, until release day.

This can be a big deal if you care about rankings. If you get a lot of preorders, your book could make it onto the Hot New Releases list, which is some very sweet virtual real estate indeed.

Of course, there are some rules. KDP is allowing preorders only for brand-new books, and they must be original content – no public domain works allowed. The Zon will be reviewing even the draft manuscripts to make sure they comply with the usual policies. And you need to have everything – final manuscript and cover – uploaded and ready to go ten days prior to your release date.

What if you’re not going to make your date? Hey, it happens. The Zon will let you select a new date that’s up to 30 days later than your original date – but you can only do that once. (You can also reschedule your release for an earlier date, but it still has to be ten days after final manuscript submission.) If you have to, you can cancel the preorder by unpublishing the book. But if you either delay or cancel, the Zon will ban you from using the preorder feature again, for any book, for a year.

Indies who like to work down to the wire may not find much appealing about this new program. I mean, if the book’s ready to go, why wait? Just publish it and let people buy it already. But for those who think strategically about sales rank on release day, preorders ought to be a huge help. And now that KDP is on board, we can offer preorders to all of our readers, no matter which retailer they buy from. That’s pretty exciting. I might just be persuaded to try preorders for my next book.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

24 thoughts on “KDP Preorders”

    1. You’re welcome, Melinda. 🙂 I need to write a new book first. By the time I’m ready to upload it, y’all will have all the kinks worked out of the system for me. So thanks in advance! 😀

  1. I’m gonna try it with my WIP. Co-incidentally, I was already planning to try this out via Smashwords/iTunes, so this was great news from Amazon.

    So I’m esp glad you did this post Lynne. I’d glanced at the email, but not read the FAQ, been concentrating finishing the second write-through.

    Lots of good info, esp about being aware if one delays or cancels, one is banned for a year on pre-orders. Probably necessary from experience on KDP’s part.

    But I esp liked this bit :

    “Interestingly, if you’re uploading a draft, you need not submit a book cover right away. But you can go ahead and set your price, and within 24 hours, KDP will generate a product page for your book.”

    I was waiting to get started, but I have a near finished version now. In a rare move, maybe because it’s a mystery-thriller, I did index cards and outlined most of the chapters, adding here and there as needed. So now it’s mostly fleshing out a few things, and having my wife proofread it. That’ll take a few weeks, we’re off visiting her family in Vermont, yay! 🙂

    Anyway, thanks so much Lynne. Timely, useful, comprehensive post.

  2. Having never preordered from Amazon, I’m unsure how that works. Do I pay at the time of preorder? Do I then have to respond to an email from Amazon in order to fulfill and receive the final copy once the book is released?

    I only want my customer to click the cover of my book if they can purchase it right then and there (I’m not very positive about cover reveals either). If the book is bought and paid for and then delivered automatically, I see the benefit. But if the customer has to make a choice about downloading in response to an Amazon email, this introduces a second decision point, which is maybe not so great.


    1. As it happens, Pete, I have preordered books from Amazon in the past. As in your dream scenario, the customer clicks only once. They don’t pay until the order ships — and the charge is based on the price as of the delivery date (so if the price drops between the preorder date and the delivery date, your customer pays the lower price). The book hits the customer’s Kindle sometime in the wee hours of the morning on the release date.

      It’s a very cool feature that trad publishers have had access to for years. I’m really excited that we’re going to be able to take advantage of it. 🙂

  3. Lynne, thanks for opening up a discussion about this surprising and important development! I was wondering if you could help clear up some confusion about a key element of preorders. There seems to be some conflicting information circling, even among experienced self-publishers, about the nature of the preorder program, and the Preorder FAQ only exacerbates that confusion.

    The issue is whether pre-orders contribute to your rank when they are placed, or only when the final sale is processed. Obviously, if they contribute to rank when they are initially placed, this would torpedo our efforts to make a big splash on launch day.

    The Preorder FAQ says “pre-orders will contribute toward sales rank and other Kindle Store merchandising even before your book is released”. This would seem to indicate that the rank is not saved up for launch day.

    Or the other hand, the PreOrder FAQ also says “Once your book is released and customers start downloading their copies, you will receive credit for final sales. Once you meet the monthly minimum sales threshold, you’ll be paid royalty approximately 60 days after the end of the month.”

    So the question is, what do they mean by “credit for final sales”? The way the paragraph is constructed seems to suggest that they are talking about royalties and not rank. And if that is true, pre-orders could actually be bad for our marketing efforts.

    Have you encountered this confusion among other authors? What is your opinion on it? Thanks!

    1. I’ve seen this issue crop up, yes, and I do think they’re talking about two different things.

      From what I’ve seen (Laurie, correct me if I’m wrong), preorders count toward sales rank immediately — even prior to release. I’m not sure what that will mean in terms of rank on release day. I suspect we’ll have to wait to find out exactly how that part of it works.

      The “credit for final sales” thing would appear to me to address when indies can expect payment. Amazon won’t drop the cash into your KDP account until your customer downloads the preordered book. I think that for most people, that will be immediately upon release. But if your customer is somewhere with no internet connection, or if he/she is one of those people who doesn’t keep wi-fi activated on their Kindle all the time, the book won’t download to the Kindle until they go and fetch it — and that means you won’t be paid for that particular copy ’til that happens.

  4. Lynne, this is wonderful news for authors with “fans” waiting for their next books. I’m not one of those authors, but I am a fan of many writers and do anticipate their next releases. Either way, it’s a win-win for authors and readers alike. Glad the Zon got your vibes!

    Thanks not only for the post but also the step-by-step instructions. Very helpful info, as always.

  5. Very useful article, Lynne. When I finally get a new title out I’ll definitely give pre-orders a try. After all, aren’t we supposed to promote prior to a launch anyway? This will just force me to get organized. 🙂

  6. Well, it’s about darn time! But I must not be one of their favorite authors, I didn’t even warrant an email informing me of this. Thanks for the heads up- much needed!

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