Tips on Pre-Publication Book Sales & Marketing Success
Reaching Readers at Launch & Beyond
Why pre-orders and pre-publication marketing matters (especially now).
Given the current environment and landscape, the publishing industry has been impacted in multiple ways including cancelled events, limited employee travel, and work-from-home policies. We’ve also seen shifts to more online ordering and ebook and audiobook consumption as consumers curtail bricks-and-mortar shopping, and according to an SEMrush article, books and literature are seeing the overall highest increase in traffic as compared to other popular consumer categories. All this to say, if you have titles launching soon it’s a safe assumption that the bulk of consumer activity and sales are likely to happen online.
The good news - consumers are still buying books (and ebooks and audiobooks). And with Amazon currently prioritizing essential goods over books, we’ve seen a rise in online book sales from other retailers like Walmart, Target and BookShop. According to a recent Forbes article, specialized online retailers are also on the horizon as we continue to see an increase in direct-to-consumer sales.
When it comes to pre-publication sales and marketing, another thing to think about in the current book landscape is consumer attention. According to NPD BookScan there’s been a noticeable increase in book sales in genres like study aids, kids activity books, art, and romance.
If your books match up with these categories, it’s a great time to get your books out there and ride the wave.
Consumer marketing prior to publication can drive on-sale awareness and pre-orders. In this blog we’ll cover the following best practices:
- The importance of early, accurate, consumer-aligned metadata
- Rich author/publisher websites and book product pages
- Direct-to-consumer sales
- A strong social presence
- Virtual events
- Giveaways, discounts, and incentives
- Digital Advertising
Getting Ready for Success – Laying the Foundational Footprint
When setting up titles with future pub dates, online success is most found for those who begin early. And pre-order attention and sales always affect:
- Search – Amazon and search engines like Google begin to read things early. The earlier they can read them the better they understand them, and the better off you’ll be for the life of that book.
- Social algorithms – the attention and the engagement, keeping your books in front of consumers so the on-sale date doesn’t get forgotten and pre-orders don’t get lost.
- Bestseller lists - the "big" ones, but also the niche category ones – as an example, ranking as the #1 kids activity book right now through an online retailer is a really good place to be sitting.
The goal is to never miss a sale, to never miss an order.
Early & Accurate Consumer-Aligned Metadata
Metadata is an area to spend a lot of time, especially in pre-publication as it can better position your book compared to those who paid less attention to metadata early on or are using it incorrectly. Especially now in the current environment, as we have an almost exclusively online sales landscape for books.
For early online discovery and sales, we recommend you focus on 3 key areas:
- Book Metadata - Feeding accurate and robust product data out to retailers and other channels.
- Book & Author Profiles - Placing and managing information about the book and author on authoritative sites and networks – eventually creating connections.
- Publisher & Author Websites - Owning and controlling your information, so instead of hopeing a retailer presents everything well, you can keep it consistent and put your own flavor on it.
Pre-Publication Metadata in Action
It’s important to ensure your metadata has a rich description and accurate subjects (which helps it to be consistent across all stores), and that it’s linking to the proper author page with a great bio.
Good metadata equals quality plus completion, with both transactional metadata and description metadata. Transactional metadata drives commerce with indisputable facts about the product, data that will not change from retailer to retailer and is necessary for your books’ distribution. Some examples of transactional metadata include:
- Print attributes (e.g. trim size, weight, page count)
- Pub date
- Rights / territories
Descriptive metadata drives discovery and conversion with details about content and creators. Some examples of descriptive metadata are:
- Title, subtitle, series
- Descriptive copy
- Contributor information
- Additional narratives (reviews!)
- Off-page keywords
Taking A Deeper Dive
To set up your titles for success, we recommend at least 3 BISAC codes, and to avoiding general BISACs like “fiction-general 000000” – try to get as many specific relevant categories as you can. If you’re distributing internationally, we also recommend adding Thema as an international standard. You’ll also want to have between 7-11 keywords or key phrases – Amazon recommends 250 bytes.
For your description, utilize HTML to create paragraphs, bold and italicize text, etc. Ensure your headline is also bold and utilizes keywords that align with how readers search for and describe books like yours, so search engines like Google can index your book in search results.
There are also additional steps you can take per metadata element, as outlined in the graph below:
It’s also really important to create audience-centric metadata, to show how your book can meet the wants/needs of the reader – the key is to really phrase things in the readers voice.
- Utilize Amazon and Google autocomplete for keyword/phrase ideas or BISAC categories.
- Ensure subjects make sense for the audience and aren’t too general - don’t put a subject on your book that you’re just wanting to use for a broad group of people.
Discovery ties to conversion, but it’s important that the right people are discovering your book or you will have a low conversion-rate.
Amazon’s “A+ Content” allows you to take your content to another level to help convert visitors to buyers. It’s setup through Amazon’s vender center, and can be great for driving pre-orders if it’s done correctly and is utilizing best practices like:
- Keep it image-heavy – this is an opportunity to appeal to a customer visually.
- Avoid clutter and ensure the page is well organized.
- Structure the page with headers, bullets and well-spaced paragraphs.
- Be sure to add photos of your book/unique product details/rich content where possible.
Best Practices for Author Presences
This first key element here is consistent name formatting, to ensure the author metadata field is constant across all titles and therefore will populate and link correctly across retailers. Sometimes this means even going back across catalogs to update information in previous titles.
The next step is to ensure all author bios are accompanied by a quality author photo, to really appeal to readers and allow them to see the person behind the book. You’ll also want to keep up a robust author biography on Amazon, Goodreads, and elsewhere. It’s ok to call out different information if it’s more relevant to certain retailers but you want to ensure all spelling and punctuation is correct and you’re including additional info (ex. birth date/location) where possible.
Best Practices for Author & Publisher Websites
Your website is really where you can have the most control over your products and brand. Your website can be more customized and tailored; however you want to ensure your design is complementary to author/publisher presences on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. so readers can have a more trusted and cohesive experience.
Competitive SEO is also important, to use off-page keywords, attractive headlines, etc. Using tools like WordPress, yost, Keywords Everywhere and other SEO plugins will allow you to go in and adjust information to ensure it’s quality, relevant and up-to-date. We recommend going back to refresh content when you can to keep it optimized.
It’s also important to have individual pages for your books, including quality reviews, descriptions, etc. that are also kept updated, and displays the information exactly as you want it. You’ll also want to link out to other retailers, as well as link back to that page where appropriate to give more comprehensive coverage for that title if someone searches for it.
Reach & Engage Your Audience
Connect with readers and influencers – where they are and with content they care about.
Here are some stats around the most popular places online consumers tend to congregate, and the benefits each platform provides:
Tips on Driving Direct Pre-Order Sales
We’re seeing a lot of interest among authors and publishers in how to serve the direct-to-consumer gap in the market right now, and how to engage readers who are looking for ways to purchase books they’re interested in. This can include:
- Ebook & Print Sales
- Discounts & Promotion Opportunities
- Publisher & Author-Direct Sales
Aerio is one tool that can help fill the gap, offering an online storefront to sell all of your titles including pre-pub forthcoming titles. As anyone can create a free Aerio store, there are no upfront barriers to sell books direct to your readers. Through Aerio you can:
- Add books by searching our catalog of millions of titles, uploading a CSV of ISBNs, or uploading ebooks.
- Create collections for featured titles.
- Brand your store & get code to embed it on your website.
All Aerio print book sales also report to NPD Bookscan, which means print sales will count toward major bestseller lists like the New York Times. Here are a few ways you can get started today with driving pre-order sales:
- Drive Pre-Order Sales on Social Media:
- Promote pre-orders on Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms
- Offer exclusive discounts and promo codes
- Link to Aerio or other retailers to capture pre-order sales
- Offer Pre-Order Discounts & Incentives:
- Reward your audience for signing up for an email list, completing a survey, or taking another target action
- Use Aerio to offer exclusive promo codes with expiration dates and usage restrictions
- Create Customized Book Widgets
- Use Aerio to create a book cover widget with easy copy-and-paste embed code for any website
- Share widgets with Authors to drive additional pre-order sales
Content & Promotion Ideas to Build Your Audience
Pre-order incentives and giveaways, digital “look-inside” book previews, content marketing and advertising are just a few ways you can build your audience and expand your reach while promoting pre-publication titles.
Offer Exclusives for Customers Who Pre-Order
- Ask readers to complete a form or upload proof of purchase
- Promote in your own email list and social media or via sponsored blogs
- Send email with digital incentives like a free ebook download code or an exclusive short story
- Send physical book swag like posters, bookplates or bookmarks
Run a Book Giveaway Campaign
- Giveaway a limited number of early copies
- Run a Goodreads giveaway to drive early reviews from readers
- Cross-promote earlier works by offering a free ebook when readers sign up for your newsletter – examples:
- The first book in a series when a new title is about to release
- An earlier title by the author
Set up an Ebook Giveaway Promo in Aerio
- Create ebook giveaway codes for any book in your inventory
- Set expiration dates and usage limits to control access
- Get campaign analytics to see how many people have redeemed a code
- Get email addresses for all users who download the book
Feature Forthcoming Titles on Your Website
- Make sure your site is up to date with new and upcoming releases
- Include detailed book information and retail links to enable sales
- Offer Aerio “Look Inside” digital previews to improve engagement and click-through rates
Feature Forthcoming Digital Book Previews in Social Media
- Feature an Aerio digital preview link in Instagram stories - followers can read a book sample right in their mobile browser
- Prompt users to sign up for your email list after a few pages
- Add retailer pre-order options of your choice
- Include links to your social media profiles
Pre-Publication Content Marketing
- Develop and share content on your own website and/or in social channels to promote upcoming releases. A few examples include:
- Check out tools like Book Brush and Canva to create simple mock-ups and social media images
Virtual Book Tours and Readings
- Feature on publisher and author websites, social platforms…everywhere!
- Host on familiar streaming platforms (eg. Zoom)
- Consider recording the live event and posting the video to YouTube or embedding it onto your website
- Add pre-order options of your choice
- Social Targeting
- Fans of comparable authors
- Fans of comparable media with “book”
- A/B test creative and call-to-action messaging to learn what resonates
- Keyword targeting (search and sponsored products)
- Establish pre-publication titles early
- Can be very cost-effective – minimal investment required
- Provides Good metrics
Pre-publication sales and marketing is an important part of any book-marketing strategy. Consumer marketing prior to publication drives on-sale awareness and pre-orders. To achieve early online discovery and sales, your titles must be setup right from the start with critical metadata while building buzz and reader engagement. And using tools like Ingram’s Metadata Improvement Services and Aerio can help you connect with readers and influencers where they live.