Most authors, whether independently published or publishing with an established press, are responsible for at least some of their own marketing. One marketing option is putting together a preorder campaign for your books before they release, offering a small gift to readers who send you proof of their preorder. Erin Bowman has a great post about what such campaigns entail and some ideas for them; I want to focus more on the nitty-gritty of setting up such a campaign.
Why consider a preorder campaign?
Unless you are a big lead title at your imprint, your publisher probably won’t do a preorder incentive for you. However, preorder campaigns can be a useful way to build buzz about your book before it comes out, particularly if readers share the campaign or their swag on their social media platforms. Preorder campaigns provide you with media content to share, and they can be a fun way to say thanks to readers.
Preorder campaigns can be time consuming and (depending on your swag) costly, however, so if organizing a campaign doesn’t sound fun to you, there’s no shame in not doing one. As for me, gift giving is one of my love languages, so preorders are precisely the kind of marketing I enjoy.
Step One: Figure out the size and scale
The first thing you’ll want to establish is how many preorder gifts you’re willing to send out, and whether the campaign is local or international. If you’re in the U.S., it’s a good idea to send swag that fits in a standard envelope with a forever stamp (.50 in 2018) or an international stamp (1.15). If you only have a limited number of swag packs, you may want to cap the number of preorders, or say “while supplies last.”
In Bowman’s post, she talks about setting up different tiers for your preorder: everyone in the first tier gets a basic gift, and are entered into giveaways for the higher tiers. If you choose to do giveaways, you should know that most states forbid sweepstakes, where entrants have to pay for their entry, so you’ll need to provide an alternative entry that does not cost money. (Or be prepared for your publisher to not be able to help promote your campaign on their social media platforms).
Step Two: Design and Order Swag
If you’re not sure how much you want to invest in a preorder campaign, you can opt for a simple bookmark and signed bookplate. Personally, I like preorder campaigns that offer exclusive content for readers, whether that’s a digital content related to the book (a chapter from a different POV, supplemental material, etc.), maps, character cards, etc. I offered a map that I’d drawn with BLOOD ROSE REBELLION that got an enthusiastic response; for LOST CROW CONSPIRACY, I opted for flat fridge magnets and temporary tattoos.
As far as vendors, there are lots of options out there. Here are my preferences (though I’d love to know other ideas in the comments). It can take several weeks for swag to arrive, so plan ahead.
For bookmarks, Gotprint is fast and pretty inexpensive. I had mine designed by Icebooks.com.
For bookplates, any 3×4 stickers work well. This time around, I used UPrinting and I loved how well they turned out.
I used Vistaprint for my fridge magnets, and Tattoofun for the temporary tattoos.
Step Three: Advertise
You’ll want to make sure the preorder information is prominent on your website and any social media you use regularly for readers who go looking for it. Graphics are an easy way to advertise it on social media (I used Canva for mine). Be aware that if you’re planning a Facebook promotion for your campaign, you’ll need an image with minimal text.
Step Four: Collect Information
Most preorder campaigns require some kind of proof of preorder (screen shot, email) along with a mailing address. Some authors opt to have those sent directly to their author email; I prefer to create a separate email dedicated to preorders so the information doesn’t get lost.
Ultimately, setting up a preorder campaign can take time (and money), but it can be a fun way to say thank you to readers and generate some excitement before the book comes out.
What kind of swag do you like to see in preorders? Do you have any suggestions for swag vendors? Or questions? Let us know in the comments.
Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is now available. The sequel, LOST CROW CONSPIRACY, comes out March 27.