View Full Version : Average number of pre-orders?

05-30-2008, 04:35 AM
Hi folks,

I have a quick question that I couldn't find a related thread for -- but if I missed it, can someone point me in the right direction?

Anyway, I was wondering if anyone knew what an "average" number of pre-ordered books might be for a nonfiction title -- my book (an essay anthology) is due out two months from today (yay!) and today I asked my editor if she knew how many books have been sold on pre-order. Now I'm wondering what to do with this information!

Mostly I guess this is just curiosity, but I figured this was the place to ask. :)


05-30-2008, 07:46 AM
How many books did the editor tell you were sold on pre-order?

05-30-2008, 05:07 PM
Oh, sorry! Duh to me, I should have said. :)

600+ books have been sold so far, including library orders.

05-30-2008, 06:24 PM
I don't think there's an "average" since nonfiction is so broad. Probably a better way to gauge if your book is doing well on pre-orders is some percentage of what the print run was. (And, here let me caution you: I have no clue why, but publishers seem to be very protective of numbers, so you may want to ask your publisher before you tell anyone what the numbers are.) So, with 600 pre-orders, if the print run was 1,000,000 (ie if you were Barbara Walters with Audition) a 600 pre-order would suck! If you're like the rest of us with a much more modest print run, 600 could be fabulous. The publishers only print what they think they can sell, and the pre-orders are their first gauge of how accurate they were. However, these days, if they under-print, it's very easy to go back for a 2nd and get books into stores very quickly. (My book already went into a second printing - and that was 2 weeks before pub date. So, I'm thinking it's on the right track. I never asked what the pre-order numbers were and I don't think I will. Just one more thing to obsess over!)

05-30-2008, 06:32 PM
Sounds pretty good to me. After all, there's still two months till publication and an essay anthology isn't exactly a mass market item.

05-30-2008, 07:26 PM
It's hard to draw conclusions from preorder numbers. When Look Me in the Eye was announced, we began getting preorders on Amazon. Indeed, there are preorders for my paperback accumulating there today.

Preorders may or may not reflect a continuing demand. For example, if you wrote a reference book for libraries, and you promoted it effectively, most libraries might well order it before release. In that case, the preorders would not signal a strong continuing market because half the potential customers just bought early.

I doubt if anyone really knows the details of the 600 orders. Some libraries, as you say. Some college bookstores? Local bookstores? Individual orders for people who asked for the book? You just don't know.

If you have 600 Amazon orders, you have some confidence that 600 individuals want to read the book. With 600 store orders, the books are all returnable so all you know is, 600 retailers decided to take a shot with it.

Since most small press anthologies are done in print runs of a few thousand (or less), I'd say having 600 taken up now is probably pretty satisfactory to the publisher. Hopefully the advance ordering will continue.

05-30-2008, 07:42 PM
Thanks, everyone!

I do know the size of the press run, but like Prevostprincess said, I know publishers are very careful with that information. Suffice it to say, it wasn't 1,000,000. :)

And can I just say, going into a second printing before publication?! Awesome!

johnrobison, I think you're probably right that I can't really draw any conclusions, I'm just obsessing. :) The reason I know that some of those orders were libraries is that the publisher did a very small print run of hardcover books, only for libraries, and those are all sold. Yay...

Thanks again, everyone!

Susan B
05-30-2008, 08:57 PM
Congratulations to all of you!

I'd been wondering lately about the same thing, pre-orders, since last week. I was surprised to discover that my music memoir is listed on Amazon, 8 months before publication date. Way earlier than I imagined.

Available for pre-order. A very strange feeling. Cool, but strange.

My situation will probably be closer to mamawriter's than John or Doreen's :-) Mine is also a university press book, with a modest initial print run, all hardcover at this point. A somewhat specialized topic (though they are marketing to a general audience along with the Cajun/Creole music studies market.)

So I guess you are supposed to try to boost pre-orders, yes? Have you been doing anything along those lines, mamawriter? Your book sounds really interesting.


05-30-2008, 11:07 PM
Thanks, Susan B! Your book looks cool, too...and I love your picture on your website! It looks great. :)

I don't know that we (my co-editor and I) tried to boost pre-orders so much as just general sales...although I guess any sales made at this point would naturally be pre-orders! You got me thinking, though, and here's what we've done so far, for whatever it's worth:

~ We made a website for the book, with information about the book, contributors' bios, news, excerpts, and a mailing list sign-up (http://www.mamaphd.com)
~ We did a pretty big push with trying to place first serial rights for the essays in the book, with varying degrees of success, and another push for book reviews
~ We were interviewed for a piece about the book that will run on Literary Mama, where Caroline (my co-editor) is Senior Editor -- and I think they'll be doing a review of the book as well
~ We're planning a blog book tour with MotherTalk (http://www.mother-talk.com)
~ We submitted proposals for and/or presented the book at various academic conferences
~ We now have a Mama, PhD blog on Inside Higher Ed (which I was just thrilled about, as that's a wonderful built-in audience that just happens to be our target audience!) -- http://www.insidehighered.com/views/blogs/mama_phd
~ We did postcards, and then made up magnets, too, which was a fun little do-it-yourself project, and I really think they look cool
~ And just because we love our cover art so much, we made up t-shirts on CafePress (with the publisher's and designer's okay) so our contributors -- and anyone else, I guess! -- can buy Mama, PhD apparel -- http://www.cafepress.com/mamaphd

So that's what we've done so far! So exciting, isn't it, waiting for your book to come out?!

Best of luck!

Susan B
05-30-2008, 11:32 PM
Thanks for the good wishes, mamawriter! Glad you like the photo, too. (And as a mama/writer/PhD, I'm sure you can appreciate how pleased I am that the photographer I credit is a my budding journalist 20-something son :-)

Wow, you have done a lot to publicize the book! I'm impressed! Just starting to get moving on some of that. I am working on a "real" website, just found someone to design it.....Good thing I have some time before the book comes out!

06-02-2008, 07:08 AM
Mamawriter, what a great start! I love your promotional efforts, too, and I read Inside Higher Ed (although I've vowed not to get a PhD or MBA until the BA and MS are paid off - yeah...l'm one of those people that loves to learn and has paid for it)

I wondered the same question about sales because my book lends itself to bulk orders for schools and youth groups. I found that it's actually the advance/bulk sales person who could better and more definitively get me the numbers. I was curious because my book had ticked up into the top 100 on the education category on Amazon and I wondered how that was possible since it doesn't come out until July. The staff at my publisher's offices were so kind in explaining the basics, the numbers, the anamolies, etc. While I thought that a lot of the people who said, "yes, we're going to order bulk copies," would show up - they didn't. It was regular venues ordering most of the books. In total, they ordered a few thousand...I'll leave it vague since I don't want to step on toes, jinx myself or otherwise meddle in fate. If you want to PM me I can provide details.

Best of luck!

06-07-2008, 06:01 AM
To All: What is required to get the pre-order process going on Amazon? What triggers this?

06-07-2008, 06:45 AM
When the publisher lists a title in it's catalog, assuming Amazon gets the catalog information from the publisher, it appears then. For example, my publisher announced my book as part of it's Fall 2008 list, and it's already on Amazon for preorder, even though it doesn't even have a cover image yet.

06-10-2008, 03:29 AM
Well, I'll be buying your book! (See what starting obsession-related threads does for you. :)) I'm finishing my master's now and (hopefully) starting a doctoral program in '09, and I have oh-so-many questions about being a mom to 2 preschoolers and an academic.

06-18-2008, 04:34 AM
Wow Brandi, that's awesome! And congratulations to you. :)

I also highly recommend the Mama PhD blog over on Inside Higher Ed (http://www.insidehighered.com/views/blogs/mama_phd) -- several of our contributors are blogging over there, taking questions and everything, and I think it's just fabulous.

Best of luck to you!