When should I preorder the next book in the series?
February 28, 2011 10:19 AM   Subscribe

How does it affect an author’s first week sales if you preorder their book and it ships/is delivered before the release date?

I often preorder books, and this is in part because they generally (though not always) ship them the week before release and I generally get them the Friday before they are released. (I also preorder books because I dislike the only convenient bookstore to me, and because the local stores do not always have SFF books on hand, or don’t unpack the boxes for a few days so their online inventory is wrong. But really, the joy of getting the books in time for the weekend is a large part of it.)

However, I was reading Seanan McGuire’s livejournal (as it is her book I preordered, and the book was great) and there has been lot of discussion that is a negative to authors. Is it? Why?
posted by jeather to Work & Money (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In reading the comments, it seems that the author is merely sad that preordered books arrive early because "it's like eating your birthday cake before you come home from work"--in other words, she's excited about sharing her book on its release date, and frustrated that the stores ship it early because of that.

Preorder sales are sales, as far as I know.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:48 AM on February 28, 2011

Response by poster: This thread explicitly says: "Pre-orders count [towards first week's sales and the bestseller lists]. Books acquired before the actual on-sale date do not."
posted by jeather at 11:26 AM on February 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

You answered your own question: it doesn't count for the bestseller list (and thus, the author's likelihood of getting allowed to write more books) if you get it before the day of. If the bookstore puts it out today and it was supposed to go out tomorrow, it doesn't count. But according to Seanan down the thread, it does count for the list if it was pre-ordered, so that's ok.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:56 AM on February 28, 2011

Response by poster: Preorders are often acquired before the actual on-sale date, and somewhere else in comment somewhere (I find threaded comments hard to navigate and find again, sorry), someone suggests that preorders count based on ship date, or based on arrival date, or something else -- so do preorders which ship, say, the Wednesday before on-sale date (and are charged to your credit card that day), and arrive the Friday before, count for first week's sales?
posted by jeather at 12:03 PM on February 28, 2011

Honestly, I don't know the exact details on that. I suggest you post a reply to her blog and ask.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:29 PM on February 28, 2011

Best answer: Yes, pre-orders count towards first week sales. They are tabulated as part of the first day's sales and thus towards the lists. Ship date plays no factor, as long as they are actually pre-ordered.

I work at a major US publisher and receives first day and pre order reports on a weekly basis.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 4:52 AM on March 1, 2011

Best answer: Now that I'm on a computer and not on my phone (geez, forgive the typos!), I took a look at her LJ and I can't quite figure out why she thinks that pre-orders delivered before the on sale date don't count.

For one thing, a book "on sale" date is sort of like the Pirate's Code -- more guidelines than actual rules. The exception to this is a "laydown on sale" which is rare-ish and only for big deal brand-name authors and celebrities. It's rare because of the amount of work that goes into it for the bookstore, and also because for books that reveal previously-unknown information, shipping the book a few days early could ruin publicity opportunities.

But all of the sales of her book that B&N made and shipped early would still be reported in their first week sales -- when else would they be counted? True, there are sometimes Bookscan (the Nielsen ranking service for the publishing industry) numbers that appear early, but they are such anomalies that publishers truly don't care. We don't even notice them. B&N and Amazon both include pre-order numbers in the first day sales that they report to publishers and to the lists.

And for what it's worth, any new books currently available at Borders are DEFINITELY sales that count for the publisher -- because most publishers are no longer shipping to Borders, so they're having to order through wholesalers, which are paying the publishers for the merchandise. It's the books that came out from July through December of last year that Borders never paid us for.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 10:56 AM on March 1, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks! That's exactly what I was wondering,

So if you buy a book in the store the day or two before it is officially for sale, it also counts in first week sales?

I agree, her explanation didn't make much sense, but I know very little about the book publishing business, and a lot of what I do know doesn't seem to make sense, so. I do know that I can often find books for sale before they are released -- not JK Rowling, but most of them -- and also that the stores here unbox English SFF books after everything else.

(I am actually in Canada, so it is indeed possible that none of my numbers count at all. Also I think there is some weird distribution problem now that someone went bankrupt.)
posted by jeather at 12:11 PM on March 1, 2011

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