With my family in Venice. Where I did not launch a book.

Today we’re talking about Amazon’s Kindle pre-order program, which allows you to make your book available for sale up to 90 days before it’s actually released. Interested customers can buy your book (often at a discounted rate), then automatically receive it on their Kindles when it’s released. This can be a great way to start building up sales and interest in your book before it’s completely ready for the market.

However, it comes with an important caveat: if you don’t upload the final draft of your book by its due date, you will forfeit the right to use the program again for an entire year.

Late last December, I started writing Edit Me. Figuring it wouldn’t take me more than a couple of weeks to write such a short book—but also well aware of my tendency to procrastinate—I made it available for pre-order it with a release date of March 22 as a form of accountability. This meant having the final draft uploaded by March 12.

No problem! I’d finish my 10k-word book, get it edited, send it to reviewers, and line up guest posts and interviews with time to spare …

Except it didn’t exactly turn out like that.

First of all, it took me much longer to finish writing the book than it should have because … well … it just did. Probably should have seen that one coming.

What I didn’t see coming was winning a trip for our whole family to Europe—which was, of course, TOTALLY AWESOME.

Less awesome was that we had no control over the dates we’d be there—smack in the middle of March.

Pre-release rules say that while you can release a book earlier than promised, you can’t postpone your release without incurring Amazon’s wrath. Sigh.

This gave me two choices:

1) Deal with uploading and releasing the book while on vacation (pretty much the last thing I wanted to do)

… or …

2) Hurry everything up so I could finish and release the book before we left.

I went with Option #2 and brought the release date up to March 1, which meant uploading the final draft by February 20. No big deal, but between the abbreviated lead time and the fact that I was scrambling to finish up a bunch of editing work before we left, my pre-release publicity plans got shortchanged. I managed one interview and a single guest post before we left. Not exactly the Big Launch I’d envisioned.

So what does all this mean for you?

  • Basically, use the pre-release option if it’s a good fit for your publicity plans—BUT remember that life gets in the way and be prepared with a contingency plan or two.
  • Don’t set a pre-release date until you have to. You can set it anywhere from 4–90 days in advance, so there’s plenty of flexibility. Figure out your launch plans first, then set a date.
  • You can bring the release date forward, but you can’t push it back. Better to err on the side of a longer release time than one that’s too short.
  • Remember that you have to have your final draft ready and uploaded 10 days before the release date. Once it’s uploaded, you won’t be able to make ANY changes (to the content, the price, the blurb, anything) until after it’s released.

Moral: I’ll make my future books available for pre-order but not until they’re actually finished and I have the majority of launch events (guest posts, etc.) planned. What do you think? Any plans to use the pre-release option?

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