This Week in Self-Publishing: Launching the Pre-Order

Money earned (total): $6,917.37

Money spent (total): $425

Money earned (this week): $8.37

Money spent (this week): $0

This week, I launched the pre-order for The Biographies of Ordinary People: Vol. 1: 1989–2000. I sent out an email to my TinyLetter, updated my Patreon(which should send an email to all of my Patreon supporters), and shared the pre-order link on social media.

That’s the link, btw, in case you haven’t pre-ordered it yet. 😉

How many people DID pre-order? I have an educated guess, but I don’t have actual numbers—and let’s look at why.

As I mentioned before, I’m running all of this through indie publishing service Pronoun, which is supplying me with a bunch of metrics and data. They track sales, so I had assumed I would see pre-order sales data in real time (which technically means “one or two days after the sale”).

However, so far Pronoun has only shown me sales from Google Play, and my three Google Play sales were actually made on Monday, one day before I officially announced the pre-order:

I’m touched that there are people who wanted to order my book so badly that they ordered it the very second it was available.

(That’s also where that $8.37 weekly earnings number came from.)

But I’m a little antsy because I don’t yet know how many Kindle or Nook or Kobo or iBook users ordered. I’m assuming I don’t have these numbers because these platforms don’t count pre-orders as “sales,” and so they aren’t reporting any of this to Pronoun—but I could be wrong. Pronoun’s website states it could take up to a week to get sales data, so these numbers could appear any second now, let me refresh the site AGAIN.

There are two more ways I can estimate how many people pre-ordered Biographies. Let’s start with the most obvious one: Amazon sales rank.

So those were my Amazon sales ranks on the evening of Pre-Order Day, and that’s because it was the first time I realized I could check them. (Yes, it took me over eight hours to think of this. Yes, I have been checking my sales ranks every hour or so since.)

My highest sales rank so far has been 11,896 “out of over one million books in the Kindle Store,” which sounds promising but really means that my initial estimate that I’d sell 40 books on Pre-Order Day and a handful of books over the rest of the week was pretty much right. (There are plenty of websites that explain how to convert your Amazon sales rank into a rough estimate of sales.)

The other way I can estimate how many people pre-ordered Biographies is by checking the analytics on the book’s Pronoun site. Whenever I distributed the pre-order link, I always used the Pronoun site instead of linking directly to Amazon. This is because NOT EVERYBODY USES AMAZON, I clearly have some Google Play fans, and it’s also because Pronoun is supposed to give me a weekly analytics dump on:

  1. How many people visited my book’s website
  2. Where they came from
  3. What links they clicked on the website

So if I see that 40 people clicked the Amazon link and 5 people clicked the Google Play link and 10 people clicked the Nook link and so on, I’ll have a pretty good sense of how many people pre-ordered. Yes, they could click one of those links and then not pre-order the book. But it’ll still show me whether I’m right to assume that fewer than 100 people pre-ordered, or whether the numbers are bigger than I expected.

How do I feel about the whole “fewer than 100 people pre-ordered” thing? First of all, I was absolutely expecting this. Second, this is just the beginning of what will be several months of marketing and media outreach. Third, I’m setting very realistic goals. Getting 300 pre-orders by launch day will be a success. Getting 500 pre-orders by launch day will be a huge success. I’m not measuring myself against best-sellers. I’m measuring myself against “a lot of self-pub books only sell 500 copies overall and a successful trad pub debut might only sell 5,000 copies.”

And I think I can beat both of those numbers. Not in a single day, but definitely over time. Vol. 1 might not hit its 5,000th sale until after I release Vol. 2 next year, for example. We’ll see what happens.


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