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With my very first book, my editor told me, “I don’t care what your book sells in the first week. I care what it sells in the first ten years.” Now we’re at the point where it matters what your book sells before it’s even for sale!

A #thread about #preorders. #publishing👇
Preorders, of course, are when you order a book (or anything, really) before you can actually buy it online or in a store. There are some upsides to this — you guarantee you’ll get it on Day One, for one thing…
…and if it’s something with constrained availability (like, say, the newest iPhone) and you REALLY want it, it’s comforting to know you can definitely have it ASAP.
The comic book industry, for instance, has long survived on preorders, to the point where comic book readers have access to PREVIEWS, which is the industry’s retail catalog.
You can get a copy at a comic book store and have access to everything that’s coming out in a couple of months. Then you fill out an order form and give it to the comic book store and they order those items for you.
Seems pretty cool, right? Seems like a good system. And it is. Sort of. Like most good systems, though, it has a flaw to it. It’s now one more hill authors have to climb, and we’re expected to do it on YOUR backs.
Places like Amazon LOVE preorders because they reduce the guesswork involved. If 100 people preorder Book X, they know they’re safe ordering 100 copies…and probably more, since that indicates a lot of interest. It’s a data point AND guaranteed sales. Nice, right?
But preorders also pervert and perturb the system.
For books with significant pre-publication buzz preorders can be useful and a good leg up. The problem is when it stops being a bonus, a windfall, and becomes REQUIRED. And judging by the amount of us authors asking readers to preorder, we’ve hit that point.
It’s called a “technology driven imperative.” Which is when something becomes NECESSARY simply because it’s POSSIBLE. And it can have devastating side effects.
Imagine a book that the publisher is super-excited about. And then the preorders are really low. As a result, the publisher decides to cut its losses and cancels some promotional plans. Now the book ends up underperforming when it’s released. Self-fulfilling prophecy much?
It doesn’t take much to imagine similar scenarios. Entire comic book series and careers have died on the altar of preorders. But more than that, I feel that preorders put a burden on the people who deserve it least: You, the reader.
What should be a convenience and a gift to the loyal reader is instead another point of failure in the system, another metric by which to judge, another obligation on authors to “leverage their fans.”

I don’t want to leverage my fans. I just want to write books for them.
Publishers deserve to make money, yes, but there’s something unseemly about asking the end consumer to make it easy on them. When Zach Braff Kickstarted a movie back in 2013, people were upset.
It seemed as though a celebrity was exploiting a system designed to help the little guy get a leg up. (Here’s a link on that, BTW: nytimes.com/2013/05/26/mag…)
This is how the current stress on preorders feels to me. A publisher either believes in a book or doesn’t. Preorders should be greeted as good news, not mandatory news, and authors shouldn’t feel like they have to generate them on their own. Begging readers is…icky.
Look, you don’t have to preorder your Thanksgiving turkey months in advance in order to be sure you’ll get it…or to be sure more turkeys will be available for Christmas.
You know Thanksgiving is coming and you just go to the store a day or so before, confident that the grocery store has enough turkeys that you’ll get one.
In short, I don’t believe the success of MY book (or my career!) is YOUR burden to shoulder. It’s not a reader’s job make life easier for publishers and retailers. And I say this as someone who friggin’ ADORES publishers and retailers. They are some of my favorite people.
But you have 20 bucks in your pocket and access to zero data. They have operating capital and a lot of data. It’s their job to take the risk.
I mean, if you want to preorder stuff, that’s great. But it shouldn’t be pushed onto you. You shouldn’t be guilted into it. You shouldn’t feel it as an obligation.
I recognize the value of preorders up and down the chain. What bugs me is when I see pressure applied. Placing a preorder should be a pleasure. It should be something you do because you’re super-excited.
I guess what I’m saying is that I hate that this tool of excitement for readers has been turned into just one more way to Collect! Data! And that now it’s become another metric by which to judge a book’s success or failure…before anyone even gets to read it!
If you’ve read this far, your reward is that you get to see me be a GIANT HYPOCRITE. Because now I’m going to ask you to preorder my upcoming novel, THE HIVE, due out on September 3.
Because as much as I hate it, this is the way the game is played, and there’s no point telling the ump you really should get four strikes when the rulebook says three.

Here’s a link: amzn.to/2GUBFIl

And here’s an excerpt to read: bit.ly/2GPNijC #thehive #YAlit
Thanks for reading, y’all! :)
The folks at @AvidBookshop called me on this, and they’re right. Here’s a preorder link for @wordsbookstore, where #TheHive launch party will beheld on 9/7 at 7pm. Join us, won’t you?

@AvidBookshop @wordsbookstore Also tacking on: If you liked this thread, consider checking out my podcast, Writing in Real Life, where I rant about this kind of stuff all the time: writinginreallife.com.
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