Bookseller Tips & Tricks: Promoting Pre-Orders

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Last fall, Suzanne Droppert, owner of Liberty Bay Books in Poulsbo and Bremerton, Washington, participated in the American Booksellers Association’s Pre-Order Task Force, which promoted pre-publication sales of titles such as An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (Dutton), Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami (Knopf), and Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver (Harper). This year, she’s continuing her efforts by promoting pre-orders on social media and in-store through a variety of avenues.

“We all know most pre-orders go to the ‘Big A’ company, even though those customers shop with us as well,” Droppert told Bookselling This Week. “We’d like to keep more of that business. The more we get the word out on all our social media platforms, and the more we talk about it in store, the better — for all indie bookstores, and for our continued growth.”

Liberty Bay is currently promoting pre-orders for a number of books, including Howard Stern Comes Again (Simon & Schuster). In March, the store encouraged followers to pre-order the title: “You know you can pre-order this new book from us instead of A!!” the store wrote in a tweet. “On sale 5/14/19. Check out our prices online.”

Droppert said that in addition to posting on social media, Liberty Bay also includes pre-order promotions in its newsletter, which is e-mailed once a month, in addition to listing books that are available to pre-order on the front page of its online store. On Pinterest, Droppert added, Liberty Bay has a pre-order board.

Droppert also recommended that booksellers talk to customers in-store about titles available for pre-order. At the checkout counter, Droppert said, “we have a blackboard with the current month’s new releases that we are pointing out to customers.”

Liberty Bay always promotes pre-orders for author events as well, Droppert added. The store promotes as pre-orders any titles that booksellers have read ARCs for and loved, in addition to signed books the store receives.

“If we sell a Louise Penny, we'll mention to the customer when the next book is coming out and hopefully get the pre-order,” Droppert said. “I think booksellers mentioning it to customers is our best tool for getting pre-orders.”

Special pre-order campaigns that include exclusive merchandise also help, Droppert said, noting that the store makes sure to promote titles for which publishers have created giveaways or campaigns.

“For Sarah Dessen’s new book, The Rest of the Story,” Droppert said, “you can show a copy of your receipt to the publisher and get a free beach bag sent to you. So we’re promoting pre-orders for her book to get the beach bag. Incentives always inspire sales!”

Booksellers interested in learning more about how to promote pre-order sales can watch a recording of the Winter Institute education session “Maximizing and Marketing Pre-Order Sales” (booksellers will need to be signed in to BookWeb to view). For information on upcoming titles available for pre-order, booksellers can check out ABA’s pre-order calendar.