A Bit About Jargon: Pre-Orders

September 18, 2011 at 8:38 pm (Industry, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

You know you want it.

It’s that book you’ve been waiting a whole year for- maybe even two or three years. More if you’re a Jordan or Martin fan. It’s that book you scour the internet for, squealing over a cover reveal, searching for teasers and any words the author might release about it. You look for the contests so you can get it early. You have it marked and circled in really bright colors on your calendar. You’ve requested the release day off of work so you can run out, buy it, and just start reading it then and there.

So have you pre-ordered it yet?

You’d be stunned at how many people would answer no.

The thing is, if you really want the book, you should pre-order it, and here’s why:

You have nothing to lose by putting your name down for one. Now, if you’re looking at e-books or if you’re doing it online, that’s different. Obviously there’s money down for that one, and if you get the first few pages and it sucks, e-books aren’t returnable. But if you’re doing it in a store, there’s no money down. There is absolutely no obligation to buy, so you’re risking nothing by having one set aside for you. What that does is guarantees that there’ll be a copy for you if you want it.

For small- to mid-release titles, not all bookstores are going to receive copies in quantity, or even at all. There’s a finite amount of shelf space at a bookstore, so not every title gets to be represented. Sad, but true. If you don’t have us bring it in, we may not be getting it.

For most new releases, publishers send us between three and eight copies, depending on whether or not it’s got extra displays or promotions. Think about that, though: if there are three to eight people in your area who want that book as badly as you do but don’t have to worry about class or work and can get either get to the bookstore right away or send someone else for them, then you don’t get your copy. *sad face* Then you have to order it anyway, but you don’t get it when you were actually wanting it.

For larger releases, we generally get a certain number of books above our pre-orders. There’s a whole equation for it tucked away somewhere but the warehouse considers pre-orders to be an accurate indiation of how many people in our area want the book.

Now me? I live in an area where, for some reason or another, people refuse to pre-order. I don’t know what it is, but everyone just assumes that the book will be there if they want it, regardless of what the title is. They want the books, but they won’t pre-order it.

That results in little things like the Breaking Dawn fiasco.

We were required to have a midnight release party for it, and we were told fairly early on that the number of books we received would be strictly dependant upon the number of pre-orders we got. We busted our butts trying to get those pre-orders, but most people didn’t want to put their name down. They said they’d just come and get it that day, despite our warnings that we wouldn’t be getting that many books above our pre-orders. Despite multiple warnings, even. By the night of the release, we had 45 pre-orders. I think the buyer pitied us because he sent us 130 books.

Then we had 97 people show up for the party.

We were completely sold out of the book by four o’clock that afternoon, as was EVERY OTHER PLACE IN TOWN, because we all got quantity based off our pre-orders. We had to struggle to get more books in, but people STILL wouldn’t put their names down, so as soon as we got them in they sold to other people. This went on for WEEKS (to be fair, it was complicated by the fact that this was a buyer-managed title so we had to beg to get quantities above what their equations told us we should get).

October 4th, we’re going to have a crush of parents in to pick up Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune, and the kids whose parents have to work during the day will come crowding in at night. We’ve got less than 20 pre-orders and one of those is mine. The buyer knows this is a huge title, they’re going to send us quite a bit, but what about two days from now, when Scott Westerfeld’s Goliath comes out?

If we’re slated to get a certain amount (like in the case of Goliath, about 8) and our pre-order numbers don’t break past a certain percentage, they don’t send us any extra, meaning the pre-orders actually come out of those numbers. If we’ve got three pre-orders, there are five left out in the wild.

Really reduces your chances of getting that copy when you want it.

Pre-ordering through a store costs nothing. You do not pay to reserve the title. We take your name and phone number, and when it comes it we set one aside with your name on it. Release day, we give you a call or email as a courtesy reminder that the book is in. Then, you can come get it or not. Found it somewhere else? That’s fine. Got it as a gift? That’s fine too. Come in and read the first chapter and realize the book is going to dash all your hopes and dreams, and you will actually shrivel and die a little inside if you read the rest of it? You don’t have to buy it.

I like to try new authors, and because I read YA, there are a TON of debut authors. It’s a gamble, trying a new author. You don’t know if you’re going to like the style or the characters, and with debuts, a bookstore may or may not be stocking them without a publisher push. It sucks, but there it is; buyers have to manage a finite amount of display space, so they do their best to tailor to what’s known to sell in each store. So I put in a pre-order. When it comes in, I flip through the first chapter or two and see if I’m caught. Do I like the writing? Do the characters interet me? Does the story intrigue me? If the answers are yes, I buy the book. If the answers are no, I simply have the hold cancelled and it goes out on the shelf.

No money changes hands unless I actually decide to buy it.

Don’t miss out on your chance to get a book when you want it because of a pre-order. It costs nothing, and it takes less than a minute to give us your information to hold it for you. You can even pre-order multiple titles at a time, and we’ll let you know as each comes in (I do my orders a month at a time and just flip through them as they arrive, and I can buy or not buy as I choose).

On November 1st, when Ally Condie’s Crossed comes out, or on December 6th when Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Prince comes out, do you really want to be one of those people without a book because you didn’t put your name down?

Please, please, as a bookseller I am BEGGING you: if you want a book, take the two seconds to put in a pre-order. You literally have nothing to lose.

But you have a lot to gain- specifically, a guarantee of the book on release day or whenever you want to go pick it up.

Just to satisfy a curiosity, what books are you looking forward to in the next few months? (And are you going to pre-order them?)

Until next time~


  1. GladElf said,

    Great timing. I was actually about to sit down and write a blog about which books I’m looking forward to, but I might as well put my thoughts together now:
    Goliath, Son of Neptune, Mastiff, Clockwork Prince and then next year Out of Sight, Out of Time and Fever.
    Goliath I should have pre-ordered, but I never got around to it *shame-faced*. SON, CP and Fever will definitely be pre-ordered and the others will depend on what my budget looks like.

  2. Nick Kellingley said,

    Pre-ordering would be find for me, if only I wasn’t based in China. As is I’m wondering if part of the solution to your problem couldn’t be found by cheating a little and pre-ordering based on your predicted sales, even if they’re all reserved for a Mr. A Nonymouse….

    • dothutchison said,

      We thought about that, but if we put in fake orders, the company thinks we’re stealing…o.O Definitely not worth losing a job over.

  3. Angel said,

    This is a really interesting article! I don’t usually have trouble finding books that I want because I live near a lot of bookstores, but pre-ordering has worked out wonderfully the few times I’ve done it. You made a wonderful case for it, and I’ll definitely be pre-ordering more often. :)

  4. Emma Trevayne (@EMentior) said,

    This is a timely reminder for me – I went through a difficult time this weekend trying to get my hands on a copy of David Levithan’s new book, all of which could have been avoided if I’d remembered to tell my preferred local bookstore that I wanted a copy.

    And as a writer, I probably won’t ever know any (or all) of the times when someone goes into a bookstore in search of my book (oh, if wishing makes it so!) only to find it’s not being stocked, but on principle I don’t like the idea that someone won’t be able to read it at the moment they’re excited for it. I imagine other authors feel the same.

  5. savannahjfoley said,

    I don’t pre-order… instead I actually order and pay for the book through an online provider. I love to do this because then it comes in the mail and it’s a surprise present.

    For books I’m not sure if I want to read, I try to get a hold of a sample chapter. That usually decides for me.

  6. GladElf said,

    Yeah for books in the mail! Though I don’t order online as often as I used to. I still do for older books, but if it’s a new release I try to support my local bookstore. I may not be able to make much of a difference…but it makes me feel like I’m doing something. There’s just something about a bookstore that I love.

  7. Nick Kellingley said,

    It’s depressing to see how many people prefer online to bookshopping in a store, there’s simply no beating the joy of exploration in a bookshop – coming across favourite authors you didn’t know had something out, or better still coming across new authors you would never have heard of.

    I have a Kindle, I use it a lot – because it’s impossible to buy books in China any other practical way. But when I’m in places like Malaysia with great English language bookstores, I take an empty suitcase just to fill with novels.

    • GladElf said,

      I just went over this with someone this morning. They asked what I was doing today and I replied that I was going to buy Goliath by Scott Westerfeld. He then asked me why I didn’t just get a Kindle.
      The real reason that I don’t have a Kindle is because I went with the Nook. But I still prefer a real book, so my Nook is just so I don’t have to lug seventeen books when I travel (because as fast as I read, I have to have a LOT of books).

  8. Bruno Melo (@bponto) said,

    Couldn’t agree more with you, Nick. That’s also one of the reasons why I think it’s so important for a bookstore to have a sort of “reading space”, or maybe some comfy armchairs and sofas. It’s such a nice pastime to browse through shelves and chapters during a whole afternoon, all mundane affairs lost in a moment.

    But online retaling has its conveniences. Here in Brazil, specially where I live, the english language sections are usually neglected, even overlooked as something troublesome and space consuming, never given more than a small shelf worth of content.

    I’m now anxiously expecting Cherie Priest’s new book, Ganymede, which is out next month. Not even Boneshaker hit our local bookstores; there’s just no chance Ganymede or any of her books will make it this far (altho’, to be fair, Boneshaker’s getting a translation sometime this year). So, I took the easy route out and pre-ordered on Amazon.

    By the way, I love your blog! Thanks for all the inside info you’ve been sharing with us. I’m starting on a new job next month, and will be a bookseller for the first time in my life. It was a frightening idea at first, but I’m slowly coming into terms with it, and your posts are helping a lot. I think I’ll really enjoy this career!

    • dothutchison said,

      At one of my old jobs (where the chances of the District Manager coming into the break room were exceedingly slim) someone wrote above the inside of the door “customer service would be great if it weren’t for the customers”; bookselling, like anything retail, is very customer oriented, so it has some of the same downfalls as any other retail. On the whole, though, I love it, and for all the stupid questions you have to wade through (and yes, there are such things as stupid questions), they’re completely worth it for some of the amazing people you get to meet and talk books with. Good luck!

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