Great question popped up on one of the lists. The person asked, "Does pre-ordering a book help the author? Is pre-ordering more important than buying a book within the first 3 weeks it comes out?"
Here's my answer:
As I understand it, pre-ordering helps a lot. The publisher looks to pre-orders to determine print run--and early indications of popularity. The higher the print run, the more a publisher has invested in a book, and therefore, the more a publisher might "get behind" a book. That's incredibly important. Publishers allocate scarce resources based on which books they think will do well. So...if there are plenty of pre-orders, the publisher MIGHT instruct publicity to send out more ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) or to buy an ad somewhere or any number of activities that will help. And the publisher benefits when they publish more because each additional book costs less. The higher the print run, the more the cost of producing a book is spread out. (Cost of publishing includes advance to author, if any, as well as editing, pagination, cover design, and so on.)
Here's another way pre-orders help: I've known other authors who had contracts for Books #2, #3, whatever--and the publisher cancelled publication because sales were low. So, if the publisher looked to pre-orders, he/she might re-think cancelling a series. One friend got a cancellation notice, and then when her agent prompted the publisher for numbers, the publisher took a second look and said, "Whew, um, that book's doing better than we thought. Rescind that cancellation."
Any book purchase helps.
Every book purchase helps.
Especially for those of us launching a career. Lorraine Bartlett says that the first 3 weeks are critical for making the NYT list, and that's a whole 'nother story as I understand it. There was a recent article in RWR, the house publication for Romance Writers of America, about this. There's a lot involved in "the lists," and they're not exactly representative the way most consumers think. If Lorraine says 3 weeks, I'd believe her. She's a really smart cookie.
I ended my response with this--and it comes from the heart:
Thank you a zillion times over for considering my book, for reading my book, and for sharing it. I appreciate your faith im me and I'll continue to work hard to earn it.