Keeping up with all the self-publishing options out there is great fun, but can also be very – too? – time-consuming. Sometimes you have to let something go because you just don’t have the time to do it. And for today, the thing I am having to let go, for “Plank 4”, is the mechanism of pre-orders. In short, pre-orders are where you announce your book ahead of publication and the sites you are listing on – for me, mainly Amazon and Smashwords – provide a pre-order button which people can click. The order then sits in their shopping basket until publication day, at which point their credit card is charged and the book (e- or otherwise) is sent to them. Many self-publishing gurus highly recommend setting up pre-orders, for all sorts of excellent reasons, with which I agree, as outlined in this blog post. So it’s very tempting, and I did have a dither about it. But the conclusion I have come to is that it would require a re-jigging of my publication tasks which is simply not sensible for “Plank 4”.
To list a title for pre-order on Amazon and Smashwords, you need, well, a title. And as regular readers will know, my titles come rather late in the day: in July, I will put up a poll featuring five possible titles and a short description of “Plank 4”, and you lot will choose the one you like best. I have thought of a couple of possible titles so far, but the proper “titling” exercise – for me, at least – cannot be done until the majority of the book is written. It also seems, quite logically, that pre-orders do best when there is a lovely book cover to attract the eye, and of course the cover comes even later in the process than the title – for my 21 October publication date, I am expecting to finalise my cover in mid-September. As with earlier Plank books, the cover for “Plank 4” will consist of four elements: the title, a line drawing of a figure, a background document, and the colour. Of these, I so far have only a vague idea of the colour: the other elements will all depend on the almost-finished text. So deciding on the title and the cover before the text would be quite a departure for me – not least because I often change my mind partway through a book about which are the important bits. For instance, “The Man in the Canary Waistcoat” came to prominence only in a later draft of the book, and then ended up as the title and the cover image.
So much as I am tempted by pre-orders – both commercially, and because there is little I like more than planning a timetable (you should have seen my exam revision timetables at school – works of art) – I don’t think it will work for me. Have you tried them?