Foreword v. Preface v. Introduction

Last month, a client of mine asked me to edit his non-fiction book, a series of vignettes about his time in rural Australia in the 1950s and Papua New Guinea in the ‘70s. One of the first things I noticed was that he had written a preface to his book, but he’d called it a foreword. This got me to wondering how many other self-publishers out there are a bit woozy about the meanings of these two sections. Then, serendipitously, I came across a neat post by Joseph Kunz that answers these questions and also discusses the role of an introduction.

While the three sections Kunz talks about in his post are especially suitable for use by non-fiction writers, certain types of fiction writers — those who use history or a sense of place, for example — can at times make good use of the first two sections.

Here is the post below, reprinted (without illustrations) with Joseph’s kind permission. Anyone wanting to see the original can view it at:

Thank you, Joseph.

Foreword Vs. Preface Vs. Introduction: A Guide For Self-Publishers


It is essential for a self-publisher to understand the differences between the foreword, preface, and introduction of a book. Each section plays a vital role in the critical and financial success of the book. Without these three sections, a non-fiction book is incomplete, and not giving the readers their money’s worth. Therefore, I have laid out some basic definitions of each section to help give new self-publishers a starting point before beginning their first book.


  1. The Foreword

(Why the reader should read the book.)

The foreword is the place for a guest author to show the reader why they should read this book. The foreword of the book is a major selling tool for the book. If it is written properly and by the appropriate person for the job, the book’s author will gain a lot of credibility in the reader’s eyes. It is important to remember that the author of the book should not write the foreword. Instead, the author of the book can use the preface as well as the introduction to say what needs to be said about the book. Forewords introduce the reader to the author, as well as the book itself, and attempt to establish credibility for both. A foreword does not generally provide the reader with any extra specific information about the book’s subject. Instead, it serves as a reminder of why the reader should read the book. The foreword must make an emotional connection with the reader.

  1. The Preface

(How the book came about.)

The preface is a place for the book’s author to tell the reader how this book came into being, and why. It should build credibility for the author and the book. The preface is very similar to the foreword, except that the preface is written by the book’s author. The preface is also an important selling tool for the book. Here, authors should explain why they wrote the book, and how they came to write it. The author should show the reader why the book is worth reading.

  1. The Introduction

(About the content of the book.)

The introduction introduces the material that is covered in the book. Here, the author can set the stage for readers and prepare them for what can be expected from the book. The introduction is a way for the author to grab the reader and intensify the reader’s desire to find out more and hopefully devour the entire book. In the introduction, the author can quickly and simply tell the reader what is to be revealed in much greater detail, if they continue reading.


As you can see, it is imperative to understand the basic differences between these three sections in order to produce a professional looking and complete self-published book. Each section is clearly different, and each performs a specific function in the book. Therefore, a self-publisher needs to put a lot of thought and effort into producing these vital three sections.


Posted in advice for indie publishers, forewords, indie publishing, introductions, manuscript appraisers, manuscript assessments, manuscript assessors, manuscript presentation, Patrick de Valera, prefaces | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Commas – inside or outside quotes?

Comma, happy

In my work as a manuscript evaluator and developmental editor, it’s clear to me that writers are still having a lot of trouble with commas. One of the instances that always seems to cause confusion is the one where sometimes, the full stop or comma appears outside the phrase being quoted, for example:

Harry called it “a dreadful experience”.

Compare this with:

As Harry said, “a dreadful experience.”

Why is this happening? Why is the full stop outside one phrase and not the other?

Well, it all depends on whether or not a comma precedes the phrase.

If a comma precedes the phrase, as in the second example, the full stop is inside the last quotation mark. If there is no comma preceding the phrase, the comma should be placed outside the quotation mark.

This rule is going to change with time, as more and more publishers opt to use the comma inside the quote, no matter what. If you check out some books, particularly US ones, you will see that some publishers are already doing this. It saves time when editing, not to have to pause and think. And time means money.

But, at the moment, it’s a nice touch to use this rule correctly, especially if you’re in the UK or its dominions, and particularly if you intend to submit your work to a magazine or publisher. Taking the trouble to get it right will make you look professional. And that never goes astray.

Next week: the correct use of commas with and, where and joins two distinct sentences.

Posted in advice about writing, advice for writers, commas, editing, editors, fiction editing, indie publishing, Patrick de Valera | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The proper use of italics


The proper use of italics can be a vexed question for writers, especially when they’re starting out. We’re all familiar with the usage for a word needing emphasis, e.g. “That film was awful.” But there are many other instances where italics are required. and some of them are rather sneaky. Below is a list of the ones that might catch you out:

Use italics for:

1. Names of ships, planes, trains, cars and other vehicles, but not the names of types of vehicles, e. g. Ford, Boeing

Examples in order of the items listed above:

HMAS Sydney. (Note the HMAS part is not italicised.) Enola Gay, The Ghan, Ford Fiesta

2. Botanical names and the scientific names of animals

Examples: Acacia podalyriifolia, Homo sapiens

3. Names of films, musicals, plays, ballets

Examples: Pretty Woman, South Pacific, Hamlet, Swan Lake. NB Names of songs are not italicised, but are placed in quotation marks, e.g. “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific

4. Long poems, TV and radio programs (but not the name of a series within the program)

Examples: The Waste Land; Midsomer Murders, Episode2, Series 9: “Dead Letters”

5. In legal parlance

Examples: Fairfax v Commissioner of Taxation – 1965, Mabo v Queensland (No 2) – 1992

 6. Books, newspapers, periodicals

Great Expectations, The Sun-Herald (but the Byron Shire Echo), the American Chicken Sexers’ Journal. (I made that one up — sorry.)

7. Letters, words or phrases cited, e.g. Cat is spelt with a c not a k.

8. Classical music compositions

Example: The Rite of Spring by Stravinsky (But not Rachmaninoff’s 2nd Piano Concerto in C Minor)

8. Works of art

Examples: the Mona Lisa and Blue Poles

9. Foreign words/phrases not yet in common English useage, e.g. nom de guerre but not Ciao.

This last is tricky. Anyone in Australia or the UK wishing to appear on top of their game would do well to buy a copy of The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors. (This is not a complete dictionary but one which contains the preferred spelling for vexed words, such as air-conditioning — should it be air conditioning, airconditioning or air-conditioning? The ODW&E also deals with many of foreign words and phrases)

10. Technical terms or terms being defined

Example: A tallis slope (sometimes spelt talus) is the angle of repose formed by fallen rock fragments at the base of cliffs, crags, etc. See photograph below, which I couldn’t resist including to lighten an otherwise dry post.

Flowers on a tallis slope.

Flowers on a tallis slope.

Posted in advice about writing, advice for writers, Australian manuscript appraisers, Danielle De Valera, editing, fiction editing, indie publishing, manuscript appraisers | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

The Thumbs Down Publishers List

Writer Beware

What indie writer trying to juggle the demands (and costs) of cover design, ebook design, print book design, and possibly a full time job as well, hasn’t been tempted to toss the lot to one of those publishers who promise to do the whole thing for you at a reasonable cost—and also get your books into book stores?

Next time you’re feeling like this, Joel Friedlander, suggests you type the following into your search engine:

(company or person’s name) + Scam

(company or person’s name) + Problem

(company or person’s name) + Complaint
(company or person’s name) + Fraud

(company or person’s name) + Rip-off

(company or person’s name) + Lawsuit

(company or person’s name) + “Better Business Bureau”

In other words, do the research. God knows, it’s easy enough these days.

Beware signThe other day I was approached by a client who’d gone with one of these publishers. Turned out the contract she’d signed did not include the fee for copy-editing, which this publisher rightly claimed  – after she’d paid her money — would cost an extra $1,300.00. This set me to wondering if there might not be out there somewhere a concise list of publishers indie writers need to watch out for.

Lo and behold! there was. Reprinted below with Victoria Strauss’s kind permission is the latest list of Thumbs Down publishers. Keep it handy, fellas. Study it, and pass it on to your friends.



Contact Us

Below, in alphabetical order, is a list of the publishers (not all of them currently active*) about which Writer Beware has received the largest number of complaints over the years, or which, based on documentation we’ve collected, we consider to pose the most significant hazard for writers. All have two or more of the following abusive practices:

  1. Fee-charging–whether for the actual printing/production of the book, or for some other item related to the publishing process, such as editing or publicity. Some publishers require authors to buy bulk quantities of their own books. Fees range from a few hundred dollars to more than $25,000. A nominal “advance” in the face of other fee-charging practices does nothing to legitimize such publishers.

Note that we do not include admitted vanity publishers (even very expensive ones such as Dorrance) about which we’ve gotten no other complaints, or self-publishing services (even much-criticized ones such as the Author Solutions “imprints”). This list includes only fee-chargers that present themselves as publishers, and actively conceal their fees, try to pass them off as something else, or claim that fee-based publishing is not the major part of their business.

  1. Author-unfriendly contracts–including rights grabs, taking copyright, restrictive option clauses, sub-standard royalty provisions (including reverse-accounted royalties), inadequate reversion clauses, draconian “defamation clauses,” and a host of other inappropriate and abusive contract terms.
  2. Deliberately misleading advertising–including directly soliciting authors, misrepresenting services to authors in an effort to masquerade as commercial publishers, hiding the fact that they are vanity operations, and making false claims about distribution and bookstore presence.
  3. Conflicts of interest–some of these publishers are the vanity “arm” of (or otherwise under common control with) a fee-charging literary agency, which directs clients to the publisher under the guise of having made a “sale”–often without revealing the financial and personnel links between the two businesses.
  4. Lack of editorial gatekeeping–as befits vanity operations, many of these publishers have few, if any, standards for the books they acquire. Some don’t even bother to read the books they accept for publication.
  5. Poor or inadequate editing. Some of these publishers don’t even pretend to provide editing. Others do little more than run the text through a spell and grammar checking program, or employ unqualified, inexperienced staff.
  6. Repeated breach of contractual obligations–such as nonpayment of royalties, refusal to provide royalty statements, incorrect accounting, publication delays, ARCs not sent for review as promised, failure to ship books or fulfill orders, failure to make author changes in proofs, and failure to respond properly to author queries and communications. Some of these publishers have been the focus of successful litigation and other legal actions by authors.

While the publishers listed here account for a substantial number of the complaints we’ve received, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. Writer Beware has files on hundreds of questionable publishers, both active and inactive.

We do update the list from time to time, as questionable publishers sometimes change their names, clone themselves, or go out of business. Be sure to check back regularly.

* Why do we continue to list publishers that aren’t currently active? Because bad publishers often return under new names.

        America Star Books (Frederick MD) (formerly PublishAmerica)

American Book Publishing (Salt Lake City, UT) (may no longer be active)

Archebooks Publishing (Las Vegas, NV)

Artemis Publishers Ltd (currently under common directorship with Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie) (London UK)

Ashwell Publishing, d/b/a Olympia Publishing (has shared staff with Austin Macauley) (London UK)

Austin Macauley (has shared staff with Ashwell Publishing) (London UK)

Oak Tree Press (Taylorville, IL)

Park East Press (Dallas TX) (formerly Durban House, formerly Oakley Press) (may no longer be active)

Pegasus Elliot Mackenzie Publishers Ltd (currently under common directorship with Artemis Publishers Ltd (Cambridge UK)

Raider Publishing International, also d.b.a. Green Shore Publishing (former names include Purehaven Press and Perimedes Publishing) (uses various addresses, but probably located in Newark, NJ)

SterlingHouse Publisher, also d/b/a as International Book Management (Pittsburgh, PA–imprints include, among others, Pemberton Mysteries, 8th Crow Books, Cambrian House Books, Blue Imp Books, Caroline House Books, Dove House Books, and PAJA Books) (may no longer be active)

Strategic Book Publishing and Rights Agency (SBPRA)/Publish On Demand Global (PODG) (uses various addresses, but located in Boca Raton, FL–formerly known as Strategic Publishing, Strategic Book Group, Eloquent Books, The Literary Agency Group, and AEG Publishing Group)

Tate Publishing (Mustang, OK)

Copyright © A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss


Posted in advice about writing, advice for writers, Australian manuscript appraisers, Danielle De Valera, editing, editors, getting published, indie publishing, manuscript appraisers, manuscript assessments, manuscript assessors, Patrick de Valera, publishers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

How to Handle Rejections

Rejection letter

Anyone who’s ever submitted a short story to a magazine or a novel to a traditional publisher knows that sinking feeling: Rejection. “I’ve been rejected!” you cry — sometimes just to yourself; other times out loud. The old days were great for this. The publisher sent you a letter you could flourish as you ran through the house foaming at the mouth and shrieking. These days they arrive by email, and you can’t get the same dramatic effect. Unless you print them out. Sufficith to say, if you’ve been in the writing business any length of time and you send your work out, you’ll have had to deal with rejection.

Sometimes these rejections are pleasant; someone has actually taken the time to try to soften the blow. Sometimes they’re terse as publishers try to deal with their backlogs. And on the subject of backlogs, it’s unwise to send anything out after mid-November, publishers are very into clearing their desks before the new year. I once had a novel rejected by an Australian publisher by email on Christmas Eve — a decidedly Dickensian experience.

RejectedBut while the chances for drama have gone down with the onset of email, the damage to the writer’s self-esteem has remained the same. Note the writer says, “I’ve been rejected.” It’s the rare writer who says, “My novel about zombies on Mars has been rejected.” The book is the writer’s baby, s/he feels the rejection personally. How to deal with this? Some writers buy a bottle of scotch; others eat ice cream or chocolate biscuits. In Transitionactional-Analysis speak, their inner child has taken a beating and needs a little comfort. Do whatever works for you. But above and beyond these immediate reactions, there is something important to remember.

And that is: Only a small percentage of the people you approach are going to accept your work, even when you’ve chosen your publisher well, with an eye to the kinds of things they publish, and your writing is good and perfectly presented. In my experience over many years, the ratio of rejections to acceptances for fiction writers is around nine to one. That is: for every acceptance, you will probably have to experience nine rejections. Statistically speaking then, every rejection brings you that much closer to the much desired acceptance.

Caveat: Working on this principle, don’t make the mistake of sending a piece of work out to ten possible publishers all at once. For one, they don’t like it, but the main reason not to do this is that you might want to make changes to the work later as time passes. Some publishers will offer a line or two of advice in their rejection letter, and this is something a writer can take on after they’ve put away the razor blades. If you’ve approached all your possible publishers at once, it’s very difficult to get them to look at your new improved version later. These people are smart. They know they’ve already seen the work (even if you change the title).

So submissions are best done one at a time. Sure, it takes longer, but you’re in this business for the long haul – aren’t you? In the meantime, you get on with your work. You go on to the next project and work on that. Just remember: writing is a marathon, not a sprint. This applies as much to short stories as to novels. If you’re feeling too down to write after the hangover has worn off and you’ve gotten over the ice cream/chocolate fest, use your time well, make it count. Do an editing course if you can afford it. Buy an ebook on writing if you can’t. (Sol Stein is great for this.)

Just remember the mantra: One in ten, one in ten. No use complaining. That’s how it is.

One of the greatest weapons in a writer’s arsenal is resilience.

Something better

Posted in advice about writing, advice for writers, Danielle De Valera, getting rejected, manuscript presentation, Patrick de Valera, short story competitions, traditional publishing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Who Killed Oyster?

Below please find reprinted this recent Smashwords blog by their CEO Mark Coker. I think it’s important. Please read on.


Word came out yesterday afternoon that Oyster is “sunsetting” their business, a polite euphemism for “closing.”

With the loss of Oyster, the retailing ecosystem just became less diverse. Last month indies lost Flipkart in India. Today, indies are losing another good partner that treated authors well and paid full single-copy retail rates for their books. Which retailer will fail next?

Some might see this as a game of survival of the fittest where weaker less adaptable players fall by the wayside in favor of stronger players. Maybe. Although species extinction is a natural process in any environment, extinctions often signal an increasingly toxic or inhospitable environment for those still struggling to survive.

Let’s explore this a little further. What killed Oyster? I should preface that what I’m about to share is my personal speculation and opinion, and not based on specific insight from our friends at Oyster.

My take is that despite building a beautiful and elegantly designed app that pleased readers, Oyster was unable to make their business model work. The cost of their subscriber’s consumption exceeded Oyster’s revenue from subscriptions. Oyster faced the same headwinds Scribd is facing – namely that romance and possibly other genres were too popular with their subscribers and therefore too expensive to make profitable under the current model.  The solution is you either need to pay authors less, charge readers more (or limit their reading), or something in between.

I’m going to speculate that either Oyster’s VC backers or Oyster’s controlling shareholders were unwilling to give Oyster the necessary time and funding necessary to iterate their model until they could make it work. Scribd, on the other hand, at the time of their romance purge signaled publicly that they plan to explore tweaks to their model that would allow them to build a sustainable and profitable business for the common benefit of authors/publishers and subscribers.

And then there’s the elephant in the room: Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s subscription service powered by KDP Select. Unlike Oyster and Scribd which pay Smashwords authors and publishers full agency rates for qualified reads (after the reader reads more than about 10% of the book, it triggers a sale), Kindle Unlimited pays authors by the page, and at a rate that typically works out to only a fraction of the 70% list KDP authors get for single-copy sales.

On the book pages of Kindle Unlimited books, readers are encouraged to get the book for free with KU or Prime, rather than purchasing at the single copy price

The Kindle Unlimited pay rate is entirely decided by Amazon. The book’s list price is irrelevant to Amazon’s calculation.

This means Kindle Unlimited books cost Amazon less money than what Oyster and Scribd want to pay authors and publishers, which means Kindle Unlimited can provide readers more reading at less cost to Amazon and to the reader. How can Oyster, Scribd or any bookseller compete when Amazon can pick the pockets of authors and give the savings to readers?

This works great for Amazon and its customers, but not so well for authors. Kindle Unlimited devalues books by making even 99 cent single-copy purchases look expensive when the same book can be read for free under Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime.

Kindle Unlimited strips authors of pricing power and royalty, and will eventually gut the market for single-copy sales at Amazon.  In other words, Kindle Unlimited is slowly killing the market for single-copy ebook sales, not just for indies but for all publishers.

KDP Select and its Kindle Unlimited is an out of control train.


Inside first class a raucous and extravagant party is underway. It’s filled with hundreds of thousands of indie authors who’ve offered up over one million books enrolled exclusively in KDP Select. Everyone’s partying like it’s 1999 because in exchange for making their books exclusive to Amazon, these authors are given preferential access to Kindle customers.

Authors and publishers who refuse to make their books exclusive to Amazon are on the train too. They don’t sell as well as the first class passengers.


That’s them in steerage. They’re in the cattle car at the back. These folks’ books don’t have preferential discovery, which means Amazon makes their books less discoverable and less desirable to readers. These are the authors and publishers who are trying to support a diverse ecosystem of multiple retailing options. But the world’s largest ebook retailer is deliberately directing their readers to Amazon-exclusive books.

Indies have the power to stop KDP Select in its tracks before it runs the entire publishing industry off a cliff. Will they?

I fear this party won’t end well.

Posted by Mark Coker at 7:10 PM ShareThis Email This

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Smashwords Develop Metadata-only Preorders

Below is reprinted with Mark Coker’s permission his 17 June post on the where, when, why and how of metadata-only preorders. For anyone intending to publish with Smashwords, it’s well worth reading.

Books & tablet

Smashwords Introduces Assetless Preorders (aka “Metadata Only” preorders) by Mark Coker. Posted: 17 Jun 2015 02:29 PM PDT

Ebook preorders are the single most important new tool for indie authors who want to improve the visibility, desirability and sales of their new releases. Over the last 12 months, ebooks born as preorders at Smashwords earned more than triple the earnings of books that were simply uploaded the day of release. Ever since we announced preorder distribution two years ago for iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, I’ve been advocating preorders as an essential best practice for all indies. Yet despite the amazing power of preorders, and despite the copious evidence that preorders can work miracles, most indie authors don’t use them today. Fewer than 10 percent of books released at Smashwords over the last 12 months were released as preorders. Despite the poor adoption, over the last 12 months Smashwords books born as preorders accounted for 7 of our top 10 bestsellers and 67% of our top 200 bestsellers. When you consider how such a small fraction of books accounted for an outsize percentage of bestsellers, you begin to realize something special is happening here. Why the dismal adoption of ebook preorders, a best practice that large traditional book publishers have embraced as a no-brainer for years? Aside from the normal education that’s necessary (preorders, after all, are still a relatively new concept and option for indies), I think the primary reason for the poor adoption has been that until now, Smashwords required authors to upload their full and final manuscript before they could establish a preorder. This requirement created a dilemma for our authors. If the book’s ready for release today, why should an author hold back the release for three or six months to gain the full advantage of a preorder?  You can’t blame these authors for deciding to release their book immediately, the day it’s ready for readers. With today’s announcement, our 100,000 authors and publishers can have their cake and eat it too.

Introducing Assetless Preorders at Smashwords

An assetless preorder allows the author or publisher to get their preorder listing up at the major retailers up to 12 months in advance of the official on sale date. This gives you up to 12 months to market your book in advance, and up to 12 months to accumulate orders. Starting today, all 100,000 authors and small independent presses at Smashwords have the ability to upload assetless preorders to Smashwords. No book or cover yet? No problem. In my companion post today, How to Reach More Readers with Ebook Preorders, I provided an in- depth analysis of the benefits of ebook preorders, along with strategy tips for preorder best practices. These same tips have helped multiple Smashwords authors scale retailer and national bestsellers lists. I encourage you to read it now.  Below, I’ll just summarize two of the many benefits of ebook preorders:

  1. Preorders enable more effective advance marketing – Most authors are communicating directly with their readers over social media as they write their next book. An ebook preorder allows the author to capture the reader’s order at the moment they have the reader’s greatest attention and interest.
  2. Fast track to the bestseller lists – At iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo, all orders you accumulate during the preorder period credit toward your first day’s sales rank. In other words, you have the ability to concentrate up to 12 months of book sales into a single day for maximum charting potential. Every author wants a high sales rank on their release day, because the higher rank increases the visibility, discoverability and desirability of the book, which then leads to more sales.

A note about Amazon: As I mention in the other post, Amazon treats preorders differently. They limit preoders to a three-month runway, and they don’t credit accumulated sales toward the first day’s sales rank. The lack of day one credit means preorders will actually cannibalize your sales rank at Amazon. There’s more to it than that, so check out the other post for more details].

Length of Runway Matters

At Smashwords, a key contributing factor to the two benefits above is the length of preorder runway. The longer your book is available for preorder, the more time you have to market the book in advance and accumulate orders. THIS is why assetless preorders are so critical to a successful book launch. Assetless preorders enable a longer preorder runway because the author or publisher can establish the preorder earlier.

How to Set Up an Assetless Preorder at Smashwords

Setting up an assetless preorder is easy. All you need is a book title, a description, a price, a release date and the category of book. No draft necessary. No cover necessary. If any of these details change prior to publication, no problem. You can change them anytime. To set up a preorder an assetless preorder at Smashwords, simply click to the Smashword Publish page and follow the instructions. Here’s a detailed step-by-step to get you started:

  1. Look at your publishing schedule for the next 12 months. Plan to get all firm projects up as an assetless preorder ASAP.
  2. Exercise discipline when setting release dates. Some authors meet all their deadlines with the precision and reliability of a Swiss watch. Other authors might require more flexibility on scheduling. Be honest with yourself about which author you are. Either way, you know you want to maximize your runway. Understand that when you establish a preorder, you’re making a commitment to your readers, to Smashwords and our retailers that you will deliver the book on time. For this reason, if you’re not entirely certain if the book will be ready by your target release date, give yourself a buffer. For example, if you think your book will be ready in six months but you’re not entirely confident, set a release date that’s eight or nine months out. In other words, add cushion to your release date so you have some extra flexibility. If you finish early, great! You can change the release date of your book from the Smashwords Dashboard and release earlier. Readers will never complain if you decide to release your book early, but they may complain (because they love you so much) if you delay the release. If you need to delay the release of your book, no problem. We make it easy for you to adjust your release date. Unlike a certain retailer who shall go unnamed, if you miss your 10-day deadline, we will not rain fire and brimstone upon your head, nor will we banish you from future preorder eligibility. Instead, we’ll send you polite email reminders that you should deliver your book before it’s too late. And if you ignore our multiple helpful reminders, we will automatically adjust the release date of your book because we don’t want your preorder to blow up. A blown preorder is a cancelled preorder, which would result not only in lost sales but also disappointed readers.
  3. All great missions start with a plan. Read my companion blog post, How to Reach More Readers with Ebook Preorders to learn preorder best practices. The post will help you develop your preorder strategy. The tips I share there are proven and effective, and have helped numerous Smashwords authors use preorders for maximum effect.
  4. Once you have your release schedule planned, click to the Publish page at Smashwords. In Step 1 of the publish process, simply click “Make it a preorder.” If your final manuscript is ready for upload, upload it as usual. If your book’s not finished yet, or even if you haven’t started it yet, no problem. Simply select the “I will upload my final formatted manuscript later” option to utilize our new assetless preorder feature. If you’re concerned the title, description or categorization of the book might change later once you finish the book, no problem! You can change it later without harming your preorder listing. You can choose a release date up to 12 months out. iBooks supports preorders up to 12 months, and B&N and Kobo go a little shorter.
  5. You can establish the preorder with or without a cover. Although a preorder with a cover will attract more orders, some Smashwords authors prefer to establish their assetless preorder without a cover at first so they can maximize the runway, and then they’ll do the cover reveal later as a marketing event. Once your assetless preorder is established, you can upload the cover later by clicking to Settings in your Dashboard. I don’t recommend temporary covers, especially ones that have “Temporary cover” slapped on them. It’s better to have no cover at all than to show readers a shoddy temporary cover.
  6. Once the preorder is up, attach the ISBN with your Dashboard’s ISBN Manager tool. If the book is part of a series, even if it’s book one in a new series, attach it to a series with your Dashboard’s Series Manager tool. Series Manager improves the discoverability of series books at retailers.
  7. Your preorder is up at Smashwords, congrats! Once it’s up at Smashwords, our vetting team will review it and approve it for distribution. Preorders receive priority review and distribution. Preorders often appear same-day at iBooks, and within a couple days at B&N and Kobo.
  8. Start your marketing (oh wait, no, get to work writing and editing!) as soon as the listings appear. Again, check out How to Reach More Readers with Ebook Preorders for a bunch of ideas, all free to implement, that will help you make your preorder-enabled release more successful. I share some super-simple ideas (like updating the backmatter of your other books to promote the preorder) that don’t take much time but will reap many rewards. Okay, now get back to writing!
  9. Preorder sales tracking. In your Dashboard’s Daily Sales report, you’ll find next-day reports of your preorder accumulation at iBooks. Currently, iBooks is the only Smashwords retailer that reports preorder accumulation numbers in advance of the book’s release. Nevertheless, the iBooks numbers will give you a good sense of how you’re doing.
  10. Deadlines deadlines. Your final formatted manuscript will be due to Smashwords at least ten days in advance of your on sale date. Earlier is always better. If you need to delay the release of your book, no problem. Click to your Dashboard, then click to Settings and move the date out. If you do change the date, do it at least 10 days in advance of the currently scheduled release date. By the same token, if you want to release earlier, we recommend you upload your final formatted manuscript at least 10 days in advance of your new release date.
  11. Get the next preorder up. It’s always a good idea to have at least one preorder out there working its magic for you as you write the next book. Before you upload your final manuscript, ask yourself if you’re ready to get your next preorder up for the next book. If so, and if the release date will be within the next 12 months, get the new preorder up now, before you upload the final manuscript of the current project, even if you haven’t started the future project yet. This way, you can start advertising your next preorder in the backmatter of your current new release the moment it lands in your readers’ hands. You always want to be thinking of your next release, and using each new book to drive preorders to the next book.
  12. Congratulations! You finished the book on schedule! To upload your final manuscript, simply click to the Smashwords Dashboard and click “Upload new version.” As mentioned above, you’ll upload your final manuscript to Smashwords at least 10 days in advance of your release date.

The Story Behind Assetless Preorders

This new assetless preorder capability represents over a year of intense software development here at Smashwords, and over 18 months of private beta testing in which nearly 300 Smashwords authors and publishers tested early versions of the capability. I’m grateful to these authors and publishers because their immediate success with assetless preorders inspired me and our engineering team to invest the significant time and financial resources necessary to turn this into a capability we can offer to every Smashwords author. It was certainly our most ambitious – and most complex – project since the launch of Smashwords. Thanks also goes to our retail partners iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo for opening up their systems to allow Smashwords authors and publishers to deliver these preorders. And a special thanks to iBooks in particular. We did our first assetless preorder with iBooks almost two years ago, and from that point forward I was bitten and smitten by the bug. Thanks also to every author and publisher who distributes with Smashwords, because through our small commission on sales (10% of list) you are directly financing our mission to bring professional-grade publishing tools like this to the entire indie author community. Last but not least, I want to thank the men and women of the Smashwords engineering team. These awesome software developer magician wizards turn my crazy ideas into reality. Like everyone at Smashwords, they dedicate their every day to creating exciting new opportunities for our authors, publishers and retailers. This project required a comprehensive revamp to our backend systems, and as a result our systems are more robust and future-ready than ever before. For us, it’s all very exciting because we’re not done creating tools that will give our authors and publishers more advantages in the marketplace. More innovations to come! Our preorder systems incorporate a number of features designed to prevent the worst case nightmare of our retail partners – the author or publisher failing to deliver the book on time. Such a failure to deliver would cause the preorder to blow up, resulting in lost sales and disappointed customers. A blow up creates grief for our retailers and their customers, not to mention our authors. With automated reminders and other fail safes, our engineers designed systems to protect the mutual interests of our retailers, authors and our authors’ readers. As you might imagine, we’re simultaneously excited and terrified to offer this new tool to 100,000 authors and publishers all at once. Since these systems are still so new, we consider this the next phase of our beta. We look forward to hearing your feedback and suggestions for how we can make this exciting feature even better in the future! We also look forward to your bug reports. If you discover a bug, please report it to our service team by clicking either the “?” at the top of any Smashwords page, or the “Support” link at the bottom of every page. So without further ado, please grab your calendar now and start planning your release schedule for the next 12 months!

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