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The Preorder Threshold

May 6, 2012

Been a while since I posted, as work has been exceptionally busy for the past few weeks. Sorry! This week saw the release of (among a frankly ridiculous number of other fabulous and long-awaited books) Veronica Roth’s Insurgent. Accordingly, the office was a bit mad in all the best ways.

So I’m going to bring work into this post more than I usually do. We ran what turned out to be a highly successful preorder campaign for Insurgent, which got me thinking about preorder campaigns across books and other media, and my personal relationship with preordering.

That is, I don’t tend to. There are quite a few personal reasons for this–e.g. I’m usually well behind on my to-be-read and to-be-watched media queues, or I try to avoid ordering things online because it’s a hassle to have packages delivered to my apartment. But there are more general reasons, too. And these, which I think apply just as well to people who aren’t me, have two main themes: logistics, and incentives.

The Insurgent campaign focused on incentives. We put out a goal number and offered a reward to fans, which they’d get once we achieved that number: a brand-new piece from the author. Veronica Roth re-wrote a scene from her first book, Divergent, from the perspective of the series’ male lead, Four. Once we got to our preorder goal and could “Free Four,” we posted the scene on the series’ Facebook fan page. Fans loved it. We loved it, both because it’s a great scene and because our awesome fans, a.k.a. the Divergent Nation, were helping us spread the word.

In other words, good times were had! But personally? I’m not sure I would preorder a book for that kind of reward: aggregate, available to both those who preordered and those who didn’t. In the past, I have preordered books and video games, but only in one of two cases: (1) when I was actually worried about stores selling out on release day, or (2) if preordering got me something extra that I couldn’t get anywhere else, and that I wouldn’t get if I didn’t preorder the item myself. For a recent example from a much smaller-scale book preorder campaign, take Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, which you can preorder from Books of Wonder in New York to get a signed copy and a limited-edition map of the book’s world. As for option 1, well, that’s almost a dead concern in an era of online shopping, instant video streaming, and ebooks.

Isn’t it? Online retail giants like Amazon might not be likely to run out of inventory on release day, and they certainly won’t be “running out” of ebooks, but they pose a different logistical problem. If I preorder an ebook from them, sure, I’ll get it on release day–probably in the wee hours of the morning. But if I order the print book, I sure won’t be getting it delivered to my door at midnight. In fact, I might not get it on release day at all. Granted, Amazon itself is probably pleased at the way this incentivizes an ebook purchase. But say I’m a stubborn Luddite, which I am, a bit, when it comes to print books. (Especially good-looking shelf-candy items like The Night Circusor second and third books in series of which I already own hardcover print copies, like The Wise Man’s Fear, which I bought very near to release day last year.) Stubborn Luddite that I am, I do still shop online–but not if I can get my long-awaited sequel today in a bookstore.

What about you? Allergic to preordering, the way I apparently am? A fan of the process? What kind of incentive does it take for you to preorder a book, movie, or game? Let me know in the comments.

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