Recently I launched my third ebook, Redmine Tips. I learned a lot from Refactoring Redmine’s launch so I experimented with some new ideas to see what could happen. The biggest change this time around was offering the product for pre-orders.
After talking with some advisers I decided to accept pre-orders for Redmine Tips. The pre-order was basically a discount and an opportunity to get early drafts of the book in exchange for purchasing upfront (the offer). As the creator the big risk with pre-orders that you won’t get done on time. Since I had about 70% of the content written already, I knew I could put in some crunch time if I had too.
There were four things I learned doing pre-orders
- Managing pre-orders takes a lot more time than you’d expect. Even though I only had a small group of people, they were giving feedback that really changed my entire approach to the product. This wasn’t spelling or grammar feedback, it was big picture and overall structure things. Things like: “these chapters are way too complex and need to be explained in more detail.”
- I was sending regular updates so a portion of the book needed to be ready for review at all times. This got easier later on but at first I was scrambling to get things ready. This could be because my writing style is more breath first than depth first.
- Getting even a small number of sales before starting a product seriously motivating. Seriously motivating. With every project there is that time where you want to abandon it and move on to the next (shiny) thing. You can’t do this if people have already bought the product, at least not without disappointing your most loyal customers.
- Marketing a pre-order is just as hard as marketing a launch. Though you can use the same tactics for both, the styles are different. One big mistake I did was I was only offering the pre-order at first. A “buy it or leave it” type of offer. Then I realized that some people might want to buy the book but only after it’s completed. Adding a simple mailing list for those people helped make several sales that I would have lost otherwise.
I was very happy with how the pre-order process went for Redmine Tips. I’d like to go through it again with another product before I draw more conclusions or update Authoring Ebooks but I think it’s a useful enough concept to try.
If you are working on a product (info-product, software, etc) you need to ask yourself:
Is there a way I can sell part of this product now as a pre-order?