Can I order author copies of my book before publishing?
Yes and No. (A much better answer than “That depends.”)
This question came up with a client who wanted to put his book on pre-order but also wants to have about 50 copies of his book for a launch party. He is publishing both on KDP and through IngramSpark and the pre-order complicates things.
NOTE: Right now, KDP allows self-published authors to set up a pre-order for eBooks only. KDP doesn’t allow for independent publishers like you and me to set up pre-orders for print books. That’s reserved for traditional publishers.
Also, you can’t order author copies from Amazon before it is published and having the pre-order complicates that. Or as I like to say, just adds to the fun.
If There’s No Pre-Order:
If my clients who are not using the pre-order want author copies of their print book, it is very simple to just hit the Publish button on Amazon, order author copies, and not tell anyone that your book is for sale until you are ready to launch. The odds of someone stumbling over your book before you launch are pretty slim, especially if you are relatively unknown.
You can publish the print book and not the eBook that is on pre-order. It may cause some confusion for people who are pre-ordering the eBook and you may end up selling print copies before the eBook is released. To me, sales are sales and yay! Other people are more particular. In my experience, it probably won’t matter. Until you tell people the book is available, no one (except maybe your mom) is going to be looking for it.
If There’s a Pre-Order:
You can set up a pre-order for both print and eBooks on IngramSpark. You must have your cover and interior files locked in at least 10 days before your launch date.
You can order author copies once your book files are uploaded and enabled. Once you have ordered your author copies, you need to select the “Hold Until On-Sale Date” which will hold up printing for any other orders until 10 days before the sale.
With both KDP and Ingram, author copies take longer to ship than retail copies and if you’re on a tight schedule, your books might not make it on time. If it looks like they might not make it, you have options.
In all the pricing examples, I used 50 copies of a 6 x 9, 220 page book with a black and white interior, 60# white paper (when offered). Author Prices from KDP and IngramSpark are under $4.00 and under $5.00 respectively, plus shipping. All of the sites have pricing calculators available.
One workaround is to use Lulu, a POD platform and mark your book as “private.” That way it doesn’t get distributed and you can order your author copies in advance of your official release date. (They are slightly more expensive than KDP and Ingram—$6.87 per book, but not as much as ordering from 48 Hour Books which does rush printing (and a damn good job if you’re ever in a big hurry). Lulu ships faster than KDP and most likely faster than IngramSpark, at least at times.
If you’re in a super-hurry, 48 Hour Books is the go-to. They are substantially more expensive than KDP and Ingram, but when you need books, you need books. Fifty copies of a 220 page, black and white interior, 6 x 9 book will run $8.34 per book, as opposed to less than $5.00 from Amazon or Ingram. Then add shipping costs. (About $50 UPS ground for 50 books or $1.00 each.) If you’re selling author copies for anything over $10, you’re still making a profit, albeit a slim one.
I have also used Spinnprint (GREAT prices on color interiors!) for speedy delivery. The same book from Spinnprint runs $732.71 for 50 copies or $14.65 per book. Ordering 100 copies knocks the price down by $1.00, so not much in savings there.
A service I haven’t yet used is Bookvault. They can print for $4.10 a copy and ship UPS ground. I am NOT SURE if they can print the cover you want or if they just give you a solid color cover. If anyone has used them, please chime in. Normal printing turnaround time is 5-7 days; they also have 3-day express and same day/next day priority at, of course, higher prices. Bulk discounts start at 100 books.
So, the answer is YES, you can order author copies in advance of publishing your print book. Having a book on pre-order can complicate it somewhat and having a tight time frame can complicate it even more. But you have options available to you. Go for it!