I screwed up. I admit it. But sometimes screwing up turns out to be a great thing. Like when Alexander Fleming screwed up and accidentally invented penicillin. My screw-up wasn’t that important to humanity, but I bet a lot of authors and small publishers will be really excited to find out what I did, and how they can screw up exactly the way I did!
First, some background. Last year I wrote a book called Entropy, that has done pretty well. And since late last fall, I’ve been working on a sequel, called Duality. (Click that to pre-order for Kindle.) As with the first book, I’m using CreateSpace to do a print-on-demand paperback version that is to die for. I absolutely love the quality of these CreateSpace books. And I’m using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to make the Kindle version. I’m not doing any other version, because Amazon gives you a monster royalty if you promise to just distribute through them.
Duality is done. It’s been written, edited, beta-read, edited again, and readied for publication. I’m just holding back until April 20, 2016 to launch it, so I can do some advance marketing. Get a drumbeat going, if you will. And part of that includes getting reviews. I did a giveaway on LibraryThing that put the Advance Review Copy (ARC) into the hands of about 30 people. And I am pressuring my beta-readers into doing reviews. You want to have a bunch of reviews on launch day, because people want to know: Is the sequel as good as the first book?
(Spoiler alert: It is.)
But here’s the problem that every Kindle author and publisher knows all-too-well: Amazon will not let you post reviews until after the book is released! They let you set up a pre-order page, so people can buy it in advance to be delivered to their device on launch day. But they have to do that on pure faith, because there aren’t any reviews. Not even a star rating.
There’s an exception to this, which is that books that Amazon publishes itself through the Kindle Scout program can have reviews. That’s totally unfair and probably an illegal monopolistic practice that the government trust-busters should look into. But for ordinary self-published or other publishers, there is no way to get reviews onto a Kindle pre-order page. Until now!
When you do the CreateSpace+KDP thing, you typically start at CreateSpace, because the setup there is much more cumbersome. Once you get that done, you do the KDP setup for Kindle. And so I was doing that CreateSpace setup, and at the end of the process, I was fully expecting it to ask me for when I wanted to release the book. Except it didn’t. I thought I could pick the release date, and it turns out you can’t. The second you click OK, your book is available for sale on Amazon. Whoops!
I quickly went to the “Channels” page and turned off all sales channels. This took the book off Amazon.com, Amazon.everythingelse, and CreateSpace’s direct sales portal. I swear less than two minutes passed between me accidentally publishing, and then unpublishing the book. So what happened? Amazon put up a page for my print book with a big “Out of Print” where the buy button should be.
I then proceeded to finish my KDP setup, and got that version all set up for pre-order. And then I contacted KDP support to get them to link my Kindle and Print editions, because that never seems to happen unless you contact support. And then I noticed it: While the Kindle page said you couldn’t review until it was published, the Print page gladly accepted reviews.
And since the pages are linked, any review posted to the print page automatically shows up on the Kindle page. And the star rating of the print book ends up on the Kindle book.
Go look at my Kindle edition at mybook.to/dual and see for yourself. That is a Kindle book, self-published, only available for pre-order, and it has a rating and reviews attached.
So now instead of having to wait until launch day, and begging my reviewers to hurry up and copy their GoodReads and LibraryThing reviews over to Amazon, I can harass them for weeks to get that done.
And if you’re an author, so can you next time you release a book. Just screw up like I did!
UPDATE March 2017: I just did this again for my next book Gravity. This time, it says “Temporarily out of stock” and Amazon will take orders for it! So not only can I get reviews, but people can actually preorder the print edition! This trick gets better and better…