Designing a digital pre-order feature for books seems like it would be easy, but trust us, it’s not. It took us months to get the functionality right, and it was time well spent.

We factored in two requirements:

  1. It had to be simple for visitors to pre-order books, and clear what would happen after they paid;   
  2. It had to be easy for site administrators to set up pre-orders and to apply special offers to them (e.g., sales or shipping discounts).

You’d be surprised at how often those two goals are not met on online stores handling pre-orders. For example, it often isn’t sufficiently apparent that a pre-order will not be shipped till a later date. The “future” part of the equation, in other words, is not clear, and this can lead to unfortunate events such as:

  • The book buyer thinking that the book will be shipped immediately or sooner than it actually will be;
  • The book buyer becoming increasingly annoyed that the book has not yet arrived and contacting the publisher to communicate their questions and frustration (leading to unnecessary strain on the publisher’s customer service supports, and disappointment for the customer).

Those possibilities are particularly depressing because pre-orders have so much potential for publishers. They allow authors, who are often chomping at the bit to start promoting their new books, to unleash some of that pent-up promotional energy well before publication; enable customers to act immediately on their excitement about a book by purchasing it; and build word-of-mouth in advance of a book’s release. All of these are huge opportunities.

Regarding the second design goal, “making it easy for site administrators to set up pre-orders and to apply special offers to them,” we knew that too often, it is impossible for publishers to create and change the conditions attached to a pre-order. When you consider that a promise of free shipping, or a discount on pre-orders, can make the difference between a visitor buying or not buying a forthcoming book, you see how much of a drawback that inflexibility could be.

So what did we do?

We built a pre-order feature that is joined by an “expected to ship by [date]” notice. This occurs on the book title page, again on the payments page, and then one more time when the customer receives their order confirmation via email. This redundancy ensures that customers will not expect a book any time before the stated date.


Tamara Faith Berger's new book is out with Coach House this fall (and we can't wait!).


A royal blue message noting the expected ship date stands out from black text on the order page.

Site administrators can easily apply special offers to a pre-order sale, such as price discounts or special shipping incentives. Feel free to ask us about how it works.

With the ReaderBound pre-order feature, publishers and authors can extend the initial sales window for the book by engaging an initial audience well in advance of publication.