Solar powered by pre-orders and Waterstone’s
07.03.10 | Victoria Gallagher

Jonathan Cape has launched a “totally exceptional” pre-order campaign for Ian McEwan’s new novel after prompting from Waterstone’s. The move is part of a growing trend of pre-orders becoming more important for retailers.

After high-profile campaigns for titles by Dan Brown and J K Rowling, both publishers and retailers said the incidence of pre-ordering is increasing in an attempt to make “selling books exciting”.
Ian McEwan’s new novel Solar (18th March) has had a large pre-order campaign. Sam Fanaken, senior key account manager at Random House, said: “Waterstone’s wanted to treat the new Ian McEwan as they treated The Lost Symbol. This sort of pre-order activity is exceptional.”

She added that the retailer was looking to work with Random on pre-order campaigns for other authors.

Promotional activity branches runs online, and in store and targets loyalty cards customers. In-store, staff are wearing T-shirts with pictures of the jacket on, customers are able to take special boxes with the jacket image on up to tills to pre-order Solar and a short story by McEwan is being sent out to loyalty card-holders via email. “Its our biggest campaign for him,” said Fanaken, adding: “Atonement bought McEwan to a new audience and its something we wanted to expand on.”

Martin Higgins, sales director at Transworld, said pre-ordering was becoming a “really important” way for publishers to sell books. Higgins said pre-orders are growing online, with sites such as Amazon and featuring pre-order charts on their book homepages, therefore “spurring” the high street on to do similar. “Its about creating theatre in store, making the whole selling of books exciting,” said Higgins.

Higgins said that pre-orders help the publisher predict how well a title will sell. “It’s an extra variable when thinking about print runs,” said Higgins. He added: “I think it will become more and more prevalent, it’s already big in DVD and its only a a matter of time before it becomes huge in books.”

Asda does not currently offer a pre-ordering service, although Steph Bateson, book buyer, said that it was something the supermarket was thinking about doing as consumers are becoming more aware of pre-ordering. The Book Despository added a pre-order section to its website when it relaunched in February last year. Kieron Smith, managing director, said it had been going well, particularly with graphic novel series.

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