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How to sell books with Print On Demand

Steps to making the most of selling your book with BookBaby’s Print On Demand

It’s the publishing dream of millions of would-be authors: Selling their printed books to customers around the globe.

And now that dream has come true – thanks to BookBaby’s Print On Demand (POD) program. Utilizing the latest in digital printing and modern logistics, indie authors can sell their printed book at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and dozens of other stores.

While it’s fast and easy for readers around the world to order your book, the process is a little more complicated behind the scenes. Rest assured that BookBaby is doing all of the heavy, technical lifting, but it’s important that authors who elect to purchase Print On Demand understand how they can take full advantage of this powerful selling program.

Here are the keys to selling success with Print On Demand:

Take your time

Most authors can’t wait to rush their finished book off into the marketplace. But that’s the last thing you should do! Think of it this way: You’ve spent months and possibly years to write and edit your book. Why would you want to waste all that time and energy on a poorly produced and hastily scheduled book launch?

Set a Print On Demand release date about 8 weeks out. We recommend you make your book release date at least 50-60 days in advance of the day you upload your book file to Why? Because it takes time for your printed book to be created, proofed, printed and loaded into all of the retail systems. But don’t worry — It’s to your advantage to have a long pre-sales period for your book.

Understanding the POD project timeline

No two book projects are the same. As a result, your book project timeline will be unique. Many factors go into how long it takes – especially the time it takes for authors to approve their book proofs. But here’s a rough timeline you can use as a guide. Again – your timing will vary.


Author uploads book and all metadata (author bio, description, pricing, etc.) to BookBaby system, pays and checks out.


Author receives book proof to review. (If author has ordered cover design or book formatting, allow an additional 15 days for this stage of the process at minimum.) At this point, the clock stops at BookBaby and starts with the author. It’s up to the author how quickly or slowly this process will go. Authors can approve their book proof in 1 day or 101 days. The average time for proof approval is approximately 7 days.

WEEK 3-4

BookBaby finalizes files. Author approves final files for distribution and sets a release date. Minimum release date is 8 weeks from this point.

WEEK 5-8

To gauge reader demand, Amazon requires a minimum of 6 weeks in pre-sale status for all new titles.


Promote your book like crazy during pre-sale — Pre-sale period is when your book is listed on Amazon and other stores prior to the published book launch date. After your book proof is approved we will send your POD files out to our entire retail store network. Your book will start appearing on the retail websites within 2 to 3 weeks. During this period of pre-sales status, your customers can order and pay for their book. Your readers’ credit cards won’t be charged until the book is actually released and shipped.

Many authors plan out a multi-week pre-order period, with a different promotion each week to build the buzz. Authors hold contests, do chapter reveals, conduct giveaways, and host their own blog tours. The bottom line: whatever you would do for a book launch, start doing it now while your book is in pre-order status on the retail stores.

Thanks to your book being in pre-order status, you can measure the effect of each of the tactics described above. Customer orders will come in during each weekly promotion. You can measure what works and what isn’t as effective. You’ll need to make sure you’re including the links to your book product page in each communication piece or web page. This makes it simple for your customers to order quickly.

Your pre-sales window is when you should build the excitement for your launch. The longer your book is available for pre-order, the more time you have to send your eager readers to Amazon and the other stores to accumulate orders. All these orders count as sales on your release date, giving you a good chance at cracking some top-100 best seller sub genre lists in sites like Barnes & Noble and Powell’s.

Here’s a key point about your Print On Demand book. From time to time, it will be listed as “Temporarily Out Of Stock” at Amazon, B&N and others. Why?

BookBaby prints books “on demand” of the retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s and all the rest. BookBaby will print and ship your books to retailers based on their own inventory systems. We do not automatically ship books into the retailers’ warehouses. This is true for all Print On Demand (POD) programs, including BookBaby.

POD listings are different from eBook listings on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and others. For the buy button on each store to show “In Stock”, stores require actual inventory in their warehouse so that they can fulfill orders upon request. Amazon and other companies use sophisticated inventory tools to determine how many books they need to have on hand to ship to customers.

POD services allow self-published authors the opportunity to sell in these retailers without their own risk of inventory. Every POD title in every store will have periods of time when it is listed as “out of stock”. We cannot guarantee your book will be in stock 24/7/365. That’s not available via POD – from CreateSpace, Lighting Source/Ingram – or anyone else. Retail stores typically purchase a few books to have on hand – sell out – and then reorder. When they do not have physical inventory in their warehouse it will be listed as “out of stock”. The retailer will order additional stock based upon actual purchases and/or inventory forecasts.

What can I do during the pre-sales period to maximize my “In Stock” status at Amazon and other stores?

There are some important ways you can enhance your Print On Demand inventory status at Amazon and others:

  1. When your book is in “pre-sale” status, share the news with all your readers and fans. This is the most important kind of marketing you can do for your book! Include a link to the book product page with all of your emails, tweets and social media status updates. Send as much traffic to your book product page as you can. The more eyeballs you send to Amazon, the better.
  2. During the pre-sale, Amazon uses their inventory algorithm to build a forecast for new titles, including product page views, adds to wish lists, and actual orders. This data is used to compile a two week inventory model.
  3. If your product page has many visitors during the pre-sale, Amazon will order inventory and place it in their warehouse, and continue to order 2 weeks’ worth of restocking inventory from us as sales warrant. That restocking order many only be 1 book or 2 books or 5 books or 10 books. Titles like this will show in stock and be listed in as available to ship immediately.
  4. If your book product page receives little traffic, Amazon will not likely stock any inventory of your book at launch. On your Amazon page, it will be listed as "Available To Ship In 7 to 11 Days."
  5. If the book product page does not have any traffic during the pre-sale, in most cases, it will change to a stocking status of “Available To Ship In 7-11 Days” because Amazon knows that most new books will, at some point, see some sales. If some period of time passes and still no traffic goes to your page, Amazon may move it to “Temporarily out of stock”…the online equivalent of walking into your local bookstore and asking them to order a title for you.

The bottom line: Your pre-sale activity is vital to the stock status and overall selling success of your book. Do everything you can to send people to view your book product page while you’re in the pre-sale status.

Are there any restrictions when adding POD to my printed book quote?

Print on Demand is not available for the following trim sizes:

  • 11" x 8.5" Letter Landscape
  • 10" x 10" Large Square
  • 12" x 9" Large Landscape
  • 8" x 10" Portrait
  • 9" x 12" Large Portrait
  • 4.25" x 6.87" Pocket Book
  • 6.625" x 10.25" Comic Book
  • 7.5" x 7.5" Small Square