Here’s part of an email I received from Smashwords yesterday:
Following an intensive development effort that spanned nearly two years and involved almost 300 beta testers (including dozens of USA Today and New York Times bestsellers), Smashwords dramatically enhanced our ability to serve you with preorders. Yesterday we activated a new feature in your account called “Assetless Preorders.”
An assetless preorder is a meta-only preorder, which means you can now establish a preorder listing even before you finished your book. As you know, Smashwords has been offering preorder distribution to iBooks, Barnes & Noble and Kobo for two years. Thousands of Smashwords authors have used this feature with incredible success. Several of our authors have used it to hit retailer and national bestseller lists.
Yesterday, for the first time, we revealed some metrics that underscore the power of ebook preorders:
–Over the last 12 months, 7 of our top 10 bestsellers were born as preorders.
–67% of our top 200 bestsellers were born as preorders
–Preorder books sold at more than triple the rate of books that were simply uploaded for instant release.
–Only 9.8% of books published at Smashwords over the last 12 months were listed as preorders.
So when you look at the numbers above, the fact that a small minority of titles (preorders) dominated our bestseller lists speaks volumes about the power and potential of preorders to help you reach more readers. Prior to yesterday, we required you to upload a final manuscript before setting up a preorder. Effective immediately, you can set up an assetless preorder with as little as the title, the price, the description and the release date. The cover is optional to get started. You can update any of the details about your book prior to its release.
My take on this: This is great news. Now preorders are being supported everywhere, including the assetless (metadata only) offer from Smashwords. Smashwords needs the final manuscript uploaded 10 days before launch, just like KDP. The assetless part is a step up from KDP though. KDP needs a temporary manuscript and a temporary cover, Smashwords is demanding neither or those. So in case you are not there yet with the cover, you can start off with Smashwords and get to KDP after you’ve hit the milestone. Although, I wonder (skeptically) how effective a coverless book would be in marketing itself unless it’s part of an already hugely successful author’s arsenal.
Link to the more on the new feature at the Smashwords Blog.