Making The Most of Print On Demand. Part 1: Your Timeline To Maximize Book Sales

maximize book sales

Part 1 of our Print On Demand series focuses on your POD publishing timeline, the importance of the pre-order sales period, how “on demand” works for the retailers, and how you can maximize book sales with your printed book.

We have an unofficial mission statement around the BookBaby offices. It started with our music businesses including CD Baby and now carries into our self publishing brand:

“We make the little guy (or gal!) look big.”

What does that mean? It’s really quite simple. We help our self-published authors from around the world create and publish a book that looks every bit as good as those produced by big-time authors from the large publishing houses. From cover design to book formatting, from eBook conversion to book distribution, BookBaby has all the products and services that authors need to embark on their literary career.

In early 2015 we launched one of the most important components of this self-publishing game plan: BookBaby’s Print On Demand (POD) program. Utilizing the latest in digital printing technology and modern logistics, independent 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 behind the scenes is rather complex. Rest assured, BookBaby is doing all of the heavy (read “technical”) lifting, but it’s important for authors who use our Print On Demand services to understand how this distribution program works in order to take full advantage of this powerful selling platform.

The first and most important part of understanding how Print On Demand works is about timing.

In our first year with POD, we’ve watched some authors enjoy great success. Others not so much. The books that comprised both groups were pretty much the same in terms of genre and – in my judgment – in content quality. Upon closer examination there was one major difference: Time.

Authors who didn’t make use of the pre-sale period and rushed their book into the marketplace fared poorly. POD is one of those things that simply cannot be rushed. 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?

Meanwhile we have hundreds of authors who correctly managed the calendar and are now reaping the benefits of a strong POD program. They allowed their books to enter into the distribution stream and become available to online retailers without any external pressure or arbitrary deadlines. Before long, they were seeing tremendous sales and strong inventory positions through Amazon, B&N, Powell’s, and many more.

So what’s a good timeline for you? We recommend that you set a Print On Demand release date at least eight weeks out.

Why? Because it takes time for your printed book to be created, proofed, printed and loaded into all of the retail systems. Let’s examine some of the nuts and bolts of the POD process:

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. That said, here’s a rough timeline you can use as a guide.

Week 1: You upload your book and all metadata (author bio, description, pricing, etc.) to BookBaby system, pay, and check out.

Week 2: You receive your book proof to review. If you’ve ordered cover design or book formatting, allow an additional 10 days for this stage of the process (at minimum).

Note: At this point, the clock stops at BookBaby and starts with the author. It’s up to you, the author, to determine how quickly or slowly this process will go. Authors can approve their book proof in one day or 101 days. The average time for proof approval is approximately seven days.

Week 3-4: BookBaby finalizes files and sends them to online book stores.

Week 4: Your book will begin to appear at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other stores in a pre-sales status. Customers can purchase your book online but it will not be shipped until after the book release date. (Note this could be on Day 14 or Day 28 based on seasonality and other factors.)

It’s crucial to your short- and long-term POD success to promote your book like crazy during pre-sale! The 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 two to three weeks. During this period of “pre-sale” status, your customers can order their book (their 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.

Part 2 of this series will focus on what happens during the pre-sales period and how you can build your self publishing plan around this very important time!

Week 5-8: Your book has been ordered by Amazon and is ready to be shipped to customers. To gauge reader demand, Amazon requires a minimum of six weeks in pre-sale status for all new titles. This allows them to calculate a two-week inventory forecast. Amazon’s goal is to maintain two weeks’ worth of inventory of your title in their warehouse so they can display a stocking message of “In Stock. Ships Today.” They use demand during the pre-sale to build this forecast and then they order the books from us towards the end of the pre-sale. (Note: this could be on day 40 to day 60, depending on seasonality and other factors.)

Once your book is available for sale on Amazon, B&N, and others, it’s important you understand how the retail stores manage the inventory of your book. 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 CreateSpace and Ingram).

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 risking major inventory overages. Every POD title in every store will have periods of time when it is listed as “out of stock.”

As a result, we cannot guarantee your book will be in stock 24/7/365. That’s simply not how POD works – not from Amazon’s own CreateSpace, Lighting Source/Ingram, BookBaby, or anyone else. Online stores typically purchase a few books to have on hand, sell out, and then reorder. The retailer will order additional stock based upon actual purchases and/or inventory forecasts.
There are ways to optimize your book’s inventory at Amazon, B&N, and all the others. I’ll cover these very important tips and ideas in “Making the most of Print On Demand. Part 2!”


Read More
Public Libraries: An Asset For Independent Authors
eBook Distribution: My Self-Publishing Experience
Is Wattpad Right For You?
Your Book Needs To Be On Amazon, but…
Five Self-Publishing Mistakes You Need To Avoid


  1. Great advice– for my next book. The current one was published by CreateSpace in June. I;ve done a little PR since then but few sales. The book, my fourth, is a novel about an actor in the Golden Age of Broadway (1950’s). I’d like to aim for book clubs. What can I do at this late date? (O.S. – my next book will be at Book Baby!)

  2. […] Print On Demand: Your Timeline To Maximize Book Sales We have an unofficial mission statement around the BookBaby offices: “We make the little guy (or gal!) look big.” What does that mean? It’s really quite simple. We help our self-published authors from around the world create and publish a book that looks every bit as good as those produced by big-time authors from the large publishing houses. […]

  3. It is not clear– what is the advantage of listing with B.B.? How do you somehow pull customers out of the 35 % Amazon does not get? Do provide marketing services? —-
    This is a “Right Now” “Me–Me” world we live in. Why would someone wait or even remember a Book they saw a “Promise” of 8 weeks ago ? ——
    Most people do not have or want to take the time, to read thru all the teases and hype in your articles.—— Do you have very specific info regarding cost and benefits of your service—-


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