Welcome to the Fall Publishing Season | FAQ for Pre-Order


Here we go!

It’s fall publishing season 2016, baby, and I am drowning in pre-orders… more than 30 between now and the end of the year. I am not really big into advanced review copies. I’ve always felt icky about an obligation to read something—even with book club—because I believe the freedom to read (or should I say… FREADom) whatever you want is as much one of the “certain unalienable Rights” I have in my country.

From Banned Books Week
From Banned Books Week

Does this look familiar to you? On Any Given Tuesday, I wake up to packages outside. It’s a little bit like Christmas. Like this early-October photo from last year, where five books were just dropped off by the dedicated drone they have at the nearest Amazon warehouse in Delaware.

On Any Given Tuesday... a book nerd will have boxes of books on her porch.
On Any Given Tuesday… a book nerd will have boxes of books on her porch.

I’m super excited for pre-order season, so I thought I’d write an article about how you can do to prepare for a bookageddon. This of course includes when you’ve requested a million holds through the library system and they all come it at once week by week. If you’re feeling nervous with anticipation or getting cold feet—how am I going to read all these books? I’m just about to drop $500 on pre-orders—am I insane? What if five holds arrive on the same day and they’re all two-week loans??—get pumped up and ready because I am about to teach you how to get your sh** together and enjoy reading season.

Typical Tuesday during fall publishing season.
Typical Tuesday during fall publishing season.

Let’s break this down with an FAQ.

(1). Oh my god. I lost track of how many books I’ve got on pre-order or on hold. Amazon just sent me a shipping notification for a book I don’t even remember ordering. Help??

Okay, reader. I’ve been there (more accurately… I am there). It’s so easy to lose track of what you’ve got coming in week-to-week if you don’t get organized. I have a little index card I update every week with tally marks of what’s being released each week. I update it every week.

Keeping a simple note-taking helps you maintain some form of order during pre-order madness

This is is the most basic way to keep track of what your front porch is going to look like every Tuesday. You could also go a little more detailed, like my spreadsheet record of what to expect each week. Check it out here.

A glimpse inside my pre-order spreadsheet.
A glimpse inside my pre-order spreadsheet.

This is a great way to get organized. So whether it’s hastily scrambled on a piece of scrap paper or obsessively written in a spreadsheet, a pre-order tracking method is essential if you have a ton of pre-orders to keep track of this fall.

(2). Okay, five books just landed on my doorstep/magically appeared on my eReader shelves/came in for me at the library. How the hell do I prioritize these when I had four last week and three next week? Please send reinforcements!

I know exactly what this feels like. It’s like a never-ending abundance of books, or books multiplying over and over…

Books keep multiplying...and multiplying..and multiplying... a never-ending avalanche of books.
Books keep multiplying…and multiplying..and multiplying… a never-ending avalanche of books.

Unless you can successfully read six or seven books at once (I can’t!), this is indeed a problem.

Something to note: with a few weeks being rare exceptions (like October 4th, when I have 11 books on pre-order, including novels by Nell Zink, Jennifer Niven, Lauren Oliver, Tana French all arriving that day), you can usually break it down to a manageable formula.

Say you’re reading three new release books that have just come out over the past few weeks/months/year. Try following this formula:

  • One book that is a new-release, must-read, everyone-is-talking-about-it novel of the moment. (Think Hope Jahren’s Lab Girl, Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Meand Garth Greenwell’s What Belongs to You). 
  • One book that is currently underrated. (For example, right now I am reading Three-Martini Lunch by Suzanne Rindell, a 2016 historical fiction novel that got good reviews but is not getting a ton of press.)
  • One book that you chose at random. (It doesn’t have to be totally at random, but this is a book you pick when you can’t decide what to read so you just pick something off the shelf or pick something for a seemingly-arbitrary reason, like it looked short or long or was of a certain genre.)

This formula of mine makes sure that I’m tackling the new release TBR evenly. How would you prioritize?

(2). I don’t have enough shelf space! I have 20 things on pre-order between now and December, and 5 books just arrived at the library…there’s no room—please help!

Oh, honey. I know exactly how that feels.

Just a few weeks' worth of new release books stacked every which way...these were brand new bookcases, and they're practically full now.
Just a few weeks’ worth of new release books stacked every which way…these were brand new bookcases, and they’re practically full now.

It’s time to weed.

Weed your books, that is.

This means going through your book collection and determining whether or not to keep a book or dispose of it in some other way (e.g. donate to a library or charity, sell to a used bookstore, give away to someone you know, etc.).

Friends, although I am in library school, I have not yet mastered the art of weeding my own collection, or, rather, I haven’t boiled it down to a science. So I’m going to turn you over to some experts…

For a chorus of input on how to weed your book collection, check out this helpful forum response on Metafilter and a great article on getting started with weeding your bookshelves from my Book Riot colleague and librarian, Jessica Pryde.

Make room for more books on your shelf by weeding or do what I’ve started to do: buy part-e-books and part-print books. Often, e-books can be significantly less (not necessarily true for new release YA), and if you find a deal, buy for your digital shelves. Wake up in the morning, and the e-book is magically there. And, if you’re shopping with Amazon, you have one week to return it for free, no questions asked.

Okay, tiger, feeling a little better?

Relax. You’ve got this. The millions and millions of pages you have read since you were a wee young thing have prepared you for this moment. You’re a reader. You can handle anything.

Post your pre-order questions and crises below. What book are you most excited for this fall? What are your publishing season strategies? Leave a comment below.

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  1. Liz

    Oh my gosh, your spreadsheet just made me squeal! I love it so much! Sadly I am very limited on my pre-orders this year and it’s killing me. We’re moving back across the ocean in the spring and I’m trying to keep weight to a minimum. Not being ENTIRELY successful, but, you know, trying. Haha. Next year though…!

    • Sarah

      Hi Liz! Glad you liked the spreadsheet! 🙂 Maybe you can get some of your pre-orders as e-books? In any case, good luck with the move. I just moved to a new house this year, and transporting the books was not fun, so I can only imagine moving across seas.

  2. I wish I had the time to be THAT overwhelmed by books… I adored your organising. The spreadsheet was too cute!!

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