My tip-a-day-book, “The Grammar Daily,” is coming out November 24, and I’m currently encouraging people to preorder it — and I know I’ll get the same comments I get when I encourage you to preorder other people’s books: that the word “preorder” is redundant because you can really only order something. People logically argue that when they click the buy button, they’re ordering, not doing some kind of action that comes before ordering.
How Preordering Helps Authors
I completely understand what people mean. I do. But “preorder” has a different meaning in the publishing world. It specifically means to order a book before its publication date. And besides writing a review, preordering a book is one of the best things you can do to help your author friends because bookstores look at how many preorders a book has when they’re deciding how many order for their stores.
Preorders can also help a book get on bestseller lists because all those orders that come in during the preorder period get tallied the week the book is launched, and the bestseller lists are based on how many books you sell in one week. So if you have 1,000 preorders, and then the week the book is actually launched you sell another 300 books, the sales for that first week are counted as 1,300, not 300, and that could make the difference between getting on a bestseller list and not getting on a bestseller list.
The Word ‘Preorder’ Isn’t New
The word “preorder” goes back all the way to the 1600s, and the Oxford English Dictionary shows the first modern use to mean “ordering something in advance” in 1937. I’ve only heard the word “preorder” in a publishing context, but all the citations in the OED are about other things. For example, that 1937 citation talks about preordering furniture for a house that is being built.
A Hyphen in ‘Preorder’ Is Optional
You can write “preorder” with or without a hyphen. The OED uses a hyphen, but the Merriam-Webster online dictionary does not, and the AP Stylebook recommends against a hyphen.
‘Preorder’: A Legitimate Word With a Specific Meaning
Although “preorder” isn’t logical, English isn’t always logical, and “preorder” has developed a specific meaning: “ordering something in advance.” And if you have friends who are authors and you want to support them — preorder their books.
If you’re a reviewer, get a review copy of “The Grammar Daily” on Netgalley today.