New: Pre-Orders on Apple iBooks Without “Assets”

by | Jun 16, 2015

Because Apple’s iBooks platform has very little marketing behind it, you may not know that it is the second-largest ebook retailer in the world, and a very robust second at that.

Savvy authors know that having their ebooks available on multiple platforms will work to their advantage in wider distribution and more sales.

That’s one of the reasons I was excited to learn yesterday that Apple has expanded a powerful feature on iBooks so that all authors who upload directly to Apple can use it. Apple is officially “agnostic” about how you get your books onto their platform (i.e. they don’t favor books from one source over another).

Basically, this allows you to set up a book on iBooks for pre-order even if you don’t have a book cover or interior file, up to a year before your publication date. All you need is your metadata.

You can distribute to iBooks on your own or through an aggregator (kind of a distributor) like Smashwords.

Although some aggregators have been offering this service, it’s now available to any author who goes the direct upload route.

Here’s the information on how this works, directly from Apple: (Note that this information is not yet available anywhere on Apple’s sites or in their iBooks FAQs or instructions. But it comes directly from an iBooks source.)

“iBooks now allows providers the ability to upload pre-orders up to a year before a book’s release date without needing any finished assets (ie. cover or book file). All that’s required is basic metadata: title, author, book description, etc. And even these don’t need to be set in stone — you may change them prior to the release, as well as the release date itself.

“This presents a huge opportunity to build sales and buzz around a book, especially for authors with a fan base and writing books in series, because iBooks factors all pre-orders into first-day sales. So books will often hit the bestseller charts based on orders that have been accumulating for months.

“Additionally, you can add excerpts or chapters to your books in advance of the release date. Readers love to have access to early samples and will often share them with their friends and fans, helping you to grow your audience even more before your book releases.”

Here are the detailed instructions from Apple:

Setting Up Pre-Orders with Metadata Only

To offer your book for pre-order on iBooks without assets:

  1. Open iTunes Producer
  2. Enter the book’s metadata in the Details pane
  3. Click on the Price pane
  4. Enter a Pre-Order Start Date, a Sales Start Date (Release Date), and the rights and pricing details
  5. Select Save from the File menu
  6. Click Submit

IMPORTANT: Do not add any dummy or incomplete book files or covers to iTunes Producer during this process. Doing so will cause your book to be ticketed and to not go live on iBooks as a pre-order.

Once your files are ready:

  1. Search for your pre-order in iTunes Producer by typing the title or Apple ID in the “Search iTunes Connect” field
  2. Drag and drop the cover or screenshots in the Details pane
  3. Drag and drop the book file(s) in the Files pane
  4. Click Submit

Files must be submitted at least 10 business days prior to the scheduled release date to ensure they pass review and are available to customers on the expected date. If the final files are not submitted in time and the release date passes, your book will fall off iBooks. This may also prevent you from setting up pre-orders without files in the future.

If you need help during this process or have questions, you can contact the iBooks support team at (877) 206-2092 Mondays through Fridays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific Time. Or, click Contact Us under Resources and Help in iTunes Connect to send them an email.

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Eileen Anderson

    Can the iBooks preorder be online during KDP Select’s 90 day exclusive period, if the book is first published there? (I mean would Amazon permit that.)


    • Joel Friedlander

      Eileen, I believe that would violate the terms for Kindle Select, where you book has to be exclusively for sale on Amazon and nowhere else during the 90 day Select period.

  2. Dan

    Glad to see this option back! They first offered it in early 2012 with iTunes Producer 2.5.1, then began requiring all assets again a short time later with the release of 2.6.

  3. Michael W. Perry

    Apple is doing their best to get that submission-to-release time down to under 24 hours. I submitted my latest this past Friday afternoon. It was available the next afternoon. That’s virtually identical to Kindle’s turn-around time.

    Also, an obscure error message “ERROR ITMS-4103: ‘Country WW does not have a valid currency'” was preventing my upload from being accepted. Their support person, the marvelous Karlyn, worked with me for a half an hour before we traced it down to a contract revision I hadn’t signed. “Valid currency” to contract—who but her would have guessed a connection? Not me. She was very helpful.

    Non-fiction writers should pay particularly attention to this pre-publication opportunity, especially if they have a book on a unique topic. Pre-release six months in advance and you’ve got six months of people discovering your book before it hits the market. That can mean six months of extra sales in those first few days.

    Also, if you have books that are related, either novels in a series or books on similar themes like my Hospital series, put that into the metadata for your new books and get iBooks staff to add it to the metadata for already published books. That will ensure that when someone is looking at one of those books, the others will also appear.



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