At last, Amazon is letting authors specify their on-sale dates for books. This is the calendar date when readers can first buy your book at the 'Zon. It didn't used to be as easy as plugging in the calendar date when your sales metadata would appear on the Amazon site.
IngramSpark will ask you for an on-sale date, too. They refer to the same moment in time - but the Ingram date releases the book for sale around the world among booksellers, in printed-place outlets like Barnes & Noble. If you're using IngramSpark as your ebook distributor, this date is the moment the ebook-only websites like Apple Books and Kobo open up your sales doors.
The on-sale date is not when the online paperback orders will be delivered. Those orders must be shipped, so the delivery time of days, or a week and more, must be added. A date on-sale isn't the same as a date delivered; it only works that way in a bookstore.
Amazon's release choices are Immediate, Scheduled, and Pre-Orders. Immediate means it goes on sale when you complete the Amazon product page. Scheduled lets you assign a calendar date, and Pre-Orders define when Amazon starts collecting payments before your book will go into reader hands. Or devices, we should say: right now the author-publisher can only do pre-orders on ebooks.
When you schedule a release, you can still order your own author copies until five days before the scheduled release date. This becomes important as check the Amazon printing job prior to your on-sale date. You'll order author copies 10-14 days or more before the on-sale date. They have to arrive at your location, then you check, then you report any problems. This two-week window gives you enough time to make changes to the book file to resolve printing problems.
Amazon's new webpage explains the features and differences between scheduling, pre-releasing, and immediate-releasing a book. Another deep page outlines the timelines for every Amazon step throughout the publishing process.
It's a good practice to block out two weeks before your on-sale date to manage final changes to your book. These are printers you're dealing with, or Amazon does. The printing problems usually focus on the way the book is trimmed — there can be surprises about sizes — and sometimes how the book is displayed on the printed page. There's no digital proof that will take the place of this "I've got the book in my hands" kind of check.
Those pre-sales are still an ebook-only event for books self-published through Amazon. That's bound to change in the future. Plenty of changes in publishing are on the 2024 menu. It's good to have advice and strategy to guide you in the process. That's work I'll do for you as your production editor.