It may not feel like the holidays are just around the corner, but if you’re planning to drum up holiday book sales this year, it’s time to put these 12 effective plans and strategies to work.
Whatever your flavor of celebration, the holiday season is a great time to sell your published eBook or printed book. After all, it’s a $3 billion business for booksellers at the end of the year, and according to Dominique Raccah, CEO of Sourcebooks, 25 percent of trade books are bought as gifts.
How do you get your share of these holiday sales?
In the spirit of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” I have a dozen tried-and-true selling ideas for the holiday season. These are 12 of the most effective plans, strategies, and tactics we’ve seen BookBaby authors use to hit it big at the cash register. Of course, this means you have to have your book ready for the market by the end of the summer, along with your author platform — including social media accounts, your author website, Amazon profile, and all your marketing materials. Only then can you truly launch into the holidays with a winning book promotion plan.
#1: Make a timeline
On the first day of Holiday selling, you need a timeline. Writers hear all the time that creating a book is a marathon and not a sprint. Guess what? It’s the same for holiday sales. And time is on your side: Self-published authors have a HUGE advantage with the holiday calendar. Turn on the TV in November and you’ll see Black Friday sales all over the place. In December it’ll be even louder with Cyber Monday and all the rest. As Santa gets ready to jump into the sled, it’s all about last-minute shopping.
Meanwhile you get to sit back and consider YOUR calendar, because if you plan this right, your best sales could come AFTER the 25th (or your given holiday). With people getting new reading devices, Amazon gift cards, and gift cards you market, you could see sales coming in for your books throughout January.
But this requires planning a strict timeline for promoting your books. And you can set that up today. It’s important to prepare a marketing plan that spans October through February. The cash register doesn’t stop ringing on Christmas Eve, so let’s cash in.
Pre-Thanksgiving through Black Friday
Your customers are thinking: “Gimme some turkey and Black Friday deals.” Uncle Ed is snoring; time to check email.
Your plan: Send a special email on Black Friday around noon. Discount your eBook titles to the lowest you’ll go – from free to $1.99. Offer bundle deals for Print + eBooks from your own website. You DO have your own website, right?
Black Saturday to Cyber Monday
Your customers are thinking: “I wonder what the Amazon deal of the minute is?”
Your plan: Don’t swim upstream: Amazon owns the day and we all know it. Send an email to customers pointing them to your Amazon page. Then send another one later that night. This is the time to hit your social media list with links to Amazon.
Your customers are thinking: “OK, time to find something for that hard-to-buy cousin.”
Your plan: Here’s where you get creative with your inventory. Bundle some books together. Offer a buy-one-get-one special. Go in with other authors on mixed boxed sets. Maybe you have some swag you can bundle or sell. Free gift wrapping is always appreciated!
As the holiday approaches
Your customers are thinking: “Dang, those shipping deadlines are fast approaching.”
Your plan: Point out that delivery of eBooks is immediate. Go all-out promoting your eBook gift certificates for that last-minute holiday push. Don’t be afraid to mail to your list twice your normal rate. This is another time where you can bust out the social media posts that seem too salesy during other times of the year.
Your customers are thinking: “What the heck am I going to do with all these gift cards? And what should I put on that new Kindle I got?”
Your plan: This is where you might want to break out dollars for an ad budget. After the holidays, the prices tend to go way down and you can get better placement. Look into Facebook, GoodReads, and Kindle ad opportunities. It’s time to get creative with messages to your list again to get your share of the gift-card dollars.
New Year and beyond
Your customers are thinking: “I’m so glad the holidays are over! I finally have some spare time.”
Your plan: Hit them with messages about making reading a priority in the new year. Self-help books are especially hot during this time of year.
Of course, your timeline will vary from these guidelines. Whatever you create, do your best to stick to your plan all the way through to the end.
#2: Make a budget
On the second day of holiday sales, I encourage you to make a budget and stick to it. It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the season and pour ad dollars into any endeavor that shows a tiny bit of promise. Be disciplined!
Of course, working from a marketing budget should be a year-round assignment, so let’s assume you’ve allocated cash to rev up sales for the holidays. Where should you spend it?
Make sure you have a great website. All BookBaby authors receive their own free BookShop pages that have all the selling and marketing features you need to push your titles. For your author website, there are some low cost options.
WordPress. Hosting a basic website through a service like WordPress will cost $18 to register a domain and $13 per year to maintain it after that. Creating and hosting the site on WordPress ranges from no charge for a basic free site to $8.25 per month for a premium template that allows for additional audio, video, and more. Premium themes that are mobile friendly and SEO optimized go for $80-$100 – a huge bargain over the lifetime of your book. Best of all, you can set it up over a weekend with time to spare.
Next, I would investigate self-publishing-centric ad opportunities.
Kindle Direct ads. With over 75% of all books bought online, Amazon is the place to test your advertising spends. I’ve heard both good-luck and hard-luck stories from authors using Kindle Select ads. It’s worth exploring this holiday season.
Goodreads. Goodreads can be a great source for book marketing in some of the more popular genres. They make it very easy for authors to create ads and set up daily/weekly budgets.
Facebook. It’s the most powerful advertising platform around, and now it’s the most user friendly because of its laser-targeting abilities. Unless you have a special-interest or business book, Facebook is probably where your readers can be found. You can find many tutorials and articles on the best practices to using Facebook ads for your book sales.
Just like for your regular book promotions, your holiday budget should be a realistic one. This will help you determine which paid resources are essential and what can be eliminated. When you look online for low-cost or no-cost marketing tactics, you’ll find a lot of tempting offers. Beware: this is usually a case of getting what you pay for. The fact is, you will need to make a monetary investment to run a successful marketing campaign. Beyond the dollars, what you get out of your promotions will be largely determined by the time and effort you put into them.
I do NOT recommend putting your precious marketing dollars into:
- Broad, untargeted advertising (on any medium/channel)
- Press release blasts or any form of mass mailing and communication
- Buying friends, fans, or followers from suspect online companies
#3: Take it to the street
On the third day of holiday marketing, it’s time to hit the streets. Get out your calendar and phone. Put on your boots, coat, and scarf. Grab a box of books and swag. It’s time to take your message to people in as many ways as you can think of for the holiday season.
Holiday fairs and bazaars. These events are everywhere during the holidays, from churches and retirement homes to schools and community centers. Lists are available in the local media. People go to them with the expressed interest in finding different, unique, and locally sourced gifts. Are there ways you can package or market your book to cater to these kinds of events?
Libraries. Contact the libraries in your area and ask if you can set up a table outside to sell. It’s where the readers are going.
Get creative. Think of where people congregate during the holidays. Finding space to sell your wares in malls and retail outlets is probably out of your price range, but what about partnering with local businesses, restaurants, and coffee shops?
As long as you’re talking to the store owner, maybe you could partner with a local business and work out a deal where they give out your book this year as their holiday promotional item instead of the same boring imprinted pen or calendar.
For example, perhaps the owner of your local diner will buy 100-500 copies of your book if you’re open to selling it to her at a discount. Offer to sign all the books so their customers can get a signed copy.
Don’t forget to approach specialty stores, particularly those that might have a tie-in to your subject or theme.
Be open to bringing your books to stores and selling them on consignment. They’ll likely return any books that aren’t sold, and you’ll get paid for those that do sell. Seal the deal by offering to pick up the unsold inventory so there won’t be a question about who covers the return shipping costs.
Do some leg work and find creative opportunities to market and sell to your community!
Read Part 2: Holiday Book Sales: Steps 4-6
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