How To Get Holiday Book Sales:
Part I

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holiday book sales

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 plans and strategies to work.

Whatever your flavor of celebration, the rapidly approaching holiday season is a great time to sell your published eBook or printed book. After all, it’s a multi-billion-dollar business for booksellers at the end of the year, and according to Dominique Raccah, president of Sourcebooks, 25 percent of trade books are bought as gifts.

How do you get your share?

In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, I have I have a dozen tried-and-true selling ideas for the holiday season. Here are three of the 12 most effective plans, strategies, and tactics we’ve seen BookBaby authors use to hit it big at the cash register.

Step 1: Make a timeline

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but creating a book is a marathon, not a sprint. Well, 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. It won’t be long before you see Black Friday sales all over the place. As the holidays get nearer, it’ll be even louder with Cyber Monday and all the rest. As Santa gets ready to jump into his 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 is important to prepare a marketing plan that spans November through January. That’s when everyone is in a buying mood, so it’s the perfect time to sell more books. 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: Launch an online ad campaign. 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-plus-eBooks from your author website. You DO have an author website, right?

Black Saturday to Cyber Monday

Your customers are thinking, I wonder what the Amazon deal of the millisecond 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.

Early December

Your customers are thinking, 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 on promoting your eBook gift certificates for that last-minute holiday push. Don’t be afraid to mail to your list at about twice your normal rate. This is another time where you can bust out the social media posts that seem so salesy during other times of year.

Post-Holidaze

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 spend some more of your ad budget. 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 inevitably vary from these guidelines. Whatever you create, do your best to stick to your plan all the way through the end.

Step 2: Make a budget

It’s easy to get caught up in the frenzy of the season and pour ad dollars into some endeavor that shows a tiny bit of promise. Be disciplined!

Covid Guide BannerOf course, working from a marketing budget should be a year-round assignment, but let’s assume you have cash set aside 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 page that has all the selling and marketing features you need to push your titles. You’ll reap the best royalties selling direct, so be sure to drive traffic to your BookShop page from your author website.

There are a number of affordable options when it comes to hosting and building your website, and many of them do not require you to know a lick of coding. WordPress, SquareSpace, and Wix are among the most well-known, and there are plenty more if you dig around.

Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. These are some of the most powerful advertising platforms around, and they can be laser-targeted for your audience. Facebook and Instagram is where many of your readers can be found, and for nonfiction or business writers, LinkedIn ads offer a direct line to potential readers.

Amazon ads. With over 75 percent 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 advertising on Amazon, but it might be something to try.

GoodReads. GoodReads can be a great source for book marketing in some of the more popular genres. They make it very easy to create ads and set up daily/weekly budgets.

Book discovery services. Free or bargain book listings could be one way to kick-start your promotion or energize back-catalog titles for a new book release. There are numerous services available that can help you expand your audience.

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

Step 3: Go local!

It’s time to meet the public. 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.

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 kind 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. Malls and such are probably out of your price range for selling space, but what about 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 book to stores and letting them sell it 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 Holiday Book Sales, Part II: Finding Your Readers
Read Getting Book Sales As The Holidays Approach: Part III
Read How To Get Holiday Book Sales This Year (and beyond)

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