December is the biggest sales month for most authors because books make great gifts! So how can your holiday book promotion help your book become a go-to Christmas gift?
Don’t Let Publishing Ruin Your Christmas
Before we talk about tactics, let’s discuss how we can keep holiday book promotion in the right place. I don’t want to add stress to an already stressful time of year. I believe the following strategies will help reduce your stress.
Take a Break
You can take a break from marketing to spend time with your family. If your book is good and already has a fan base, then people will still buy your book as a gift even if you do zero marketing. That said, more people will buy it as a gift if you remind them, but it’s ok to take a break if you need to.
For example, I will be taking a few weeks off podcasting so that I can spend time with my family.
Promote Ahead of Time
Plan your holiday book promotion before the rush of the season. When you start promoting your books early in the Christmas season, you’ll have more time to enjoy your family as the holiday approaches.
Put Marketing on Autopilot
Many marketing tactics can be scheduled in advance. The rest of the Novel Marketing episodes this month are scheduled to release while I’m “on holiday,” as they say in the UK.
Create a Template
Once you’ve promoted your book through one Christmas season, you can use your marketing plan as a template for the next year. Much of your material can be used again. For example, you can reuse your emails and tweak them next year so that you don’t have to start from scratch.
For more time-saving tips, see my post How to Spend LESS Time Marketing Your Book.
If you’re ready to make a template you can follow or tweak for years to come, consider implementing the following strategies for your holiday book promotion.
#1 Make a Plan
Create a written marketing plan for your holiday book promotion season. I recommend breaking it into three phases: Prep, Promo, and Echo.
Prep (Starts October 1)
In the preparation phase, you get things in order. You’ll draft your blog posts, gather your gift ideas, and write your emails. The goal is to put as much as possible on autopilot so that you can spend your holiday season baking cookies and playing scrabble.
Only shoppers wait until the last minute. Sellers plan ahead. If you want to sell your book during the holiday shopping season, start thinking like a seller.
Promo (Starts Black Friday)
The Christmas promo window in the US starts the day after Thanksgiving. Interestingly, countries like the UK and Canada also have Black Friday, even though they don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Black Friday is a good starting point for your holiday book promotion in most English-speaking countries.
Echo (Starts December 26)
Holiday shopping happens in two waves. In the first wave, shoppers buy paperbacks and hardbacks because they’re easy to wrap and place under the tree.
In the second wave, people buy books, ebooks, and audiobooks with the gift cards they received for Christmas. On the day after Christmas, shoppers in Canada, the UK, and the rest of the Commonwealth, celebrate Boxing Day, a huge post-Christmas shopping day in those countries. In some countries, it is an official holiday.
While shoppers in the US don’t celebrate Boxing Day by name, we honor it with our actions. After Christmas, Americans are itching to spend billions of dollars in gift cards. As prices rise with inflation, we want to spend those gift cards before prices increase again.
#2 Offer a Black Friday Deal
Even brands like Apple, which rarely offers discounts, run a Black Friday deal.
If you have control over your book’s price, consider discounting it during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Once you have the discount scheduled, email your subscribers about the discount. Remind them to forward the email to anyone they think would enjoy your book.
#3 Remind Readers that Books Make Great Gifts
You are an author who thinks about books and writing all the time. Regular people don’t think about books nearly as much, and that’s ok! Get them thinking about books by giving them a little nudge with your marketing.
Every reader has a hard-to-buy-for person on their list, and a book is one of the easiest gifts to give. What do you get for the person who has everything? A great book!
Someone may own all the toys, but they don’t own all the books, and choosing a great book is a gift in itself. It’s like saying, “There are a lot of terrible books out there, but I’ve sorted through a bunch of them, and I think you will like this one.”
If every author sent out an email to their list saying, “Don’t forget that books make great gifts.” we would all see a surge in sales. Granddad doesn’t need another tie. He needs a great book.
#4 Create a Gift Guide
Think about what your target reader, “Timothy,” wants for Christmas. Put together a gift guide that includes a list of cool gifts you think he would like. Include your books, similar books you recommend, and anything else he would enjoy.
For bonus points, use affiliate links and schedule the email or blog post to go out long before Christmas day.
An added benefit of creating a gift guide on your blog is that it can be great for your search engine rankings.
#5 Share Book-Themed Recipes
Do the dwarves in your book celebrate a winter holiday called Candletide? Share some recipes they make for the fictitious holiday.
Does one of your characters have a famous cookie recipe or special egg nog? Share it with your readers.
Nonfiction writers can share recipes as well. Whether you have healthy alternatives to decadent seasonal dishes or the least stressful way to bake a pie, you can share your recipes and methods with your readers.
#6 Create a Gift Basket
If you sell books directly to readers through your website, create a special Christmas bundle that includes your books, a box of chocolates, nuts, or any combination of goodies your readers would love.
Work with local shops to source foods and gifts to fill the gift basket. Stores in your area might even be willing to sell the gift basket (which would include your book) in their store. They win because you are selling their chocolates on your website, and you win because they are selling your book in their local chocolate shop.
Be careful about including alcohol, though. In most places, you need a special license to sell alcohol. The wine shop can sell a basket with a bottle of wine, a box of chocolates, a bath bomb, and a cozy romance book, but if you sell it on your website, you will need to leave out the bottle of wine.
Working with local shops to create a gift basket is a million-dollar holiday book promotion idea for the author with the hustle to make it happen. If that’s you, email me and let me know how it goes! I might interview you on the podcast to share your story.
#7 Create a Christmas Book Bundle
Connect with other authors who write similar books and create a Christmas Book Bundle. Only one author in the group needs to have an online store to sell this bundle. The rest of the authors can share the link to the shop owner’s store, and everyone can split the profits after the holiday book promotion ends.
You could also create a special ebook bundle with a collection of all the authors’ books in one set.
#8 Write a Christmas Short Story
Give your superfans the gift of a Christmas short story about one of your characters. My favorite short story is Jim Butcher’s short story, Christmas Eve.
Your Christmas short story can function as a reader magnet to build your list or as a Christmas gift for your fans.
#9 Partner with a Charity
December is the biggest month of the year for charitable giving. You can encourage generosity by promoting a charity. One strategy is to donate all the proceeds from sales on your website, but that may not be allowed in all stores.
The best way to partner with a charity is to give your book to every donor who supports that charity during your promotion. Smaller charities may be willing to partner with you and may even distribute books to donors. If you want to support a large charity like the Red Cross, you would need to distribute the books on your own.
During the promotion, have your readers email you their donation receipt. When you reply to their email, you’ll include a BookFunnel link where they can download a free copy of your book. By using this method, the charity will receive a donation, and you’ll receive a host of new email subscribers. It’s a Christmas win-win.
#10 Scavenger Hunt
Create a Christmas-themed scavenger hunt for your readers for a bit of holiday book promotion fun. For best results, team up with authors in your genre for the scavenger hunt. To learn more about hosting an online Scavenger Hunt for readers, see Finding Readers with Book Scavenger Hunts.
#11 Write a “Twas the Night Before Christmas” Poem for Your Book
The Night Before Christmas is one of the most riffed-upon poems of all time. Its great structure will nicely support your own version. Additionally, the poem is so old that it’s in the public domain, so you can remix it to your heart’s content. You can then share your version as a fun gift on your blog or in your email newsletter.
#12 Write a Christmas Book
Just as most musicians eventually record a Christmas album, many authors eventually write a Christmas book. You probably won’t be able to write a new Christmas book to sell this year, but you could certainly have one ready to go by next year. A Christmas-themed book gives you something to promote every year.
If you don’t want to write the whole book, team up with other authors to collaborate on a Christmas anthology of short stories.
#13 Add “Christmas Sizzle” to the Cover of Your eBook
Some authors see a big sales boost when they add a red bow to their ebook covers in December. You can switch back to the regular cover in January.
This simple tactic reminds readers that books make great gifts. It’s the little nudge readers need. The bow strategy works best for romance and women’s fiction.
I doubt a bow would boost sales for your military sci-fi book, but sprucing up your book’s discoverability might.
#14 Optimize Your Amazon Description for Christmas Search Terms
In December, shoppers type phrases like “book ideas for mom.” Consider adding a phrase to your Amazon description that tells who the book would be a perfect gift for. The phrase “the perfect gift for the teen in your life” just happens to have a lot of keywords that you want to rank for in December.
For more on Amazon SEO, see How to Rank in Amazon Search Results with Dave Chesson and How to Use Metadata to Sell More Books.
#15 Host a Party
Every year, I host a New Year party for the members of my mastermind groups. We reflect on the past year, make plans for the next year, laugh, and have a good time. And I host it all on Zoom.
You could host a Christmas party with your readers on Zoom or Discord. Invite your email subscribers to hang out with you for a special online party. For best results, focus on having fun rather than on selling your book.
#16 Company Gift Baskets
Remember that books make great gifts. And who gives a lot of gifts? Companies. Most big companies give their employees a gift for Christmas.
I talked with one indie author who sold 15,000-20,000 physical books every year with one strategy. He spent two months cold-calling HR managers, pitching his book as a great addition to their employee gift baskets.
He could sell his books at a bulk discount and still make a great profit, partly because the large number of books he sold allowed him to offset print his books. He bought his books for about $2.00 per copy and sold them in bulk to companies at $5 or $10 per copy.
If you’re doing the math, 20,000 books at $8.00 in profit per book comes to $160,000. This author was providing for his whole family with this one strategy. He wasn’t selling through Amazon or worrying about bestseller rankings. He just smiled and dialed.
Can you think of a company or nonprofit whose employees would enjoy getting your book as part of their gift basket? Let us know in the comments at AuthorMedia.social.
#17 Offer Something for Last-Minute Shoppers
While books make great gifts to put in a stocking or under the tree, ebooks, audiobooks, and Audible subscriptions make great last-minute gifts.
Send an email on December 23 with links to your ebook or audiobook. Include instructions on how to buy a digital book as a gift for someone else.
#18 Price Pulse for Gift Card Sales on Boxing Day
Gift cards are one of the most common gifts to give and receive at Christmas. During the last week of December, readers are rich in gift cards. Consider reducing the price of your book to make it more appealing to readers. Also, a bit of holiday book promotion during “gift card week” can go a long way, especially for your ebook.
For more on Price Pulsing, see How to Use Price Pulsing to Supercharge Your Backlist Sales.
#19 New Year’s Day Is Key for Nonfiction
People make a lot of resolutions on the first of the year. Right after readers make resolutions, they often buy books to help them reach their goals. If you write nonfiction, email your list with a New Year’s Resolution-themed email.
You might also consider hosting a webinar about keeping resolutions related to your topic.
At the start of a new year, many people resolve to “Watch less TV and read more books.” If you write fiction, email your readers saying, “Are you resolved to read more books this year? Here are some great titles to get you started.” Then feature your books and related books you think your readers would like.
#20 Pick a Specific Holiday to Celebrate
Finally, if you want your marketing to resonate emotionally, be specific. People don’t connect with (or even understand) abstractions. Even the word “abstraction” is hard to understand.
Marketers know that abstractions confuse people, and that’s why you don’t see a “condiments” aisle at the grocery store. Instead, you see a sign for the “ketchup and mustard” aisle. The word “condiments” is too abstract to be useful for marketing.
Many authors make the mistake of wishing readers an abstract “happy holidays” rather than choosing a specific holiday to celebrate or acknowledge. Big corporations may feel compelled to be generic and abstract, but you have an advantage as an individual human being.
Your advantage is that you celebrate a specific holiday. And because you do, you can wish people a happy whatever-you-celebrate in a more authentic way than a generic corporation ever can.
If you celebrate Hanukkah, wishing your readers “Happy Hannukah” is more authentic and emotionally meaningful than wishing them a generic “Happy Holidays.” Readers don’t need to celebrate Hannukah to smile when you wish them a “Happy Hannukah.” The same is true for Christmas, Solstice, and Lunar New Year.
You can also celebrate a specific holiday from your story world. If your dwarves have a winter holiday called the “Candletide,” then wish your readers “Happy Candletide.” Host a Candletide party for your subscribers and create Candletide recipes.
Celebrating in Nonfiction
This strategy can even work in nonfiction. Mike Duncan, the author of the New York Times bestselling book on Roman history, wishes his listeners a happy Saturnalia. Saturnalia was the biggest annual holiday for the ancient Romans and took place in December.
I’m a Christian, and my family celebrates Christmas. So, I choose to wish my listeners a Merry Christmas. When I smile at a cashier and wish them a “Merry Christmas,” it brings a smile to their face even if they don’t celebrate Christmas because I am sharing my authentic joy with them.
Don’t let people make you feel embarrassed for celebrating Christmas or Hannukah or Candletide. Your target readers will understand your well-wishes, so don’t let the grinches keep you from sharing your authentic joy with others.
Need Help Growing Your Email List?
As you can see, many of these strategies work best if you have a large email list of readers. But what if you don’t have a big email list?
The Author Email Academy can help.
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Some authors create a website just so they can build an email list. When evaluating an author’s platform, certain publishers only consider an author’s email list performance.
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With breathtaking imagery and captivating storytelling, Remarkable Advent will prepare your heart to celebrate God’s greatest gift in twenty-five daily readings for your family. Rediscover the wonder of the first Christmas in this Advent devotional.