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10 Things You Need Right Now to Plan for Holiday Book Sales

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Have you started planning your holiday book sales yet? Cyber Monday and Black Friday are right around the corner in marketing minutes and those sales are secured by the planning that happens before the big shopping days, and all the effort in between. If you want to grab big holiday sales, you’d better start early, so let’s get up to speed by qualifying your book and brainstorming unique book marketing strategies!

Is Your Book a Good Candidate for Holiday Promotion?

Let’s start with your book topic and cover, because it all matters. The number one consideration is the book itself. If your book suffers from a sales slump or a visibility issue, you should look into the reason before you jump headlong into the holiday sales funnel.

Poor sales could come from a variety of reasons but the top culprits are generally lack of marketing (of course), lack of focus or connection to your genre, and last but not least, a book page on Amazon that isn’t converting due to a less than stellar book description and cover, or lack of reviews.

A lack of focus or connection to your genre can often be rectified with a new cover, a revamped description, and some updated branding. Genre fans and potential buyers should know what your book is about less than a second after hitting your page; if it’s not painfully obvious, you’re missing sales opportunities.

  • Book covers are one of the easiest updates an author can make to impact sales. Check out the bestseller lists you want to be on, use those as benchmarks–do you look like you belong? If the answer isn’t a resounding YES, then you can do better and you owe it to yourself and your other marketing efforts.
  • When did you last have someone else review your book description? We should never write our own descriptions in a vacuum. Hire a copy editor or marketing person to do a review of your description to get another set of eyes that are solely focused on helping you convert shoppers to buyers.
  • The holiday season is a great time to tighten up your branding. Since you’ll want to do a lot of holiday-themed imagery and content, you can use this as a transition time to make valuable decisions about what your author brand will come out like in 2020.

When department stores and online retailers get ready for the holiday shopping season, they check stock, product placement, pricing, and product descriptions. They consider every single element to make sure everything is right, and so should you.

1. It’s All About Timing: Starting With Christmas in the Summer

I used to laugh at the “Christmas in July” ads until I promoted my first holiday-related book. We started the promotion in July/August, and it turned out to be the perfect time.

Maybe no one actively buys or thinks about December in August, but to get sales you have to make multiple impressions, and it’s a lot easier to build up those impressions if you start early.

You’ll want to devote considerable attention to exploring timelines, particularly regarding media. How early should you start pitching? When should you do promos? Look at key dates to be aware of and plan around. Using a timeline will make this much more straightforward, and even leave you time to enjoy the holidays without fretting about book promotion!

2. Packaging Your Book for the Holiday Market

No matter what your genre or topic, whether you have a holiday romance novel or a motivational self-help title, you need to present your book as a gift or novelty, and you need to create a connection between your book and the holiday season and gift giving.

A powerful but simple update to your Amazon book page could say something like, “A Perfect Gift for Mom this Holiday Season!” or, “A Perfect Gift for a Young Reader!”

Update your author photo with a holiday-themed background or ugly Christmas sweater if that fits your personality, or if your reader market would find it funny!

Update your author bio to include a nod to the holidays—what they mean to you, a funny or touching memory, how reading plays into your holiday schedule. If you write nonfiction—why your topic should still be top of mind between school Christmas plays, holiday cocktail parties, and family road trips. Utilize all the sections on Amazon's Author Central to find clever ways to work in holiday and gift-giving angles.

People don’t want to stress about holiday shopping and gift giving, so the more efficiently you can give them an easy yes, the more sales you’ll rack up. This is not a time to assume people will click "buy" simply because they land on your page; you need to make it obvious.

3. Make Sure Your Cover Demands Attention

Book covers using all sorts of colors and designs come our way almost every day. Of those covers, not all of them make the cut. By that I mean some are just flat-out bad, while others could use a boost or better focus.

Which category describes your book cover? Is your book cover really helping drive book sales?

As I mentioned previously, if you’re not sure whether your cover is ready or if book cover feedback isn’t great, now is the time to revamp that cover. Or, maybe it’s time for a new cover altogether. That’s why you should start early for your holiday push, because sometimes important changes or tweaks need to be made.

4. Increase Your Book Reviews

Almost all shoppers read reviews, often from multiple sources, before making a purchase, so reviews definitely matter.

For many authors, getting reviews for your book often feels like an uphill climb, but this is not the time of year to take a break from that push. Email your contact list and post on social to remind people to review.

Ideally, aim to have at least 50 reviews for your book before you come up for air.

If you need to take it up a notch, consider an incentive. Let your contact list know that if they forward you a confirmation of their Amazon review (no judgment on the number of stars!) you’ll give them a special bonus. Maybe this is gifting a copy of your ebook to a friend of theirs (as a double bonus, since you're getting books in new hands).

5. Schedule Important Promotion Dates

Think ahead for Cyber Monday and Black Friday to ensure you’re discounting your book and doing some ebook specific promotions. If you can secure these dates on paid sites that guarantee exposure, I fully support that investment.

If you can’t afford to pay to get on ebook newsletters, I still urge you to discount your book at a few key intervals leading up to the holidays and just plan to get the word out by using your site, blog, newsletter, and social. And don’t forget to shamelessly ask fans and followers to share the discount reminder with their networks.

6. Get Your Website Ready

Next, cast a critical eye over your author website and make sure it’s holiday sale-ready.

  • Do all the buttons work?
  • Is the shopping cart easy to find, access, and use?
  • Is your newsletter sign up at the top and prominent?
  • Can you offer a special holiday bonus for signing up?

Whether you’ve been mastering your book marketing for a while or you’re just beginning your journey, many authors struggle to have an efficient website that converts shoppers to buyers. A good website gains more footing within the holiday book sales market, and keeps readers entertained the other eleven months of the year.

The goal for many authors is to sell books. I mean, other than branding, selling is the real goal of your website, right?

Yes, you want to entice readers to get to know you, but at some point you just want to say, “Buy my book.”

When it comes increasing holiday book sales, create images and announcements that let readers know you’re ready to make the sale. Maybe you’re offering BOGO, a buy-one, give-one deal like the review offer mentioned above. Just ask them to send you proof of purchase.

Nowadays, people are used to free and fast shipping; consider offering free shipping for the holidays. Take it up a notch by offering to gift wrap or include a personalized card to the recipient with a signed book.

No matter what you do, all offer details should be clearly laid out for your potential customers to see as soon as they land on your site!

7. Schedule (and Write) Your Blog Posts

It’s very easy to forget about your blog while doing a whole host of other things in preparation of your holiday book sales push. Plan holiday-themed blog posts that push specials like your ebook discounts or BOGOs. Get these ready and scheduled as soon as you figure out your promotion calendar, because it’s one less thing you need to stay on top of when the holiday shopping and sales season is in full swing.

8. Warm Up Your Mailing List

I often talk about the importance of having your own email newsletter list, and planning out your newsletters is a really important thing to do to capture holiday book sales. But that’s assuming you send regular newsletters already. If you don’t, begin mailings soon so your list becomes familiar with your mailing schedule and, of course, remembers who you are.

With the huge number of email newsletters your reader likely receives, make sure yours pops with a great subject that makes your unique offering and benefit to the reader painfully clear. Set a schedule and stick to it, even if it’s only once a month.

9. Plan and Schedule Your Social Posts and Images with Hashtags 

Social media plays in a big role in holiday shopping because again, shoppers like a sure thing, and if it’s on social media and generating buzz, it makes their decision easier.

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Figure out what promos you’re going to do, what special offers you have up your sleeve on your website, when your book will be discounted, etc. and create coordinating images and social media posts to really drive all these unique sales strategies home. Images are key on social, so don’t skip this step. Using a site like Canva, with all their great templates and themes, will make your job really, really easy—I promise.

Hashtags are also really important so do your due diligence to see what’s the most appropriate for your genre or topic, like #holidayromance, #giftgiving, #blackfriday, #holidaysale, #freeshipping, etc. There are tons of great resources—with a little trial and error searching on social you’ll be set.

10. Don’t Forget Last Minute Shoppers

Thanks to Amazon, last minute shopping is becoming the new normal, and you can capitalize on this with your books. Books make great last minute gifts because they’re actually quite personal. You’re saying, “I think you’d like this,” and that’s really touching–way more so than a gift card–so play up the emotional aspect of gifting your book instead of another gift card in all your website, blog, and social media content once we’re well into December.

As an added bonus, create a high resolution image in Canva that features your book, some key reviews, your 4.5 star rating, all the good stuff, and make that available on your site for free download (or for signing up for your newsletter!) so someone can electronically gift your ebook but still print something out to put in a card. Think beautiful product flier. And then you have the added bonus of using this in future efforts as well. Once you have this made, be sure to let your list know, mention it prominently on your website, and promote this cool, easy, yet personalized option on social media and on your ebook’s Amazon page.

There are so many great promotional ideas—I could go on forever—but these are definitely the cornerstone considerations that will definitely set you up for success.

If you’re looking for an even longer list of promotional ideas, including a list of holiday hashtags, a more in-depth timeline, and really unique yet easy to execute holiday marketing strategies check out my book, 50 Ways to Sell a Sleigh-Load of Books!


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Penny C. Sansevieri

Penny C. Sansevieri, Founder and CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. She is an Adjunct Professor teaching Self-Publishing for NYU and is the author of eighteen books, including How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, 5 Minute Book Marketing, and Red Hot Internet Publicity.