There’s been a lot to distract us this year! If you haven’t started planning your holiday book sales, you’re probably not alone. While there will still be a holiday buying season this year, the 2020 version will look a bit different than those of years past.
First off, we know that physical stores are trying to limit how many people they let into their brick-and-mortar spaces, and at the same time, Covid-19 has impacted overall retail sales. Amazon Prime Day was delayed from August and just announced with a new date of October 13-14. Retailers still plan to do Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but these sale days are being extended. These factors plus “Christmas creep” means you’ll see sales starting even earlier this year.
All of this to say—if you haven't already, it's time to start gearing up for holiday sales.
A Quick Holiday Sales Readiness Checklist
We’d all love to push our book during the holiday sale time, but if it’s not really ready for the big holiday stage, you’ll waste a lot of time and money. So what does "holiday sales ready" mean?
✔️ Is your book cover the best it can be?
Of all of the things we create for our book, the book cover feels the most personal. We love our covers, and often it’s hard to see when one may need work. But a problematic cover often shows up in reviews, and it will definitely affect book sales. Good book covers should require little to no explanation of the book’s contents; if you’ve found yourself explaining your book cover one too many times, that’s a sure sign you may need a revamp. Check out the bestseller lists you want to be on and use the covers there 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 to do so.
✔️ When did you last have someone else review your book description?
We should never write our own book descriptions in a vacuum. Hire a copy editor or marketing expert to review your description. It's always helpful to have another set of eyes, a pair solely focused on helping you convert shoppers to buyers.
✔️ Does your branding need work?
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 look like in 2021.
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. Make a Holiday Plan
There’s a reason that the term "Christmas in July" is popular when it comes to marketing. Big brands know that if they want Christmas shopping season wins, they need to start planning in July.
Fortunately, most of us don’t fall into that category, and a couple of months ahead of our target sale date is sufficient time to plan. But you should decide what you’re going to do to grab those holiday sales. Are you going to do ebook promos? Run ads on Amazon or Facebook?
Plan ahead, get your ad creatives ready, and buy up those ebook slots because they fill quickly. Open up a calendar and pick some key dates to focus on. And if you have ebook versions of your books, you can really pull in those last-minute shoppers—running ads just ahead of the last-minute holiday rush is a splendid idea.
2. Packaging Your Book (and You!) for the Holiday Market
No matter what your genre or topic, whether you have a sweet holiday romance or a health-based nonfiction title, you need to present your book as a gift or novelty. You need to create a connection between your book, the holiday season, and gift giving.
Add simple touches to your Amazon book page like “A Perfect Gift for Mom This Holiday Season!” or “A Perfect Gift for a Young Reader!”
Use a fun stand-out sentence to pull the attention of potential gift shoppers!
If it fits your personality, you might get creative with your Amazon author bio by uploading a photo of you in front of a holiday-themed background or a selfie of you smiling broadly while wearing an ugly Christmas sweater. It’s amazing how small touches like this really grab a reader’s attention and send a subliminal message that you care, you’re paying attention, and details matter to you.
You could even update your author bio to include a nod to the holidays—adding a sentence about what the holidays mean to you, including a funny or touching memory or commenting on the role reading plays in your holiday schedule. This works even for those of you who write nonfiction—can you tell potential shoppers why your topic should be top of mind, especially around the holidays? You might even acknowledge the challenging year we’ve all had. It doesn’t take long to add these small touches.
People don’t want to stress over holiday shopping and gift giving, so the more efficiently you can give them an easy "yes" to your book as a potential gift, 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 why your book is sure to delight!
3. Wrap Your Book
This is kind of a fun tip, and a few authors we worked with over the holidays last year did this with some great success. Head on over to Canva (it’s free!) and upload your ebook cover. Once you do so, add a Christmas bow—like the one you see below.
Upload your own version of this festive image to your book page on Amazon and voila, a fun “wrapped” present.
Small touches like these allow you to be creative and, ultimately, will make you stand out from the competition.
4. Selling on Your Website
Lots of authors would love to sell off of their website. And why not—it’s a bigger slice of profit, right? But before you gear up to sell books via your website, you’ll need to make sure your site is ready for sales. You need a store and a trusted way to take payments such as PayPal, Apple, or Amazon Pay. You also need a clear path to purchase: don’t make your potential reader hunt for the store.
Consider how consumers track on a website. There’s a reason that both eBay and Amazon have a lot of “engagement” options on the left-hand side of their websites. Consumers navigate websites in a Z fashion, spending lots of time in the upper left corner and also on the left-hand side of your site. Make sure to keep this in mind as you place your “store” or “buy now” button. If putting these on the left aren’t possible, make sure they’re easily found. Unless you’re Amazon, consumers aren’t going to dig for what they need.
5. Offer Free Shipping
One of the biggest considerations for shoppers is shipping. Amazon has trained us to expect free shipping, and it’s a big deal to consumers. So if you can offer free shipping, even for a window of, let’s say, a week—do so. It’ll really help to boost your website sales.
6. Make Sure you Have Enough Reviews
Almost all shoppers read reviews (often from multiple sources) before making a purchase, so reviews definitely matter.
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 (a double bonus, since you're getting books in new hands). 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. Plan Your Promotions
I’ve mentioned doing ebook promotions, but there are a lot of other holiday-themed promos you can do. BOGOs (buy one get one, or buy one gift one) are really fun. If I’m gifting a copy of my book as a bonus to the buyer (or the buyer's friend), I’ll use sites like BookFunnel.com to help with the ebook delivery.
Generally, I’ll invite them to buy a print or ebook copy and forward the receipt to me, then I invite them to request a second book of their choosing or gift one to a friend. But do one or the other—don’t mash up “buy one get one” and “buy one gift one” as it’s too hard to keep track that way. Keep it simple and do both during separate time frames. People love BOGO promotions!
8. Warm Up Your Mailing List
Your mailing list should be working for you, and if it’s not, now is a good time to start reminding your subscribers about you and your books! I often talk about the importance of having your own email newsletter list. 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 line that conveys exclusivity and urgency. Set a schedule and stick to it, even if it’s only once a month.
9. 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 for 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. You’ll be glad you did, because it will be one less thing you need to stay on top of when the holiday shopping and sales season is in full swing.
10. Plan and Schedule Your Social Posts and Images with Hashtags
Social media plays a big role in holiday shopping because again, shoppers like a sure thing, and if your book is on social media and generating buzz, it makes their buy now decision easier.
Figure out which promos you’re going to do, what special offers you have up your sleeve for your website, when your book will be discounted, etc. Once you’re clear on the specifics, spend some time creating 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. A site like Canva, which has so many 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 which are most appropriate for your genre or topic: for example, #holidayromance, #giftgiving, #blackfriday, #holidaysale, #freeshipping, etc. Use the platforms themselves to teach you what works—with a little trial and error searching, you’ll be set.
11. Don’t Forget Last-Minute Shoppers
Thanks to Amazon, last minute shopping is becoming the new normal, and you can capitalize on this. 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 (rather than another gift card) in all of your website, blog, and social media content once we’re well into December.
A great strategy is to create a high resolution image in Canva that features your book, some key reviews, your 4.5 star rating, etc. and make that available on your site as a free download (or as a bonus for signing up for your newsletter) so someone can electronically gift your ebook but still print out something to put in a card or gift box. 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, 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 to 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!