The holidays are almost here. Yes, if you’re in the book business, when Summer turns to Fall, you are thinking “holiday sales.” For certain types of books, such as novels, children’s books, and even memoirs, biographies, and specialty gift books, the bulk of your sales for the entire year may be between Thanksgiving and December 24th, in time to give those books as a gift for the holidays.
Of course there are many, such as booksellers wholesalers, and distributors, who are thinking about, and acting on, how to increase holiday sales as early as Spring or early Summer! But since that ship has sailed, let’s focus on what you CAN you do from now till the holiday buying season is over. This article is geared to helping authors, publishers, and self-publishers to pump up your holiday sales.
Does it have to be a new book to give it as a holiday gift?
It’s obvious that books with the current or the next year’s copyright year are a preferable holiday gift for the current season. But don’t let having an older book/copyright year stop you from promoting your book as a holiday purchase. Just remember that if someone has never read a particular book, whatever the copyright year, it is new to that person. A good book is a good book, whether it’s hot off the press or it’s been around for a while. Books that were published one or more years ago actually have the advantage of having generated some positive buzz and press. So you can emphasize all those praiseworthy reviews when you’re pitching a particular book to the media, or to a buyer, for this new holiday selection.
Here are twelve ways you could help increase the holiday sales of one or more of your titles, whether you are an author, publisher, or self-publisher:
12 Ideas to Help You Boost Your Holiday Book Sales:
1. Pitch your book to bloggers and the media that are looking for books to feature for the holiday through pitchrate.com
Sign up for the free newsletter, Pitchrate, created by Wasabi Publicity, Inc. of North Carolina. You will get a daily e-mail of the new media requests about interview opportunities as well as requests for books to be sent for holiday roundups that are still being finalized by bloggers, newspapers, and other media. Once you sign up, you can also go into the website and do a search of your own.
2. Get a stand as a vendor at your local holiday event.
Are there holiday events in your local community that rent out space at an affordable rate to local authors and businesses? Either buy the stand yourself and sell directly from your booth or partner with a bookstore or another small business who will sell for you or let you stand in the stand and sell from the booth for a percentage of your sales or for a flat fee.
3. Create a special holiday coupon offer.
Can you send out a coupon for a holiday discount that could be used for direct sales to you or your company? There are retail stores that have built their business on offering a 20% coupon. How about offering your own 20% coupon this year? If someone buys direct from you, offer 20% off the retail list price, plus shipping and handling. Or any other discount that works for you, from 10% to 25% or even higher. How about a “two for one” deal? But one for yourself and give the other free book as a holiday gift?
4. Create a holiday package that includes your book.
Combine your book with something else so the book is just part of a gift unit. This will work especially well if you’re giving a paperback as a gift instead of a hardcover. For example, if you want your novel to be a gift this year, add to it a pair of tickets to the local movie chain, good at any time. Or a gift card to the local bookstore or a restaurant. If it’s a children’s book, how about a stuffed animal? If it’s a book on how to write better or how to get published, what about including a nice pen? How about adding a box of chocolates or putting your book into a gift basket of foods? You could sell the entire package or partner with a local vendor who offers gift baskets to include your book in their holiday packages.
5. Offer to sign the book or even personalize your autograph to a specific holiday gift recipient.
Offer to sign each book or even to personalize it by writing a personal note to each gift recipient. If you have a website, update it with your offer to autograph/personalize each book if it is a holiday gift.
6. Spend a fixed amount on holiday advertising.
Don’t go broke advertising, but put aside a certain amount of money that you will use to advertise one or more books as a holiday gift possibility [EDS NOTE: Check out exclusive ad opps via IR’s new BookShare suite of services].
Find out where your potential readers are hanging out online and if there’s paid advertising that you can afford to purchase to highlight your available titles for the holidays, give it a try. Give yourself a workable budget for this experiment. But this might just work for you this year. Look into what it would cost to place ads in Facebook, Amazon, or other sites.
7. Work together with a local business to offer your book through that restaurant, store, or business as a holiday gift.
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 that they usually give out. For example, perhaps your local diner will buy 100-500 copies of your book if you’re open to selling it to her at a 40% to 50% discount. Offer to sign all the books so their customers can get a signed copy. If businesses give out gift baskets of food to customers, see if you could suggest adding your book to the package at a wholesale price if they buy 10 or more copies.
8. Ask your friends and family to buy your book for their family, friends, and colleagues on their holiday list.
This is not the time to be shy! Contact all your friends and family members and ask them to consider buying and giving your book as a gift to their family, friends, and even colleagues, if it seems to fit! You can offer your friends and family the 20% discount or even a wholesale price on your book, if that’s feasible. If you’re published by a company that only allows you a 40% discount on quantity sales, offer your family or friends whatever discount you can afford. The idea is to get them to buy your book and give it out as a gift. Not just for the immediate revenue that you might get, although that will be nice too, but because you are generating that all important word of mouth about a specific book.
9. Business associates are another group who could buy your book this holiday season.
Ask colleagues or service providers to consider giving your book as a gift but be careful about mixing business with such a request. While some at work might see you as a go-getter and applaud your enthusiasm as an author (or publisher) trying to make some holiday sales, others might see it as being pushy and self-serving. (Until you’re such a bestselling author that you don’t need that “day job,” you may want to keep your writing career separate from your job.)
Without being too pushy, when you go to holiday networking events, especially those during November and early December, when people are still buying gifts, make it easier for those you meet to remember your book by creating a business card with a picture of the book on it and some information about it, including where to buy a copy, that you could give out when it seems appropriate to do so.
10. Give your book yourself!
Why not give out your own book to your family and friends yourself? (Keep track of who you give it to so you don’t give it to the same loved ones two years in a row!)
You might want to include another gift, related to your book, or just another gift, even if it’s a token gift, so you don’t get labeled “cheap” by your loved ones. Unfortunately, unless someone is an author or a publisher or someone who understands the way the publishing business works, most people outside the industry don’t realize that everyone, including the author, have to pay for every single book he or she gets and gives away. Those books an author gives away are rarely free to the author, except for the small number of author copies that are given out by a publisher as part of the initial contract.
11. Go into bookstores and gift stores with some inventory just in case they’re still open to last- minute purchases.
It’s going to be tough to get your book into a bookstore or gift store for the holidays at this point since so many stores made those buying decisions six months ago, but it’s still worth a try. You might just luck out, especially if it’s a local store and they like to cultivate and promote local author. Don’t forget to approach the specialty stores, like a vitamin store, if your book is related to health or exercise. Offer to do one or multiple book signings to help move the inventory and, if necessary, be open to bringing your book to the store and letting the store sell it on consignment. (They’ll return to you any books that aren’t sold. You’ll get paid for those that do sell. Offer to pick up the unsold inventory so there won’t be a question about who covers the return shipping costs.)
12. Check HARO for holiday-related publicity opportunities.
Sign up for the three times a day free newsletter, HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Check it over for publicity opportunities specifically tied to the holidays but also any kind of publicity that’s right for your author/book. Even if it’s not holiday-related, if the online or print newspaper article quoting you or mentioning your book is published before the holidays, the added publicity might help inspire more holiday book sales. (Competition in every HARO media inquiry is fierce. Dozens of pitches are usually received for each media request so this is a long shot, but it could still be worth a try if you’re quoted.)
Enjoy the holidays!
One last thought word. It’s great to work hard between now and the end of the year to increase books sales by cultivating holiday sales, but don’t forget to still enjoy the holidays. Avoid getting so caught up in generating more book sales that you forget to make the time to enjoy the annual fun of getting together with family, friends, and colleagues. Yes, holiday sales are important for authors and publishers, but there’s always next year if your holiday sales fall short of your expectations. However, if you try one or more of the above twelve suggestions, at least you’ll feel like you gave it more effort this year rather than leaving better holiday sales just to chance.