It’s that time of year again: Pumpkin Spice is taking over our advertising, the weather is cooling, and the pandemic is still impacting supply chains and shipping. Much like last year, shoppers will be flocking to buy online. The opportunity is once again here to promote your own work and make the most of the holiday shopping season.
With that in mind, let’s focus on the biggest and most important holiday sales days of the year. Yeah, I’m talking about Black Friday through Cyber Monday.
Black Friday And Cyber Monday History
Did you know ‘Black Friday’ is relatively new? The term itself came from Philadelphia in the 1950s when police “used the term to describe the chaos that ensued on the day after Thanksgiving.” No kidding. If you’re interested, History.com has a great background on the shopping holiday.
The day after Thanksgiving (traditionally the fourth Thursday in November), Black Friday has evolved into a major retailer event in the US and beyond. Retailers experimented with opening earlier and earlier for Black Friday, including in 2012 when Walmart opened late on Thanksgiving!
Cyber Monday is an even more recent term, dating back to 2005 when retailers decided to further expand the Black Friday shopping period. The story goes that retailers saw a spike in sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving and wanted to capitalize.
That brings us to today.
Whether you like it or not, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the weekend in-between them will be a major shopping weekend. Last year’s closure of most brick-and-mortar retailers led to a crazy spike in online sales; like this data indicating a 44% increase in ecommerce in 2020.
Preparing For Black Friday And Cyber Monday
As an independent author, upticks in online sales are a great sign for you. But just having your book available isn’t enough. You need to actively (and sometimes aggressively) promote yourself and your book this year.
We’ve already covered some great points to get your author’s website ready for holiday sales. But everything I covered in that post aims to help you drive sales during the entire holiday season.
And a solid general strategy for the season is important. But as a part of your holiday sales plan, you need to specifically plan for the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers. Lucky for you, I’ve got a few proven ideas and data points to help you get ready for the biggest holiday sales weekend of the year.
Use Social Media
While it’s generally smart to rely on your best-performing channel to communicate with readers, for the holiday sales weekend you have to lean into social media.
That is because the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend has historically shown the best results for retailers through social media. Just look at this chart detailing how major retailers spent on advertising in 2018:
Social media was the biggest spend for the majority of retailers. We also know that a large number of retailers make claims (though hard data is lacking here) about the success of social media during holiday sales.
The primary takeaway is to focus your marketing efforts over the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend on social media. This is so important during this time of year because the other major promotional tool (Email) is far less effective when every single brand is spamming its subscribers.
Yes, you should send emails about discounts and deals, but you should focus your creative efforts on social posts that engage and convert. That means focusing on the social channel you have the most success on and creating some amazing posts for that weekend. The best plan is to prepare all these posts ahead of time and schedule them.
You can saturate social media, people’s inboxes, and even their browser with advertising for your book. But none of it will work if the advertising isn’t influential.
This is the most challenging part of marketing—you need to predict (correctly) what will resonate and work for shoppers. When it comes to a broad strategy, you’ve got a lot of research to do so you can understand what your potential readers look for. Fortunately, for holiday sales, you can simplify your ‘pitch’ a little bit.
When it comes to influencing buyers, here are the main points to aim for this holiday season:
- Adapt and update your keywords, meta descriptions, and branding to reflect the holiday season. This can be pretty subtle, but simply adding a holiday-themed banner image and some keywords (like ‘gift’) can have a real impact.
It’s also worth taking note that these subtle updates have an impact on all kinds of shoppers. Keywords might help attract a new reader who is searching online. But an updated banner on your site will speak to the existing readers you’ve already connected with.
- Optimize the buying process. If you can, the best option is to sell directly through your own website. When you do, you control the entire buying process and you earn more revenue per sale.
But we’re talking holidays here, so there are other considerations. For one, you have to put a link to all your online retail listings on your site. Encourage readers to buy from you, but don’t make it hard for them to use their Kindle or Prime Shipping.
The other aspect of optimization is your site’s mobile friendliness. This is becoming a given as the most popular site-building tools offer mobile optimization as a base. But you still should check and verify that all your pages work well on mobile and are generally optimized to encourage buyers.
Make It Simple; Plan Ahead
Do you know about marketing automation? If not, there’s never been a better time to get acquainted with the practice. Because the holiday season can be a LOT of work, anything you can do to front-load some of that effort is going to help.
You can use automation for emails and social posts. This allows you to create and schedule those posts and emails now so that you aren’t manually sending or posting during Black Friday. This is important because if you are making yourself available during that time, it should be to respond to social inquiries; not posting or sending emails.
This one is really important. The 2020 holiday sales season was the biggest online-based shopping season ever. Shoppers are not going to get the personal touch that comes with shopping in stores.
Which means you need to be available to your readers. Experts have been talking about the increase in online sales and the importance of website management and optimization since the middle of 2020. But very few have delved into how vital customer support will be this year.
You should be prepared to connect with and support your buyers this season. That might mean answering a simple question about shipping times or helping a reader get a reprint for a printing error. Whatever form it takes, being present and being human will be central to your holiday sales success this year.
Finding Holiday Sales Success
A lot of factors can impact your holiday sales success. Marketing, existing followers, the popularity and quality of your work; all play a part in your sales. So make sure you’re having an impact where you can.
That might mean doing a thorough edit of your books to clean up any lingering editorial errors. Or it might mean developing and implementing a Google Ads strategy. Whatever route you take, lean into it and emphasize those efforts. This year will be as big as last year for online sales, and as a self-published, indie author, you’re in a better place than most to take advantage and enjoy better than normal holiday sales results.
Paul is the Content Marketing Manager at Lulu. When he's not entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person but considers himself cat tolerant.