It’s October already. The holidays are literally right around the corner. Are you ready? If you are an indie author, now is the time to start ramping up your marketing efforts and making the extra push to get as many sales as you can this holiday season. Today, I’ve got some tips and advice to help you meet your holiday book selling goals without absorbing all of your free time over the next couple of months.
Step 1: Planning
I cannot stress how helpful it is to create a Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet to act as a calendar. Both options feature templates for calendars you can use, or you can just create your own. No need to make it complicated, you just need to be able to quickly and easily layout your marketing plan (emails, social media posts, discounts, etc.).
Here’s an example of an October Calendar I made quickly using Google Sheets:
Simple yet clear and easy to edit.
What does a Holiday book selling Plan look like?
It looks a lot like your normal marketing plan, with a couple of key differences. First, you’re marketing with very specific dates and deadlines tied to your goals. And second, you’re using discounts.
If you use ecommerce and a website to do most of your selling, then you’ll be well positioned to exert a large measure of control over discounting and promotions. Sending your target audience to retail sites puts you at the mercy of their discounting. It also makes it that much more difficult to focus on your target market, as you won’t be gathering any data about the buyer.
First thing first: you have to get the attention of would-be buyers before you can make any headway toward a sale. Landing social media ads at the right time, getting emails to your subscriber list before they do their shopping, and properly teasing any promotions you’ve planned are the first steps in holiday marketing success.
While you’re planning regular posts and when your discounts will begin and end, you also want to consider the tone of your messaging. The holidays are a great opportunity to have a little fun with your marketing tone, using encouraging and enthusiastic subject lines or social media posts. And more than any other time, be upfront about the content. If you’re emailing them a coupon or a reminder about a discount, just say it!
There are arguments for and against upping the number of emails you send leading up to the major holidays. Again, the decision should be based largely on the marketing plan you already have in place. Remember that 3-5 emails a month are generally considered the most effective number, so if you’re already sending more than 5, you might not want to bump your sends. If you’re only sending a 2 or 3, maybe you double it up.
Remember too that you’ll want to tease out any coupons or discounts you’ll be offering. That might mean you send additional emails with those teasers, or your change up the style of your sends to promote your sales (instead of promoting content).
Once you’ve got a schedule lined up in your calendar, you must draft subject and teaser text. If your email sending tool doesn’t provide a means to create a custom teaser, be aware that your first 50 or so characters of the email will fill that space.
Here’s an example of a recent Lulu email in my GMail inbox:
Our subject line is short here, so there is added room for the teaser. If the subject line is longer, the teaser is shortened.
Think Mobile First
Now here is that same email in my Outlook mobile app:
Notice how here the subject and teaser are stacked? Outlook and some other mail apps will do this, meaning you have a lot more control over the teaser. Keep all of this in mind while building your emails. If you can select the text, do so and make sure it acts as a true teaser. If you cannot add the text manually, be sure the first line of the text of your emails is acceptable for the teaser as well.
Always send a text version of your email to yourself and check it in a browser and on your mobile device.
Step 2: Timing
Timing is crucial. Starting early gets your message into your readers mind’s and inboxes before they start shopping.
Here’s an interesting comparison of Google Trends data from 2017:
Both charts track Sept 1 through Jan 1. Notice how the searches for “books” stayed relatively steady, while “gifts” spiked heavily on and after Black Friday. You want to make the majority of your holiday book sales around the end of November.
That calendar we considered in the first step will play a big role in helping you organize and time out your marketing efforts. From our observations of booksellers, getting the message out in October leads into a strong opportunity to sell and reward (or with discounting, rewarding and then selling) in November.
Culminate your holiday book selling marketing push with a big Black Friday weekend and then use December to pick up straggling sales and make sure fulfillment goes off as painlessly as it can.
Planning and Timing enhance your basic marketing plan template with more pointed subject lines, increased social media posting, and a lot of repetitive (yet informative) content.
Step 3: Action
I’m using Action pretty loosely here, but basically, I mean posting and emailing with a specific holiday based goal. This is when you start to tease sales, remind your followers of printing and shipping times, and make certain they’re aware of your newest products.
With these focused pieces of advertising beginning to churn out from your social media, email, and blog, you should be thinking heavily about how you’ll reward buyers for choosing you and your book over the other options out there this year. The reward is going to help direct the action your want your buyers to take. More than just clicking through an email to your blog or liking a social media post, you are aiming to convert followers to buyers.
Thinking in terms of Rewards
As a self-published authorpreneur your time and funds may be very limited. You’re probably not able to make marketing your book a full-time job, so your marketing strategy needs to be simple and concise.
Rewards are a perfect way to boost sales. This can mean discounting or tacking on additional products. You might also work a book release into your holiday schedule and combine the large round of initial sales with the holiday push.
Here are a few ideas for rewards you might consider:
- Steep discount – Make your discounts all lead toward the end of November
- Ebook – give away a ebook preview to entice readers
- Cross-promotion – work with another author to offer their work along with yours and vice-versa
- Extras – a t-shirt themed along with your book, mugs, pens, notebooks, or any other kind of extra that might entice a reader
Alongside your reward based marketing efforts, it doesn’t hurt to make minor cosmetic changes to your site. A festive header can serve double duty: both pointing to your holiday cheer and including shipping deadlines or discount codes.
Make sure this content focuses on fulfilling the customer needs – in your case likely offering your book or calendar as a gift. There’s no need to try to be tricky or even clever. Tell your customer exactly how you’ll reward them this holiday season when they buy your book.
Step 4: Consumer Holidays
I’m talking Black Friday and Cyber Monday here, though that entire weekend is a good opportunity to realize the investment in holiday marketing from early October onward.
Let’s start by recapping some of the efforts you’ve been making during the weeks leading up to Black Friday 2018:
- Drafted and scheduled email and social media with a focus on your holiday gifts and the ways you reward buyers for choosing you
- Updated your author website with some holiday-themed images and made clear for anyone who visits what you’re offering for the holidays
- Planned discounts and giveaways to encourage and reward your customers, with the discounts ramping up near Black Friday
- Kept your focus throughout all of this on the need your book fulfills for your buyers
Now you just need to get those sales rolling in during the busy consumer holidays!
You’ll need a mini-plan for those few days so you don’t have to post or email on the fly.
Let’s say you’re going to run a 30% off sale on all books on your website to boost Black Friday sales. Here’s how we might plan that:
- Schedule the sale to begin on Thursday and run it through the following Tuesday (unless you plan something like 35% off on Cyber Monday)
- The week before Thanksgiving, schedule an email to your subscriber list every day for 3 or 4 days straight (maybe Monday – Thursday). Each email should be unique but the focus should be on reminding recipients of the sale. Include a link to the book(s) on your site
- Pepper similar notices into your regular social media posts, but don’t convert all of your posts to advertising
- On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving send out a very pointed and direct email that informs them of your sale. Send another similar email Friday morning. Doing a third mailing Monday morning is a good idea, unless you’re doing something unique on Cyber Monday
Setting Real Expectations
Nothing about holiday book selling (or marketing) is easy. I’ve broken down some basic ideas and schemes you can use for your holiday marketing plan, but none of these guarantee an increase in sales. The absolute surest thing you can do is work every day to make connections, grow your contact list, and create a quality book. Luckily, you’re using print-on-demand, so you’re not spending anything upfront on a stock of books.
I talked a lot today about scheduling emails and author websites and discounting – you might be reading this wondering “how do I do all of this? I’m an author!”
That’s a fair and reasonable thought. I’m going to end today with a new page Lulu’s team drafted with a list of marketing and web platform solutions that we think are great.
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.