Are you excited to drive more book sales this holiday? Well, now is the time to start thinking about how you can take advantage of this unique shopping season.
Experts and businesses all expect the 2020 holiday shopping season to focus on online ordering and delivery. Some reports, such as this one from Salesforce, show that more than half of consumers are shopping ‘in-store’ less than they have in the past. And with spending down in other sectors (like restaurants and travel), there’s a very real possibility that this holiday season will be unique in a couple of ways.
There are more buyers buying online than ever before and those buyers could have more to spend.
So what does that mean for you?
Understanding Seasonal Buying
Holiday sales are generally defined for retailers as sales in October, November, and December. In years past, the holiday shopping season would begin around the middle of November, but each year online sales push the season earlier and earlier.
The potential for COVID-19 related delays and supply shortages are driving retailers and consumers to start even earlier this year. In fact, some retailers are already starting to promote holiday sales. A longer holiday season and the likely uptick in online sales means lots of opportunities for you to sell your books to more readers!
With so much potential for success this holiday season, you have to be prepared.
Preparing For Holiday Books Sales
Whether you sell using Lulu’s Bookstore or you’re 100% independent and you sell on your own website, there’s a lot you can do to prepare. Let’s get into our checklist to help you earn the best holiday book sales you’ve ever had!
1. Test Your Site For Increased Traffic
If you run your own author website and use Lulu Direct for Shopify or the Lulu API to sell your books, now is the time to load test your site. What that means is testing the site to be sure it runs fast and smoothly with substantially more traffic.
Imagine developing a great marketing strategy that draws in tons of new readers, only to have your site crash from all that traffic! This might delve into more technical parts of managing a website than you’re excited about (same for me) but luckily you can use k6’s free trial to test your site’s capabilities.
The bottom line is that your site has to be working if you want readers to come to buy your books.
2. Clean Up And Prepare Your Website
No matter what sales methods you use, you still need an author website. Now make sure your site is in good shape!
You can use a number of different tools to help you analyze your site. If you’ve got a relatively small site (less than 500 total URLs), I recommend Screaming Frog’s SEO Spider. Not only does Screaming Frog have a cool name, but their tool will also analyze your site and provide a lot of valuable information. You can use the tool for free, but with a limit on the number of URLs, they’ll check.
Use that information to clean up your pages. That includes fixing broken links, updating your page Headings with the most relevant copy, and much more.
If you use Lulu Direct for Shopify, you can find a range of other apps for site optimization and speed. I can’t speak to any specific apps, as I haven’t had the opportunity to do any testing with them. But there are dozens of well-reviewed options; just test a couple out to see what works best for you.
Remember that you’re looking to make it as easy as possible for new visitors to buy your book. That might mean a new homepage for the holidays, featuring your newest or most popular books. Place a button to make buying easy and prominent.
3. Focus On Your Best Sales Channels
Sit down and look at your sales data from the year so far. How do readers find your book or website? For most authors, you’ll likely have these sales channels to consider:
- Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc.)
- Search (Organic SEO focused content)
- Email (for your true fans and followers)
- Paid advertising (Search Ads, Print, Video, etc.)
There are other sales channels (like in-store for example), but these four are the most relevant to your holiday sales goals. Social media offers a lot of low-cost ways to connect with readers. Search is key if you’re a blogger and create SEO-friendly content. And of course, email is going to be huge if you have even a moderately sized subscriber list.
Paid advertising is mostly a strategy to boost sales on Amazon. We won’t get into it here, but you can learn more about paid advertising from Written Word Media.
Unless you’ve got a team to help you out, you’ll likely need to focus most of your energy on just one of these channels. So pick the one you’re already seeing the best results from and amplify it. That might mean posting more often on social media, writing very niche blogs to drive specific traffic, or adding additional Calls To Action in your email.
4. Stock Up And Plan For Delays
There’s no doubt about it; there will be shipping delays this year. And since your book is print-on-demand, there could be production delays as well. Plan ahead.
Again, if you sell directly using your own web store, you should absolutely get a box of books to have on hand. With a stock of books ready to be shipped by you, offering even faster shipping becomes an option. If you haven’t stocked up yet, now is the time to do it!
For authors who use Lulu’s Bookstore or our Global Distribution service, you should consider adding some information from retailers to your marketing plan. You’ll notice that Lulu is sharing information about known and potential delays all over our site and in our social media and email communications.
This being a strange year (to say the least), you need to plan for the worst. The majority of retailers are already getting ahead of likely delays by sharing information and updates regularly. Use that to help you plan and to give your own readers the information they need to shop this season and get their books in a timely manner.
Holiday Production And Shipping Guide
Stay ahead of delays and production times by following our quick guide to holiday shipping readiness.
5. Special Editions And Holiday Bundles
One of the best parts about print-on-demand is how simple it is to update and re-publish your work. For example, you could create a special holiday edition of your book (or books) including a unique message for readers or maybe a bonus short story. Or maybe flex some graphic design skills and offer a special cover for holiday shoppers.
Another option, for those of you using Shopify or our API, is to sell gift bundles. Since you own the website and the store, you can sell whatever you want! Of course, selling a bundle means you have to keep some books on hand (see #3 above), but bundles are a great opportunity to sell a unique product and track your shopper’s interests.
You could create a holiday edition of your book, then include a custom bookmark, a card or thumb drive with audio or ebook access, or any other product that might interest your readers. Does the protagonist in your fictional series wear flamboyant scarves? Maybe you offer a bundle that includes one of that character’s scarves!
There really isn’t anything you can’t have custom made right now, so thinking in terms of bundles or gift packages, particularly if you have dedicated fans, is a great idea.
6. Plan For And Around Discounts
This cannot be overstated: Black Friday through Cyber Monday will be, for many authors selling print-on-demand books, the last major shopping days of the season. With the supply-side issues facing printers and the inevitable delays in shipping, the beginning of December is going to be a major deadline for holiday shopping.
Here’s the deal—if you sell on the Lulu Bookstore, you can offer your readers our best discount of the year during Black Friday / Cyber Monday. During the lead up to that discount, we’ll continue to offer our regular weekly coupons too (you’ll see the code on the site banner). Take advantage of our discounts by sharing the code with your customers!
Or, if you’re selling from your own site, you can set up your own sales. The Black Friday / Cyber Monday period is still the best time to offer deep discounts, but any time in November is a good time for a sale this year. Just be sure to share the discount early and often so your readers know about the sale!
7. Create Holiday Assets
To maximize your book sales this year, you’ll need some eye-catching graphics. You’ll also need direct, concise copy. These are your holiday assets. They can take the form of Instagram images, emails, banners on your author site, or any of a number of other forms.
Start creating these assets now! Work on consistent designs for your holiday email and social graphics. Draft blog posts and email copy early so they can be revised and updated as needed. Look for consistency with your brand and your books as well as within the assets. Your holiday social posts and emails should look a little different than a normal piece of content you might create, but your followers should still be able to tell it’s yours!
Don’t know where to get started with building your graphics? I recommend trying Canva. Their platform lets you do basic graphic design with loads of free templates.
Assets are really important to start early on if you’re hiring a designer too. They’ll likely have a lot of work in the coming weeks from other creators like yourself. So get ahead of the rush and make sure there’s time to make final updates and adjustments.
8. Take Advantage Of Your Resources
I spend a ton of time reading, watching, and listening to a ton of content about publishing. There is so much information out there; you need to take advantage of it. If you’re working this season to sell your book, you have to know a little about a lot of things.
But you’ve also never had access to more (mostly free) resources than any other time in history. Right? You can learn about how to write, how to publish, how to market, how to sell, and even how to SOMETHING FUNNY, all right from your computer. Check out our Free Resources for Creators and our Partners Page for pros ready to help you with all aspects of publishing.
9. Post-Holiday Retention
Not to disappoint you, but even if the sales rush dies down after Black Friday / Cyber Monday, your work continues. Okay, maybe take a few days off.
But you don’t want to let all these new customers you just earned slip away! They’ve already contributed to your holiday book sales numbers; in the process giving you their valuable contact information. Even if only a few of your holiday customers become regular customers, it all adds up.
A good strategy is to start sending emails to your new subscribers shortly after the new year begins. Plan to recycle or update your best social post and blog content to entice these new followers into becoming fans.
That’s the big and final takeaway from your holiday sales efforts. Sales today are great, but the customers you can keep coming back for more are the ones who sustain your business.
Get The Most From Your Book Sales
The fourth quarter is always a big one for every business and individual creator trying to sell a product. And it’s going to be upon us soon (in fact, it’s kind of already started) and you’ve got to be ready if you want to capture some of those readers looking for books.
The best advice is to start now. Stay ahead of potential delays and make sure your customers get their gifts in time for the holidays.