Believe it or not, ‘tis almost the holiday season, so consumers are starting to look for the perfect gifts for friends and family — or for themselves! Books make excellent presents — in fact, 25% of trade books are bought as gifts, according to Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah. That means it’s a great time for authors and publishers to boost their promotional efforts and get more eyes on their books.
This holiday sweet spot isn’t limited to the week before Christmas. According to Google Trends, search terms related to “gifts” in the United States trend upward starting in early-mid November through Christmas Day.
So what kinds of promotions are authors and publishers running to boost exposure around the holidays? Here are some great holiday-themed book marketing ideas we hope will inspire you when creating your campaigns this (and next!) holiday season.
1. Design a festive cover for a holiday-themed book
If you’re launching or promoting a holiday-themed book, a festive book cover can help attract your target audience. They also tend to perform very well when promoted to BookBub’s readers! Holiday-themed covers often include a lot of wreaths, decorated trees, festive lights, snow-covered landscapes, and roaring fires. Here’s a sample of holiday-themed book covers we love (and you can check out 68 great examples here):
2. Launch a holiday-themed book series with other authors
Although coordinating writing a book series with other authors is a massive undertaking, having several authors promoting the same series can be a great way to generate buzz and sales.
Seven romance authors teamed up to create the seven-book series Return to Christmas Falls. Their goal was to provide a sweet holiday romance series where readers could spend time with the same characters throughout seven full-length novels. Since the books were released simultaneously, readers didn’t have to wait to find out what happens next. And the cross-promotion efforts let each author gain exposure to new readers.
One of the participating authors, Susan Hatler, explained how they coordinated this effort:
My good friend Melinda Curtis, a USA Today bestselling author, was part of a first-ever effort by a group of Harlequin series authors to write 12 connected novellas set in a small fictional town. From Melinda’s experience, we learned that readers enjoy falling in love with a supporting character in one book only to find that character has her own story in another book in the series. With the Return to Christmas Falls series, we are implementing shared setting and cast of characters, as well as overarching plots.
To promote the preorder, I plan to use a BookBub Preorder Alert to let my fans know that my book is available! We launched our preorders on iBooks and have been featured in their iBooks Exclusive Preorders. The series will later be available for preorder on Amazon, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble as well. During the preorder period, we’ve started Sweet Romance Speak, a romance reader community where all seven authors reveal exclusive information about the characters in the series, share locations in the town of Christmas Falls, post giveaways, and talk about writing sweet romance.
Ciara Knight drafted a fantastic marketing plan for our series, which includes paid advertising, blog blasts, social media campaigns, author website series landing pages, an exclusive preorder period, mailing lists, newsletter blasts, the exclusive romance reader community (Sweet Romance Speak), and submission to review teams.
— Susan Hatler, author of Forever Yours in Christmas Falls
Here’s another post from one of the other participating authors, Jennifer Peel. With all seven authors actively promoting this series, they had a wide reach!
3. Send a BookBub Preorder Alert near the holidays
If you’re launching a new book before the holidays, sending a BookBub Preorder Alert a few weeks before the launch is a great way to increase the book’s exposure at a time when readers are looking to get a head start on their holiday shopping. At only $0.02 per follower, these alerts are a cost-effective way to let an author’s fans know that a book is available for pre-sale. If you have 1K+ BookBub followers, you can schedule a preorder alert here! (If you don’t, read these ideas on how to get more BookBub followers.)
4. Publish a holiday-themed short story
If launching an entire new book or series — co-written or not — doesn’t fit into your schedule, no worries. Instead, you could publish a short story that takes place over the holidays!
Debbie Macomber made use of her print backlist and republished one of her short stories as an ebook, repackaged it with a new cover, and made it available for sale at $1.99.
Sharing a holiday-themed short story for free is also a great way to keep readers engaged between book launches. Jhumpa Lahiri shared her short story about a family holiday visit with her fans on Facebook.
5. Launch a holiday-themed anthology with other authors
If you prefer the short story approach, you can still join forces with other authors! Consider rallying friends in your genre to create an anthology where each of you contributes a holiday-themed short story.
Seven bestselling romance authors joined forces to create a holiday anthology called Naughty or Nice. We love how they listed each contributing author on “The Naughty List.”
6. Send a holiday-themed email to subscribers
Of course, launching a holiday-themed book or box set isn’t necessary to drive book sales during the holiday season. By sending festive emails to your subscribers with clever promotions, you can boost sales and engagement amongst readers looking for gifts — both for loved ones, and for themselves!
Glynnis Campbell sent her subscribers an email positioning her books as gift ideas. She organized her email by her books’ price points, so it would be easy for recipients to find the perfect gift in their price range! View the full email here.
Cheyanne Young emailed subscribers offering her book The Breakup Support Group as a gift if they completed a Google form. In the email, Cheyanne encouraged readers to leave a review (but noted that it wasn’t required). So while this free giveaway might not have resulted in an immediate revenue gain, garnering more reviews can help lead to long-term gains. (Also note the use of cute emojis in the subject line!)
7. Send readers a joint book gift
Consider banding together with other authors to send each of your mailing lists one free book from each of you. (These don’t need to be holiday-themed books!) This way, you’ll give your readers a wonderful gift for the holidays, and you’ll be reaching new audiences at the same time.
Corinne Michaels emailed her subscribers three days before Christmas offering one of her books, one of Kendall Ryan’s books, and one of J.S. Scott’s books for free.
8. Run a holiday-themed BookBub Ads campaign
BookBub Ads provide a great way to gain book visibility to a targeted audience during a specific date range. Advertisers can target their own fans or fans of comparable authors, and use any creative they’d like — sometimes opting for holiday-themed creative.
Here are some great ads our advertisers created to promote their holiday-themed books between mid-October and late December:
Again, you don’t need to promote a holiday-themed book to run a holiday-themed ad. After all, any book can be a gift! Here are some great examples of BookBub Ads for non-holiday books that positioned themselves as gifts by using Christmas imagery or a festive color scheme.
9. Design a limited-time holiday-themed box set cover
Julianne MacLean created a special Christmas edition of her existing The Color of Heaven box set, including a bonus Christmas-themed novel. She priced the holiday-themed set at $6.99 for the duration of the campaign. Readers got a great deal, since they would have had to pay $13.97 to purchase every book individually.
I found this promotion very successful and the box set sold well — far better than the regular set with only books 1-3 — because I promoted it especially for the holiday season. I ran a BookBub Ads campaign and Facebook ad to promote this set, and I believe the bow on top created a visual suggestion that it would make a great gift — or that it is my gift to the reader.
— Julianne MacLean, author of The Color of Heaven
Here’s one of the BookBub Ads Julianne ran, where she targeted readers who expressed interest in a comparable author:
10. Run giveaways with book bundle prizes
Authors and publishers alike often run generous giveaways during the holiday season, bundling a big stack of books as the prize. Maggie Hall and 15 other YA authors once ran a giveaway offering 16 signed books on Tumblr. This was a great way for each author to get cross-promotion exposure to the other authors’ audiences, since each author promoted the giveaway to their own followers.
Similarly, HarperCollins UK ran a gift-themed giveaway and included many of the books published under their imprint.
11. Create a holiday gift guide (or pitch a book for one)
Shopping for the holidays can be overwhelming, so consider providing your readers a holiday gift guide. This could be a blog post, a social media post, or even a downloadable PDF on your website. Include your own books and fellow authors’ books, or even create different guides by theme (e.g. “Holiday Gift Guide for Thriller Lovers”).
Simon & Schuster created a holiday gift guide in the form of a 30-second video featuring books from their catalogue!
Sejal Badani recommended two books from her backlist as holiday gifts on Instagram, using hashtags like #giftideas and #seasonsgreetings to boost discoverability.
You can also see if influencers or publications with a relevant reach already compile annual gift guides for their readerships, and pitch your book for inclusion. Last year, BookBub published a holiday gift guide on our Instagram.
12. Run a longer promotion based on the holiday length
Since some of the winter holidays span several days (e.g. eight days of Hanukkah, 12 days of Christmas), they provide a great opportunity to run a multi-day themed promotion around a book (whether the book is holiday-themed or not).
Here’s a great promotion from Scholastic in which they ran a giveaway from one of their children’s holiday books, Clifford Celebrates Hanukkah. They gave away eight copies for each of the eight days of Hanukkah!
A few years ago, Debbie Macomber launched a coordinated promotion around the 12 days of Christmas — of course, it helped that her new book’s title was literally Twelve Days of Christmas. First, she launched a “Twelve Weeks of Giveaways” social media campaign in which she ran a weekly giveaway leading up to Christmas.
She also ran a “Twelve Days of Kindness” campaign in which 12 bloggers — one a day for 12 days — reviewed her book, described a small act of kindness they performed, and ran a giveaway. Here’s an example post from Book Bento Box:
13. Host a holiday-themed online party
Some of the most creative holiday-themed marketing campaigns don’t focus on book sales — rather, they help build awareness for an author and cater to loyal fans. Jennifer Niven hosted a holiday-themed Twitter Q&A a couple of days before Christmas. She positioned the event as a holiday party and created a hashtag so fans could easily follow along, and she promoted the event weeks in advance on multiple social media channels, including Instagram:
During the Twitter Q&A, Jennifer provided her answers by quote-retweeting the questions:
At the conclusion of the party, Jennifer gave heartfelt thanks to all of her fans who participated in the Q&A.
14. Stage photos of a book in holiday settings
Many authors publish stunning images on Instagram showcasing their book against a holiday backdrop. This is a great strategy for engaging with readers who are in the holiday spirit (and thinking about what presents to buy!). Of course, the winter holiday season really starts as early as October. Here’s a fantastic Halloween-themed photo from J. Daniels, where she promotes a Halloween-themed anthology by herself and several other popular romance authors:
Here’s a Christmas-themed photo from Rainbow Rowell, where she lets fans know that her book includes Christmasy plot elements.
15. Send readers season’s greetings on social media
Sylvia Day sent fans season’s greetings for each holiday. While the first example here didn’t promote a specific book, showing appreciation and well-wishes is a great way to foster a relationship with readers and secure loyal fans.
Some of Sylvia’s other season’s greetings came directly from her book’s characters! We love the creativity here:
You could also consider posting a more casual photo or selfie of yourself in the holiday spirit! Alyssa Cole posted this fun photo, wishing her readers a happy holiday in the caption.
16. Create branded holiday swag or content
The holidays are a perfect time to get creative with swag and other shareable content. This is a great way to build buzz, or provide giftable content to fans other than the book you’re promoting itself. For example, you can create bookish Christmas tree ornaments designed for a specific book (either DIY, or hire someone on Etsy if you have the budget).
You can also create shareable digital content. Scholastic created holiday cards that anyone could send to their friends, each with a tie-in to one of their books. They compiled these cards on one Pinterest board.
17. Ask readers to post photos of your book as their holiday gift
Once everyone’s unwrapped all their holiday presents, there’s still plenty you can do! Ask your audience to share photos of any of your books they received for the holidays on social media. Their friends will then see these photos, giving your book even more exposure!
James Patterson posted on Instagram: “Did you find one of my books under the tree today? Send me a picture and I’ll share it with the world!”
He then reposted pictures from people who shared these photos (using the Repost app), boosting their profiles in return.
What are you doing to promote your books this holiday season? Let us know in the comments below!
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This post was originally published on October 25, 2017 and has been updated with new examples!