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Why Indie Authors Should Publish Gift Books

Why Indie Authors Should Publish Gift Books

The holiday season is over, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't think about future holidays as an author. No matter what festivals you celebrate, whether it's summer or winter right now, a holiday period is a great opportunity to do something special, promote your books, or even publish a gift book. That's what the Alliance of Independent Authors AskALLi team is focusing on today. Why indie authors should publish gift books.

Why Indie Authors Should Publish Gift Books

Books are one of the most frequently given gifts. Regardless of the time of year, books are given for birthdays and celebrations, awards, achievements, Christmas and just because one feels like it.

The reason books make great gifts is because they provide entertainment, education, and inspiration. They can be enjoyed alone or shared with others. They come in a wide variety of genres, making it easy to find something that aligns with the interests of the person receiving the gift. 

Gift books can be signed by the author and personalized, making them very valuable and meaningful to the person receiving the gift.  They're just about the easiest gift to wrap and, as a well loved book will be read and reread, it's the gift that keeps on giving. 

Indie authors have more flexibility and creative control and can use gift books with unique designs, formats and packaging to differentiate your books and make them stand out. Gift books tend to be higher quality, beautifully designed and printed, making them a great promotional tool to expand your readership and generate buzz for your other work. 

Print books offer a tangible, physical product, which feels more personal than an e-book but NFTs (non-fungible tokens) can be a unique and innovative way to give a digital gift book. NFTs are digital assets verified on a blockchain, making them one-of-a-kind and unable to be replicated. This makes them a unique and valuable gift for someone who appreciates digital art or collectibles, although the NFT market is new, and still developing, so it might not be accessible or appealing to every reader as yet.

How to Maximise Seasonal Book Sales: Preparation

The first step to ensuring you can maximise sales of your gift books in the holiday seasons is to prepare. If you're releasing a festive-themed book, then producing a book takes time. You have to book editor slots, cover designers and any other services you may require. While publishing an ebook can be done in a couple of hours, the mechanics behind paperbacks and audiobooks often take much, much longer. Plus if you're running a sale or discount and you want to secure paid promotion, you need to book those in advance as well as carve out the budget to pay for them. All of which takes time.

Now 2022 is over and we're looking to 2023, it's a good time to search online for an annual calendar of important dates for all kinds of holidays. Be they “national days” religious festivals, national holiday days or otherwise. Have this alongside your business and marketing plan when you prepare for 2023.

Publishing for the Gift Book Market

But it's not just about preparation. It's about packaging your book as a gift too. Increase your chances of success in the gift book market by creating a high-quality product. Gift books should be well-designed and printed on high-quality paper. Hire a professional designer and take care with layout and cover design.

Package it prettily. Gift books are often packaged in special boxes, sleeves or bags, to make the book look more appealing and special, and also protect it in shipping. Offer personalized autographed copies of your book and add special features such as illustrations, photographs, bonus content.
Be creative. Think outside the box, you can create different formats of your book, such as a journal, a notebook, or a calendar, this will help you to reach new audiences.

Writing for The Holidays

If you don't write in a genre that allows for full books to be set around the festive periods, why not write a short story just for your readers? After all, it's still a holiday for them, and giving them a gift is a great way to show your appreciation. You could set a mini story with existing characters in and around a festive period. Perhaps a Christmas cozy crime, or a far set future holiday, a fantasy romance set around a made up holiday. These are great ways of giving your readers more in just a couple of thousand words without any spoilers for your main series. Plus, they don't take too long and your readers will love it.

And if you can't use your protagonist because it will mess up your timelines or main series, then take side characters and write a story about them instead. Set it before the series begins, or even after it's finished. There's no limit to what you can do with a one off festive story.

Festive Anthologies

You could even consider a collaboration. If you, and authors you know, already have short stories then you could easily join up and collate your stories and produce a holiday themed anthology.

Alternatively, if you're wanting to produce something more, why not create a themed anthology yourself, or ask authors to write novellas/novels under a theme, but using their own characters, and then jointly release and promote each others books as a “group series”.

Two examples of this include Amor Actually, inspired by the movie “Love Actually” and written by seven Latina authors.

ALLi Author Debbie Young says

“Expand your reach by cross-promoting with other authors who have written about the same event. Lighting Up Time was originally written as my contribution to a winter solstice blog hop organised by Helen Hollick. Only afterwards did I realise that by publishing it as a standalone short story, it would provide an annual marketing opportunity for ever more.”

Sale and Promotional Ideas

Below is a list of ideas you could use to help you theme your promotions:

  • Big recognized sale days: Black Friday, January Sales, Boxing Day Sales, Summer Sale etc
  • Direct Sale
  • One day flash sale
  • Weekend say
  • Weekday sale
  • Book anniversaries or writing anniversaries
  • Birthday special discounts
  • Religious festivals: Easter and Christmas, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Chinese New Year, Día de los Muertos, Solstice, Mardi Gras etc
  • Remembrance day
  • Fireworks night
  • First day of a new season (spring, summer, winter etc) and remember these happen at different times in different hemispheres, so it's a chance to promote content to a different audience. But also consider that your sales and promotions will only work for the hemisphere that aligns with the season of your book.

Make sure you use hashtags appropriate for the social media platform too. Do this by checking what's trending and using the most popular hashtags.

Outlets for Gift Books

Sell your gift books through a direct link to your website or Shopify store. This gives you more control over the process and maximises your profit but you should sell through distributors also to maximise your reach. Think beyond the book stores. List your books there but there are many places besides bookstores where you can sell gift books. Some options include:

  • Gift shops: Many gift shops sell books, and they are often looking for unique, high-quality products to offer their customers.
  • Specialty stores: If your book is focused on a specific topic, such as gardening or cooking, consider selling it at specialty stores that cater to those interests.
  • Art fairs, craft fairs, and conventions: Many local art fairs and conventions offer spaces for artists and craftspeople to sell their work.
  • Museums and tourist shops: Many museums and tourist shops sell books and other souvenirs, and they may be interested in carrying your book.
  • Social Media: Utilize social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, to promote your book and reach a wider readership. Selling directly through the social media shop is a direct and convenient way for a reader to order your gift book.
  • Pop-up shops: Consider renting a physical space to set up a pop-up shop and sell your books in person.

Research each option and decide which one or ones would be the most appropriate for your book and your readers.

Start with Growth

Reviews are important any time, not just when you're trying to sell more books. But rather than starting your sales promotion with sales information, try to boost your reviews and social proof before your sale. Likewise, you can aim to grow your mailing list in advance of the promotion. If you need help or ideas for doing this, we have a range of resources:

Graphics and Communication

While it might seem obvious to you that books make great gifts, unless you live in the world of publishing, it's easily forgotten. Just like forgetting to leave a review. These are simple communications that genuinely do make a difference.

Communicating key messages to your audience is vital. Authors often take for granted that they've put one post out, sent one email and their audience “knows”. But that just isn't the case. None of us are lucky enough to get 100% open rates, which means not all of your mailing list will see your email. Repeating messages is critical to ensure you maximise the number of your fans who hear importance communications. Likewise, repeated posts on social media, both in images, captions and in video stories is crucial for ensuring you reach as many of your audience members as possible. Even if you change up the graphic, ensuring that you repeat messages or word them slightly differently is essential for maximising sales.

Another important message to give your audience is the gift of ebooks. Now, most of us know you can give a physical book to someone, but many people don't realise you can also gift ebooks. The assumption is that you have to give a voucher but that's not the case. On some stores you can go to an individual book's sale page and gift that book specifically, making it more personal.

Most readers won't know how to do that, so why not share an image or graphic explaining how to do that.

One such author is crime author Holly Seddon. Who had her crime book on sale and decided to remind her readers with a screenshot in her stories that you can gift books to readers. Don't forget to add a link directly to the sales page to help readers get there faster. Find out more about Holly's book here.

The Gift of Book Membership: Orna Ross a Case Study

Orna Ross has a range of poetry gift books Twelve Poems to Inspire, themed around special occasion days, from Christmas to Valentine’s Day to Mother’s Day, or life events like birth or bereavement. The books are illustrated with AI images generated by lines from the poem and sent signed and dedicated.

image of five of Orna Ross's books

Ross also offer reader membership as a special offer at holiday time. “This went down very well this year,” she says. “I moved my reader patrons off Patreon onto my own website and though I lost a few, I gained a lot more and am better positioned now to offer specials.”

Case Study Nicholas Kotar on Creating and Gifting Readers an “Experience” with their Book

Nicholas Kotar writes epic fantasy and science fiction inspired by Slavic fairy tales. His publishing house, Waystone Press, publishes several authors, all of whom believe in the power of stories to transform readers, giving joy to their lives through an experience of beauty. You can find out more about him on his website here.

Author Nicholas Kotar

When Orna first explained the idea of craft publishing to me during one of her monthly workshops, my mind was blown. I hadn’t even considered that there was ANY business model out there for indie authors other than the “publish a lot and fast” model. I don’t write fast (yet), and I have many more interests than writing, and I instinctively prefer a slower, more laborious, more craft-inspired approach to writing in general. You know, things like ideating with fountain pens in fancy notebooks.

I also feel strongly about my work creating a sense of community among people who share my love for a very particular kind of story. So when Orna began to show us how this might work, a bunch of things clicked in my mind. I have been getting to know some very talented people in various creative fields lately. And they’re all excited about collaborating and working together. So I thought, why not use Kickstarter as a test case for a craft publishing model?
I had a fairy tale novella I had just written; I felt it would have a wide readership; and I had already done one successful Kickstarter in 2018. So I thought I would up the ante. Can Kickstarter be the kind of seed money that can simultaneously raise funds and galvanize a community around a premium, well-done product? I could easily have my new illustrator and designer friends do a beautiful special edition hardcover!
Then the idea came. Instead of focusing on the book, I would focus on an experience: Jolabokaflod in a box, I called it. Jolabokaflod is a Scandinavian tradition of gifting books over Christmas eve and staying up all night to read them.
So I partnered with Geekify, a very cool company that fulfills many kickstarters, to create a perfect reader Christmas present. My special edition hardcover, illustrated by a National Book Award-nominated illustrator, designed by a Hollywood art director, wrapped in a printed canvas fantasy map, and sealed with a real wax seal with an impression designed also by the same Hollywood art director.
You should have seen people’s eyes light up when I mentioned it.
So we funded fully within 4 hours of the Kickstarter and ended up raising 400% of the total asked.
In the process, it became clear to me that with a strong enough idea and with access to enough of an existing community, Kickstarter campaigns for high-end premium book-related products can be a very useful tool in a craft publisher’s arsenal.
I’m planning on running several more over the course of the next two years.

The illustration copyright Vesper Stamper.

Cover concept copyright Heather Pollington.

Case Study: Clare Lydon Lesbian Romance

Lesbian Romance Author, Clare Lydon

Clare Lydon is a London-based writer of contemporary lesbian romance. She's a No.1 best-seller on lesbian fiction charts around the globe. Find out more about her on her websiteInstagram and podcast.

I'm a huge Christmas fan, so writing festive romance is a no-brainer for me: I get to indulge my Christmas passion all year round, and romance readers are never more in the mood for heart-stopping, glittery, all-the-feels stories than at Christmas.

I usually release around October 20th – as I did this year with The Christmas Catch. In 2020, I released Christmas In Mistletoe on Nov 25th: too late. It still sold well, but its window was short. The prime sales window for festive novels is late Oct to late Jan, so make sure your books are visible for all of it.
Top tip? Remember to cross-promote your other festive books in the front and back matter of each one – before you promote anything else. For my latest, right after ‘The End', I entice the reader to read my others with direct links for all retailers. I see a massive sales spike every year.
The other thing I do at Christmas is promote signed copies as Christmas gifts. Readers love that, especially if you have a new festive release. When you launch, stock up and put the word out.

A Natural Course: Debbie Young

For me, seasonal writing is fun – and a natural reflection on where I live. In a small village in rural England, I'm very conscious of the changing seasons, which are celebrated in a big way in my community – one of the many reasons I love living here.

When I started planning my first cozy mystery series, which was to run the course of the year from one summer to the next, it was inevitable that I'd include these various celebrations in my stories. The series of seven books published so far (covers pictured below) include, respectively:

  • The annual village horticultural show in high summer
  • Guy Fawkes Night (a British tradition) and Halloween in the fall
  • Remembrance Day and Christmas
  • Valentine's
  • Easter
  • The May spring break
  • The start of the school summer holidays

Each book contains quotable quotes and evocative scenes. Since their original inception, they've all been reissued with new covers, and some with different titles by Boldwood Books. The eighth book Murder in the Highlands, is set in the autumn once more, will be published in March 2023.

The Impact on Paid Promotions

photo of leaves in all shades from spring to fall

(Image by Chris Lawton via unsplash.com)

Although I've always focused my marketing, and in particular my advertising, on the first in series, for obvious reasons, I've always given a bit of a push to the one most in season at any given time of year. For example, one October I set up an AMS ad specific to Trick or Murder? (Now reissued as Murder at the Vicarage) with Halloween-related keywords.

Having scored my first Bookbub one March for Best Murder in Show, I thought long and hard about whether to invest in applying for a paid promotion in the following April with the most relevant book in the series, Springtime for Murder, which is set in the run-up to Easter. (You're allowed to apply to BookBub every four weeks, by the way.)

I went for it – and to my surprise and delight, the April BookBub sold many more copies than the first. I'm convinced this is because Springtime for Murder‘s title and cover image had more seasonal relevance  than Best Murder in Show, set in the summer. It didn't do so well in Australia – and I only realised after the event that in the southern hemisphere, it's currently fall. Doh!

Want More?

For more on this topic, we have discussed seasonal publishing here and a simple book marketing timeline for holiday sales here.

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This Post Has One Comment
  1. Not really gift books, but related – I use anniversaries to promote my non-fiction military history books. My last one was released on the anniversary of one of the events that was covered in the book.

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