“Every author should have a Christmas book”, says Orna Ross, ALLI's founder and director. “Never underestimate the power of holidays sales – Christmas, Mother's Day, St Patrick's Day, etc.”
Today ALLi Author Advice Center editor Debbie Young explains why.
First, let me confess an addiction to seasonal writing. I find it enjoyable to write, and it helps anchor the setting for a story, but I actually started doing it purely for commercial reasons, because I could see that it would give me a unique selling point for each book at a specific time of year.
While Christmas is currently the season that springs to mind, this isn't the only season worth writing for – summer holidays are also worth targetting, for example – but now seems a good time to talk about the specifics of the Christmas market, with apologies to the large number of people to whom Christmas is irrelevant or who are simply weary of festive hype!
Demand for Print at Christmas
Firstly, let's look at what's different about the Christmas market. Many authors report a shift in sales patterns at this time of year, as readers redirect their book-buying to gifts for others instead of books for themselves. This means more sales of print books, because although technically you can gift an ebook or give ebook vouchers, you can't wrap an ebook and tuck it in someone's stocking. There's something very special about giving tangible, traditional print book, with a personal inscription written in the front from you to the recipient. Even better if you've also managed to get the book signed by the author as a “money-can't-buy” extra (which, if you're handselling your books at festive book fairs, you should be offering as a sales incentive).
This is why many authors, myself included, are finding a sudden once-a-year spike in print sales just now – to my surprise, my print sales have outstripped my ebooks.
Christmas is also a boom time for authors of children's books, as adults look for gifts that do not involve a computer screen!
A Seasonal Taste for Festive Books
Even better if you have a seasonally themed book, which makes it a more topical candidate for Christmas gift buying. Just as general retailers start offering Christmas gift sets and novelties in response to shoppers' eagerness to buy something festive, authors can too.
Just look at food stores: no matter how great the steak on offer, if your national custom is to eat turkey for Christmas dinner (or goose or carp, or whatever is popular in your part of the world), that steak is never going to be a Christmas bestseller.
Fair Game for Handselling
Seasonally themed books in print will also be a great asset if you're doing any Christmas fairs, which are usually full-on festive no matter how far away the big day is when they're held. (I've been going to them since mid-November.) Shoppers at these events are focused on Christmassy things, and it's good to have at least one seasonal book to display to draw passers-by to your stand.
Festive Fodder for Social Media
Having Christmassy books to post about on your social media accounts enables you to jump on the bandwagon of seasonal hashtags and make them more discoverable. If you have jolly festive covers, turn them into temporary headers for your blog, Facebook author page (I've posted mine at the top of this article), Twitter header, etc, to serve as Christmas decorations for your various accounts.
Go the whole festive hog by turning on a snow effect on your author website – a free snow widget comes as standard with WordPress.com users (you can see it in action on my author website here until 5th January).
If you're not sure about writing a whole festive book yourself, you could try collaborating with author friends to compile an anthology of short Christmas stories, to act as a sampler for each of your books, giving links at the end for anyone who wants to read more by each contributor. I'm sure that my Christmas books have sold better since the publication last year of a free anthology that featured one of my stories, coordinated by indie author Heide Goody, to which fellow ALLi author A A Abbott kindly invited me to contribute. (We'll be running a series of posts about more ALLi collaboration success stories in the new year.)
Luring Readers in for the Rest of the Year
Your festive books are likely to gain new readers for the rest of your books year-round, as well as pleasing your existing fans. (You could even gift one to your mailing list as a thank-you for their loyalty.) Remember, anyone who is buying one of your books as a gift for others is in effect personally recommending them to someone they think will enjoy your work.
Each gift book given is effectively an act of word-of-mouth marketing, and the giver an ambassador for your brand.
Yes, they might also give non-festive books, but by offering something seasonally relevant, you increase the chances of impulse buys.
Christmas is Not the Only Season
Of course, seasonal buying can happen to suit any season – and to many readers, Christmas is irrelevant anyway. But there are lots of other ways of cashing in on seasonal trends, as there are so many other annual events that you could mark, and not necessarily religious ones: Mother's Day, Independence or National Days for your native country, even astronomical dates – for example, I wrote a short story, Lighting Up Time, set at the winter solstice (21st December in the northern hemisphere), which I plan to follow with companion pieces set at the summer solstice and the spring and autumn equinoxes (Four Seasons), so four times a year I'll have a seasonal story to shout about.
Call me obsessive, but I've even planned my Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series of novels to run the course of a year, each book being set at a clearly identifiable season, so I've always got something topical to shout about in my marketing: Best Murder in Show for high summer, Trick or Murder? for Halloween, Murder in the Manger for Christmas, etc, and my current work-in-progress, Murder by the Book, will culminate on Valentine's Day.
Don't Have a Christmas Book? Now's the Best Time to Write One!
Of course, with less than a week to go before Christmas Day as I write this post, if you haven't already got a festive book in your catalogue, it's too late for this year – but now is a great time to start writing one ready for next year, while you're surrounded by seasonal celebrations. Keep an eye open for events and incidents that trigger your imagination as potential story-starters, whether they're in praise of Christmas or in protest. (I bill Stocking Fillers as an antidote to pre-Christmas stress and they're as much cautionary tales as celebrations!)
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas in your household, I wish you a peaceful and restful holiday season, filled with inspiration for your writing in the new year.Why every #author should write a book with a Christmas theme - by @DebbieYoungBN, seasonal #writing addict #ww Click To Tweet
OTHER USEFUL POSTS ABOUT SEASONAL OPPORTUNITIES
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive