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Holidays Sales and Marketing: Tiz the Season for Creative Book Promotion Ideas

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DavidBy David Wogahn —

For many retailers—and let’s call book publishers retailers for this article—the holiday season can account for as much as 40% of annual revenues. While that number is probably high for book publishers there is no reason why we shouldn’t try up our game in this season of gift buying and giving. With eBook prices in the impulse purchase/”stocking stuffer” price range it’s time publishers got strategic about how to approach this time of year.

For this post I reached out to publishers with the simple question: Do you have a holiday eBook sales strategy? Why just eBooks? Simple, eBooks are not constrained by distribution or inventory considerations which require longer lead times and careful planning. This allows you to be both strategic and opportunistic. As always, some marketing tactics require advance planning but a publisher’s ability to market eBooks for such a short sales period is much less complex than marketing print books.

I’ve divided the tips and feedback into three broad themes: promotional pricing, season-themed marketing and tools. My hope is that you see one or more of your books being able to take advantage of one or more of these ideas.

Promotional Pricing

The age-old “sale” is alive and well with eBooks. Temporary price drops and coupons are the two most relevant for short sales periods.

saleTemporarily lower your price. This works if you sell from your website or have a direct distribution relationship with big retailers like Amazon, BN, Apple and Kobo. If you distribute through a third-party aggregator like Bookbaby you’ll want to look into the feasibility of this well in advance due to the complexity of changing prices across many different stores for a short period of time. Gotcha: Keep in mind Amazon’s new KDP Select Countdown program requires books to have no price change for 30 days prior to the sale.

Use coupons for discounts or as a give-away item in a promotion. Joanie Holzer Schirm, publisher of Adventurers Against Their Will, is distributing a Smashwords promotional coupon to her mailing list. If you have a distribution arrangement directly with Apple you get 50 promo codes per book allowing you to give out free copies of your eBook (something unavailable with Amazon KDP!).

Season-Themed Marketing

While physical bookstores may be in decline there is an ever-expanding list of niche websites and many of those are ideal for promoting digital products. Alina Adams Media has partnered with the figure skating product retailer Triple Toe Skatewear to add a section promoting books like On Thin Ice and Skate Crime. (No, I’m not trying to say crime is a holiday tradition but skating is!) On a more cheerful topic, the publisher of Crazy Coconut Christmas Chronicles uses this time of year to sponsor holiday events and story times at schools and childcare facilities.

A-gift-wrapped-Christmas--006Amanda Kerr of IBPA member Bookbuzz suggests promoting a donation. “When people feel like they are giving back, they will also buy into the pitch. For example, for every book sold by December 15th, 10% will be donated to a charity that buys gifts for kids for Christmas or a charity that feeds the hungry on Christmas.”


This is by no means a comprehensive list of promotion tools but each is popular, or relevant to the topics in this article.

KDP Select-Countdown. Amazon’s newest addition to promoting eBooks exclusive to the Kindle store. Unlike the “free promo option” it doesn’t require giving your book away for free. Again, study the fine print for this program because the ‘Countdown’ rules are more complex than its sister program:

KDP Select-free promo days. Hybrid author Lily Harlem uses KDP Select strategically and only for her self-published titles. But this in turn promotes her writing which translates to higher sales of her traditionally published titles. She schedules all five days at once claiming it gives her “a better chance to build momentum during that highly competitive period between Christmas and New Year’s.”

PunchTab, Rafflecopter and Wildfire. Three tools to help simplify running contests, giveaways and rewards programs from your website.

Apple eBook coupons. Requires a direct distribution arrangement with Apple. Login to your iTunes Connect panel, select Manage Your Books, pick a book, select Promo Codes. Coupons for free books are good for four weeks. You can generate 50 coupons per eBook.

Smashwords coupons. Visit your Dashboard and select Coupon Manager. You can promote the book for free, or a discount if the book is priced $.99 or higher.

Sell your eBook (and books) from your website. A number of e-commerce sales tools allow the use of discount codes. In addition to those featured in my October 2012 Independent article (Selling E-books Direct to Readers: Options and Considerations) you should consider Ganxy and e-Junkie.

It’s Never Too Late

book-bands-1Even though it’s early December it’s not too late to at least experiment. You have a mailing list, right? Reward your most loyal readers with a special offer. Try an upsell. Whatever you do can be easily adapted for the next holiday and refined by the time the 2014 holidays roll around.

Good luck and please drop a note in the comments box if you have tips to share. Perhaps next year we’ll have an even longer list of holiday promotion ideas. The holidays always seem to come faster than we expect!

DavidAbout the Author: David Wogahn is the author of Successful eBook Publishing and the Lynda.com course Distributing and Marketing eBooks. He is a frequent speaker for Publishers and Writers of San Diego and blogs at www.sellbox.com.

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