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Promoting Holiday Sales for Your Self-Published Books

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


Are All Books Holiday Sales-Worthy?

I have some author friends whose books are prime candidates for holiday sales. One has written a series of cookbooks for kids and their parents, and she’s launching a new cookie book in the fall. That one could be a hit. Fiction, inspirational, art, cooking, craft, and children’s books could be good candidates for gift-giving promotions.

But I write business nonfiction books. So it’s unlikely that my books will generate a lot of gift sales, except for my typical readers who might want to buy some books for themselves. For my holiday sales push, I could use a “buy a gift for yourself” message. As well, many businesses make additional purchases for education and other expenses during the fourth quarter of the year so that they can write them off on their tax returns.

Remember, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is traditionally the biggest retail sales period during the year for everything, not just gifts. That’s why they call the day after Thanksgiving "Black Friday," because that’s when retailers can go from showing a net loss in red ink on their profit and loss statements to a black net profit figure, meaning they’re making more money than they spend operating the business.

Using Holiday Book Discounts and Deals

If you self-publish your eBooks on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and have enrolled your titles in KDP Select, you can easily launch a Kindle Countdown Deal to help increase sales.

Where it gets trickier is with print books you’ve self-published through KDP. Sure, you can reduce the price of your book temporarily as a special promotion. Realize, though, that there is a minimum price Amazon will allow you to charge for print books on KDP. This is due to cost factors of printing and handling your book.

Obviously, too, if you reduce your print book price to the minimum, you could end up making no money on these reduced-price sales, even if you increase your sales volume. Do a book price analysis to make sure you’re making money while making sales.

Book Advertising During the Holidays

If you’re using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) advertising for your books, you might be tempted to throw more money into your book ads during the peak holiday buying season. Proceed with caution!

As Amazon becomes more and more of an advertising platform, bigger advertisers with more money can squeeze out small author advertisers, particularly during peak shopping seasons. If you pump up your AMS ad spend, monitor your spend and results frequently (at least weekly) so that you can make adjustments to keep it from stealing your royalties and profits.

I’ve heard reports that some authors have had success making book sales through social media ads, particularly on Facebook. I’ve personally not had much success with ads for books on Facebook, regardless of the time of the year. As with AMS ads on Amazon, if you use the likes of Facebook or Instagram for ads, monitor your ad spend closely during your holiday campaigns and make adjustments so that you don’t gain sales while losing money.

Timing of Holiday Sales Promotions for Books

When I’ve run Black Friday Kindle Countdown Deal promotions in the past, there hasn’t been a groundswell of sales. Some of that may be due to the topic of my books not being holiday oriented or appropriate for gifting. Or maybe it was due to it being a Countdown Deal which I've found to have limited sales impact. Hard to tell.

The timing of holiday book sales can be a bit hit or miss. True, the big shopping days of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are when a lot of holiday sales are made. But your book promotions might get lost in the flood of Black Friday/Cyber Monday email promotions, social media posts, and advertising. So it might not be a big win to promote during that time. Spacing promotions throughout the peak holiday buying season might be more successful.

Finding the ideal holiday promotion times for your books will require a bit of trial and error. Experiment and analyze your results regularly during your campaign so that you can make adjustments before your ad spend eats into profits from your sales.

Tell Them How to Buy Your Book

Though most people are aware of how to buy gifts, including books, on Amazon, some may not be. So it doesn’t hurt to tell your buyers how easy it is to give your books as gifts.

It’s pretty easy to purchase a Kindle eBook to give as a gift. Your buyers can even select a delivery date just in time for holiday giving. All your buyers need is the recipient’s email address.

If you have audiobook editions on Audible, your book buyers can give those as gifts, too. On Audible/Amazon, it’s about as easy to send an audiobook as it is to send a Kindle eBook gift. All that’s needed is the recipient’s email address.

Print books are similarly easy to order as gifts, but a physical address is needed, of course. Gift wrapping may be available for your buyers, too.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Heidi Thorne


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 02, 2020:

Peggy, it's the least I can do. I remember when I was trying to figure it all out over the years (and still am!). So many wonderful people shared their experiences, both in person and online, that helped me navigate these waters. I consider it good karma.

And thank you for spreading the good karma around by sharing with your author friends.

Appreciate your support! Stay safe and well!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 31, 2020:

You provide so much information for book authors from your own experiences. It is gracious of you to share that information with others. I am forwarding some of this information to people I know who wish to enter that field of book publishing.

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 22, 2019:

Thanks Heidi. I will scan with your tons of articles. And looking forward to learn more about it.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on November 22, 2019:

Luis, I have a ton of articles on self publishing books. Just scan through the articles listed on my profile and I think you'll find a lot of answer to questions you might have. Pop into the Comments in any of the articles with more specific questions as you go along. Good luck with your book!

Luis G Asuncion from City of San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan, Philippines on November 21, 2019:

Actually I am planning to have a self published book, but I do not know how to start.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 24, 2019:

Hi Adrienne! I just hate looking at my email that Black Friday weekend because there are so many offers. Ugh! So if I'm promoting something, I want to send it when it might (emphasis on "might") get a bit more attention.

Thanks so much for stopping by and have a lovely day!

Adrienne Farricelli on October 24, 2019:

Heidi, thanks for posting all these important tips. It is true that on Black Friday, there are so many sales going on that it is easy to feel overwhelmed. I like your idea of spacing out sales throughout the holiday season.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 11, 2019:

Hi Marie! Indeed it is a balancing act when you self publish. I wish I could say it was a 1-for-1 between writing and promotion. Sadly, it's more like 1-for-4. :( Marketing and social media take an inordinate amount of time.

Thanks for adding the perspective to the conversation! Have a lovely weekend!

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on October 10, 2019:

Good, thoughtful advice. You undoubtedly have some experience.

I'm not a marketer myself. Many creative people fall into my dilemma; they'd rather create than promote. Of course, it's a shame when one's work isn't being appreciated by anyone or so few people that there's little renewal of inspiration.

Rejection slips by traditional publishers is discouraging, so self-publishing is attractive. The drawback is that you have to promote yourself!

Where's the balance? One hour of promotion time for every hour of writing? It's certainly something to think about.

Thank you for sharing.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 04, 2019:

Thanks, Donna, for your kind comments! Agreed, it is very tempting to go nuts with holiday advertising in the hopes of getting some quick sales. Sadly, it doesn't work like that.

Appreciate you stopping by! Have a beautiful weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 04, 2019:

Aw, Linda, that's so nice to say! As I'm sure you can appreciate, you never get out of teaching mode once you've been in it (I used to teach college as an adjunct business faculty).

Thanks so much for your kind words! Have a lovely weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 04, 2019:

Hi Mary! Holidays can be especially good for some book genres and topics. So I, too, hope that some self published author friends will give holiday promos a try.

Thanks for joining the conversation! Have a great weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 04, 2019:

Flourish, with Amazon getting more competitive with bigger advertisers joining the game, it's easy to overspend on ads. I'm monitoring it very closely since I've seen a shift since I started Amazon ads in 2016.

Though I figured you could gift an Audible book since it's Amazon, I double-checked before writing this to make sure. For audio book fans (and their ranks are growing), it would be a welcome gift to supplement their Audible membership credits.

Thanks for chiming in! Have a beautiful fall weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on October 04, 2019:

Bill, well, if you're achieving what you want without the marketing wars, don't fret about not being a book promoting ninja. But at least you'll have some ideas for when that day comes.

Thanks for taking a moment from your walks with Maggie and your writing to stop by. Happy Weekend!

Donna Herron from USA on October 04, 2019:

Hi Heidi - Although I am not familiar with selling on Amazon and other online publishing platforms, I can see how the holidays would be a tempting time to push for more sales. You offer some great advice for self-published authors here. I agree that any small publisher should be cautious in trying to compete with all the other online offers at the holidays. Thanks for another great article!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on October 03, 2019:

Once again, you've shared some very useful information, You have a wealth of knowledge about self-publishing that is always interesting to read. You're a great teacher, Heidi!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on October 03, 2019:

Another article full of good tips. The Holidays would be a great time to get sales so I hope those who have self-published books will benefit from these recommendations,

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 03, 2019:

With ad rates at a premium around Christmas I imagine an author could quickly spend more than their budget. I’ve never considered gifting a book on Audible. I figured if you cannot unwrap it it doesn’t feel like a gift but actually you can return those easily if you don’t like them. I like that idea.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 03, 2019:

Great information as always, Heidi. I wish I had met you years ago, and I wish I had the drive to self-promote that I once had.....but I'll file this just in case one day the old Bill wakes up from his marketing slumber and resumes the marketing wars.

Have a great weekend, my friend!