September 11, 2023

Episode 37:
Navigating the Yuletide Shelves:

Top Trends and Strategies for
Holiday Book Marketing

Learn the trends and buyer psychology of the last two months of the year that will help you sell more books

Episode 37: Navigating the Yuletide Shelves: Top Trends and Strategies for Holiday Book Marketing

by Carma Spence | The Author Switch Podcast


It’s time to start planning for the holiday season and gear up for the festive rush to capture readers’ attention. In this episode of The Author Switch Podcast, host Carma Spence dives into the world of holiday book marketing, sharing:

  • Why it’s crucial to start planning as early as September.
  • The top trends driving this year’s holiday book marketing landscape.
  • Innovative strategies that go beyond the traditional playbook.

Whether you’re a seasoned author or just starting out, this episode will equip you with actionable insights to make your books shine during the most wonderful time of the year.

Recap & Takeaways

  • 00:49 Why the holidays are important for book marketing
  • 01:42 Why start planning as early as September
  • 03:29 Top trends affecting holiday book sales
  • 10:43 Holiday buyer psychology
  • 19:10 Tips for holiday book offers
Maverick Marketing Mastermind

Transcript for Episode 37: Navigating the Yuletide Shelves: Top Trends and Strategies for Holiday Book Marketing

Hello, and welcome to episode 37 of The Author Switch Podcast. I’m your host, Carma Spence. And today we’re going to be talking about something that a lot of people won’t be talking about for a couple of months, but you really should be talking about now. And you’ll learn what I’m talking about in just a moment.

I just wanted to share this little factoid with you. In 2019, which was just before the pandemic, 25% of books sold that year were all sold in November and December, the holiday months.

That means 25%, one fourth of all books sold in 2019 were sold in one sixth of a year. So if you’re not maximizing your holiday shopping season for your books, your products, your services, any offer you have, then you are leaving money on the table. And this is especially true with books because one of the biggest retailers, that sells books, is Amazon, and Amazon makes a killing in December and November.

So you really should be maximizing this time of year. However, if you’re not planning for it until, oh, October, or worse yet, November, you’ve already lost the game.

So what I want to do tonight is share with you the things that are important for you to know so that you can start planning and maximizing your holiday sales right now.

But before I go into that, I’m going to give you a little bit about me just in case you are new to my world. My name is Carma Spence, and I am an award winning and bestselling author. I’ve been an author for 16 years. Two of my books have made it to bestseller and one has won three awards. I have five books out right now and that’s physical books.

I also have numerous eBooks. I’ve contributed to numerous anthologies which have become international bestsellers. And I’ve been in PR and marketing for 30 years. So, I’ve got a little bit of knowledge around this. And on top of that, I have been certified in book marketing for two years now, and I’m going into my third year next month, I think it is.

So how do you make the most of your holiday buying season? And just so you know, I’m looking down every moment because I’ve got Notes. I’ve got four pages of notes to share with you because I found some really, really good stuff to share with you today. So, how do you make the most of your holiday buying season?

There are three things that need to happen. You need to understand what the trends are. Understand the buyer psychology of this time of year. And then leverage both when creating your offers. So, I’m going to go into each of these three items separately.

The first one is understanding the trends. Now, I can’t cover all the trends, but I’m going to cover the top ones that are most important for people who are selling books, authors.

So the first trend is the rise of eBooks and audiobooks. Print books, yes, they do sell more than eBooks and audiobooks right now. In 2019, which is the most recent data I was able to find, 65% of books that were sold, were physical. But this interest is waning. And it has been waning every year.

eBooks and audiobooks are on the rise, and if you ignore this, you are leaving money on the table.

In 2019, 25% of adults read an eBook. And 20% of U.S. consumers listened to an audiobook within the past year. Now, sales of audiobooks have been continuously growing every year since 2012. That is, that is a statistic you can’t ignore.

Audiobooks are selling and selling and selling. And there are people who will not read your book if you don’t have it in audiobook format. So, that is a trend you really need to pay attention to.

The second trend is the dominance of Amazon. Now, I alluded to this earlier in the podcast, and that is Amazon is the number one store that people go to for holiday shopping.

Take that in.

Of all the retailers they could possibly go shopping at, they go to Amazon first. In fact, Amazon reportedly accounted for 81% of internet sales against all other big box retailers from December 1st to December 19th in 2018. And you know that that number has been growing every year. That’s just the latest data I was able to find.

And on top of that, add on to it what’s going on with the bestseller rankings. So, USA Today’s bestseller list has been on hiatus since, oh, December of last year. And there’s no murmurings of it coming back. It’s probably going to be on hiatus forever. And there’s been a lot of articles recently about the, oh, let’s just put integrity of the New York Times bestseller.

So, really, that leaves the Amazon bestseller. Now, a lot of people look poo poo the Amazon bestseller because it’s quote unquote easy to get to. And yes, depending on what category you’re in, it can be, but being number one on the Amazon list. of all Amazon is not easy, but getting a bestseller button on your book is not terribly hard, but it is accurate because it is based on actual sales on that platform.

So when you get that bestseller ranking, you actually got it. You didn’t pay to get it, although you may have. paid to get people to notice your book, you didn’t pay them to buy it. People bought your book, and you earned that bestseller. So really, of all the bestseller lists that are available right now, Amazon’s the one that has the most real numbers.

Then the third trend is the rise of short form video. You can’t ignore short form video. I love long form because I love to share a lot of data and information. And short form, ideally 60 seconds or less. It’s hard to really go deep in just 60 seconds or less, but you can provide actionable tips. You can provide one tip in 60 seconds or less.

And that gets you noticed because people are binge watching these things. We’ve got TikTok, YouTube Shorts, Reels, on both Facebook and Instagram and other platforms are also falling into line with the short form video. And people love short form video because they can consume it quickly, get the gist, and move on.

In fact, Twitter and Threads are also including short form video now. Although I’m, I’m not sure where, where Threads is growing, so I’m not gonna. Put my hat on that one just yet. But definitely TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, Instagram. They’re all going short form video.

The next trend is the importance of email marketing and digital marketing methods in general.

According to at least one publishing expert, email is 100 times more effective than social media when it comes to book sales, book sales. That means you need to be building your list so that you have people to email to, to say, Hey. Buy my book. I’ve got this special going for Christmas or Thanksgiving or whatever offer you come up with. Cyber Monday. Black Friday. Which by the way, Black Friday is less than 90, 90 days away from this recording because Saturday was 90 days. It is now minus two is 88. Right? Yes. 88 days away. And when this podcast goes live, it’ll be even less.  So you really need to be planning for this stuff now.

Another digital marketing tactic that’s got a fair amount of traction, especially, it kind of got its start in the pandemic, and that was virtual author events. Because you couldn’t go in person, so virtual author events became really popular. Well, their popularity hasn’t died. In fact, it’s growing. And I think it’s mainly because it’s so convenient. You don’t have to pack anything. You don’t have to get in your car and drive anywhere. You can just turn on your computer, go into the Zoom room or the Facebook live, watch it and then be done.

No travel time involved. People love that.

And I’m going to, I’m going to harp this again. And email marketing has become the most effective marketing tool in general, but during the holidays, this effectiveness is increased. So you really want to be planning for your email marketing efforts during the holiday time.

And you want to do that now so that you’re not doing it in a hurry. Because when you do something rushed, it feels like you’re doing it in desperation mode, and you don’t want to do that.

And the last trend I want to talk about is the rise of mobile. A majority of online traffic is from mobile devices these days, and in 2018, again, the most recent data I have, smartphones accounted for over half of website visits and 31% of revenue for online retailers.

And you know, I mean, that’s old data. You know, it’s higher now. So you need to make sure that when you’re making your offers, you’re doing it in a mobile friendly manner.

So that’s the first thing you need to understand. You need to understand the trends.

The next thing you need to understand is biopsychology, in particular around the holidays. So there are a number of things that people are thinking of in November and December. And I’m going to go through them and sort of give you a snapshot of what they’re saying in their head, because it is November, December.

The first is emotional connection and sentimentality. The holidays bring up a lot of family memories. So they’re often thinking, I want to buy something that evokes that feeling for me or will help bridge a connection with someone they love. So if your book can do that, you’ve got an in to that particular buyer’s psychology.

And so what they’re saying to themselves is something like, “I want to find something that brings back the warm memories of past holidays.”  Or they might be saying, “this gift will really show how much I care about them.” this is what they’re thinking when they buy something during the holidays.

Another buyer psychology that’s going on, which kind of has a dark side, but it depends on how you look at it, and that’s social pressure and gift giving.

People feel like they have to give gifts during the holidays. And so, why not buy your book? That’s what I’m saying. So what’s going on in their mind is, “I need to find the perfect gift, so they know that I appreciate them”  and “Everyone else is exchanging gifts. I don’t want to be the only one who’s left empty handed.” so if you can solve that problem by giving them a great gift at a great price, they’re sold.

Another thing that’s going through their mind is limited time offers and scarcity, coupled with the fear of missing out –the dreaded FOMO. So during this time of the year everybody is offering sales. And so people are looking into their emails to find these bargains and they know these bargains are going to go away, so they are more apt to take you up on a discount because FOMO.

So, what’s going on in their mind is something like, “This sale is too good to pass up. I should buy it now before it’s gone.”   “I’ve been eyeing this item and the discount ends soon. I should make a decision now.” “If I don’t buy now, it might be sold out and I’ll regret not getting it.” “I don’t want to miss out on this deal. I should grab it while I can.”

So if you can feed into those, those little conversations going into their mind with your offer of your book, you’re more likely to get that sale.

Another thing, which is sort of the reverse part of the FOMO gift giving, is gift giving as a self-expression. And this is sort of like my Ballywick because I personally believe that a gift should be an expression of the relationship of the giver and the gifted.

So I like to pick out gifts that express who I am in relation to the person I’m giving it to. Anyway, that’s just my personal philosophy. But people often give gifts as a way to express who they are and how they feel about the person they’re giving the gift to. So, they might be thinking, “Gee, this person really loves this hobby or this interest, so this gift will really resonate with them.” So they’re thinking of the person they’re giving the gift to. Another one is, “This gift reflects who I am and what I value. It’s the perfect choice.”

So you see how there’s two sides of the gift giving coin and if you can tie your gift into giving this gift to the one you love will show them how much you care about them or how much you have been listening to what their interests and hobbies are.

Another buyer psychology is convenience and time constraints. The holiday season is so busy. And I know I don’t need to tell you this. We all, we all, we all experience this busyness of the holiday season. And you’re getting, you’ve got all these responsibilities and there’s, you’re all this noise coming at you in the malls, on the tv, in the radio, streaming, everywhere. You’re getting bombarded with messages to go buy this or go do this or …it’s overwhelming. Not to mention the phone calls from family members saying “Are you coming to our house? Are you coming to our house?” Or “Are we coming over to your house?” That’s another one.

Anyway, the things that are going on their mind and why you need to be leveraging online options is, “Online shopping is so much easier, I can avoid the holiday crowds.”  This is probably the number one reason why Amazon dominates holidays. Because you can get anything on Amazon, ship it, and they’ll even wrap it for you. Another thought that’s going through their mind is “I don’t have much time to shop. I’ll go with the first option I find.”

So if you can get in front of them at the right time, you’re more likely to get that sale. So it’s actually, there’s one more thing. Get in front of them at the right time with the right offer.

Another buyer psychology that’s going on is end of year reflection and resolution. So, as the year comes to a close, people start reflecting on, “Gee, how well did this year go? Did I accomplish my goals? Where did I have my wins?” Or more likely, “Where did I have my failures?” Because we all focus on the negative, which is not a good thing, but a lot of people do. And they’re thinking, how can I make next year better than this year? And that’s even if they had a good year. So if you can tie into these ideas of, “I’ve been meaning to improve whatever it is, buying this can help me get started.” Or “As the year ends, I want to invest in my personal growth and wellbeing. If you can tap into that, if something about your book, your product, your service can help someone in self-development in some way, and that can be health, that can be spirituality, that can be leadership, that can be a wide variety of things.

In fact, my book, Public Speaking Super Powers, perfect gift, because it helps someone improve their speaking skills.

And the last one I’ve got here is Escapism and Celebration. The holidays are a great time to just relax and enjoy your family, your friends, or your favorite Rankin-Bass TV show.  And I might have dated myself there because they were the bomb.

My favorite being the year without a Santa Claus. That’s another point. Another topic altogether. Anyway, the holiday season provides an opportunity for people to escape from the stresses of everyday life and to immerse themselves in festive celebrations. So if your book, product, or service can tap into that and help them celebrate or relax… so this could be a book about, it could be a fiction book. Fiction books are really good. It could be a book about crafts. It could even just be a book about celebrations. Food books are great during the holidays. So if you’ve got a cookbook, that’s a good time to sell.

So the thoughts that are going through their head around this idea is, “I want to create a magical holiday atmosphere. So I’ll buy decorations, craft ideas, whatever it is, so that I can set the mood.”  And “I’ve been working hard. It’s time to enjoy the festivities and have some fun.” And a lot of people take time off from work near the end of the year. So, they want something to do with that time. Why not read your book?

So those are the first two things you need to understand. You need to understand the trends. You need to understand the buyer psychology. The next thing you need to do is leverage those two things when you create your offers. And so I’m going to give you some ideas of how you can do that.

So, my first idea is kind of a no brainer, but I’m going to say it anyway, and that is make your books available in multiple formats. It doesn’t take a lot of effort, at least on Amazon. Once you’ve got your book in KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing, you can make it available in eBook, paperback, and at least for some people, I don’t know if they’ve released it to everyone yet, hardcover.

And with just a little bit of more effort, you can also make it available in audiobook. I highly recommend working with an audio engineer if you’re going to record it yourself, or you can go through the company that produces them and hire someone to voice it for you. I recommend that you voice it, if you can, because that helps build the relationship with your reader better.

The next thing, remember, Amazon’s number one location. So you want to optimize your Amazon presence. That means making your Amazon page optimized. So with keywords and with information and with make sure all your books are there so that when they find one book, they can find all your other books.

Next, start creating short form videos and then upload them to all the platforms.

Why stick to TikTok when you can also add it to YouTube Shorts? You can add it to Reels on Instagram and Facebook. You can post it to Twitter, which is now X. Use that short form video to start building your visibility and your relationships with your potential audience.

And, because it is better for someone else to say how wonderful your book is than it is for you to say how wonderful your book is, partner with, with people who are book enthusiasts specifically in your niche.

So you, if you have a cookbook, find cookbook reviewers and partner with them to get your book reviewed and maybe even do something where you offer that when they sell your book, when they sell your book to their audience, their audience gets this extra thing that’s only available through that particular influencer. So be creative with your partnerships with these people.

Next, develop a strong email campaign and start building your list now. The best time for you to build your list was yesterday. The next best time is NOW. Build your list now so that you have people to email when the holidays get here. And start developing that email campaign now so that you can really hone your message and have the time to get all the pieces together.

Because if you do it last minute, you’re just going to do something that’s half assed and not so good. And it’s going to give you half assed results. In fact, it might give you no assed results because that’s what’s happened to me. Don’t do, don’t do that.

Next, make sure that your online presence is mobile friendly. Now, if you’re already on Facebook or Instagram, those pieces are done for you. But your website, you need to make sure that your website is mobile friendly. And if you can, when you’re designing your emails, make them mobile friendly too. I don’t know if all the email platforms do this, but I know that Aweber, the one that I use, has an option where you can look at your email, what it looks like in mobile, what it looks like on a computer. Check that. Make sure that what you’re sending your people looks good in mobile.

And finally, create offers that tap into the buyer psychology. So is there something about your book that plays into one of these things? Nostalgia, holidays, family, self-improvement, or the perfect gift?

If you can get your book to tie into one of those five things, or more than one of those five things, then you can create an offer that plays to the buyer psychology of November and December. Then you want to create specific deals for each different holiday. So the holidays that are your best options are:

• Thanksgiving,
• Black Friday,
• Cyber Monday,
• the first two weeks of December, which is basically the prime holiday shopping,
• the third week of December, which is for last minute shoppers,
• and then the last week of December and the first week of January, which is where people start redeeming their gift cards and their gift money and preparing for the new year.

So if you create campaigns or offers for each of those different types of holiday times, then you’re more likely to increase your sales.

So in conclusion, I want to, I want to encourage you to maximize this opportunity. You really need to be thinking, planning, and preparing now, now, September. And I’m working on something that could help you do that. I’m not ready to announce it, but if you’re interested, send me a message in the DMs or comment on where you’ve seen this post and I will get back to you with more information as I have it.

So I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of The Author Switch Podcast. This is the end of the episode and ciao for now.

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The Author Switch is a podcast dedicated to helping experts, entrepreneurs, and small business owners turn on The Author Switch — and keep it on — so that they can leverage the power of books to take their businesses to a whole new dimension. Learn more about the show and where it is available on its page.