This morning, I read a great article in The Telegraph entitled “Book discount frenzy as Super Thursday arrives.” Within the article, a quote that resonated with me comes from Mike Jones, the non-fiction director at Simon & Schuster, who states “Christmas has begun already.” In an effort to capture the attention of the “constantly connected consumer,” the holiday sale season seems to start earlier and earlier each year. For major publishers looking to promote titles within “a declining market, a tough economy and [a market with] structural changes – such as ebooks,” the holiday marketing season has to start early. As self-published authors, we are not immune to the same market realities that major publishers are currently facing. As such, we too need to start our holiday marketing efforts now too. Thus, I have to ask “what’s your Q4 book marketing strategy?”
Given the diversity of our author base, many of us will have different strategies. However, I’ve outlined some holiday book marketing tips below that should help many of us. I would also encourage you to post your own tips and ideas on this blog or on our Facebook page to help your fellow authors gear up for Q4 and sell as many books as possible.
Discounting your book – when and by how much?
You don’t need a PhD to know that discounting is a major part of the holiday shopping season. The real challenge is figuring out when to discount and by how much. Prior to the 2010 holiday season, Forrester Research forecasted that “deep discounts will also be in play, but key dates such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be of utmost importance … [r]etailers must expect heavy price-based competition this season and be prepared to play.” I would encourage Lulu authors to plan on offering deep discounts of their books, at the very least, during the pillars of the holiday season – Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To do so, use our Discount Manager that lets you set your book’s list price as you always have and then set a discount to that list price to be shown alongside your regular price. To find out more about our Discount Manager, please click the following link. Please note that, due to distribution requirements, you cannot discount eBooks.
The discount percentage that you offer during the holidays will depend on what your book’s list price is currently set to and the level of discount you are willing to provide. There are countless statistics available online that address holiday shopping discount thresholds. Internetretailer.com, for instance, reports that “the percent-off discount offered most frequently during the 2010 holiday season was 30% off compared with 20% off in 2009.”
Harness the power of the board at work network
Cyber Monday is not an official holiday, so most people will be hunting for deals on November 28th when they should be WORKING!!! I refer to this group as “The Board at Work Network.” These folks will be spending their idle moments at work scouring for deals. For Cyber Monday 2010, comscore.com reports that “nearly half of dollars spent online at U.S. Web sites originated from work computers (48.9 percent)”. If you plan on discounting and promoting your book during Cyber Monday, timing will play an important role. Consider targeting your audience during lunch breaks and when you think folks at work may have time to shop.
Don’t relay simply on social media
Social media is a great way for self-published authors to promote their work, but we shouldn’t rely simply on such channels. In a 2010 study, 33 percent of respondents agreed that “recommendations from friends on social media sites are a great way to get gift ideas during the holiday season,” while 24 percent disagreed with 43 percent remaining neutral.
As comscore.com reports, recommendations on social media sites may help drive sales but “it may not be a primary driver for many consumers.” In short, find other ways to reach your audience.
“Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”?
Nomenclature during the holiday season is a point of contention for some. You certainly don’t want to offend anyone – particularly potential buyers. Senior editor at the Pew Research Center, Jodie Allen, reports that “when given the option of hearing ‘Merry Christmas’ or a less religious greeting—like ‘Happy Holidays’ — in stores and businesses, Americans do choose Merry Christmas by a 60 percent-to-23 percent margin.” Allen continues stating that “Seniors (those ages 65 and older) strongly prefer Merry Christmas (64 percent) but the youngest Americans (18-29) are much more likely to say it does not matter (59 percent).” As an author, you know your audience better than anyone. I would say use your judgment when selecting terminology in your marketing efforts. Be mindful of diversity and always respect your audience.
eBooks, eBooks, eBooks
My gut tells me that the best marketing effort an author can do for Q4 is publish an eBook. Whether it is converting an existing title or publishing a new one, eBooks have to be a part of your marketing arsenal. According to the January 2011 sales report from the Association of American Publishers (AAP), “eBook net sales increased by 115.8 percent, up from $32.4 million to $69.9 million.” The iPad was the must have present of last year. We can expect iPad 2s, NOOK eReaders and a whole host of tablets to continue that trend this year. While considered “Boxing Day” in Commonwealth nations, I have made it my personal mission to make December 26th in the United States “Download Day.” This is the day when everyone who got an eReader for Christmas goes online to start downloading books, apps, music and video games onto their new devices. Such toys are useless if you don’t fill them with content, right?! As an author, you want to make sure that your book is included in the inevitable frenzy of file transfer that occurs shortly after Santa flies back home. If you have not done so already, I suggest that you check out Lulu’s new eBook Landing Page where you can download our eBook Creator Guide. There is plenty of information available to help you get your eBook out to the masses with plenty of time to market it before the major holiday rush.
The last thing I would like to add is that it is never too early to start promoting your book. Major publisher are already started their holiday marketing push … so should you! If holiday marketing has already begun, then the best gift you can give other authors is your feedback – as soon as possible. Let us know what has worked for you in the past. If you are a reader, let us know what books you tend to buy during the holidays. Any feedback you can offer not only helps us, it also helps all Lulu authors sell more titles.