The Big Marketing Opportunity That Many Authors Ignore

BY HANNAH GUY • October 13, 2022

The Big Marketing Opportunity That Many Authors Ignore

Anyone who has ever worked in retail—or shopped in a store—knows that the winter holiday season is one of the biggest and most profitable times for sales. We even touched on it briefly last week in How Authors Can Create a Yearlong Marketing Plan…and Stick to It.

According to NPD, almost 25 percent of the year’s books sales come from the holiday season alone. That’s a lot—especially when NPD reports that shoppers in 2020 were planning to spend almost $700 on holiday gifts that year. And whew, wouldn’t you love your books to be included in that?

With inflation rising across the globe, this might be a good time for authors to think about price promotions to advertise their books as a thoughtful and affordable gift. There are even a few ways authors can increase their visibility beyond a few sexy price promotions, including working with another author to offer a bundle deal or a cross-promotion where each author advertises the other’s book on their website, on social media, or in their promotional materials. Authors can also hit up their personal network to promote books to their friends, family, and followers.

But there is one specific marketing opportunity that opens up every year around this time: the holiday gift guide.

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), most consumers are thinking about gift ideas well before the first snow. Not only that, but more than half have likely already started researching what gifts to buy. This is definitely the time to plan your strategy to get your book in front of people. And this is where the gift guide comes in handy.

“The term gift guide can refer to almost any collection of purchase recommendations, which can be delivered in a zillion different ways—a slideshow on a website, a series of embedded links in a YouTube video, a bunch of Instagram Stories saved as a ‘highlight’ on a model’s profile page,” writes Amanda Mull in “What Happens When You Buy From Gift Guides.” “Newspapers and magazines have been providing holiday selections to their readers for generations.”

And Mull says that being written about in almost any capacity is way more effective than being seen in an adverisement. “James Nord, the founder and CEO of Fohr Card, an agency that helps influencers find and negotiate ad campaigns with brands, thinks the gift-guide format has been so widely adopted by publishers and advertisers alike because it serves both masters: It attracts readers and turns them into buyers. Nord likens a recommendation from a popular writer or influencer to a tip from your coolest friend.”

For authors, getting this kind of attention for a book may seem intimidating and a little overwhelming. Not to fear! One of the key ways to figure out who to approach (and when) is by doing your research. Things to keep in mind:

  • Will this influencer, blog, or publication reach my target demographic?
  • Is my book a good recommendation for this audience?
  • What makes my book a better suggestion than another product or gift?
  • Am I being realistic about my chances of being featured?

Much like pitching a book for publication or review, a big part of your success is going to come from taking a thoughtful and creative approach.

1) Think about who you’re approaching and how they’ll best respond. You might create a special promotional package to send to your top ten book influencers and include a copy of your book; a short, complimentary greeting; and a few fun promotional products that are branded to your book’s topic. Make it fun, attractive, and unique, and don’t be afraid to get (tastefully) creative.

2) Reach out early. Introduce yourself, your book, and why your book is a perfect fit for this publication, blog, or influencer’s audience. Don’t be afraid to be complimentary.

3) Think of fun ways for them to feature your book. Depending on what your book’s genre is, think of a fun spin or twist on who might be the perfect reader. “For the thirsty vampire.” “For a romance-loving cat lady.” “For your fave D&D nerd.” But don’t forget to position your book for its ideal audience as well.

4) Make sure you follow up. People can be busy, and while it’s easy to assume they simply don’t care, sometimes the person you’ve reached out to might have forgotten or have questions. It's possible they didn't even receive your package.

A gift guide can be a powerful way to feature and advertise your book to an entirely new audience at a time when readers are looking to buy books—not only for themselves but also for their loved ones. This is the one time of year when people are, in fact, looking to spend money. And if you play your cards right, your book might be on someone’s holiday list for a hot new have-to-read book.

And that would be a cool holiday present indeed.

Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.

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