Ten Tips to Increase E-Book Sales During the Holidays

By Jeremy Greenfield, Editorial Director, Digital Book World, @JDGsaid

On December 25, millions of consumers will unwrap new Kindles, iPads and Nooks – and that means millions more customers for e-books this holiday season.

Sales of Kindle products were up 300% this Black Friday over Black Friday 2010. Citigroup analyst Mark Mahaney predicted that Amazon will sell five million Kindle Fires in the fourth quarter of 2011 and will have sold 12 million by the end of 2012.

Nooks, iPads and e-book-ready cell phones are reportedly also hot holiday items.

With consumers and retailers engaged in a commercial frenzy over the next five weeks, it’s a great time for publishers, book-sellers and authors to boost e-book sales.

It’s also a good time to lay the groundwork for the all-important week after the holidays. Last year, e-book sales out-stripped print book sales the week after the holidays as many new tablet- and e-reader-owners loaded up on new books to read.

Digital Book World spoke with publishers, authors and experts for tips on how to take advantage of the holidays to sell more e-books.


Cut Through the Clutter

Everyone is running holiday specials, so how do you cut through the white noise of all the other sales?

“During the season, everyone is trying to sell a book, so if you’re like ‘buy my book,’ it’s not going to carry over well,” says Carolyn McCray, an e-book sales specialist and author of Dollars & Sense: 
The Definitive Guide to Self-publishing Success

Book advertising and social media should seek to enlighten and entertain first, sell second. Write several Tweets about the holidays and then work in a link to the book-sale page, says McCray.


Work With Amazon

During the holidays, people buy a lot more than books and spend a lot of time on Amazon.com doing so. Following the flow of consumers, publishers and authors should send prospective buyers over to their book page on Amazon, says McCray.

“They already are probably going to Amazon” for their holiday shopping, she says. “This is a sales platform they’re familiar with – it’s just one-click for them to buy your book.”

Related: Best Practices for Amazon E-Book Sales


Use Your Blog

Writing content that might attract readers to your blog is a known strategy for selling books all-year-round. During the holidays, more readers will be attracted by content related to the season, says Doug Klostermann, author of The E-Book Handbook, a book about creating and marketing e-books.

“I do holiday lists,” says Klostermann, who also writes books about using digital cameras. “Like, ‘Top Ten Accessories for Your New Canon DSLR.’”


The Straight Holiday Sale

For the first time, Hachette Book Group USA will combine consumer advertising with holiday promotion: Online ads that will drive users to a holiday Web page that will point consumers to online retailers. The company is also offering several separate holiday specials.

The campaign is designed to reach consumers during the holidays and after when they will be unwrapping new e-readers, according to Sophie Cottrell, a spokesperson for Hachette Book Group USA.

The holiday specials include “Eight Nights of Light Reading,” an eight-day program from December 19 through December 25 where Hachette will be promoting eight romance and eight mystery titles, two genres that sell particularly well in e-book format for Hachette, according to Cottrell.


Readers who enjoy one holiday book may enjoy another.

During the holidays, readers of children’s book apps made by Encinitas, Calif.-based Oceanhouse Media will see banner ads pointing to holiday books sold by Oceanhouse.

“If you’re on a Cat in the Hat title, you get banner advertising focused on holiday titles” as opposed to the usual banner ads readers would see in that app during non-holiday times, says Michel Kripalani, president of Oceanhouse, which publishes Dr. Seuss and Berenstain Bears apps, among others.

Kripalani called the increase in sales from the same tactic last year “significant.”

Hachette is running a similar program throughout the holidays, offering an e-book sampler of excerpts from some of Hachette’s best-selling e-books along with a story by David Sedaris from his collection, Holidays on Ice.

Related: Using ‘Sales Nodes’ to Increase E-Book Sales


Adjust Pricing

This may seem obvious, but dropping prices on Black Friday, “Cyber Monday” and other key dates throughout the holidays – like the day after Christmas – can help boost sales.

Remain in Light, a new mystery novel from Vanilla Heart Publishing, dropped its price to $2.99 from $4.99 for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, for instance. Another price drop is planned before the print release in January, according to the book’s author, Collin Kelley.

New York-based E-book publisher Open Road Media is having a widespread price promotion for the holidays starting on Cyber Monday, where about 900 of its titles are 60% off list price. After the holidays, Open Road will continue its promotion but re-frame it as “starter packs” for those with new e-readers, according to Josh Raffel, a spokesperson for Open Road.


Create the Holiday Mood

With social media and advertising, book promotion should put buyers into the holiday mood – even if you’re not selling holiday books.

Selling a medieval romance during the holidays may sound tough, but using words like “solstice” and “yuletide” in holiday-related promotion through advertising and social media can help you do that, according to McCray, the e-book sales specialist.

“If you want to sell something that harks back to the days of yore, you’ve got to get them in the mood for the days of yore,” she says.


Match Product Description to the Mood

If you’re going to alter your marketing, alter your product description to match.

“If I’m in the mood for whatever you put out on social media or in paid advertising, I need to feel that mood in the product description,” says McCray.

Freshen up your product description with the same words you used to promote your books for the holidays so that when readers arrive at the book page, they are presented with the same mood that attracted them to the page to begin with.


Involve Authors

Readers want to connect with authors during the holidays just like every other time of year. Authors who are involved in marketing their own books should tailor their promotional behavior for the holiday season.

Through social media and blogs, book authors should offer up personal holiday information that will help readers establish a personal connection during this time of year, like their favorite gifts, what they do during the holidays and favorite holiday drinks, for instance.

Readers will respond well to this type of content and be more receptive to buying the authors’ books, says McCray.


A ‘Dark’ Secret: Counterprogramming

What if you don’t have any books that should sell well during the holidays? What if when most people want holiday cheer you only sell dark romances or bloody detective novels?

Then use this time of year to promote those “dark” alternatives to the cheer of the season, says McCray.

“Some people aren’t in the mood for Rudolph and want something different. You’ll want to appeal to those people,” she says.

So, in your Twitter feed, Facebook page and other promotion and advertising for those books, emphasize the dark side of Christmas: the long nights and the cold days. To be sure, it’s a smaller audience than those who want holly and mistletoe, but it’s one that shouldn’t be ignored – even during this time of year.

Write to Jeremy Greenfield




8 thoughts on “Ten Tips to Increase E-Book Sales During the Holidays

  1. Brian O'Leary

    A small nit, and I know you’re picking up the headline from the Financial Post, but selling four times as many of something this year versus last year represents a 300% increase:

    (4x – x)/x) = 3 X 100 = 300%

    Kind of makes you want to rethink any faith you might have put in the Financial Post.

    1. Brian Fletcher

      A bracket is missing from your calculation Brian. It should read
      ((4x – x)/x) = 3 x 100 = 300%.

      For a full explanation and to improve understanding of arithmetic see my book:

      ‘Anyone Can Do Arithmetic’
      published by Matador

  2. JRTomlin

    To be contrarian: Most of the books sold for Christmas and after Christmas to use the gift cards and to fill up those new Kindles won’t have anything to do with the holiday mood, so I have to question that trying to force most of our novels to have anything to do with holidays are the way to go. In fact, on Dec. 26th it would probably be a disadvantage.

    I am changing the appearance of my blog to show a medieval festival but otherwise, I don’t see much advantage in trying to pretend that novels are Christmasy.

    1. Jeremy Greenfield Post author

      That’s a good point, and, of course, most books aren’t holiday books, so why try to force it? Still, if you do want to increase sales of those non-holiday books over the next six weeks, it’s a tactic you could try.

  3. Jim Carter

    Thank you for your very insightful post. I am a new guy in the attempt to become an ebook author, my success to this point has been limited at best. I was just browsing this morning when I came across your post. Sometime it just takes a little nudge to make one think of things. Your mention of using the social media sites made me think of one or two more things that I can try with a couple of my campaigns.
    Thank you for the nudge. I will certainly be back to check out your site again.

  4. Augusto Alvaro

    Authors must be open for all opportunities and chances to grow. Good thing is that Amazon is offering people to affiliate with them.

    You get more traffic and get paid a % from promoting Amazon’s related products.

    Thanks for the article.



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