Promote Your Books as Christmas Gifts

Christmas gift shopping is big business. The average American spends around $700 on holiday gifts and goodies. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. holiday sales account for about 20% of all retail sales each year.

As a small publisher or independent author, you can cash in on this gift buying trend to sell more books. By promoting your books as a great Christmas gift idea, you can sell more books.

Many people start Christmas shopping early in the fall, so now is a great time to begin promoting your books as gifts. Here are six ways to capitalize on Christmas gift shopping to sell more books.

1. Position Your Book as a Great Gift

Let your fans know that your book makes a great gift. Feature it as a gift idea on your website, in your newsletter or email updates to your fans, and on your social media posts. Your readers may not automatically think of your book as a gift. You can plant and water this idea for your followers.

Let your readers and fans know that they can give your book as either a print book or a digital book as a gift. Amazon Kindle now allows anyone gift a Kindle book through their new “Buy for Others” feature.

When promoting your book as a gift on social media, be sure to use hashtags related to Christmas and gifts to make sure your posts have wide visibility. A few of these hashtags include:

#Christmas
#ChristmasGift
#ChristmasGiftIdeas
#StockingStuffer
#Gifts
#GiftIdeas
#GiftsForHer
#GiftsForHim

2. Offer a Special Christmas Discount

One way to make your book more appealing as a gift is to offer shoppers a special Christmas discount. You can offer a two-for-one deal, free shipping, or even just a special holiday price. Be sure to make your Christmas special or discount time limited to give shoppers a sense of urgency so that they will act on your prompting to purchase your book as a gift with your holiday discount.

3. Create a Bundle for Gift Giving

Many people don’t like to spend a lot of time Christmas shopping. For these individuals, the easier you make shopping for them, the more likely they will buy. One way to make shopping easy for people is to offer a gift bundle. Then instead of having to buy a book from you and then heading over to another store to purchase another gift, you can make it easy by offering a bundle that provides one-stop shopping for your customer.

You can pair your book with another product as a bundle. For example, if your book is about Godliness for young ladies, offer a bundle consisting of your book and a piece of Christian jewelry. If you have a devotional that focuses on men, offer a gift card to Home Depot along with your book. Your gift bundle can be as creative as you allow it to be.

4. Create a Gift Guide for Your Fans

Some people find gift buying tedious and overwhelming. They feel that they lack good ideas about what to buy their loved ones. You can help these individuals by offering a Gift Guide on your website or blog. Feature a number of products that make good gifts for your target audience. Of course, include your book in your guide. Remember, the goal is to provide information that your followers will find helpful.

5. Display Your Books at Local Christmas Craft Bazaars or Holiday Festivals

Every community has Christmas craft bazaars and holiday-themed festivals where local residents can rent a table or booth and showcase their goods a gifts. You can sign up and display your book at these events to promote your book as a gift and garner some sales.

6. Advertise in Holiday Shopping Guides

Numerous magazines, journals, websites, and blogs feature holiday shopping guides. Some require you to pay to advertise your book as a great gift. Others are put on by bloggers where the blog will feature your product as a gift in exchange for a free copy of your book to the blogger. You can pitch bloggers that feature gift guides to ask if they would be willing to include your book or bundle in their guide.

When promoting your book as a gift, remember that you are not just promoting your book, you are also informing people why your book makes a great gift. Remind people that books make great gifts. If you need some reasons, check out my infographic on Six Reasons Books Make Great Gifts.

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Photo courtesy of George Dolgikh.

Are You Pursuing Radio Exposure?

I recently encouraged an author of an adventure devotional for men who enjoy outdoor adventures to pursue outdoor stores as a venue for book sales. His response was that these general-market stores won’t want to carry a Biblical message.

I pointed him to Barna and encouraged him to use the statistics this research group reports about Biblical interest and belief in God in America. I told him that he can use these statistics to create a convincing argument to show the stores that the majority of their shoppers have an interest in God.

Knowing what people are looking for is useful in marketing. This knowledge informs your message and your approach to gain more exposure for your books. If you are pursuing exposure through guest interviews on radio shows, you can use the research findings from Finney Media to improve your pitch.

Radio is still a great way to reach people. More than 243 million American adults listen to the radio each month. News and talk shows are among the top listened to radio formats.

In 2016, Finney Media Research developed The Finney Media Why Listen?® Survey that delves into why individuals listen and give to Christian-formatted radio shows and programs. The 2018 survey had 26,800 respondents who listen to Christian-formatted radio. Results of the survey reveal:

  • In-car listening to radio dominates.
  • Online radio listening for teaching is growing.
  • Listeners tune out if the tone of the show is negative, angry or judgmental.
  • People report that they listen to Christian radio to help them grow spiritually.
  • The majority of respondents (87%) report it helps them worship God throughout the day.

Finney’s recommendation from these findings is for Christian radio to focus emphasis on spiritual content that is boldly Biblical. Finney believes that radios stations that meet their listeners’ expectations and needs will see genuine spiritual growth as well as an expanded audience.

If you are pursuing radio exposure for your books, you can use these findings to your advantage. When approaching show producers, let them know how your message is boldly Biblical and how it will meet their listener’s needs in using radio to worship God and grow spiritually.

By the way, Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) offers our Members a list of over 70 radio and podcast outlets actively interviewing authors. Right now, you can join CSPA for just $120 and receive membership through December 2019. Not only will this allow you to access this list of radio and podcast shows, you will also receive access to all the other great benefits CSPA offers our Members.

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Photo courtesy of Bruce Mars.

Authors: Start Local

At the grocery store the other day, I was reminded that there are opportunities everywhere for authors to promote their books.

As I entered my local Harris Teeter, the rack standing next to the door caught my eye. I usually enter this store from the opposite side, so I don’t often walk by this shelf. The rack was filled with free local magazines for anyone to take.

I have seen many racks like this that mostly contain magazines for people looking for a place to rent or a car to buy. However, this rack had all sorts of interesting local magazines including a local happenings magazine, a parenting magazine, a woman’s magazine, a natural living magazine, and a luxury living magazine. In total, there were 13 different types of magazines on this rack.

I realized that each of these local magazines offered opportunities for authors to promote their books. Local magazines love to tell stories of local people and highlight local events. As an author, you can pick up these free magazines at your local store and find ones that match your target audience. Then you can approach these magazines about either highlighting your story, running an article you have written, or advertising.

Start local. Every large movement began locally. Jesus began his ministry in his hometown region and then, after his death and resurrection, Christianity spread worldwide. The #MeToo movement was actually started in 2006 in Alabama with an organization called Just Be Inc. that teaches young women and helps them develop a sense of self-worth. The #MeToo movement did not go viral until 2017.

There are local marketing opportunities all around you. In addition to local magazines, consider the following venues in your neighborhood, city, or town where you can receive publicity, speak at, or host an event to promote your books:

  • Bookstores
  • Libraries
  • Churches
  • Schools
  • Community Centers
  • Senior Centers
  • Newspapers
  • Radio and TV Stations

Musician Josh Wilson has a song titled “Dream Small”. In the song, he encourages Christians to start serving God right where they are. The chorus of the song says:

So dream small
Don’t bother like you’ve gotta do it all
Just let Jesus use you where you are
One day at a time

You can start promoting your book right where you are, one day at a time, allowing Jesus to use your efforts for his glory—and more book sales!

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Photo courtesy of Christian Stahl.

Don’t Make These Rookie Mistakes

The other day, I listened to a podcast interview of a new author. I found myself cringing as I listened to this new author make a number of rookie mistakes. Just as a book that is poorly written turns readers off, so does an interview that is poorly executed.

Media coverage—whether this is in print, radio, television, or podcast format—is a great way to gain exposure for your message and your book. Securing media coverage can help grow an audience for your book.

Rookie Mistakes by New Authors

If you are taking the time and effort to pursue media interviews as part of your marketing strategy, don’t waste your efforts by making the following rookie mistakes that will cause the audience to lose interest.

 1. Saying “Buy My Book” in the Interview.

Do not ever say “buy my book” during a media interview. Your job is to give people interesting information that entices them to want more. It’s okay to talk about your book, but don’t tell or ask the audience to buy your book. Most show hosts will ask you to tell the audience how they can buy your book. If the host does not, then you can work your website into the interview. For example, you might say something like: “On my website at authorname.com, I offer more free tips on how to improve your prayer life.”

2. Alluding to Your Book in Every Answer You Give.

Don’t talk about your book the whole interview. You need to entertain and educate the audience. Authors who mention their book in every answer on a show sound like they are conducting a sales pitch. A media interview is about giving the show’s audience useful information or entertainment that enriches their lives.

3. Not Sharing Statistics or an Anecdote or Story.

Information is great, but story makes the information stick. Think about a recent sermon you heard. Which do you remember more easily: the points the pastor made or the stories he told? Be human and interesting in your interview. Share stories or interesting statistics to drive your message home.

4. Inserting Extra Speech Sounds.

In the interview I listened to, the author sounded like she was sighing after every question the host asked and before she gave her answer. I am sure that she was using the sound to help her gather her thoughts, but it sounded like every answer she gave took effort. Avoid using extra sounds, especially “um”. Extra speech sounds are distracting and make you sound less professional.

5. Using Words or Phrases the Audience Might Not Understand.

Each area or region in the world has saying that are indigenous to the area. People who live in these areas know what these sayings mean, but those outside often don’t. For example, in the South, you might hear the phrase “I’m as fat as a tick.” This doesn’t mean the person thinks he or she is fat, rather it means he or she is full after a good meal. Be cognizant of the fact that your audience might not be familiar with words or phrases you use. If you choose to use them, simply take the time to explain what they mean to your audience.

6. Forgetting to Say Thank You.

Be sure to thank the host for having you on the show and the audience for their time. In the interview I recently listened to with the new author, the show host kept thanking the author for being on the show. It took three tries before the author finally said a simple “thank you” back. Be a gracious media guest and say thank you.

Your ultimate goal in a media interview is to make your audience feel a connection with you. If they feel a connection, they are more likely to check out your book and buy it.

If you are a new author seeking media interviews, one of the best things you can do to learn how to be a good media guest is to watch or listen to interviews of experienced authors. One podcast that interviews a number of seasoned Christian authors is The Experience Jesus Calling Podcast.

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Photo courtesy of William Stitt.

What Every Children’s Author Needs to Know

The most important question every author most answer is:

Who is most likely to read and buy my book?

The specific answer to this question defines your target audience. Knowing how to speak to and reach your target audience is essential for success in writing and book promotion.

children's authors and generation z

If you are a children’s author and write for children, then your target audience is in the Generation Z group. Generation Z is very different from the children of previous generations. As a children’s author, you need to know what is important to these children so that you can reach them with your messages.

Generation Z are those children born since 1996 (aged 22 and younger). This generation makes up almost one-fourth of the U.S. population. Experts predict that the population of Generation Z will soon outpace the other generations.

Some key characteristics of this age group include:

  • These kids are true digital natives. Technology is central to every aspect of their lives, from socializing to schoolwork, entertainment to exercise, relaxation to reference.
  • Tuned in and connected, this generation experiences almost no separation between online and real life. These kids are online 10+ hours each day.
  • This generation prefers to communicate through images rather than text.
  • Generation Z is the least churched generation in American history. They are growing up in a post-Christian, post-modern environment where many of them have not even been exposed to Christianity or to church.

Did you notice the characteristic that Generation Z individuals prefer to communicate through images rather than text?

Not surprisingly, the same is true for this age-group’s reading habits. These children are huge consumers of graphic novels. According to NPD Bookscan data from global information provider the NPD Group, the comics and graphic novels category in the U.S. trade book market has experienced compound annual unit sales growth of 15 percent over the last three years, making it one of the highest growth categories in the trade book marketplace.

graphic novels

As Barnes & Noble struggles to remain viable in a difficult market, this trend has not escaped their attention. In an effort to boost sales and gain more customers, the chain has announced plans to create dedicated sections for middle grades (ages 7-12) graphic novels in their stores this summer. These sections will be labeled with “Graphic Novel” signage and located adjacent to the Young Readers areas in each store’s children’s department.

Maybe at this point you are scratching your head and thinking, “What does this have to do with me? I write and publish children’s books?”

Knowing your target audience is key to success. Here are just a few takeaways from Generation Z characteristics for Children’s authors:

1. When communicating with children, include more images than pictures.
Even if you have written a chapter book, use pictures in your marketing messages to draw this generation in.

2. Rely almost exclusively on technology to reach this audience.
Remember, these kids spend 10+ hours online every day. They hang out on Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube.

3. Consider converting your book to a graphic novel.
If you are struggling with sales for your children’s chapter book, consider converting it to a graphic novel. You can break a larger book into sections and publish a series of graphic novels, or you can publish a web comic (an online graphic novel) that ties back to your print book. If you are unfamiliar with web comics, check out WebToon.

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Photos courtesy of Americanvirus and Enokson.