When most people think of the holiday season, hot chocolate and snow angels come to mind. We love a cup of cocoa as much as the next person, but all we want for Christmas is a report on holiday author marketing trends. We couldn't find a report to gift ourselves, so we compiled our own. We surveyed our authors (and others) to determine where and when authors plan to market their books and get a sense for sales expectations.
Let's first look at the breakdown of who filled out the survey.
- 80% of respondents were self-published.
- Around half of respondents sell fewer than 50 books per month.
- During an average (non-holly-jolly) month, these respondents use paid advertising and Facebook marketing most often.
- Most respondents spend less than $600 per year on paid advertising.
- 58% of respondents have published more than 5 books.
The bulk of respondents write Romance, Mystery, and Fantasy respectively. Those three genres account for 68% of total respondents. Science Fiction, Nonfiction, and Literary Fiction round out the second tier with Erotica, Religion, Christian Fiction, Young Adult, and Children's at the long tail.
There is a definite trend of sales inequality amongst authors. 46% of authors sell less than 50 copies a month, while 31% sell more than 200 per month. 23% fall somewhere in between.
60% of authors surveyed expected sales to increase over the Holidays.
Only 40% of authors surveyed expected a decrease in sales over the holiday period. Genre distribution was most noticeable in this segment. Of those who expressed an expectation of decreasing sales, 90% were Romance, Mystery / Thriller, or Fantasy / Paranormal authors. The 'long tail' of smaller genres wasn't represented at all.
Takeaway: Romance, Mystery and Fantasy authors are more pessimistic about seeing book sales growth over the Holidays. This is despite an overall trend of increasing ebook sales over the holidays. Whatever their perspective authors had strong opinions on marketing during the holidays:
"Last year we saw indies who didn't get proactive and plan for the holidays take a big hit. I am trying to plan proactively to survive the holiday season regardless of what big publishers plan (price drops, advertising, etc). Anything that can help me get through the holiday season with my sales steady is something I plan to pursue..."
"I find that it's extra hard to have effective promotion during the holiday season, as there is tons of competition. But if you don't, it's just that much harder to get your head above water again after the holiday season. Sales naturally increase, at least for me, and promotion almost isn't needed, other than to avoid the after the holiday slumps. But it is a great time to reach out to new readers."
"It has been my experience that not a lot of e-books are sold over the Christmas holiday period. Perhaps it's my genre (Romance), but I find that on holidays that focus around family, sales are basically the same as for the rest of the year."
Holiday Marketing Plans
Authors were very split about marketing plans for the holidays. 39% have special holiday marketing plans, but an almost equal portion plan to promote their books as usual. The remaining portion were unsure. Takeaway: authors don't have one defining set of plans (or lack thereof) for holiday marketing.
One trend that holds true during both holiday and non-holiday time periods is that Facebook and Paid Marketing continue to be the top two marketing tools used by authors. Authors spend more on marketing over the holidays on the aggregate. 41% of authors plan to run a paid promotion on deal sites over the Holidays compared to 22% in non-holiday months.
Most authors spend more than $50 on advertising during the holiday season, with 39% of authors spending over $100 on advertising during the holiday season.
What We Think
Every year, we see an increase in book sales over the holiday season. It starts in October after the summer doldrums and peaks in December . The increased sales trend continues through the end of January, likely because a lot of people received e-readers as holiday gifts and are therefore new members to the ebook industry. Those people tend to get really excited to fill their Kindles, and therefore download a lot of free books and purchase many discounted books (instead of one or two $15 books) so that their Kindle homepage is nice and full.
If you are an author, what should you do?
- Organize a price drop or promote a free book in December or January.
- Put your 'new reader acquisition' hat on during the season. Retaining your existing reader base and getting those people to buy more of your titles is important, but you'll have to be constantly acquiring new readers to maintain sales and now is a great time to do it.
- Expect higher costs on Facebook. Facebook CPCs (cost per click) have more than doubled since last year. If the last time you tried a Facebook ad was last holiday, prepare for that same ad to cost a whole lot more.