By Scott King
‘Tis the season for selling. No matter your holiday affiliations, now is the time to be selling books, so let’s recap what you can do to help boost sales this holiday season.
Start with your cover. It needs to be the best you can afford to appeal to your target demographic, and the cover and graphic design need to work well as a thumbnail, too.
Beyond looks, because people will judge your book by its cover, do a polish and rewrite on your book description. A good description will have a hook to pique interest, give the overall vibe of the book, and make the genre clear. If you have doubts, peruse book descriptions for top books in the categories that your books are selling in to see if they compare in structure and style. If so, you are good. If not, rewrite them.
Once you’re sure your book is ready, it is time to branch into free marketing techniques. Start by hitting up your email list. If you don’t have a list, start one. If you do have a list, don’t be shy about reminding subscribers that you have books and that they should buy and read your books. If you’re worried about being too salesy, make sure you build your relationship over time with your list. If you only send salesy emails you will come off salesy. If you’re a bit more personal and authentic, and spread out when you decide to push a book, you’ll get better responses from your subscribers. Besides, it’s the holidays, and your books might make great gifts.
I’ve been doing the indie thing for ten years. So much has changed, and so many tactics flow in and out of popularity, but the most consistent and reliable way to sell books is having a fellow author push you on their platforms. To maximize this strategy, make sure the author has a readership that overlaps with your own. If I’m trying to sell a second-world epic fantasy series, a best-selling contemporary romance author might not have many fans interested in my book.
Be selective when working with others, and make sure you’re asking actual friends and acquaintances. Don’t cold email an author you’ve never interacted with asking to do a list swap. Remember, too, that even if they are a friend, you should keep it professional and set clear expectations. The right kind of list swap can breathe new life into a back catalog or boost a new release.
Back in the day, you could post to social media and expect a few sales from a cover share and a link. At least for now, that’s kind of dead unless you’re also running a sale. To maximize sales on social media, especially with younger readers, video is where it is at. TikTok is king, but you can still do okay with Instagram reels.
I know, suggesting authors should make videos is scary, but once you start, it gets easier. If you want to dip your toe into video content, start following fellow authors and booktokers to get a feel for the landscape and how video content works. Then treat the videos like you would an email list. Make sure they are authentic and that you aren’t being salesy in every video. If you do it right, you can grow your following and readership. I have several friends who write contemporary and sapphic romances, and have been told both are doing well right now on TikTok.
In addition to reaching out on various platforms, drive traffic to your books by discounting them. Emailing your list “Go get my book while it’s on sale!” will drive more clicks than “Go read my book!”
Kobo and Amazon have backend tools to discount books for sales, and opt-in services to help push those sales. Third-party services with cultivated email lists will also push your sales for a fee. The best-known of these is BookBub.
Make sure you do your research first on the various services. Some genres do really well at some sites, and the same genres do awful at others. Reach out to fellow authors and check if the service is a good fit for your demographic before spending any money.
Money is what we want to make, not spend, but if you can afford to spend some, advertising can help you make more. It’s a weird line to walk, and one that you need to step into carefully, so that you don’t spend too much on ads that do nothing for you.
Currently, the biggest traditional ad venues are Amazon, Facebook, and Bookbub. However, I know authors doing well with paid promotion videos on Instagram, too. My go-to places are Amazon and Facebook, but I usually pull my Facebook ads from November through January. Facebook can get nasty-expensive during the holiday season and even worse during an election year. I’m not saying you shouldn’t run ads, but don’t go all-in until you feel confident about what you are doing.
The concept sounds easy, but it’s really hard, and yet totally worth it because making friends with fellow authors will help you in the long run. In non-pandemic times, a local or national conference is a great way to meet people. Otherwise, social media, Facebook groups, and Discord are strong bets. My only tip is to be authentic, not needy. Don’t act like you’re trying to get things from people.
Not only will having author-friends help because they can push your books on their platforms, but they’re also a huge resource for knowing what is or isn’t working. Publishing might feel like a competition, but it really isn’t, and there is so much about marketing you can learn from your fellow authors. Book-selling techniques come in trends, so something that brought in a lot of sales a year ago may be dead now. Being part of a community that talks about these things can drastically help.
I wish you the best of luck, and hope you sell ALL the books. You’ve got this. I believe in you.
Scott King is an indie author and former college professor. His fiction books are his way of having fun, and his nonfiction books are his way of getting that teaching feeling back. If you’d like to see some of his work, you can visit his Amazon page.