“Book gifting is a major, major revenue driver in publishing …. And not every title makes a great gift …. This is an area we are actively researching. Can we distil the central factors that may make one title a better gift than another?”
In the retail industries – including the publishing sector – the holiday sales season can make or break a year. In the United States, for example, the 2013 holiday season accounted for roughly 19.2% of total retail sales for the year.
Naturally, gift purchases make up a significant percentage of total sales leading up to Christmas.* And there are psychological aspects to gift purchases that are relevant to indie publishers. A survey conducted last year, for example, found that nearly half (49%) of Canadians said they often make impulsive purchases at Christmas (an opportunity for publishers) but also that nearly half (48%) stressed about spending on certain gifts, worried about blowing their budgets. Christmas is a complicated season.
With that in mind, November and December should be a time where books leap out, via different means, as perfect gifts on publisher websites. Here are seven ideas for consideration.
1. Provide a discount on multiple copies. Who among us hasn’t bought the very thing we intended for a loved one for ourselves at Christmas? Quite often, this time-honoured tradition results in two purchases of the same product … one for you, one for me. This impulsive behaviour becomes more likely if there’s a special price available when you buy more than one item. So how about offering a time-limited discount if your visitor purchases more than one copy of a book (e.g., buy one and get the second at 50% off)? Selling one-and-a-half books might not be selling two books, but it is certainly better than selling just one. (Publishers with ReaderBound sites are invited to contact us to have this discount go into effect as soon as they like.)
2. Implement a guaranteed delivery policy for the holiday season only. Especially at Christmas, books that arrive late are highly disappointing, and their lateness damages the brand well past the holiday season. You can remove visitors’ worry about late deliveries with a prominent “Guaranteed by” promise for the holiday season. The trick then is to absolutely, entirely deliver on the promise.
3. Be beautiful. Just as Chapters/Indigo transform their stores at Christmas for maximum gift-giving inspiration, publisher sites (and email communications) should be optimized for the season. There should be an added sparkle and sense of occasion on the homepage, and other pages as appropriate. Check out Hubspot’s 12 Festive Examples of Holiday-Themed Homepage Designs for ideas: #2 and #3 are particularly relevant because they are relatively easy to implement.
4. Create a Holiday Gift Guide: If you’ve ever received the Canadian Tire Gift Catalogue released in late October – and you have – you know that it is remarkable how many things you never knew existed that you now absolutely must have. Starlight Projection Light, anyone? Yes, please!
So have your designer create a beautiful gift guide highlighting a selection of your books. Don’t forget to include good reviews or other pertinent selling points. As the Canadian Tire screen grab above illustrates, it’s the customer reviews that really sell the products here. Propose ideal gift recipients, too. Associate certain books with types of readers (e.g., fantasy fans, historical fiction gobblers, or parents/grandparents). Check out this post at 49thShelf.com or this one for examples of this approach.
5. Make your own Advent Calendar. Every day of December, offer visitors a special reason to come to your site. If you’re a cookbook publisher, for example, publish a recipe every day – and if a reader buys one of your books off the site, include the entire month of recipes in the mail with their book. If you specialize in poetry, why not feature a poem a day from your authors – and create a little chapbook to insert with a purchased book. There are countless ways to have fun with this idea.
6. Add a special touch. It’s delightful when a book is paired with an unexpected and memorable enhancement, perhaps in collaboration with a partner from outside the book business. House of Anansi executed this idea beautifully for Valentine’s Day earlier in 2016. If you don’t have time to organize something so fancy, get your authors to autograph a stack of their books for the holiday season.
7. Allocate more ad/boosting budget to Facebook posts. According to BookNet Canada, Canadian readers are far more likely to be on Facebook (66%) than to be on Twitter (25%).
All of these ideas would both increase the likelihood your books would be considered gift-worthy and enhance your brand image. Just make sure to follow through on social media, in as festive a tone as possible.
*We use Christmas in a non-religious sense and because Christmas is the December holiday celebration most directly associated with gift-giving.