Year-Round Marketing Tips for Book Sales Success

The Strand Bookstore
••• Waring Abbott / Getty Images

When selling your book, you need to think beyond the initial launch and, instead, develop year-round marketing strategies to keep your book selling.

Timing is everything, even in book marketing and publicity. There are many factors that affect book promotion timing, from launch date to bookseller seasonal promotions and special events.

Here's what you need to know about timing your book promotion.

Timing Your Book Promotion

There are three phases of book promotion, and each requires slightly different tasks to boost your book's sales. Especially if you're working with a traditional publisher on a print run, the first two phases are crucial to your success and potential of further book deals with your publisher.

  • Phase One—Pre-Publication: Ideally, authors should begin a year or more before their book's release to start talking about it and garnering a base of interested readers. This can be done in a variety of ways including social media, blogging, and article writing. Especially if your book is non-fiction, building your expertise through publicity, public speaking, and guest appearances can help build excitement about your book. But even if your book is a work of fiction, start locating your perfect readers and connecting with them.
  • Phase Two—Book Launch: The launch window is your book's best shot at marketing and publicity exposure for a number of reasons. The initial release is when there is the most energy and excitement about the book, especially from your publisher. The shelf-life of most books in a book store is six months, which isn't that much time. After that, your book can be sent back, which will count against your royalties. Even if you're self-publishing, your initial release is important to sales ranking and other factors that can help boost sales.
  • Phase Three—Ongoing Marketing: One of the biggest benefits of online book stores is that you can extend the life of your book in a way that you can't in a brick-and-mortar store. Developing ongoing marketing strategies beyond your release can ensure future sales of your book.

Whatever phase your book is in, you can use year-round marketing strategies to talk about and generate interest in your book. Here are a few ideas:

Seasonal Marketing

A highly successful marketing strategy for ongoing marketing is to tie your book to seasonal events.

For example:

  • If you've written a cookie decorating book, the best time to promote it would be from late-September through December, which are the prime holiday cookie-baking months.
  • If you've written a book about how to find a job, the best time to market it would be May and June, when thousands of students are graduating and needing to find a job.

Year-Round Marketing

Along with the most well-known holidays and seasons, you can take advantage of specialty days and weeks. For example, if your book involves pirates, you can have a special promotion around Talk Like A Pirate Day, September 19th.

This strategy works well if you have books sitting stagnate in a bookstore, as you can rejuvenate your backlist sales.

Some places to check out for daily, weekly or monthly events include:

Calendar Zone has lists of websites where you can find additional events to consider in your book promotion.

News and Trends Marketing

While seasons and holidays occur year after year, there are times in which something newsworthy happens or a trend evolves that you can tie your marketing to. If your book is on relationships and a celebrity couple breaks up, you can link your book marketing to that.

If the economy tanks and your book is on living frugally or finding a job, you can tie your marketing to help these people survive and find a new job.

This can be done with trends that have a lot of buzz, as well. If there is a book that is taking the reading world by storm, and your book is the same sub-genre, you can jump on board the momentum of the popular book to sell yours. For example, when Twilight was big, there was a push in marketing teenage vampire books. When it came out that the author was a fan of classic romance literature, several re-released classics, such as Pride and Prejudice, were published with Twilight-looking covers.

Developing Your Plan

Seasonal, year-round, and news- or trend-related marketing can work well, especially for non-fiction. If your book is related to adoption, you not only have National Adoption month in November, but there is a variety of parent and child-oriented days throughout the year, including Mother's Day and Father's Day, Baby Safety Month (September), and Sing With Your Child Month (March).

If you're a fiction writer, you need to be creative and clever in using these strategies. Some ideas to tie your book into events include using your character's interests or job, your book's setting, and the themes or plot of your book. For example, if your character owns a spa, you can have a giveaway for bath basket for Bubble Bath Day on January 8th.

Monthly Marketing Ideas

Here is a list of month-related seasons and events to consider as you develop your book marketing plan.

January Book Promotions

New Year, New You

This is the top month for diet books, exercise manuals, self-improvement of all types related to New Year's Resolutions, and clutter-clearing.

February Book Promotions

Valentine’s Day

Books promoted around Valentine's Day include sex how-to books (like the Kama Sutra), erotica, dating advice, and books about chocolate. Romance fiction fares well, too.

March Book Promotions

St. Patrick’s Day

Since the Irish monks "saved civilization" by protecting the volumes of the day, the St. Pat's people have been a book-loving crowd. This is a good month to promote books on Irish history, Irish cooking, travel to Ireland, and anything else Irish. Fiction that takes place in Ireland could do well, too.

April (Springtime) Book Promotions

Gardening

Speaking of all things "green," gardening how-to and picture books bloom on bookseller tables at this time of year.

Taxes

April is also tax time, so tax and money books can sell well during this month.

Weddings

While weddings obviously happen all year long, bridal books are generally promoted in the early spring, coinciding with the bridal industry's own promotional efforts at that time. These include wedding planners, wedding etiquette books, books with wedding inspirations. And, while a young woman's fancy turns to matrimony, a young man's fancy turns to...

Baseball

Baseball books!

May Book Promotions

Mother's Day

Women's fiction, romance, and other books that women tend to enjoy do well around Mother's Day. Interestingly, Fifty Shades of Grey experienced a somewhat surprising Mother’s Day bump its first year on the market, which suggests that people were buying erotic books for their moms.

June Book Promotions

Father’s Day

Timed for the beginning of the summer grilling months, bookstores push grilling books at Father's Day.

Golf and other sports books generally sell well at this time, too.

Graduation

Traditionally dictionaries were a graduation gift, but that market has diminished with the internet. Books that tip to the rite of passage of graduation, such as Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go! or Anna Quindlen’s A Short Guide to a Happy Life, adapted from a college commencement address she gave, are popular gifts in May and June. Books about jobs and careers are understandably popular.

Audiobooks

June is officially Audiobook Month, when the Audie Awards take place. Audiobook versions of your book can ride on the promotional tails of the nominees and winners.

July Book Promotions

Summer Reading

The beach reading season highlights adult fiction that is generally light, fast, fun reads. Also popular are young adult and children’s books, which are driven by school summer reading lists.

A changing market with the preponderance of online travel information and GPS systems, people still buy travel guides and maps.

August Book Promotions

Back-to-School

Schools often have reading lists involving classic literature. You can tie into literature such as Seth Grahame-Smith did with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

Children's learning books, mom time-management books, and parenting books can do well during this month, as well.

September Book Promotions

September marks the start of the fall bookselling season, by far the best time of year for book sales, leading up to the month of December when holiday gift-buying boosts book sales to their annual peak. Traditionally, publishing houses push the books they think will do well or are from their biggest authors in an effort to ramp up the exposure of the books so they end up on everyone's holiday gift list.

Also popular are "how-to" and cookbooks for the season, such as craft books, baking, and holiday cooking.

September through early November is also the time of many annual book fairs. These tend to showcase local authors, and if you're crafting a seasonal marketing plan, you might take a look at the Book Publishing Calendar to see when there might be a show in your area, and then read how to pitch a book fair programmer to score a spot at a show.

October Book Promotions

Halloween

Halloween’s popularity as a retail holiday has increased in recent years. The growth in the number of Halloween titles—especially cookbooks and kids' craft books—has reflected that.

Of course, horror and paranormal fiction books can benefit from the season as well.

November Book Promotions

Jewish Book Month

Timed a few weeks before Hannukah, local book fairs and stores often focus on books of Jewish interest.

Thanksgiving

Books on holiday cooking and baking, especially making turkeys and cookie books, are popular at this time. Holiday home decor and crafts also sell well.

Indies First/Small Business Saturday

Authors of all kinds have opportunities to volunteer at their local booksellers while helping to promote their books themselves on Small Business Saturday (the Saturday after Thanksgiving) when many independent bookstores host a #IndiesFirst events.

According to its founder, Sherman Alexie, "What could be better than spending a day hanging out in your favorite hometown indie, hand-selling books you love to people who will love them too and signing a stack of your own? Why not give it a try?"

Contact your local indie bookseller/s to see how you might participate.

Cyber Monday is another event you can use to promote your books online.

December Book Promotions

Gift Books

Due to the give-ability of print books, December hardcover and paperback sales generally outpace the sale of ebooks. Also due to the gift-giving factor, there is an uptick in sales of hefty, more expensive books, like major biographies, and color-filled coffee table books, art books, and cookbooks.

The above ideas are just a handful of events you can time your book promotions too. Keep in mind that booksellers have slightly different calendars, and the lead time for media varies greatly. That means you need to plan in advance, often months in advance.

Local Promotions and Beyond

Your local bookstores may have events you want to tap into, but other local vendors and events can provide opportunities as well. Craft fairs, book festivals, and other events in your community can offer bookselling opportunities. Social and professional organizations might be hosting meetings, workshops, and other events that you can attend and promote your books.

Don't limit your promotional efforts to local in-person events either. Online retailers have ongoing and seasonal promotions that you can tap into. Plus you can use these ideas to develop your own strategies for Facebook or Amazon Ads, giveaways through social media, and publicity outreach such as guest appearances on podcasts.