April 2023 Considering Christmas (part one)
When to release your book? Keep Christmas in mind.
Will your book make a great Christmas gift?
Do you dream of shoppers finding it in a bookstore while shopping?
Then you need to consider when retailers make their ordering decisions for that crucial sales season, and no, this isn’t an Almost-April Fools Day joke.
Retailers make these buying decisions early, possibly much earlier than you think.
Many years ago I worked in the headquarters office of a major national department store retailer, a company with more than 100,000 employees and sales that topped $13 billion a year. Christmas (only they had to call it “holiday”) products were a huge opportunity and the sales conference to see new displays as I remember it was held in the summer – for the Christmas season for the following year, in other words, about 16 months into the future.
Christian bookstores typically don’t work that far ahead, but it’s often far further into the future than authors realize.
At the recent February Christian Products Expo, one of the themes for the event was Christmas! The sponsoring organization, Christian Retail Association, was encouraging stores to be thinking ahead to ordering books they could get in their stores in time for Christmas, which for at least some stores means by summer/early fall. According to the CRA some people will still place orders at the August CPE for holiday products, but the selection will be less, and the shipping costs to the store could be higher. Keep in mind many books on display in early February weren’t released yet, but they had samples and release dates so they could be ordered by the stores while the book was being finished and printed.
Of course, preparing for traditional bookstore sales will also mean your book is available well before the online shopping season, but as we all know, even that starts earlier and earlier every year.
Your own marketing for a book that makes a good holiday gift needs to start in the late summer and autumn also, but that separate but related topic is one we will return to in Part Two of Considering Christmas.
And next after holiday books – that retail season now encompasses autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas – are the spring gift giving events. For bookstores, that starts with Easter and continues with Mother’s Day, graduation, Father’s Day, and of course weddings. A similar planning process is involved there as well.
So when it comes to publishing and having books available for some celebration seasons, whether that’s Mother’s Day, graduation or Christmas, then you need to get way out in front of it.
And although you are pushing hard and working to get the book done, when it comes to selling it, you need to switch hats and think like a retailer. That means planning ahead, and if time is tight, consider that your best play might be planning for availability for the NEXT Christmas.