Christmas in July JA Huss Style
(or Preparing to Succeed)
My version goes a little something like this:
BRAIN: Sh*t. Holidays are coming again.
ME: Take it easy, Brain. It’s July.
BRAIN: Yeah, duh. That means Christmas is only six months away.
BRAIN: So? What are you planning? You know you need a plan or the whole month of December just goes to hell.
ME: I had that plan four months ago, so chill.
And I did. The minute I planned this Mister series I knew I’d be releasing the last book in December. Which, if you’ve read my other Marketing Top Monday posts, is something I don’t advocate. But I had a five book series starting in April and I wanted them to release no longer than two months apart. So yeah, I knew Mr. Match would release in early December. There was no way around it.
But I’m cool with it. It might tank, who knows. I’m not worried because I have a new series starting in January so I’m gonna be fine.
Still, like all the rest of you, I worry about maintaining sales in December. In fact, I like to pad the end of the year with lots of big paychecks because there’s this nasty little thing called TAXES that comes up pretty early in the new year and I hate it when I have to pay the government enough money to buy a house in certain places of the country as part of my pact with letting those assholes govern me.
So I take the holidays very seriously and plan some of my biggest marketing during November and December. Remember, we get paid two months after the fact, so my December paycheck better be big enough to carry me through tax season. (I do pay quarterly, but you can never tell what’s gonna happen with things month to month).
For me, early December is going to be big. Mr. Match is the last of the five books called The Misters. I promoted the first book, Mr. Perfect, pretty hard and it paid off with two weeks on the USA Today Bestsellers list, but Mr. Romantic had to carry himself across that finish line because I used up all my extra energy promoting the 321 audiobook release (which was also a bestseller on Audible). So by the time Romantic released two weeks later, I was kind of burned out on release promo.
It was no biggie though. Romantic had enough pre-orders to get me on the bestsellers list for that week and that was all I cared about. You gotta pick and choose your battles when you release as often as I do. Not every release can be “The Big One” ya know? That’s how I see it, anyway.
I’m using pre-orders to get the middle books of the Mister series to do their thing while I plan “The Big One” for Mr. Match in December. I have some really fantastic ideas for Match. I’m not going to talk about them now because it’s all secret sauce until I announce what I’m doing. But the take home here is that YOU should also be planning your Amazingly Awesome Holiday Promo as well.
In 2013 (my big breakout year) I had a great December planned. The six-book Junco series completed that December, so the last book, Return, released the beginning of December. Also, I released a novella called Slack, a Ford spin-off from the Rook& Ronin series that December. They both did about what I expected, not great. But I also had Tragic (first Rook and Ronin book) set to permafree for six weeks and it had a Free Bookbub. And in an exciting twist of fate, I also had a BookBub for the Junco three-book omnibus for 99 cents.
Two Bookbubs in the same month! Tragic was NA romance and Junco was Science Fiction, so I was in two completely different categories. I don’t actually remember what kind of money I made that month, but I think it was pretty good for where I was in my career at the time. I had my best month to date when the Ford Book (Taut) released in January 2014, and I do remember that month being in the neighborhood of $10K and that was a big deal back them. $10,000 for one month was huge to me back then and I think it all came about because of the amazing promo I did at the end of 2013.
So like I always tell you, things in marketing have a cumulative effect. No, Return and Slack didn’t hit any bestseller lists, but Tragic made it to Top 10 free or Top 20, something like that. I do know that 30,000 people downloaded it at the free price point and then I quickly changed it back to paid once that was over. And I have a great read-through rate on that series. I have always had that. About ninety percent of the people who buy Tragic go on to buy the whole series from start to finish. So I made money on the long-tail. Junco did whatever it did and I let that ride. I knew it wasn’t ever going to be a bestseller but every two years or so, I still break that SF series out and run promos on it.
All that led to the success of Taut in January 2014 and from there things just went crazy good for me. Maybe it was that December promo, maybe it wasn’t, but it certainly didn’t hurt that I had two releases and two Bookbubs going on that month.
This is the kind of thing you should be planning right now. I know, I know – some of you are saying – “Well, I’ll just join one of those multi-author promo thingys and call it good.” I personally never got much out of those multi-author promo sales that run every single holiday, but hey, if that works for you, go for it.
All I’m saying is come up with four or five new ideas and run those too. What can it hurt? Maybe you plan a takeover promo for a book that released earlier in the year. Maybe you release a novella for the fans and put it up for 99 cents (or free) as a gift. I did that last year with my Happily Ever After novella that jumped fifteen years into the future of the whole Rook & Ronin gang and the fans ate it up. It was 99 cents, and no I didn’t make any money off it and it never hit a list or anything like that. But it made fans happy. Besides, I had just come off the fantastic release of Eighteen (and by Christmas it had probably sold about sixty thousand copies.) Eighteen is where I put all my promo energy. I gave away five one-hundred-dollar gift cards to help my fans with their Christmas shopping. And I gave away fifty signed paperbacks of Eighteen as well. It was quite the promo.
You don’t have to do stuff as big as that, but you could. And at the very least you should plan something. Give away a Kindle Paperwhite. Or some twenty-five-dollar gift cards. Or send out Christmas cards. Hell, Jana Aston and I did that last year too. We had a sign-up in my fan group for people to get a Christmas Card and that was a great way to earn some goodwill and make people happy over the holidays. It’s not always about making money. Sometimes you just want to make people smile. We sent two hundred and fifty Christmas cards last year and each one was personally signed by us and had some cool swag stickers in them.
Planning promotions in advance is about 90% of my success. I kid you not. Of course people like the books. That’s why they come back. But I release a LOT. People get tired of having me in their face all the time with a new book. So every once in a while I go all out with the promo and that’s the book I push hard. I can’t do that every time, it’s just too much work. So some books release with a little fanfare, some release with almost no fanfare, and some get the Treatment.
Pick a book to push hard this holiday season. Go all out. What do you have to lose? Plus, if you start planning for it now you can save up money to run it. Make the first book in a series free AND do something special to get people interested. Everyone and their sister is gonna be having a free book, so make it stand out. I did that with Eighteen – I mean, five one-hundred-dollar gift cards is hard to ignore. Add in the fifty signed paperbacks and this was huge, right? It worked for me. That book sold like crazy.
So just start thinking about it. I’m thinking hard about my Mr. Match promo. And I might/might not run a sale on a book. Maybe Eighteen, since it will be one year old and that’s usually my criteria for lowering a price of a book for the first time. But maybe not. Who knows what I’ll come up with between then and now. Maybe one of my audiobooks will be releasing and I’ll promo that instead? Maybe I’ll box something up and sell that at a reduced price. Maybe I’ll just run a bunch of giveaways and call it good.
Who knows what I’ll do, but the important part is that I’m thinking about it. I’m making plans. Plans are the secret to your success. And once Christmas is over, don’t stop there. Plan something for Easter. Or Memorial Day. Or Fourth of July (sorry, non-US people, I think in American holidays). I’m making a set of marketing courses for authors that will be releasing and a big part of the more advanced course is planning your year in advance. Trust me, you may not want to work this way but it helps to have a plan. It makes all the difference.
So start now, and start with Christmas. Remember, people will have time off at Christmas, they will have gift cards to spend, they will have brand new Kindles and/or iPads to read on. They will want books. But you have to be original and you have to stand out.
That’s not easy to do. Which is why you need to start thinking about it now. Book some ads on sites you trust. Ask Giselle over at Xpresso Tours to plan a blitz for you. NOW is the time to do that. In three months everyone will be asking her for a blitz. She might be all filled up. Plus, I know for a fact that she takes vacation from middle of December until after the new year. So it will be crazy busy in the early weeks.
Good luck and if you have any questions about planning promos, just leave me a comment with a question and I’ll answer them as soon as I have time. Make sure to follow this post if you want to be notified of my reply as well. (Click that little Follow this Post button below)
Oh, and by the way, I have a new release this week. (Don’t I always?) 😉 lol. The ROCK book is releasing on Audio tomorrow and it’s narrated by the super sexy and fantastic Sebastian York. Podium Publishing produced this one (You know, those guys who made The Martian the number-one bestselling book on Audible? Yeah, them!) and it’s superb. I’ve listened to this one already and holy God, I loved it. Rock was one of my favorite books to write because it’s a psychological thriller with some sexy romance thrown in. So when I heard Sebastian bring Rock to life I checked out of life for about two days to listen straight through. It was that good.
You can learn more about Rock (and even listen to a few non-spoilery scenes from the audiobook) and enter the Rock Giveaway Rafflecopter below. It’s Whispersynced – which means if you purchased the eBook (or purchase the eBook FIRST) then the audio is only $2.99. It’s a huge savings. You can pick up both the eBook and the Audio using the Amazon link below. Just make sure to buy the eBook first if you don’t have it, so you can get the special price.
Rock: A Rock Star Romantic Suspense
He had it all. He lost it all. And all he wants now is a second chance.
RK Saber ran from tragedy five years ago when his car went over the side of a mountain in a prom-night crash. Consumed by guilt, he walked away from Juilliard and morphed into Rock, front man for the global rock-band sensation, Son of a Jack. Five members. Five best friends. Five rising stars burning so bright, they had to know it couldn’t last.
When tragedy strikes again and the band goes from five to two, RK is sentenced to… home. Back to the place where all his nightmares started. Back to the memory of all the things he lost. Back to the reality he refused to face before he left.
The Vetti twins were identical in all ways but two. Melanie was insane and Melissa was not. One twin was killed on prom night five years ago and one twin was not. And now that RK has returned home, the twin left standing has quite a story to tell. Could she really be the girl he thought he’d lost forever? Or is Melanie just up to her same old tricks?
ROCK is a rock-star romantic suspense by the New York Times bestselling master of twist, JA Huss.