Your Writing Career - Take It Up a Notch with Holiday Promotions

I'm thrilled to have Carolyn Howard-Johnson as a weekly blogger for the month of September! How great is that. The author of The Frugal Book Promoter and The Frugal Editor is here for a full month of Fridays.

Okay, lets get to it. Carolyn is a deep well of information.

How to Jazz Up a Writing Career with Holiday Promotions

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Have you heard of The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans?

It was originally self-published. Evans believed in himself (and his book) when big publishers didn’t. When it did well, “lo and behold,” as they say in the Christmas stories, someone saw the light.

The motto here, for writers, is seasonal material sells. Especially things that can be given reasonably inexpensively during gift-giving seasons. Seems that books fill the bill. They’re generally $15 dollars or less. They lend themselves to the inspirational (always high on the list of gifts people like to give). And they lend themselves to great cover and book design including religious, whimsical, cartoons, and on and on. Oh, and books are easily and inexpensively mailed or e-mailed!

So, are you using the seasons to build your writing career?

There are all kinds of ways to do it. Magdalena Ball and I are seasonal poetry partners. That is, we have written the Celebration Series of chapbooks. She contributes half the poems, I the other half. And we also share publishing and marketing skills. Blooming Red: Christmas Poems for the Rational is the Christmas entry for that series. We also have entries for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day and even one with a feminist theme (or Women’s Day) to celebrate women for—maybe their birthdays? Our full book in the series, Sublime Planet was just released for Earth Day which is April 22. But there are so many other seasonal themes you could use. How about:

  • The spring and fall equinoxes.
  • Easter
  • Fourth of July
  • The Signs of the Zodiac—both Western and Chinese. I count a series of 12 books here! No?
  • Chanukah
  • Passover
  • Kwanzaa
  • New Year’s
  • St. Patrick’s Day. Think of all the Irish, all the beer drinkers.
  • State holidays like the 24th of July in Utah. Something local could have a surprisingly big fan base.
  • Patriotic books that would work for Labor Day and Veteran’s Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Halloween
Gordon Kirkland is a humorist (Canadian, bless his little soul!). He has written a couple of very funny (and extremely giftable!) books including Holly Jolly Frivolity and The Plight Before Christmas. I met him when we both spoke at a writers’ conference and I know he believes in marketing almost as much as he loves writing.

And that brings me to using seasons, holidays and themes to market any of your work. Here are some ideas for doing that, even if you don’t have an entry in the seasonal category (Yet!)

1. Plan well ahead. Print magazines can work four to six months out. This is about the right time for Christmas ideas or for  Halloween or Thanksgiving for online journals and blogs.

2. Write articles (like this one?), using your own themes related to your books or whatever else strikes you. They can be used as guest posts on others’ blogs or on your own blog or Web site.

3. Offer a discount on a book to be used as a greeting card or casual gift. Of course, most who send Christmas cards buy them by the box of 25 or so!

4. Cross promote with a fellow author on a book in your genre. People who read cozy mysteries likely read more than one a year. And they often love to give them as gifts. Both authors’ contact lists should be full of people who read cozy mysteries so offer them all a two-fer one special—a new one for themselves and another for a gift.

5. Share a list of holiday (or Easter or Valentine’s) gift book ideas. Post it on your blog. Put it in your newsletter. As an example see Karen Cioffi Ventrice’s list at A list like this is Zen. It helps your book. It helps other writers. It is an ideal way to build a lasting network of authors both willing and able to cross promote. There is even a way to make this idea in a seasonal catalog and produce it as an income-producing venture in the new edition of my award-winning Frugal Book Promoter ( on page 340 (but also check the index for other ideas for using catalogs). It is also a way to benefit the publishing industry

6. Write a little seasonal poem, story, or article to include with your holiday letter or greeting card. Always include a credit line that lists one of your books and a link to a buy page for it. Send your poem to the editors of newsletters, blogs, print magazines both large and small. Everyone loves to have something seasonal to pretty up an issue at any given time of the year.

7. Consider commercial catalogs. There are resources for that in The Frugal Book Promoter, too, but the best resource is the catalogs you get online, in your e-mail box, and in the pocket in front of your seat when you fly. Think, how can I pitch the idea of my book in a way that will fit with their own theme, their own audience? And remember: These catalogs pay the freight on books (bookstores do not). They also don’t return books as bookstores do. And they tend to buy a lot of books to cover their orders.

Do you have ideas of your own? Please leave a comment (with your e-mail address) and I’ll add them to this article to use next season, to promote my books—and yours.

Have you heard of Charles Dickens? Do you know Scrooge—in person or as a character in A Christmas Carol? If so, how can you argue with what writing for the season can do for you?

Carolyn Howard-Johnson has several decades experience in journalism, retailing (authors are retailers, too!), in publicity, and as a marketer of her own fiction and poetry. She is also author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books—one series for writers and one for retailers. Learn more about all her books and services at For lots more ideas on promotion and craft, subscribe to her blog at


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Karen Cioffi said...

Great information on using holidays to boost books sales. I've been meaning to try book catalogs and this is a timely reminder. Thanks for sharing, Carolyn.

Oh, I have The Frugal Book Promoter and it's full of useable tips and guidance. I love it!

Yuwanda Black, Inkwell Editorial said...

Love this post Karen and Carolyn. Excellent ideas.

One idea I like is to promote notable causes that have to do with our industry this time of year, eg, donating children's books (along with clothing/food) to a local homeless shelter.

It's in the spirit of holiday giving, it's charitable and it has to do with promoting reading.

Karen Cioffi said...

Yuwanda, that's an excellent suggestion. Encouraging reading and helping those who don't have easy access to books is a wonderful thing to do.