The +s and –s of Writing Holiday Books

Guest Post by Lynne Marie

Happy 4th of July, Everyone!

I’ll start out with an admission — I write books about holidays. Now, the surprising part. I don’t even fully realize it when I do it!

My first book, Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten, so-titled by Scholastic, was originally titled School Bus Buddies. It told the story of Spike, a nervous little hedgehog, who spiked at every bus bump and had yet to find a buddy to sit with on the rickety old bus. Realistically, Spike’s problem could occur anytime — during the school year, a field trip, or at summer camp. But Scholastic pegged it as a “first day of Kindergarten” book, and renamed it.

So here are the plusses. A lot of preschools bought a lot of copies to give as gifts to their graduates and a lot of parents and relatives bought this for their little ones entering kindergarten. The book did well. But here comes the minus — after school starts each year, there are few, if any, sales. Until, next year — which feels like a long time coming.

My next book, Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School was a requested sequel. I enjoyed featuring my sweet little hedgehog Spike in another story, as well as being able to give a bit of focus to some characters from the first book, and being able introduce some fun new characters. And I got paid to do what I love. All plusses!

However, while the season for a “first day of school” book is late May through September, the “100th Day of School” celebration season is even shorter — just a few weeks before 100th day then done, and almost forgotten until the next 100th day rolls around next January or February.

My third book, The Star in the Christmas Play, formerly titled The Star in the Play (prior to submission), wasn’t even about Christmas — it was about a little giraffe who struggles with self-acceptance when he realizes he is too tall to get any of the lead parts in the school play. But when Beaming Books had a contest and I didn’t know what to send in, I revised it to include a Christmas Pageant theme, changed it quite a bit (and honestly made it BETTER), and sent it in. When an offer was made and accepted, it resulted in my third holiday book — without even intentionally meaning to write holiday books.

This book has a selling window of about November 1st through December 24th. You are probably seeing that none of my books’ sales windows are overlapping — so if I were to, say, do an appearance at a school or bookstore in March, there wouldn’t be a huge draw for any of my three published books because none would be relevant at that time of year. It would be nice to do a school visit and/or sit at a Book Festival or the like and have potential appeal to three different types of customers or three relevant upcoming events during one sitting. I am certain you see what I am getting at.

With my fourth book, Moldilocks and the Three Scares, I fooled myself. I wrote an appealing fairy tale with lovable monsters. In this retelling of the Goldilocks tale, I have Moldilocks zombie-walking into the haunted mansion where the Scares live, not as an intruder, but as an answer to their nightmares. If you read the book you will see my clever attempt to bring in another level (which I hope I did successfully) about how a foster/adopted child can complete a family and make it whole. NOTHING about Halloween.

However — and here comes the audience participation part — Can you guess what booksellers are considering this book as?

YES — you are correct. A Halloween book! Because of the zombie and monsters!

Nobody told the Buyers and the Booksellers that zombies and monsters AREN’T just for Halloween anymore. Don’t they watch The Walking Dead? Didn’t they grow up watching the Addams Family or The Munsters? Or read Goosebumps? Geez!

So, despite my book being released on August 6, 2019, all my book appearances (by request of the bookstores) are being loaded up into October, because they are all viewing it as a Halloween book. When you read the book, you’ll see it is so much more.

So why am I telling you all of this? If you are reading this then you, like me, likely want to be a career author. You want to be writing and selling books year-round, as well as doing author appearances at bookstores and schools year-round. And you want to have a good recipe for success.

Accordingly, when you decide what ideas to select to develop into a manuscript, what manuscripts to work on, to market to editors and agents, etc., be smart. I would consider having a mix of projects, including a few especially strong, non-holiday manuscripts that will sustain your author marketing plan throughout the year. These will provide a solid foundation for your career path. Upon this good base, the holiday manuscripts can then provide some nice peaks in your income!

My fifth book, Let’s Eat: Mealtimes Around the World is a fun, fact-filled non-fiction book on culture and food for young readers and is not associated with any holiday (although it may refer to one or two within). It will be available YEAR ROUND. ←—— Example of me driving my point home LOL

But you’re smart. You read Writers’ Rumpus. You got this!

I wish you all the best of success!

P.S. And for those who are wondering – YES, I have written a book on the 4th of July. It even has a recipe! It’s called American Pie. It’s hard to break habits. But thankfully, I have several non-holiday books on submission and currently pending acquisition. I practice what I preach!

Lynne Marie is the author of Hedgehog Goes to Kindergarten – illustrated by Anne Kennedy (Scholastic, 2011), Hedgehog’s 100th Day of School – illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Scholastic, January 2017), The Star of the Christmas Play — illustrated by Lorna Hussey (Beaming Books, 10/16/2018), Moldilocks and the 3 Scares — illustrated by David Rodriguez Lorenzo (Sterling, 2019)  and her first non-fiction picture book, Let’s Eat! Mealtime Around the World — illustrated by Parwinder Singh (Beaming Books, 2019) and more forthcoming. She’s a three-time Cybils Panelist in fiction and non-fiction picture books. When she’s not cruising around the world, she lives on a lake in South Florida with her family, a Schipperke named Anakin and several resident water birds. She’s represented by Deborah Warren of East West Literary Agency. You can learn more about her at www.LiterallyLynneMarie.com or www.thepicturebookmechanic.com.

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