Santa and Jesus

by Karen Dove
(Ellenton, FL)

The cover of A Gift for Santa

The cover of A Gift for Santa

The cover of A Gift for Santa
Front and back cover of A Gift for Santa
An illustrated page from A Gift for Santa
Full Page Ad for Singing News 12/13 Dist. 200,000

Santa meets the baby Jesus

You've heard it said: "Jesus is the reason for the season." The folks who say it sometimes decry Santa Claus and the theme of commercialism.

Author Karen Dove came up with a story that features Santa and Jesus, then she turned it into a book. Now she faces the challenge of getting it out there.

Perpetual Christmas Longing - A Gift for Santa

Once upon a time....

I wrote a story in 1996 about a little dolly that witnesses to Santa, bringing him to the manger, where he meets the Savior of the world, Jesus.

The story was read annually at family gatherings and in churches, but in 2011 the doors opened to sign a contract with Xulon.

I LOVE the company and will work with them again for my second book, but I have learned much about publishing from the experience of publishing A Gift for Santa with them. Here are a few things I've learned:

1. This is not something to take on if you don't have financial resources.

Within the first year, between publishing costs, illustrations, advertising and promoting the book at national and international book expos, I had sunk close to $10,000 into the project. Last Christmas I sold about 30 copies; only one bookstore picked it up. Through the publisher I sold a total of another 14 copies all year, for a grand total of $81 in royalties.

My total take on books so far is about $500, including my personal sales.

Books are returnable, and of 10 one bookstore did buy last year, they returned 7 and I had to pay them back.

Get your financial resources in order before you begin!

2. You will most likely not be an international best seller overnight.

We all think our first book will be the greatest hit ever. Our family loves it. Our friends love it. The general public, however, is a different animal. Some people WILL love your book, but others will not, and you have to be able to take the constructive criticism along with the kudos. There is a lot of rejection, so brace for a bumpy ride and only board if you are passionate about your project.

3. Bookstores are tired of self-publishers and avoid you like the plague.

Why? because 1,000 books are self-published daily, which means over 365,000 new books are self-published annually, most by first time authors.

It is very difficult to get a bookstore to handle your book on their shelves, let alone in a catalog or a featured spot!

My publisher was excellent at getting the book into every online bookstore known to man, worldwide, and that's great! It's nice to say you can buy my book at Amazon dot com, Barnes and Noble dot com and Books a Million dot com.

On the other hand, I have sold no books through online bookstores, because people have to be searching for my book by name to find it among the 1 million plus titles these bookstores handle.

It is not featured if you are not a best selling author, and you are hard-pressed to become a best selling author if your book is not featured! It's a vicious circle. If you search for Christmas books about Santa, my book might show up on page 425. No one scrolls that far to find a gift for their niece or nephew!

4. You should be ready to become an internet and social media guru to build a following for your book, if you are on a shoestring budget.

Blogging, maintaining an ever-changing website, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. etc. etc. will be calling your name. It takes time, but you can build a following. In about a year and a half 11,500 people have visited my website and I have about 250 followers on Facebook. I work hard at it! I'm just recently seeing about a dozen sales from those social media "friends."

All things considered, a dozen books from 250 "friends" and 11,500 website visitors is not a great return!

5. You will need a secretary or volunteer with lots of time and dedication if you work full time and publish a book.

Getting the word out, lining up signing events, reading events and opportunities to get into the public with your book take time and lots of phone calls!!! Following up with e-blasts and phone calls to bookstores are an essential part of building relationships for future book sales. I have dropped this ball in the past 12 months, after I had to start working full time.

Now we are just weeks away from Christmas, and I have only 2 radio interviews and 1 signing event lined up.

6. You will likely have to pay bookstores to let you sign your books, and give away dozens if not hundreds of copies!

Yes, it's true! Independent bookstores want 40 - 50% of the cover price to allow you into their stores for a signing event! If your discount is only 50% you will break even. If your discount is only 35% you will be paying the bookstore for the privilege of signing your book on their premises! Also...

In order to be considered by a bookstore, you have to send them a FREE review copy of your book. In year one I sent out 50 copies to bookstores, and only 1 picked up my book!

7. Now for the good news.

My book won first place in the Christian Choice book awards in 2013, which means it has merit in the marketplace. Yea!!! Now that's the kind of thing that keeps you going as a self-published author!

I'm NOT giving up. My dream is for this book to become a family tradition at Christmas. I know it will succeed. It's just not in MY timing.

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Sep 19, 2015
by: Karen Dove

I do target grandmothers. Thank you. They usually purchase multiple copies. Thank you for the suggestion. Keep them coming!

Sep 18, 2015
by: Susan

Karen Dove, How do you target grandmothers? Praytell.

Mar 19, 2014
The Second Year's Journey
by: Karen Dove

I thought I'd deliver an update on A Gift for Santa and how we did the second Christmas it was available. We increased sales by 700% from October to November, and another 300% in December. Yeaaa! That means we have sold hundreds of books, which is a milestone. Next on to thousands.

My website is thriving. It was launched in January of 2012 and in March 2014 we have had 20,000 visitors. That's very exciting. I continue to market on social media, and seek opportunities to get the word out. In December I had a full page ad in Singing News magazine, with a distribution of 100,000, and in November the book appeared in Singing News and Gaithers Homecoming Magazines with 5 other books/page in a Xulon ad. That had a lot to do with the increase in sales in November/December.

Promotion goes on, as in January I did a book signing at a Family Christian Store for 3 hours and sold out of books, signing over 20. I could have sold more if I had the stock with me, but we were low after the holidays.

This year we seek larger distribution through bookstore chains and continue to market directly to the public. I'm sending a newsletter to bookstores 3 times this year, and working to get more personal signing events monthly.

The challenge...keep the momentum going and keep the dream alive!

Nov 14, 2013
Thanks for the input Steve!
by: Karen Dove


I greatly appreciate your input. Though part of my full time job is now social media, keywords are something I am just getting my feet wet on. I appreciate your insights. Also those about the niche market for the book.

I know Christian grandmothers are a BIG market for me, and I've been targeting them, but you bring valid points about others who may be interested in the story. Thank you!

I believe it will take a couple of more years to realize my dream, and I'm already working on the 2014 marketing plan. I'm sure I will be incorporating your advice.

Best regards!

Nov 14, 2013
Reconciling two approaches to Christmas
by: Steve B. (webmaster)

Karen, thanks for a great post. Timely too!

Full disclosure: I'm no Christian. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate the challenge of getting a self-published book out there. And I'd like to offer some thoughts.

You speak of the near impossibility of showing up in search results for Christmas books about Santa. Amen! But I wonder if that's really your niche.

You'll notice I wrote a little preamble to your article. Granted, I haven't read your book, and I don't know what your intent was, but I do think the juxtaposition of Jesus and Santa is likely what makes your book notable, so I tried to play that up.

Just like you, I like to attract search traffic!

If I were you, I'd be trying to climb those rankings, scale the Jesus and Santa slope, and certainly the less steep books about Jesus and Santa one too. That's what I was trying to do when I wrote that "preamble" as I did. And it's what I'm still trying to do! (While still saying what I want to say.)

I see that among the many, many (many) keywords you've selected for your website's home page, you have Jesus & Santa. But the name Jesus doesn't even appear on that page! Google's not going to be lured into sending you search traffic on the basis of a bit of code.

I haven't really self published myself, but I've been hearing from and working with self-publishers for over seven years now. The most successful ones really define their niche.

I can't prove it, but I do think you could design a more ample site and shape your online presence in a way that could attract more search traffic than you're experiencing now.

I just googled elf on the shelf not christian. Some interesting stuff come up! All sorts of bloggers and such who wrote on that subject. Would they be willing to speak up for your book? Perhaps!

I hope you don't mind my opining...


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