A green-speckled, orange pumpkin sits on a small bundle of tan wheat and a green leaf. Next to it sits a white present with a red bow. Sitting on top of the present is a red rose.

Holiday Romance Success

Safe to say, if you’re looking for a sweet, cozy read with a happily ever after, romance is the genre for you; and if you’re also looking for a little bit of holiday cheer, romance has plenty of options to choose from. But the amount of holiday themed romance novels that are advertised through the last half of the year makes one wonder—does anyone read those books after the holiday season passes?

To answer this question, I compared five Halloween books and five Christmas books that are popular recommendations on Booktok and Instagram. Six of the books were published in September or October of 2021, and the other four were published in August and September this year, 2022. After looking at the weekly sales of each of these books from their release dates to this October, the simple answer is no: these festive holiday love stories are not widely read year-round.

Despite this simple answer, however, there are a few interesting exceptions in the six books that have been released for a full year. Particularly, two of the books saw quite a bit of success throughout the year, despite their clear holiday subject matter: The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling and Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper. While the other four books showed a large decline in sales during the months of March through August, these two titles remained quite successful for holiday themed titles. According to NPD BookScan, both novels had steady weekly sales throughout spring and summer. In comparison, every other book published in 2021—Nick and Noel’s Christmas Playlist by Codi Hall, The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox, The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo, and Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey—sold significantly less.

What is so different about those four holiday titles from the other two published at a similar time in the exact same genre? The most obvious difference—those four are all Christmas books. Interestingly, NPD BookScan also shows that these four romances had fewer sales in their first four weeks after release than the two Halloween titles. Sales for the 2021 Christmas releases stayed relatively low, whereas Sterling’s The Ex Hex and Harper’s Payback’s a Witch both sold three to four times more copies. The preference for Halloween novels could lie in the advantage of Halloween being the first holiday of the year between itself and Christmas. However, it could also be because consumers are spending more money during the Christmas season than in the months before Halloween.

While the complete year of data is not available for the holiday romances released this year, the beginning of this same sales pattern is shown in the BookScan numbers for the 2022 releases. When comparing all ten titles together by weekly sales organized from publication date rather than calendar year, the Halloween titles—Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne, The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling, and The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna—mirror the sales for last year’s stories. These three Halloween stories had strong sales numbers right at release followed by a slight decline, then a steadying of numbers a few weeks after publication. The Christmas title, however—Codi Hall’s There’s Something About Merry—has low numbers with neither an increase or decline since release. This differs from the 2021 titles because they all saw an incline during the months of November and December, then a decline in the month of January. Presumably, Hall’s title will follow the same pattern.

Ultimately, while the answer to the initial question of “are holiday romances read year round” is no, the Halloween titles still see reasonable success throughout the year. Whether this is because romance readers are always in the mood for something a little witchy, or the fall season is the go-to for a cozy read, the numbers prove that if you want to write or publish a holiday read, Halloween is loved year-round.

Halloween books discussed in this post:

    Angelika Frankenstein Makes Her Match by Sally Thorne
    Payback’s a Witch by Lana Harper
    The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling
    The Kiss Curse by Erin Sterling
    The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

Christmas books discussed in this post:

    Nick and Noel’s Christmas Playlist by Codi Hall
    The Holiday Swap by Maggie Knox
    The Holiday Switch by Tif Marcelo
    There’s Something About Merry by Codi Hall
    Window Shopping by Tessa Bailey
Gargoyle overlooking city of Paris

Marketing YA Fantasy

At Ooligan Press we publish about four new titles each year. Each book has a unique aesthetic which is consistent across all marketing, design, publicity, and social media collateral. In order to inform this aesthetic, our team puts together a “branding brief” for each book. This document serves as a way to inform how our marketing should look and feel.

Currently, our team just completed the branding brief for Keepers of Aris, our upcoming YA fantasy novel by Autumn Green. Keepers of Aris is about a young woman, Jay Raremore, who was born with immense and growing magical powers. At the time when our story takes place, Aris Magica, the secretive realm of magic that exists parallel to humanity, is in danger and Jay is the only one powerful enough to save both worlds.

Keepers of Aris touches upon themes such as grief, loss of innocence, and the struggle of battling with real-life and inner demons. Because the content of the story is more advanced, one of our goals is to make it clear in our marketing materials that this is a book that will appeal to an adult audience, as well as to young adult readers. To do this, we need to make it clear that Keepers of Aris, as far as young adult books go, leans more towards the adult end of the spectrum, rather than the middle grade end. Often middle grade novels include cartoonish or illustrated images on their covers or images with recognizable faces or silhouettes, which we have avoided using on the cover. For future marketing materials, we are avoiding bright or vibrant colors and using a darker color palette instead. On the other hand, we also want to avoid communicating that Keepers of Aris is too heavy or dark for a young audience. As a result, we are not going to focus on the violence or bloodshed in the story; this is not a significant focus of the novel, so we don’t want it to be a significant focus in our marketing.

Another consideration when branding Keepers of Aris is how to communicate what type of fantasy the book entails, or what subset of fantasy it falls into. Keepers of Aris can be considered low fantasy, meaning that the story takes place in a world that is otherwise normal, outside of the magical elements that our characters encounter. This is in contrast to high fantasy, in which the story takes place in an alternative world. Keepers of Aris takes place in the modern-day universe, so we want to steer away from an aesthetic that would communicate a medieval, ancient, or futuristic setting.

The plot of Keepers of Aris largely takes place at the Institute, a boarding school for teenagers with magical abilities. To communicate this, we are going to focus on images related to the aesthetic of “dark academia”. Dark academia is typically associated with a darker, moodier color palette and images of gothic architecture, vast libraries, school uniforms, and candlelit study sessions.

All of these things help communicate the tone of the book, which we described as being “serious, somber, dark, and mysterious”. Developing a cohesive brand for a book helps communicate to readers the core message and themes of a book, thereby connecting our book with our target audience.