Thursday, December 06, 2007

Holiday Books

At Barnes & Noble I see that holiday offerings are already on display - and in the grocery store, holiday paperbacks on the kiosk near customer service. Does Bookends have an opinion on "holiday lit" as a genre, or wanna-be-genre?

Ah, yes, it’s that most wonderful time of the year and holiday books abound. I actually have my own personal collection of holiday books—titles that get packed away each season with the Christmas lights and come out to sit on the coffee table when the tree goes up. Books like 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Book of Christmas Questions, and My Treasury of Christmas Stories. And of course I would be remiss if I didn’t mention The Book of Thanksgiving, one of the books Jacky and I wrote in our packaging days. I don’t, however, usually look for holiday-centered novels, especially since I don’t have much time until after Christmas to actually sit down and read.

But do I have an opinion on holiday books, or I guess, more specifically, holiday novels? Well, surprise, surprise. I do. I think holiday lit (as you call it) is a great marketing opportunity for an already established author. You often get special holiday placement at bookstores, where you’ll be picked up by your regular readers and also by those looking for the perfect gift for Mom, Dad, or Grandma. For those who have not yet been published, or who are early on in your career, I will often recommend against writing a book that’s too targeted to a certain time of year. Holiday lit is great in November and December, when everyone seems to be in the spirit and can’t get enough mistletoe, nog, and good cheer, but the rest of the year most of us, including bookstores, want to avoid something that so obviously screams Christmas. Which means that often you won’t find those books (unless they are written by very-well-established authors) on the shelves at all.

I don’t think it’s a wanna-be genre. In fact, I never thought of it as a genre. Instead I think it’s a way for publishers and authors, like everyone else, to jump on the holiday bandwagon and find new opportunities to market and sell books.

But what about the readers? Do you find yourself buying books because they are holiday books or do you simply buy them because they are another book by an author you love?

Jessica

22 comments:

Aimless Writer said...

I usually don't reach for a holiday book unless its one of my fav authors. Even then...not all the time. Usually they are too gushy. I like a book that takes me deeper into a story and has the power to take me into their world. Holiday books are usually too short and sweet. However, I do know people who like them and I've bought them as gifts if one of the authors was a fav of someone on my list.

Kimber An said...

Funny, but that's what I assumed. That's rare!

I've got a Christmas story in me, but it's waiting for those reasons. :o) Although, I hope it doesn't have to wait too long or the people who inspired and, hopefully, will enjoy it the most might grow old and pass away before it breaks into print! Maybe I better write it up and give them a copy now.
;)

Christie Craig said...

Hmm...

I have picked up a Christmas story because I wanted to read something "in the season." But that only happened a couple of times. Most years, like everyone else, I'm too busy with other holiday events, to spend much time reading.

Which reminds me. Happy Holidays everyone.

Christie Craig

Josephine Damian said...

I wouldn't buy a holiday book even if it was written by my favorite authors. Buying automatically based on name isn't something I do, it's all about content for me.

Anonymous said...

Just a recommendation--This Year It Will Be Different by Maeve Binchy is a great collection of non-Christmas-y Christmas stories, eatable in a fast short gulp, that I read pretty much every December. Fun reads, and yes, I've given it as a gift. But I love Maeve Binchy anyway.

Kate Douglas said...

I rarely buy holiday-themed stories (though I've obviously written them for publishers who wanted them) as I see them merely as a marketing tool. Even stories by my favorite authors that are set around the holidays are rarely as good as their regular stuff. The few I've bought and read generally have come across as something thrown together to meet publisher/holiday criteria, not a true "story of the heart" from an author.

Karen Duvall said...

As a rule, I don't buy holiday themed books. However, I did buy one by Janet Evanovich once because I love her so much. And I've bought Christmas story anthologies for my Mom for Christmas.

As kind of a segue on this, regarding short story collections, holiday or not, I've been known to buy anthologies if one of the authors is a favorite of mine. This gives me a chance to sample other authors I haven't read yet, and I've found new favorites this way. I also love it when a story features a favorite series character. 8^) Rachel Caine is famous for posting short stories about her Weather Warden series character Joanne Baldwin on her website. It's great to get a Weather Warden fix between books.

spyscribbler said...

If a big name that I haven't read yet writes a holiday story, I have been known to pick it up.

DH, on the other hand, will buy anything with red and green on the cover. For him, it's a genre. He'll read romance, mystery, whatever ... as long as it's Christmas-themed.

Jeannie Ruesch said...

I'm not usually a holiday story reader. It would have to be an author who is an automatic buy for me to pick it up. My To Be Read stack is long enough of things I really want to read, the holiday story has to really catch my eye.

Heather B. Moore said...

I don't necessarily buy them for myself, but I will buy them for gifts. If I'm spending money anyway during the holidays, I'd rather put it towards the book industry and support authors. Plus you can spend $15-25 on a book (relatively cheap gift), but it's always considered nice and thoughtful.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Fascinating, useful comments, alas I am working now and can't post anything for a day or so! Thanks for addressing this.

loralee said...

I bought two non-holiday books as a holiday treat for myself. One is Christie Craig's Divorced, Desperate and Delicious. The other is Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig. As a gift to a friend, I bought a non-fiction, One Ranger, A Memoir, by H. Joaquin Jackson and David M. Wilkinson.

I buy what appeals to me, no matter what the season. Usually there are enough Christmas stories on TV to satify my holiday spirit.

Happy Holidays to everyone....

Angie Fox said...

Funny you should ask – I just bought two Christmas books on way out of the mall today. It was a mental health necessity. I’d taken my two small children for holiday photos, and it was coming down to book therapy or about a pound of chocolate truffles.

I bought On Strike for Christmas, about a group of women who get tired of working like crazy on holiday preparations that their husbands don't notice or appreciate. And then I bought The Morgue the Merrier, an anthology of Christmas tales set in a haunted morgue-turned-hotel.

But I’m a sucker for holiday books. Last week, I read Mrs. Jeffries and the Silent Knight, which is a continuation of a cozy mystery series that has about a dozen books out right now. I’d never read the series, but I thought it would be a fun way to see what it was about. And then A Catered Christmas, which is another fun cozy.

I belong to a few Yahoo readers loops and a lot of people are posting great recommendations. Based on those, I’ve ordered The Shepherd, The Angel and Walter the Miracle Christmas Dog, as well as Shirley, Goodness and Mercy (about three angels on earth for the holiday season).

Then I’ll probably read one of my favorite Christmas books of all time – The Body in the Transept, which doesn’t sound at all jolly, but it is the first in a wonderful cozy series and it just happens to be set in a little town in England during the holiday season.

Lee Harris’s book, The Christmas Night Murder is also an excellent, quick, holiday stress busting read. And then MaryJanice Davidson’s fourth Betsy Taylor book, Undead and Unreturnable, is set at Christmas time. All good reads and a great way to beat stress. At least until that next trip to the mall.

Brit Blaise said...

I've bought and wrapped Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig
for myself. And I'll get A Lick of Frost if Santa doesn't get it for me. I have a story out right now with the Holidays threaded throughout, but I didn't dwell on that fact while marketing, nor did my publisher mention it.

Diana said...

I was stunned by how many big-name authors put out holiday books this year. I work at a public library, and we had an entire cart of them. I broke down and read Heather Graham's Last Noel (which I liked) and Suzanne Brockmann's All Through the Night, which is the next book in her Troubleshooter's series (and enjoyed it).

Cindy Procter-King said...

I'm not a holiday book buyer. I buy books around the holidays, but not because they're holiday-themed. I rarely read a book right after I buy it, unless it's a friend's release. I like to let them sit in the TBR pile for awhile, so whether it's holiday-themed or not makes no difference.

Michele Dunaway said...

I actually have a holiday book out this year, and it's one of my funnier, lighter Harlequin Americans. The editors asked for a Christmas story for a December release). The Christmas Date is a fun tale of love and romance between the girl next door who's home and hearth and the boy who jetsets and doesn't want to slow down. Throw in some matchmakers from hell who actually try to break the couple up, and you have one of my favorites.

Michele
The Christmas Date, Harlequin American Romance, 12/07

Kate Douglas said...

LOL...okay, Michele! You may have just managed to put a large chink in my holiday cynicism! I'll have to get this one when I get to town.

Merry Jelinek said...

Holiday books that I buy, and I have bought a few here and there, are generally ones that catch my eye... Of course, I have at least a dozen for the kids that we pull out every december and they constitute their nightly reading for most of the month... they're already so hyped up on Christmas coming that they seem more interested in holiday stories because it adds to their fun - and it's a sneaky way to keep them interested in reading when they're overexcited about their surroundings...

I've gotten a few for myself as gifts that I liked, a few years ago it was Skipping Christmas, which was a fun light read. My favorite by a well known author, other than Dickens, is Santa's Evil Twin by Dean Koontz - it's friggin' hysterical!!! All in rhyme, really kind of marketed for kids but older kids and the adults get a real kick out of it.

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...

Re: "The Book Of Thanksgiving: Stories, Poems, and Recipes for Sharing One of America's Greatest Holidays"

Wow! So inspiring! I went and looked it up on Amazon.com, nice Thanksgiving cover. And yet - for Christmas this year, someone's giving me a Kinko's card with $60 on it, so I can get copies of my "Traveling Menstrual Show" printed up and bound...and start selling copies online! Oh, just the thing an agent would not want to hear...it's poetry...about the menstrual cycle...and you created a menstrual holiday, based on one of the poems? And you've been sending out Menstrual Monday Starter Kits, and people have been having parties? So now you're going to self-publish "Traveling Menstrual Show," i.e., "Stories, Poems and Recipes for Sharing One of America's...Most Unusual Holidays?" Oh geez...

Yep, certainly – instead of jumping on the Christmas bandwagon, I've jumped on the Mother's Day bandwagon, since Menstrual Monday "falls, er, spills the Monday before Mother's Day...because menstruation comes before motherhood, and usually long after it, too."

Well, we only go through life once...why not have a little fun? I suppose at some point I will be going to a writer's conference, and will need to say something about Menstrual Monday...an unusual example of what I call "holiday lit," I admit...but that's my "cred" for writing a holiday novel in the first place...

Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
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Wanda B. Ontheshelves said...
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