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  • The Publishing Post

Counting Down to Christmas: The Rise of Book Advent Calendars

By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees


With Christmas just around the corner, most of us will be nearing the end of the annual chocolate countdown, an integral part of most families’ Christmas traditions. But the past few years have seen a boom in alternative advent calendars, from beauty products, to tea, to alcohol and even socks. This issue, we are taking a look at a few of the book-themed advent calendars that are on offer this year, as well as some inspired social media countdowns.


Advent calendars are a relatively new addition to the book industry but are a fun and unique way of marketing backlist books and introducing readers to new authors. Many of the calendars we feature in this issue offer an interesting take on the advent calendar, and encourage social media engagement with publishers and bookshops, another fantastic example of word-of-mouth marketing, and a great way to drive sales over the festive period.


Women’s Prize for Fiction #Bookaday


This festive season, the Women’s Prize for Fiction has been focusing on promoting literature by women on social media. In a campaign that aims to start a conversation surrounding “our favourite books by women to give, receive and get lost in over the Christmas period,” the Women’s Prize engaged with librarians, booksellers and readers. Alongside a fundraising campaign to provide books to readers from disadvantaged backgrounds through donating the cost of a gingerbread latte, they have also shared a book a day from the 1–12 December, with prompts ranging from “book to gift” and “finest first line.” Spotlighting some of this year’s most popular titles by women, they also encouraged readers to get involved with the prompts and continue the discussion.


Hatchard’s Under the Christmas Tree


London’s oldest bookshop, Hatchard’s, have been celebrating the Christmas period through their “Under the Christmas Tree” campaign. Each day on Instagram, Hatchard’s selected a significant title or range from their shop to highlight to readers. In the style of an advent calendar, followers could swipe across to reveal which book was behind the post of the day. Titles included the award-winning debut Katy Hessel’s The Story of Art Without Men and special editions of the classics. Hatchard’s covered a range of genres and topics to provide the perfect gift inspiration.


Toppings’ Bookseller Advent


Toppings, an independent bookshop in Bath, placed their booksellers at the heart of their Christmas social media campaign, Bookseller Advent. Posting each day, their Instagram account featured a photo of a different bookseller with their reading recommendation. Their team shared a range of books throughout the month, including mini reviews and their thoughts on their top reads of the year. Recommendations included Jarvis Cocker’s memoir Good Pop, Bad Pop, None Of This Is Serious by Catherine Prasifka and Beth O’Leary’s The No Show. It’s a campaign that’s personal, and who doesn’t trust a recommendation from a bookseller?


The Gruffalo and Friends Advent Calendar Book Collection, Pan Macmillan


Advent calendars have always been aimed at delighting children during the countdown to Christmas. In recent years publishers have utilised this festive tradition amongst kids to market childhood classics from their backlist and book advent calendars have been an increasingly popular alternative for families. This year Pan Macmillan have combined the popular advent calendar format with family-favourite picture books to build anticipation for the holidays. The Gruffalo and Friends Advent Calendar Book Collection is a collection of twenty-four mini colouring, drawing and activity books based on the bestselling picture books by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.


Twenty-Four Days of Reading Advent Calendar, Rare Birds Books

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But advent calendars aren’t just for kids: counting down to a special occasion can be a thrill for adults too and Rare Birds Books is providing bookworms with an exciting countdown of their own. Rare Birds Books is an online book club and in-person bookshop in Edinburgh that prides themselves on finding fantastic books written by women and giving readers a fresh way of discovering them. Their unique advent calendar further promotes these brand values and encourages readers to judge a book by more than its cover by initially keeping the title a secret. Each door in the festive countdown reveals a book blurb to read and at the end of the month customers choose their favourite four and redeem them using a secret code.


Indie Book Advent Calendars, Ninja Book Box


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Ninja Book Box have also shown that advent calendars are a fantastic way for smaller businesses to build community engagement and customer loyalty during the holiday season. This book box subscription service dedicated to indie publishers has now sold out of its annual indie advent calendar which includes recipes, gifts, advent traditions and one beautifully wrapped preloved book per week of advent, personalised to the customers' reading tastes. But that’s not all, this year festive activities such as Cosy Advent Lives on Instagram will be included allowing the bookish community of customers to come together, share what they received in their box for the week and enjoy the festive season.

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