By Julie Cantrell

Shimmering ornaments. Kisses under the mistletoe. Carolers singing their way through the twinkling lights. The holiday season taps into our senses and sentimentalities to bring hope to even the grinchiest of grinches.

While not everyone can roast chestnuts on an open fire or spy a partridge in a pear tree, we can all celebrate this merry season by escaping into a heartwarming story. That’s why so many authors (including me) are publishing Christmas-themed novels.

A Warm & Cozy Readership

When the pandemic wreaked havoc on the 2020 holiday season, bestselling authors Lynne Gentry, Allison Pittman, Janyre Tromp, Kelli Stuart, and I teamed up to focus on a cheerful collaborative project. The end result? A five-novella collection inspired by our favorite Christmas movies: It’s a Wonderful Christmas hit shelves October 12.

If fall seems early, think again: Tis the season for books about Christmas. With more than 20 holiday books under her belt, No. 1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber is celebrated as “the official storyteller of Christmas.” Her annual Christmas books are so beloved that five have been crafted into original Hallmark Channel movies, including her bestselling Cedar Cove Series.

“Simply put, the reason I started writing Christmas novels is because I love Christmas! Everything from the songs, the food, the family gatherings, the decorations, the hope and goodwill we all want to share in during this special time,” Macomber says. “So many of us get caught up in the stress of the ‘doing,’ so I wanted to give my readers a small breather—a short stress reliever and a reminder of what’s really important at this most wonderful time of year.”

Award-winning author Jenny B. Jones (whose rom-com novel There You’ll Find Me was adapted for the big screen as this year’s Finding You), agrees that, on the business side of things, the market offers a “significant population of voracious reading fans of holiday books.” She’s published three Christmas novels in her Sugar Creek series.

“Readers will suspend disbelief with a holiday book in a way they won’t for other genres. Everyone is looking for a little sparkle and magic,” she says. “It’s nice to escape to a place where the season is still one of miracles and life-changing mistletoe, where snow changes the landscape and a character’s life, where maybe Santa grants a dream with a twinkle of his eye. It’s also a time of family and friends, core elements of holiday novels.”

And she freely admits that the holiday wonder removes typical boundaries not just for readers but for writers too. “You can really let your imagination go places that you might not be able to with your usual genre,” Jones says. “It’s escapism for the reader and writer. In my last Christmas book, The Holiday Husband, my heroine has a wish granted by Mrs. Claus. … There’s an element of magical realism and whimsy in the book that I just couldn’t get away with in my usual Rom-Coms. But at Christmas? Anything is possible!”

Macomber also lets her imagination run wild with holiday stories, even if the big idea is sparked from a real-life experience like the one that led to her upcoming release, Dear Santa (Oct. 19).

“The idea from my new Christmas book, came from my husband’s cousin who brought her eleven-year-old granddaughter to meet me because she wanted to become a writer,” Macomber explains. “So I asked her when she knew she wanted to become a writer. And she thought about it, and said, ‘I really knew when I started writing Santa letters.’”

Flexing the Format

Another upside is that holiday stories don’t have to be full-length novels to meet reader demand. “Readers seem to love Christmas novellas, which was one catalyst for writing Unpacking Christmas,” says award-winning author Beth K. Vogt. “Also, this was my first-time self-publishing a book, and I wasn’t aware of all the steps involved. I’m thankful two author friends Rachel Hauck and Lindsay Harrel coached me through it all—their expertise was a huge gift!”

Author Cara Putman contributed a Christmas novella to the multi-author anthology Christmas in Mistletoe Square, which released Oct. 1.

“Novellas can be a reader favorite because the stories are more bite sized,” Putman says. “My novellas are usually 20-25K words. Those are much easier to read in the busy holiday season.”

New York Times bestselling author Kristy Woodson Harvey found more flexibility in the holiday market: To revive a series. “After releasing the third—and what I thought was going to be final—book in my Peachtree Bluff series, I kept getting requests for more of these stories. For a couple years I wasn’t sure I wanted to delve back into the series, but then I thought: What could be more fun than a Christmas book? During the COVID shutdown, when our holiday season wasn’t quite as merry and bright as usual, I was writing the Christmas that I wished we were having!” Christmas in Peachtree Bluff arrives October 26.

Timing & Tradition

Woodson, whose beach reads are popular summer fare for her many fans, admits shelf life is a consideration when writing a holiday book.

“Whereas, with most of my novels I have the spring and summer to sell, a Christmas book has a pretty short sales window,” she says. “For me, tying it to the series made the most sense because I already had an interested audience—and I think that was definitely a deciding factor for my publisher too. That said, I hope it’s a book that I can promote year after year during the holiday season.”

Jones agrees that Christmas books have a significantly smaller window of time to sell, but she also recognizes the market is constantly changing: “I will say during Covid time, I’ve seen more holiday books sell for me in off-months than usual, but overall, I see holiday sales from October to end of December. So if you write a Christmas book, consider getting it out in September or October.”

Keeping the Christmas Spirit

The holiday season means parties—and that goes for holiday books too. While we won’t have an official book tour for It’s a Wonderful Christmas, we do plan to make the most of virtual events by inviting readers to join us for a fun LIVE! party on our facebook group, Her Novel Collective, and for a week of holiday giveaways on the Tall Poppies facebook group, Bloom.

The bonus behind a multi-author anthology like ours? The more the merrier.

“Christmas themed novella collections can be a great way to have new-to-you readers discover your books,” Putman says.

“I always consider who the other authors are and whether I like their books. Then I think about their readers. Would they like my books? If so, and if I have time, I love to be part of collections. It’s another way to market my writing to new readers.”

Vogt has ideas for stretching the sales season long beyond the week of Christmas. “I’m doing an Instagram tour in January because people still read Christmas stories in January. The Christmas decorations don’t come down right away, and we want some of the fa la la la la and hope to last beyond December 25. Reading a Christmas novella is the perfect opportunity to allow Christmas to linger.”

For marketing longevity, Jones advises authors to “Box up those Christmas books into a collection. Also if Hallmark can have a month of Christmas movies in July, then they must be on to something. (Or on something…) Try some sales promos during your own Christmas in July. There really are readers/viewers who could read/watch Christmas movies year round.”

Even if the holiday book sales fizzle in the off-season, Harvey also emphasizes the power of tying it to a series. “I saw it as a sales tool for the rest of my Peachtree Bluff series,” she says. “These stories have continued to sell so well for me year after year, so this felt like a way to not only put out the Christmas book I wanted to write but also to reignite interest in the three previous books.” Vogt is also publishing her holiday novella, the Thatcher Sisters’ Unpacking Christmas, in November as part of a series that already had a strong following.

Macomber emphasizes that she carries through with her usual themes no matter the season.

“I think readers get the same sense of hope, family, and community throughout all of my books,” she says. “Hopefully by the end of my novels, readers will leave feeling uplifted and inspired.”

Maybe that gets to the heart of why this season’s crop of holiday novels feels so robust.

“I truly felt like, after the year and a half or so we have had, readers just needed something fun to whisk them away,” Harvey says. “I want readers to finish the last page feeling happy, optimistic, and like anything is possible this holiday season!”

Have you thought about setting a story during the holidays? Visit Career Authors on Facebook to join our discussion.


Julie Cantrell is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, editor, TEDx speaker, and ghostwriter whose works have earned numerous awards across both the faith-based and general markets. It’s a Wonderful Christmas is on sale now.