Story of a Bestseller:The Power of a Postcard

by | Nov 26, 2008 | Book Marketing Basics

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These days many of us are looking for inexpensive ways to get noticed. Although I don’t always recommend the “less is more” route, sometimes when combined with a good marketing campaign, can leverage some really amazing results. I thought I would run this story which has circulated extensively on the ‘Net but is always a nice piece of marketing inspiration and shows you what a great idea, a postcard, and a .29 cent stamp can do!

Story of a Bestseller: The Power of a Postcard

A recent article in Publisher’s Weekly reported about an author who shot their book up to the #1 spot on where it remained for two days. This new marketing tactic (called “permission marketing”) is becoming very popular.

Unfortunately, it’s not inexpensive and you must also have access to a large database of email addresses. This database is blasted with persuasive emails about buying your book. If you have the database and funds to do this, great! You can get your book to the #1 spot on Amazon. Whether it stays there for one day or one week, you can now call yourself a bestselling author.

Challenging the traditional is the only way to get noticed in a noisy world and there are other ways to launch that challenge. That’s how I got my first book, The Cliffhanger, to the #1 spot on (best selling book within San Diego) where it stayed for three months. How did I do it?

I hung my star on something already in the public eye: the 2000 Presidential election. You remember that, right? How could you forget?! In the midst of chads, hanging and otherwise, our local paper ran a huge headline that read: Cliffhanger! I knew if I couldn’t find a way to position my book around that, I needed to hang up my marketing hat. Problem: The Cliffhanger had nothing to do with politics. It was a love story about people in denial. (No news there.) Still, I knew if I looked hard enough, I could find a way.

I woke that night at 3 AM with an idea so outrageous, I knew it had to work. I raced out to the office supply store the minute it opened to pick up several packs of clear labels. I got out the postcards I had printed with the book cover on them and stuck on labels with the following slogan:

Getting tired of the Presidential cliffhanger?

Try this one.

The Cliffhanger, a novel.

No politics involved.

I mailed 500 postcards out that day while praying the election wouldn’t get called. I mailed these postcards to everyone in the media I’d ever contacted. Ever!

Days after my mass-mailing, I was walking through my living room when suddenly I spotted my book cover on the screen. I was stunned. The local TV anchor was saying, “This has got to be the best thing I’ve ever seen. This lady wants you to go buy her book. I say everyone should rush out and buy it.” And everyone did. That afternoon my book shot up to the #1 spot on Amazon where it stayed for three months. It even beat out Harry Potter (which was #4 at that time) yet Harry got the movie. Go figure.

That single postcard shot my book up the ranks at Amazon and quite literally changed my life and the way I look at marketing. To this day, people in the industry still know me as The Cliffhanger lady. And I’m happy and proud about that.

This week, I charge you to do something outrageous in your campaign. Challenge the norm. Step outside the book and rise above the noise. Remember, sometimes it takes only one thing–just one thing to make a difference.

Wishing you an outrageously successful campaign!


  1. Penny

    Thanks! I’m so glad you enjoyed this! Good luck with your marketing… Penny

  2. eileen declemente

    That was a fantastic idea, now I gotta come up with something because I am dieing and I feel like I am letting it happen. Thanks Eileen

  3. Brenda Salzano

    Great Tip! I know that today people are overwhelmed with emails, spam, but a postcard is a welcome. Loved your “tweet”. It got My attention!

  4. Judy H. Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, the storytelling trainer

    hello from Montana:

    Great idea.I have a book coming out soon and am in Kathleen Gage’s class for making it an amazon best seller.

    Question for your group. People have agreed to write a review of my parenting book. Should they do it before so it goes in the book (back cover is gone) or wait and do it on Amazon?

    Let me know.


    Judy H. Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, family relationship coach and author

  5. Annette Colby, PhD

    I am so happy for you!! Your creative light shines as an example for all. Happy New Year and continued success.

    Annette, Intuitive Counselor and Inspirational Author

  6. Penny

    Hey Judy, it depends on who they are. If they are ‘experts’ in the industry then include them on the book, otherwise for readers just add them to Amazon!

  7. Penny

    Hey Brenda, thank you! I’m glad you liked the article…

  8. Ruth Houston

    A couple of years ago I sent out about 100 post cards to media to alert them of my availability as an infidelity expert to comment on popular infidelity issues, high profile infidelity court cases, celebrity infidelity and infidelity-related breaking news. Though I get frequent calls from the media for interviews and comments in these areas, only a couple of them said they were calling because of the postcard.

    Most of them say they found me through a Google search which led them either to my website or one of my press releases, or articles. Or they mention having seen me on a TV show (Today Show, Fox & Friends, Good Morning America and others,) in the past.

    I did 2 or 3 mailing per year for 2 1/2 years, but discontinued when my budget became very tight. I can’t really say that I noticed any major difference in the number of interview requests after I stopped.

    I like your idea of sending postcards with the book cover. I may give it a try. The title is somewhat intriguing (Is He Cheating on You? – 829 Telltale Signs) but I wonder if they would consider it too commercial without a news hook, even though infidelity is an evergreen topic?

    Or would it stick in the back of their minds for future use.

    What do you think?

  9. Penny

    Hey Ruth, infidelity is an evergreen topic. I would send it with the book cover, I love the title btw! Good luck, Penny

  10. Travelingirl

    Love this! I have a pr friend that did postcards of her clients book as well but not as ingenious as this.

  11. Penny

    Hi Travelingirl – glad you liked this piece! It was a fun little experiment…

  12. Vivian

    Way to go!!!!!

  13. Betty Mahalik

    Thanks for nudging me to move forward with this idea!! Also just read your “How Long to Market Your Book” message and now have 3 or 4 new ideas to pursue.

  14. Tony Eldridge

    I love this article. It goes to show you that you never know where your next success may come from. I linked to this article in my Friday’s Tips Around The Net post.

  15. Penny

    Thanks, Tony – I really appreciate the plug! 🙂

  16. Penny

    Go Betty! I’m so glad our blog posts are helpful!

  17. Ingrid

    What a great story! Love it. Just goes to show that creativity always wins.

  18. Penny

    Thank you, Ingrid! I’m glad you enjoyed the article…

  19. Leslie Kohler

    I’ve been tying my upcoming novel, Sins of the Border, into news events–wasn’t sure if I was on the right track, but your campaign tells me I am. My book is a cozy mystery, and the border news is grim, so I was sure. A man I researched for rogue border patrol info. is now accused of murdering immigrants! Thank you for the insight.

    An aside: An easy way to do postcards is Send Out Cards. You can download picture of book cover, have mass message printed on card, which you can easily customize for different news outlets,and mailed within 48 hrs. Good $$ kohler.

  20. Anthony James Barnett - author

    What an amazing story. It could have gone entirely the other way of course. It was just a case of the the TV presenter finding it interesting, and that interested the viewers.

    I tried to get a TV presenter interested in ‘Without Reproach’, based on the fact that she often dines in a restaurant in my village (Jalon, Alicante, Spain)when she comes to this area on vacation. My novel is based on the area, including Jalon itself,and I thought it would have interested her – but it didn’t. A failed attempt, I’m afraid.

    I need to find something else

  21. Judith H. Swartz

    Thank you for sharing and providing good ideas for this newbie. I think the key in your story is the “idea in the middle of the night.” When you follow those, as you did so well, they keep coming. Right?

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