Want to write a runaway bestseller? Put a dog in your book

Over the weekend, I attended the 31st Annual San Diego State University Writers’ Conference in sunny Southern California. In addition to hikes near the beach and mid-winter days featuring temperatures in the 70’s, I got a chance to attend some very informative seminars taught by industry experts.

Among those was Pendelton “Penn” C. Wallace, author of The Mexican Connection, who taught a class on marketing your book.

My number one takeaway? Put a dog in your book. Seriously! People go crazy over dogs, he said. Come to think of it, some of the best novels I’ve ever read have somehow incorporated at least one canine.

But besides that, Penn brought up a number of good points during his talk on marketing:

Nothing sells as well as getting in front of your audience. Physically, that is. When potential readers can see you in person, learn a little about you, and get a sense of who you are as a person, they will be more apt to buy your book and become loyal followers. And they’ll be sure to tell their friends they got to meet you! More ideas for offline promotion

It only takes five years to become an overnight success. This insight garnered a hearty round of laughter, but Penn immediately went into detail about his five-year plan to write several novels, market them, and earn a steady stream of income from them. He included details such as how many books he wanted to write (five books in his current series plus three in a new series), how often he wanted to blog (every two weeks), and how many online promotions he would run (one a month).

This five-year idea can be liberating because it frees you from the 50 Shades syndrome—thinking that you’ve failed as a writer if your book isn’t a runaway success the second you post it on Amazon. My only word of caution has to do with the other extreme: don’t get suckered into thinking it has to take you five years and ignore ways to speed it along—great things can happen along the way, so always be on the lookout for opportunities; every now and then—and I stress every now and then—overnight successes truly are overnight. But what’s to say you can’t be incredibly successful, say, a year from now?

Your two most important marketing tools: the cover and the hook. Where do potential book buyers start when they’re examining their latest finds? At the beginning! Make sure your first sentence grabs the reader. Your first five pages are pretty darn important, too. But even before they open the book, your readers will most definitely judge your book by its cover.

Penn also mentioned that in order to make his book series more recognizable, each of the covers in his Ted Higuera thriller series has a red cross hairs graphic on the front. Remember, as a writer, you are your business, and businesses have brands. This is a great way to stay consistent when you brand yourself.

You’d do well to read the first chapter of The Mexican Connection. And if you buy it, be sure to write a short review—Penn only needs a few more for a promotion he’s planning this month.

Inspired yet? Start writing your #365daynovel today!

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