What “Voted” My Romance Novel a Bestseller During the Election

by | Feb 29, 2016 | Book Marketing Basics

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UPDATE: I wrote the below during the last presidential election, but I assure you the approach and tips provided are evergreen, and an important reminder that no matter what’s going on in the country, or in the world, you’re always thinking long term and making a space for your book.


With Super Tuesday tomorrow, the media is saturated with presidential hopefuls. These days we all know how challenging it is for much else to rise above the deluge of political campaigns, candidates, debates, races, and news stories. Who is Trump offending this week? Will Hillary continue to edge out Bernie in the polls? Will Carson keep trailing in the race? Politics are everywhere, and the presidential election isn’t until November! It makes getting noticed in a noisy world that much tougher for writers like us.

Challenging, but not out of reach. In fact, it was the 2000 presidential election that presented the singular opportunity that made my first book, a romance novel, become a bestseller. The Cliffhanger, held the #1 spot within category on Amazon.com for three months. How did I do it?

Well, it wasn’t through email blasting a large database of email addresses. And social media hardly existed during that time (don’t try and calculate my age by that statement). I got noticed by challenging the traditional.

I hung my star on something already in the public eye — the 2000 Presidential election. Now that was a memorable election between candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore. 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 I could figure out a way to use it in my favor.

I awoke that night at 3 AM with an idea so outrageous, it just 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 that I had 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.

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,” said the local TV anchor.

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.

Capitalizing on that election opportunity with a single postcard not only “voted” my book to #1 rank at Amazon, it quite literally changed my life! Not to mention the way I look at marketing. It also earned me the title, the Cliffhanger lady, among people in the industry. Sixteen years later, I’m still 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. Jazzi Kelley

    I love this story! That took a lot of guts. I can imagine myself in the same situation dismissing the idea because it would “never work.” But it did! Thank you for sharing.

    I keep trying to tell my clients that, as a writer, it’s better to be hated than ignored. At least you’re provoking strong emotions! If you’re unknown, you have literally nothing to lose by taking giant risks.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Jazzi – thank you! It can be scary to take the leap, but so true — nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  2. Nicole Melanson

    Hi Penny,
    I’m linking to this as a brilliant example of creative ways to self-promote and just wanted to recommend that you add your name somewhere! I had to come to the comments to find out who you were. 🙂
    Cheers, Nicole



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