What’s the difference between selling a puppy and selling a book?

(Introducing a simple but brilliant book promotion tip to help self-published and independent authors sell more books)

Cover of Open Window, a collection of poems by Joyce WilliamsChatting to the guests at the launch of my own book, Sell Your Books!,  I was reminded by David Williams, husband of the late poet Joyce Williams, of a great tip for selling more books.

“When I’m doing a poetry reading from Open Window, I hand out copies to members of the audience to look at while I’m speaking,” he advised me. “I just put them on the tables in front of them and they often pick them up to look at the poems on the page while I’m reading them. By the time I’ve finished, people are usually keen to buy a copy, without any additional pressure from me, simply from having had one in their hands.”

This subtle move is actually one of the oldest tricks in the book for selling not just books, but just about anything tangible. My first husband, who spent some years training salesmen, referred to this practice as “puppy dog selling”.

He actually put it into practice with me once when trying to persuade me to adopt a kitten from a cat refuge. There lay the kitten in a basket on the reception desk, with a big sign on it saying “Nervous kitten – needs good home.”

“Go on, just pick it up and see what it feels like,” he suggested, and before I realised what he was doing, I was cuddling a little fluffy thing whose enormous purr made my fingers tingle. I couldn’t help but find it delightful. No prizes for guessing who went home with a kitten that day. (Had I been a dog person rather than a cat person, it would have worked just as well with a puppy dog!)

The thing is, once you’ve handled something, you start to bond with it. Salesmen recognise that when a browser spontaneously picks an item up in a shop, they’re emitting  a buying signal. It’s a great time for the salesman then to move in to ease the process along and offer solutions to any “buying objections” that the potential customer may have.

I’m not suggesting you go round bookshops thrusting your book into any empty hands you can find. Not many writers can get away with such direct action without upsetting either the management or the customers. But it is helpful to make it easy for potential customers to pick up a browsing copy of your book, whether in a bookshop, on an exhibition stall, at a talk you are giving, or wherever else you have found to meet potential readers face to face. It will also help if your book is nice to the touch, has a striking cover and some interesting blurb on the back and in the frontispiece. As you can see from the book jacket pictured here, Open Window has a beautiful illustration on its front, drawn by a local artist, which in itself makes a good talking point for the eager salesman!

If you’d like to virtually stroke this beautiful book across the ether, here’s a link to its page on the publisher’s website where you can find out more about it:


And here’s the link if you’d now care to buy it on Amazon. Go on, you know you want to…


And just to please any of you who clicked on the link to this post from Twitter, expecting the answer to the question to be Groucho Marx’s brilliant one liner, here it is – enjoy!

Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read

3 thoughts on “What’s the difference between selling a puppy and selling a book?

  1. Pingback: How to Sell More Books: Seize Handselling Opportunities | Off The Shelf Book Promotions

  2. Excellent point, Debbie. In fact at our last Unchained event we toyed with handing out copies so that audience could find writing prompts from within. wish we had now!

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