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Thrills, joys and surprises of selling, by Azu Ishiekwene

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Thrills, joys and surprises of selling, by Azu Ishiekwene

There are probably more books on how to sell everything than there is sand by the seashore. I have read a few myself and might say that when it comes to selling, even though what you have read might help, nothing teaches like what you learn by doing it.

For some, selling feels natural. I cannot remember how many times I have bought stuff that I really didn’t need because the seller made me feel like they were offering the moon on a stick. Good for those who have such skills but when it comes to selling, I’m far from a natural. I overthink, over-analyse and take failure to deliver rather personal – all perfect signs of a poor salesman.

Even after giving it my best shot, I linger on the matter, beating myself over the head about how I might have done better. That was probably why my first book, The trial of Nuhu Ribadu: A riveting story of Nigeria’s anti-Corruption war was not a commercial success, even though I closed it believing that recording that important phase of Nigeria’s life was more important than commercial success.

When I set out to write my second book, however, a couple of things had changed. Not the textbook principles of selling such as – place, product, promotions, price or physical presence. Sixteen years ago, when that first book was released, the Internet and social media were in their infancy. That has changed.

Thinking of writing?

And just as important, I cannot be thinking of writing a book about monetising content, without thinking about how the book will reward my effort, and of course, also inspire young writers. If that was ever going to happen, I needed to be intentional – and even if I fail, fail intentionally.

Being intentional meant digging a bit more beforehand to find the best combination of theory and practice. Given that social media was going to play a vital role in the effort, a digital migrant like me also needed to immerse a bit more in the cauldron where for many years I was more than happy to have just one toe in.

A group of closet experts – Adeyeye Joseph, Freeman Oloruntoba, Emeke Ishiekwene, Wilson Onwuka, Sam Ossai and Ololade Bamidele – prepped me for weeks on the perils and promises of riding a digital highway riddled with avatars and the armours I must always remember. On this road, it’s not enough to look left, right and left again, as your mother taught you. Timing, form, medium and message are just as important. Plus remembering all the time that the vocabulary in your standard English dictionary may have gone stale!

KK’s fan base rule

I must also share something from an article by Kevin Kelly updated in Tim Ferriss’ book, Tools of Titans. Kelly’s principle of 1,000 true fans says that a true fan is someone who will buy anything and everything you produce. This rule of true fans says that to be a successful creator, you don’t need millions. Not millions of dollars or millions of clients or millions of customers.

READ ALSO: What’s in a book? You’ll never know, until…, by Azu Ishiekwene

If you’re happy to make a living, and not a fortune, you need just 1k true fans who will climb any mountain, cross any river, and jump any hurdle to buy a minimum quantity of what you have produced over a period of time. With the over 3k contacts on my phone, I had to decide who among them could be superfans.

King’s exceptionalism

But a part of me also kept going to Stephen King. I don’t know what it was, whether it was genius or serendipity. But when he made his break there was neither Facebook nor X. There was no Instagram or LinkedIn. He was, quite frankly, an unknown; a man of promise and a good husband no doubt, but nevertheless an unknown part-time teacher and writer, hoping for a break someday. He didn’t have a community outside his family of his wife and three children, never mind a fanbase of 1k.

And then he produced Carrie, a book he totally didn’t expect much from when he mailed the manuscript to Doubleday, his publisher, that later passed the paperback rights to Signet Books. He was in his kitchen one day, long after the manuscript had been sent when he got a call from Doubleday that nearly knocked him off his chair. The book, which he would have been delirious to get only $30k from, had just fetched him $400k!

Genius or luck?

Don’t ask me what that was. Genius, serendipity or a good mix of both. But there you have it! No true fans, no social media, no promotions. Yet, boom! It happened.

You’re right. You don’t get a King every time. And so, I took my fate in my own hands hoping to put into play in the sale of Writing for Media and Monetising It, everything I have learnt about selling, from selling charcoal for my mother many years ago to selling newspapers for the past over 35 years I’ve been a journalist.

My experience in the past three weeks since Premium Times Books released my book has been funny, thrilling, with not a few surprises – and yet these are early days. Last week, I shared the concerns of one of the journalism’s icons and publisher of Vanguard, Sam Amuka, fondly called Uncle Sam, about how to get people to read the book.

Not an easy one but I’m hoping that sharing how folks can be rewarded – in a clear, relatable way – while they’re doing what they enjoy doing, might interest more than a few regular folks enough to read. I hope I’m right.

My ‘fan-mail’

If social media feedback were convertible – and there have been quite a number of heartfelt ones – then King might well be prepared for a good chase. Are you laughing, as I suspect?

But seriously, there have also been a few rather curious feedback. One follower – I’m not sure whether to classify him as super, lightweight or just a passerby – sent a message congratulating me profusely for the book. I was naturally hoping the next thing he would ask was how or where he would buy a copy, to which I would have directed him to: www.azu.media. But no. He simply said, “Great one, Azu. Send me a copy!”

That put me on the spot, but not for long. After mulling how to respond, I said, “Thank you, Sir.” To which he responded with the meme of hands clasped in prayer. End of story!

Another one was more social. Amidst a video thread of greetings and wishes for commercial success, this follower simply said, “My own na you look good…brains plus charms…hmm.” To which I responded with the meme of hands clasped in prayers. Or what?

I know it’s still a long road to June 26 when the book will be publicly presented, but with followers like Brains Plus Charms, you’d better not rule out a Carrie story. Writing for Media and Monetising It, may not be a work of fiction like King’s Carrie, but it was invested with no less heart, passion and planning. The rest, perhaps, is a matter of luck!

Ishiekwene is Editor-In-Chief of LEADERSHIP

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