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This Top Sales Book Was Rejected More than 50 Times

02/04/2016 06:01 pm ET | Updated Feb 04, 2016

Trying to get a book published can be a disheartening task. In 2009, I resolved to get a book deal, and it took me two years of rejections - and an extraordinary amount of effort expended on 'platform building' - to sign a deal for my first book, Reinventing You, and another two for it to be released.

These days, in order to win a book deal, you have to have a healthy dose of perseverance. That's why I was struck by Alex Goldfayn's story. His book, The Revenue Growth Habit, was named one of the top sales books of 2015 by 800-CEO-READ, and yet it was rejected by more than 50 publishers.

I asked Alex to share his experience - and how he was finally able to sell his book - because I think it provides an important roadmap for all aspiring authors: never give up on yourself or your vision, and keep pushing until you get a yes.

Here's the rest of the story, in Alex's own words.

***

The sales book of the year for 2015 was rejected more than 50 times by publishers and agents. I know, because I wrote it.

It's my third book. And nobody wanted it. Not agents - not even my agent who represented my last book. Not publishers - not even my publisher of my last book.

For more than two years, in fits and starts, I tried to find the book a home with a commercial publisher. No luck.

As I lay out in the book, growing revenue is simple. We overcomplicate it, but it's much easier than we make it out to be: just communicate your value systematically to people who can buy it. That's it.

And I cover this in the book, The Revenue Growth Habit. It's about dramatically increasing sales with fast, simple, no-cost actions: asking for testimonials and monetizing them for revenue; asking the Did You Know question; asking for referrals and actually receiving them. Stuff like that.

So for years, I took my own advice trying to get this book sold.

Contact an agent or a publisher regularly, personally, and discuss the idea. Send book proposal.

The universal response: Thank you. It's not for us. Good luck.

Why was it not for them? Because my previous book hadn't sold enough copies. If you've written a book that hasn't sold well (which describes nearly all repeat authors) it's very difficult to commercially publish another one. I understand this, but I needed to write another book.

Why?

Because I grow companies. I consult to (mostly) closely-held businesses about rapid revenue growth. My typical client grows by 10-20% in their first year with me. I wanted to give my clients' staffs a book to reference when they needed scripts, language and technique. I also do three to four speeches or workshops every month. I wanted to arm these audiences with a reference guide that dived deeply into every approach I present. Finally, not everybody can work with me. I wanted to help more people than merely those I work with personally.

At one point, my wife asked me "aren't you frustrated with all the rejection?"

No. I wasn't. I only needed one yes. I teach this. Now I had to practice it.

Did I consider self-publishing? Sure. But frankly, with a seven-figure solo consulting practice to run, I didn't have the time to work on the editing, graphic design, layout printing, distribution and everything else the publisher handles.

Thomas Edison once said that "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

It's one of my favorite quotes in the world.

Because no never really means no, does it? It simply means not at this moment. So we must give people another moment to yes.

I bet you can think of more than one instance in your life when you were ready to give up, but didn't. You tried again. You made that one additional effort. And then it worked. You succeeded.

Many times success is just one additional effort away.

So, I kept making efforts.

One day, one of my business advisors connected me with an agent who wanted to rep the book.

She pitched it to many business publishers. All eventually said no.

But we had a nice call with John Wiley & Sons, a great business publisher.

The Wiley editor took The Revenue Growth Habit back to his acceptance board. After a brief consideration, the board (say it with me) rejected it because of poor sales of my previous book.

My agent went back to work, and the rejections continued streaming in.

I proposed calling Wiley back. She didn't like the idea, as it's not standard operating procedure with these things. I called anyway. We had another nice conversation, and my editor went directly to the head of publishing (who himself had rejected the book about two years ago!) to make a case. He succeeded.

Wiley bought the book at the end of 2014, I wrote it in January - yes, it took just a month to write, because I'd been creating, teaching, applying and implementing the material for clients and audiences for years. The Revenue Growth Habit was published last July, and in December the business book retailer 800-CEO-Read named it the sales book of the year.

Also in December, Forbes listed it as one of the top business books of the year.

And nobody wanted it except for me, and, eventually, one other person: my Wiley editor, Richard Narramore.

Last spring I was speaking at a convention, and one of the other speakers was the legendary psychologist and author Martin Seligman. I studied him in college, and I was utterly fascinated that he was here, on the same stage as me.

During his speech, he said something I'll always remember:

That his research has found that perseverance and resilience are twice as important to success as talent is. That is, perseverance and resilience are two-thirds of the equation to success, and talent is just one-third. Think about the power of this.

Sure, I can write well.

But the 2015 sales book of the year would simply not exist if I didn't persevere through the relentless rejections that poured in for years.

Anything worth having is like that.

Are people telling you no?

Give them another opportunity to say yes.

Then again.

And again.

You only need one yes.

And one day, maybe soon, maybe today, they will say yes.

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist and professional speaker who teaches at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing You and Stand Out. You can download her free 42-page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook.

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