Write the best god damn book that you can possibly write. And that’s so, once the book sells, you don’t just get a day or two of good sales, but it has some wind in its sails and people actually start talking about it. Then you can get the virality that’s baked into the book by people recommending it to their friends.
As part of my series on the “5 Things You Need To Know To Write A Bestselling Book” I had the pleasure of interviewing Sabri Suby.
Sabri Suby is a serial entrepreneur who runs Australia’s fastest growing digital marketing agency. Having originally founded King Kong in 2014 from his bedroom, Sabri has bootstrapped the company since day one and in under five years has successfully built a team of 54 specialists now achieving $20million+ in total revenue (year to date). As a pioneer in the digital marketing arena, his business has impacted 250,000 businesses in 42 different countries, and has generated in excess of $400 million in sales for him and his clients. Sabri launched his first book ‘Sell Like Crazy’ — the ultimate guide to marketing — in January 2019, quickly becoming an international bestseller.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
I am the founder of Australia’s fastest growing digital marketing agency (Australia’s 28thfastest growing business), with clients around the world. My experience and my success led to me writing Sell Like Crazywhich became an international bestseller within 10 minutes afterlaunching.
But like many entrepreneurial efforts, my business venture was created in a bedroom.Five years ago, I discovered an irresistible gap in the digital space and committed to starting the first full-service digital agency in Australia that not only focused on ROI, but also guaranteed its clients results.
With zero capital and no connections, I started cold calling 150 prospects a day in an attempt to get the ball rolling on what I believed could be a massive operation — but my dream wasn’t without prior experience.
I initially developed my thirst for sales and marketing in my first corporate job when I was just 17. After a slow start, my dedication to mastering my craft saw me quickly become an expert in cold calling and soon after I became the company’s top salesperson.
After some time in London dedicating myself to sales positions and seeing continued success, I decided to return to Australia to take the next stage in my professional development and pursue a degree in business and marketing.
While studying, I worked at a digital agency selling Google AdWords. When I was asked by a prospect if I could get their business on the left-hand side of the page (otherwise known as ranking organically), my enthusiastic nature overpowered me and I committed to delivering the solution.
The problem? I didn’t even know what search engine optimisation was; I was just eager to make the sale. So, when I got off the call my boss told me I had better figure out how I was going to deliver on my promise — so I did exactly that.
I dove deep into research about SEO and, soon enough, I was offering SEO services within the business I was working for. However, after realising my potential, I recognised that I could do a better job selling and executing the digital services than the agency I was currently with.
So over the summer, at the ripe age of 22, I started cold calling to get my first clients. By the end of the break, I had a sizable business on my hands. For me, it just didn’t make sense to go back to school to learn how to do business when I already had a business. So, I dropped out and refocused my efforts on building my first digital agency, growing it to about 16 people and $1 million in revenue. I later sold that agency and went on to start other ventures, including a sports group-buying site with Australian Football League football clubs.
After running and selling a number of successful ventures (and a few failed ones too!), I had honed my skills and understood what clients wanted. I realised no digital agency in Australia would talk to me about what the return on investment would be for my business. With a service so measurable I couldn’t understand why agencies were hiding behind vanity metrics like impressions and click-through rates. So I decided it was time to shake the trees and call out the digital cowboys by starting the first full-service digital agency in Australia that focused on ROI and guaranteed results.
My sales expertise, combined with a passion for customer satisfaction, set me up to score my first client for King Kong by the end of my first-week of cold calling. Less than 12 months into my venture, I invested in a radio campaign which generated enough revenue to help King Kong move from a bedroom operation and to an office and bring on my first employees.
With a small team on board, I was able to scale the business and, as the company gained momentum, they were generating of leads and tens of new clients each week. I learnt very early on about the importance of having systems in place to scale.
The team was making 180+ phone calls per day, feverishly trying to follow up every lead-up. I then set up marketing automation that would nurture each lead and service them before they even got around to calling them. This meant one person could service the level of enquiries of a team of 5–10 salespeople.
Fast forward to five years after inception and I have since transformed King Kong from a one-man operation into a digital powerhouse with an ambitious team of 54 of the sharpest digital marketers in Australia — with the expectation of having more than 100 staff over the next year as a result of the sustained business growth.
King Kong and I have won a number of entrepreneur awards on top of many company awards, including being named Australia’s fastest growing full-service digital agency on the AFR Fast Starters List (second year in a row) and Smart50 List, having achieved an overall growth of 314% and total revenue in excess of $14 million.
What was (so far) the most exhilarating or fulfilling experience you’ve had as an author?
Going from 90,000 on the day of release to a number one international best-seller within 10 minutes flat across all book categories! That was definitely the most exhilarating feeling, because you’re there working on this book for like 12 months, and it’s a business book about creating a selling machine. And I always thought that we would do well in a marketing category or some obscure internal category like industrial marketing. But I wasn’t sure whether or not this book had a mass market appeal, like Michelle Obama and like the Barefoot Investor, and we did.
What was the craziest, weirdest, wildest experience you’ve had as a bestselling author?
I’ve had lots of people from all over the world just come out of the woodwork on social media and share their stories and their transformations already from my book. There’s a chapter in my book called, ‘Kill the Little Bitch Inside’ and I went against my editor’s advice on publishing that chapter and keeping the title the same, because it was controversial. But I knew that it was a very good topic and it was a very good chapter, because it talks about the duality of man that really exists in everybody. And without a doubt, this has been the chapter that has resonated with the most people.
There have been a large number of social media posts from readers of the book about ‘killing the little bitch inside’ with pictures of that chapter in their book. And I’ve gotten many messages from people saying that after they read that chapter, they had to close the book and address that little bitch inside them before reading the rest of the book. And there has been some crazy and wild stories that have come out as a result of that.
What is the greatest part about being a successful, bestselling author? What is the worst (if anything) part?
The best part is being able to impact people on a mass market scale. I run a digital marketing agency, and even though we are the fastest growing digital marketing agency in Australia, there’s always only going to be a somewhat small pool of people that you can help, because your impact is limited to your client base.
But the accessibility of a AU$19.95 book makes our expertise and advice accessible to everybody. So it’s a really positive shift to have sold thousands and thousands and thousands of my book in the first month and hear all these stories from people from all different walks of life, rather than only clients.
And I guess, like with anything where you put yourself out there, there’s naturally going to be negative voices. So for me, writing a book and becoming a number one best-seller in 10 minutes flat, has come with some uninformed critics. That is simply part of the deal, and certainly not a deterrent.
What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer?
My work ethic. Without my work ethic, this book would not even be possible. I wouldn’t have anything to talk about if it wasn’t for my work ethic.
The most valuable words that can be printed are words from people that are doers. They’re people that actually do stuff. And then there’s words from academics, people who only aspire for success, and people that just write about doing stuff but don’t have the experience, and there’s no potency in those words.
So in writing my book I ripped back all the BS and all the fluff, and just tried to give people the exact wisdom that they need, which is what I wish that I’d had when I started my business. And that all comes as a result of having a really strong work ethic and getting up every day and actually doing the work. Because I’ve actually done it, my words are more potent, and it all comes down to having that experience.
So if I had to boil it down to one thing, it would be work ethic.
Which writer or leader has had the biggest impact on you as a writer?
Marcus Aurelius, who was one of the most respected emperors in Roman history, wrote an incredible series of personal writings called ‘Meditations’. It’s a fascinating insight into the thoughts, ideas and the challenges he faced when he was commanding the world’s most powerful army and country. His writings dive into his daily thoughts and the exercises he practiced to relieve the pressure and stress of running such an incredible army and country. I find it fascinating looking back thousands of years and reading about the small things that went through the mind of such an exemplary leader on a day-to-day basis and really applying them to today’s day and age. It has served me very well.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your journey to becoming a bestselling author? How did you overcome it?
Carving out time from my busy schedule to dedicate myself to writing a book was a big challenge as I am building my business and was writing as a project on the side. There’s a lot of demands in growing a business, and it just so happens that I’m running the 28th fastest growing business in Australia, so there’s a lot of demands on my time.
The answer was to just block time out, put my head down for uninterrupted focused time, even just one day a week, and write this book.
What things does a writer need to know if he/she wants to become a bestselling author?
Looking and seeing if there a market appeal for what it is that you’ve got. And very often, people will just write about some personal experience that they’ve got or something that they’re interested in, rather than looking at the market and assessing what the market wants. For me, I started with my passion, and where I thought I’d be able to make the most impact to people’s lives, and that’s definitely in helping people grow their businesses.
Then I needed to test the idea and see if it had any legs as a bestselling topic. I looked at the top-selling books of all time for the last like five decades in every single category. And I could see that there was a reoccurring theme in terms of business books. As a non-fiction book, they just sell very, very well. And then I basically got all of that data, and looked at all the titles of those books to assess what they all had in common. And the number one thing that they all had in common were the words ‘how to’ in the title. So the sub-heading of my book is, ‘How to Get as Many Clients, Customers, and Sales as You Can Possibly Handle.’
Then I started to run Facebook ads and Google ads with four different variations of my book title, and I started sending emails out to my database with the subject line of those four different titles. I ran that for some time to find what was the winning headlines, in terms of the mass market ones. Then I took those two winning headlines and I did a survey with our entire database to see which book they would be more likely to pay money for. And that’s how I arrived at my headline.
So it wasn’t by chance that it was a best-seller. I did the legwork. I put in the hard work. And left nothing to chance.
2. After you have determined if you have a market where people are starving for this, you need to work out how you want to package up your book as an appealing offer to that starving crowd.
3. Write the best god damn book that you can possibly write.And that’s so, once the book sells, you don’t just get a day or two of good sales, but it has some wind in its sails and people actually start talking about it. Then you can get the virality that’s baked into the book by people recommending it to their friends.
So it needs to be a really good book. A lot of people say you want to spend 80% on the marketing and 20% on the product. While I’m a big advocate and I believe in that, I’m a bigger believer of spending 100% of your time building the best book you can, and then you want to spend 100% of your time marketing the absolute hell out of that thing. So you need to have a good product.
4. Don’t just put your book onto a platform and expect it to sell. You need to do a lot of the marketing, eight months before launching the book, and build a list of people that will be interested in it.
Start to build before the launch. For example, start putting out blog posts that are excerpts of the book.
We had a waiting list of hundreds of thousands of people before we launched the book. So we had early testing, and a list of people that were just waiting for it like crazy.
No publisher is going to spend the amount of money and time and energy and effort on marketing your book than if you do it yourself. And we created a book trailer for our book, and it’s very cinematic. We did it on an absolute shoestring budget, but it’s really good and it helped us stand out from some of the best published authors in the world.
Everyone has a list of books in their house that they haven’t read that they want to get to. You need to sell them on why they should buy your book. And just a bio or a rundown of the book on Amazon isn’t enough. You need to make it visceral.
You need to get people overly piped up and excited about the book. And it doesn’t stop with the marketing of it. When you get my book, there’s a letter inside the book that sells you on reading the book, itself. Because the majority of people that buy books never actually read them, so then you want to sell that person, once they get the book, on why they should actually read it.
Don’t just expect, “Okay, you sold the book. That’s it. Your job is over.” In the first chapter of my book I address the reader and tell them that they’ve made a great decision in buying my book, and that I don’t want them to jump from one chapter to another. Instead I want them to read it from cover to cover to get the most value out of it, because I want them to be excited over the fact they’ve bought this book and get them pumped up to read it.
What are you most excited to work on next? Most excited to read next?
I’m most excited to get my book into as many hands as possible, so we’re looking to sign a distribution deal in physical bookstores now that the book has been out for a month. We’re also marketing our book all over the world.
The book has sold incredibly well, and now that the body of work is there, it’s just about how do we get it out to as many people as physically possible.
The book that I am most excited about reading next would be ‘Sapiens’ by Yuval Noah Harari.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Building a business is just a vehicle for you to have more impact. Realistically, you can only help a lot of people and create a movement if you have some kind of financial resources to do so.
So I believe that when you help someone double their business and make them a lot of money, that’s not just impacting the business owner, it’s impacting all of the staff members that work at the business and then the staff members’ families. And then it’s impacting the business owner’s family and their children and the causes that they support. It’s a ripple effect.
So I think that if you do really well in business, you generally work to have a lot of money, and if you have a lot of money, then you can make a bigger impact through doing things that you want to do that can add value to your communities and causes.
Anything else you’d like to add? We would love to hear whatever you feel inspired to include.
You need to approach writing a book strategically. If you’re looking to create a best-selling book, you can’t just jump into the writing of that book. If there’s one thing that I could stress, it’s that most books never sell out of their first print run, which is typically 3–5,000 books in a print run. According to UNESCO there was approximately 553,000 new book titles (not including new and revised editions) published just this year — that is a huge number of books to compete with. And a huge number of books that are not doing anything and will probably end up in a warehouse or discount store. And that’s because people are just writing what theywant to talk about, rather than what people actually want to hear about.
So after you’ve found what you’re interested in, have a look at what is appealing to the masses that you could write about. A great example is the story of a woman called Naura Hayden, who brought out a book called ‘Astrological Love’ and it bombed. It ended up at a thrift store, and amazingly, a publisher from New York found it and thought it was a really great book and saw it’s potential. He bought the rights and changed the title from ‘Astrological Love’ to, ‘How to Satisfy a Woman Every Time’, and it went on to become hugely successful, reaching number one on the New York Times best-seller list, because while it was the exact same content, the book was now making a different offer — one that had appeal.
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!