May 4

2 comments

Selling Books & Confessions of a Failed Tupperware Lady

By Gwyn Teatro

May 4, 2021


Guest blog post by Gwyn Teatro, author of In The Thick of It: Mastering the Art of Leading from the Middle.

“Selling things is part of the modern world and if you have a product, you have to sell it, but by heaven it’s no fun if it does not come naturally to you.”

~ from the book, Past Imperfect by Julian Fellowes

Selling anything has never come naturally to me.

My first foray into the world of sales was when necessity drove me to sell Tupperware via home parties. The initial party was hosted by me, but conducted by a more seasoned and, it has to be said, positively shameless woman who had achieved considerable success in home party sales.

 I invited a small group of trusted friends to help me launch my career as a Tupperware Lady and prepared a suitable table of refreshments to make the afternoon worth the effort, just in case the Tupperware wasn’t.

Things went well for the first hour. The attendees showed interest in the products and happily placed their orders. The refreshments went down well too. Then, toward the end of the afternoon, things took a turn.

How a Tupperware Lady Defines Success

To understand the way Tupperware parties worked is to grasp that success was not only defined by the number of plastic containers one could sell, but also the number of party bookings one could get before everyone put their teacup back in the saucer and prepared to go home. This was where my wicket started getting sticky as Ms Veteran Tupperware Lady began her pitch.

I can’t remember her exact words. I do remember she approached my guests with the aggression of a circus barker, armed with the most effective yet reprehensible of weapons …guilt. This she laid on thicker than the contents of a whale sandwich.

“You don’t want to let Gwyn down now, do you? She’s just starting out. If you were in her position, wouldn’t you want her to have a party for you?“ 

And so it went. With every cringe-worthy word that came out of her mouth my humiliation grew until I simply went to the bathroom and cried.

In the end, my own skill in convincing people of the benefits of Tupperware party hosting never amounted to much. And my reservoir of prospective hosts petered out. As a Tupperware Lady at least, so did I.

Selling Books? The Struggle is Real

Now, forty-some years later, I’m poised to sell something else.

My book, In The Thick of It: Mastering the Art of Leading From the Middle, unlike Tupperware, is largely of my own creation and so the promotion thereof would, you might think, be easier. However, my particularly virulent gremlins, Miss Prissy Perfection and Mordred the Funeral Director are quick to point out the flaws in that logic. 

What makes you think the book is worth people actually spending money on?” they say. It is, after all, written by you. So, come on!” 

Right? The struggle is real.

Nonetheless I wrote In The Thick of It with a purpose. That is, to advance the notion that leadership takes many forms. It is not just for a select few, but available to anyone willing to take it on, especially people who feel powerless at work. The book is meant to help them see ways to lead themselves, and others, out from under that feeling. And while it is written from the vantage point of middle leadership in a corporate environment, it will appeal to anyone who wants to better understand human nature; what it means to lead, especially in changing times; and to respond in ways that work for everyone.

Not All Book Marketing is Created…er…For Me

It’s a good message and I believe in it. But there’s not much point in having a message if it’s not shared, is there? Enter the dreaded book marketing. I say “dreaded book marketing” because when I think about selling books, indeed selling anything, the spectre of Ms Veteran Tupperware Lady seems to come up, smugly followed in annoying goose step by Prissy and Mordred.

There’s an abundance of book marketing tools available to authors in the quest to sell books. I have learned not all of them will suit all of us.

For instance, having tried taking part in two podcasts now, I have discovered this otherwise perfectly legitimate way to spread the word about my book is quite possibly not for me.

I write much better than I speak. Impromptu questions thrown at me while being interviewed tend to reduce me to a deer in headlights, with both my vocabulary and intelligence fleeing for safety and rendering me a stammering mess who doesn’t seem to know what she’s talking about. It isn’t pretty (although Prissy and Mordred think it’s a hoot). Nor will it help me promote my book.

Playing to Our ‘Selling Books’ Strengths

The next question for me of course is: “If podcasts are out, what’s in?”

Well, thanks to the wonders of technology, there are other of ways of transmitting a message that have potential to reach a wide-ranging audience. It is a matter of playing to strengths, of having a workable plan, and then working it.

For me, and many authors like me, playing to strengths does not mean being comfortable all of the time. But it does allow us the ability to draw the line somewhere when it comes to our efforts around selling books.

That’s what I think anyway. What do you think? 

What do you think?

  • Well, to start, Gwyn, I think you are an exceptional writer. And having read your book I know you are also a truly wonderful story teller. Your book is packed with solid examples that come alive from your stories. I even laughed out loud as I read. Here’s where I think your trouble may be, if you don’t mind me going there. As a two-time author I don’t think about marketing as “selling books.” I think of it as finding people who can be truly helped in some way from my books. I find when I approach marketing with that mindset it all becomes easier.

    • Thank you Jamie, for your kind words and also for lending a perspective to the notion of marketing that I just might be able to live with.

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