Today, there are many young entrepreneurs taking the spotlight. Some of them have even become successful while still attending a university. One such entrepreneur, Amos Sussigan, is an international student and has many business ventures underway including the publication of his book, The Chocolate Oscar. He agreed to share his experiences and strategies for making his book a success.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
My name is Amos…like the cookies Famous Amos…and I’d like to think of that as a sign. I am a 22-year-old student, majoring in Animation at Woodbury University in Burbank, CA. In order to finance my studies I opened my own design firm in Switzerland, creating advertising campaigns, websites, and so on for clients from small to large. Alongside my occupation as a visual designer, I work for two national radios (Rete 3 and Rete 1) and as an official Swiss correspondent for Warner Brothers and Fox.
As a student, you wrote a book. What is your book about and why did you decide to write it?
When I first came to America, I found myself extremely lonely, and since I did not have anybody to talk to, I created a blog in which I was expressing my doubts, fears, and life experiences on the other side of the ocean.
The blog became extremely popular and the national radio thought they could create a radio program in which I was talking about my daily life. Once I went back to Switzerland, my grandpa (who is my biggest fan) printed out the entire blog since he had difficulties reading it on the computer screen.
While showing me the printed papers he told me, “This looks like a book”.
That summer, I spent my days editing the blog, and the day before coming back to LA, I pitched it to an editor, who loved the idea and decided to publish it. After one year, my book, “The Chocolate Oscar“, was done. An intimate diary, who uses irony and a blog-like structure to express the feelings of a student who found himself alone, in a foreign country.
What did you have to do to get the book off the ground?
After editing the book, I figured out a marketing strategy for it. Since my book has a young target market, I thought it had to have a catchy name, an interesting cover, advertised primarily online with the use of commercials, and a catchy advertising campaign and other forms of entertainment. It was actually both a pretty interesting and exhausting experience. For the posters we used 3 gallons of liquid chocolate that was poured entirely over me (that was an interestingly sticky photo shoot).
Once I got back to Switzerland, the advertisements were all over the place and after the premiere of the book I got a contract with a chain of malls where I would be signing books and taking pictures with buyers or kids who liked the book. If you ever think your ego needs to be pumped up a bit, writing a book and signing autographs in malls definitely helps!
You entered Woodbury University’s Baron Business Plan Competition in Fall of 2010 and won 1st place. How was the experience of the competition and how did it help you launch your book?
Aside financially, the contest helped me figure out a plan of action – how and when to advertise the book. Moreover, it was an excellent way to understand and analyze my project from different view points. When I was signing books in the mall, I often used the words I used for my presentation to explain to people what the book was about.
What are the most valuable lessons you learned?
I definitely learned that liquid chocolate should not be poured on your head and stay there for more than a half an hour – way too complicated to wash off…
The project taught me that the legal side of a business project needs to be highly supervised and analyzed. Dealing with publishers, editors, and copyright attorneys can be extremely tricky, and a good understanding of all the practices and laws is a good start for a project like this.
Where is your book now?
At the moment my book is being sold (in Italian) in bookstores in Switzerland and Italy. Moreover, an e-book version is available on amazon.com and on the iTunes store (also in the US and all around Europe to facilitate the sales with people who are studying abroad). My book agent is taking care of the contracts with other publishers for the translation in other languages. At the moment the plans are to have it translated in English and German as soon as possible.
What are your plans for the future?
Since the book has been doing pretty well, I will definitely take some time to write another one. But the only promise I made to my editor is that I will have the second book as soon as I win an Oscar as a director, the career I want to pursue. Yep, I am really self-confident…or disillusioned, depends on the point of view. On that note, I am actually working on my first short animated movie, let’s hope that it works out well so I will have the second book on the way.
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