By Ira Ellenthal
When I was running, or helping to run, such publications as The Daily News, U.S. News & World Report, The Atlantic and, prior to that, a dozen trade magazines, I received many compliments, most of which made me wary. Let’s face it, when we have power, others tend to butter us up.
My power has been long gone, and the compliments went with it—until recently, when I wrote a book on the art of selling. Called The Last Book About Selling That You’ll Ever Need, available on Amazon for $12.95, it debuted a few months ago and, ever since, the compliments have been flowing as freely as the tide—far less than a tsunami, mind you, but steadily and regularly. And this go-round I’m believing in the sincerity of the admirers because I lack the power to do anything for them.
Despite being available for only a short time, my new book has already garnered more compliments and registered more sales than my last one, a memoir about the colorful life of my father, called Slootie’s Wars, written in 2004. Not even a brilliant introduction by my friend, author Pete Hamill who recently died, could prevent me from giving away more copies than I sold. My first book, also on selling, was written nearly 40 years ago. It did well, but it was much narrower in focus than the new book, and its publisher had limited its print run to 2,500 copies.
When it comes to my latest book, a frontrunner in a prestigious international awards competition to determine the best sales book of 2020, no one has been more complimentary than this newspaper’s leader, George Capsis.
I had never heard of the newspaper, or George, for that matter, until recently. The fact is, I haven’t been in Greenwich Village more than a dozen of times since attending New York University over six decades ago—even while serving as president and associate publisher of The Daily News. The Village did make an indelible impression on me: I almost rented my first apartment in the city, on Horatio Street, before backing out when my roommate-to-be was drafted; I once took a girlfriend to dinner at the Coach House and am still recovering from the trauma of paying the check; it was in Washington Square Park that I learned the apocryphal legend of Garibaldi and his sword.
But back to my book on selling and the man behind this publication. George became aware of it in an email from Penelope Karageorge, a talented public relations pro and articulate spokesperson for the city’s Greek community. We met years ago when we were both pounding typewriter keys at a daily newspaper in Newburgh, NY. The following words are part of an email she wrote to George about my book: “Ira Ellenthal has written a dramatically original and essential book and I felt I had to share it with you. A Philhellene, he brings an artist’s passion, personality, and imagination to the subject of sales. Aristotle would have approved. Ira makes selling an adventure and fills his readers in on its excitement and challenges—because selling’s never been a straight path, but a trip that challenges all an individual’s resources. While entertaining us with his storytelling skills, he loads his book with anecdotes, information, and some surprising new ideas and approaches. His book has won high praise from McDonald’s famed marketing guru Larry Light, as well as from billionaire Carl Icahn. ‘It’s a great read by a brilliant salesman, recommended to any individual who tunes into and is intrigued by the art of selling,’ Icahn said.”
I hardly ever use the words “I’ll be honest” or “To tell you the truth” because they suggest that everything that preceded them is bullshit. However, I’ll make an exception this one time; I’ll be honest and tell you the truth: I’m as much a sucker for a compliment as the next person, so my affection for Penelope has increased exponentially. I’ll also tell you that when I heard George’s reaction after he had read only a small portion of the book, I was over the moon. “It’s very rare for me to even start a book, but I did so with Ira’s book this afternoon and I like it—I like it. I like it because it is about a subject I still deal with every day—selling. Indeed, you might say I have spent my life selling.”
When he had finished the book, Penelope emailed me again: “I just spoke with George and he loves your book, more than ever. He’s enchanted with your writing style. ‘It’s like talking to someone in a bar,’ he said of your writing. He wants a 500-word article as quickly as you can get it to him.” To quote no less a literary authority than the late great Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto, “Holy Cow!” Even Hemingway would have celebrated that compliment.
But before George gets arrogant, I feel impelled to remind him that his was only the second-best compliment I’ve gotten about my writing. The best came when a Steinbeck scholar read the book I wrote about my father and commented, “Steinbeck had nothing on Ira Ellenthal.” That one took my breath away.
Seriously, I want George to know that I’m exceedingly grateful for his generous praise and allowing me to communicate directly with his loyal readers.
He should also know that I sent him a check for $24.00 for a one-year subscription to the paper. I know it should have been for two years—but, at my advanced age it would have been bad karma to do that. I responded similarly to the Motor Vehicle Bureau when offered a choice between a two-year and six-year license renewal.
Hey, these are perilous times and one can’t be too careful.