Mark Levy sent me the rest of his fascinating, inspiring, and moving story of the evolution of his career. Here is the whole story as he wrote it: 27 years ago, one of your books played a pivotal role in my life. I was 25 years old, and had just been hired by a book distributor to sell books to stores over the phone. For me, at least, my role was fairly passive. A bookshop would phone in and read from their shortlist. If we were in-stock on a title they mentioned, I'd say "How many copies would you like?" If we were out of stock, I'd say, "Sorry, we're out." Then one day my passiveness changed. I'd been taking book orders from a bunch of different stores, and noticed that several prominent ones had ordered a book that had just shipped: "The Cake Bible." When I asked the other salespeople in my office if they had been getting "The Cake Bible," requests, they told me no. I knew I wasn't imaging things, though. Maybe I'd noticed a trend no one else had noticed yet? I decided to take a chance. I'd always been a relatively shy guy, but I telephoned the largest bookstore in my region, B. Dalton #169 in Garden City. Although that store rarely bought from us, I figured if they took copies of "The Cake Bible" and sold them, they'd begin to trust my opinion and become a regular customer. I spoke to one of the store's assistant managers, Marie. I said, "This book 'The Cake Bible' is starting to fly. I only have a few hundred copies left. You should stock up before I sell out." Marie laughed: "OK, give me 35 copies. But if we don't sell them, it'll be your ass." Bolstered by my success, I called dozens of other stores, and sold them "The Cake Bible," too. That day, I must have gone through 500 copies. The book of course became a monster success. We ended up selling thousands. But, importantly for me, selling it gave me confidence in my ability to see patterns, spot trends, and sell. A year later I was promoted to sales manager. Later, I helped another book distributor sell over a billion dollars worth of books. Since then, I've authored or coauthored five books, have written for the New York Times Book Review, co-created the longest one-person show in New York City (it's run for sixteen years), and became a consultant who has worked with a former department head in the White House, a speaker to the UN, the former head of the Strategy Unit of the Harvard Business School, the CEO of Popeye's, and the History Channel. What my job is, really, is helping people to find the big differentiating idea that sets their business, or show, or book, or speech apart from the others out there. So my entire career now is predicating on my ability to make important judgments on what can or cannot attract attention and sell. For many years then, when people asked me how I got into my profession, I'll often say, "It started with 'The Cake Bible.'" Anyway, meeting you was an enormous pleasure. And thank you so much for helping me get my start in the world.
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