Chike Nwafor (not his real name), sells books for a living – mostly second-hand books. He travels from place to place to make his sales. His clients are book lovers all over Nigeria, hence, he finds himself shuttling different locations; offices, homes, schools, and public places, to prospect buyers.
Chike, who has been in the business for over five years, says he has become accustomed to traveling to different places to meet his customers who mostly enjoy inspirational books, career development books, and thrillers. When he is not traveling, he is at his stand in a cornerof Ojuelegba market.
His targets are as varied as the ordinary man on the streets, students in schools, workers in their offices, and everyone he perceives wants “a better life”. Hence, wherever he finds himself – on a public bus, at gatherings, schools, etc. – he advertises to anyone who is willing to give him an ear.
The business is a win-win for Chike, who is not only changing people’s lives by helping them get inspired with books, but he also earns a “reasonable sum” at the end of the month. Every month, he is able to take home at least N150,000 after deducting his traveling expenses in the course of running the business.
“The least money I make in a day is N5,000, but on days when the market moves, I sell up to N10,000 or more than that,” he told Nairametrics.
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Starting the business
Chike has always loved reading books even as a child; it was this passion for reading books that led him to this business path.
“I am a bibliophile. I enjoy buying and reading books a lot and I used to buy a lot of books. At one point, the books became too much so I decided to sell some out” he said, explaining how he got started in the business.
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After selling his excess books, he came to a sudden realization that he could make a decent living from the trade. Since then, he has not looked back.
Meanwhile, running the business hasn’t been without challenges. According to Chike, the most challenging times for him are during rainy seasons. During this period, he is not able to travel around because his wares are very delicate and get ruined when they get in contact with a single drop of water.
In addition, he noted that things are no longer the way they used to be because interest in physical books has declined over time as a result of the availability of PDF and document files on mobile devices.
“Things are fast changing. The new generation does not want to keep physical books at home. They prefer to read their books in soft copies,” he said, adding that social media has made a lot of people lazy to read.
He also raised the issue with local government and market union people who collect daily fees and levies from him and other traders in the market.
His business remains in the informal sector because the levies paid hardly get to the government’s coffers. The Association of book peddlers is nothing more than a social club as it never does anything to advance or mainstream its business or professionalizes its activities.
The secret ingredient to selling fast
With the advent of technology, a lot of businesses have been able to define their role by leveraging trends. For Chike, technological advancement and social media have indeed been a blessing that has been helping to boost sales.
He explained that he is able to keep most of his customers by sharing new stocks with them via social media. This strategy has worked both in customer acquisition and retention.
Another key ingredient that helps him sell fast is getting to understand the products he is dealing with because according to him, “you cannot sell what you do not understand.”
This means that he has to conduct extensive research into some authors, the themes that dominate their books, and what inspired them to write what they write. This enables him to prepare killer pitches that his customers find hard to resist.
Over time, he has built his offerings and sales portfolio around African authors with ‘grass to grace’ stories, he says. These stories serve as sufficient motivation, especially for students, who dream of rising beyond their current states to achieve big-time successes.
It is a proven strategy, he affirms.
His future plans for the business
Looking forward, Chike plans to own a very big bookshop where he can sell books to vendors who in turn will distribute to book lovers across different states. This way, he believes he would be able to make positive changes in more lives.
“I believe these little things would help to make the world a better place,” he said.
Who can venture into the business?
Chike has demonstrated that anyone can make a decent living from selling books; it does not necessarily require millions of naira to set up. He started with ‘nothing’ by selling some of his used books.
He explained that most of the books he sells are imported, which he buys in cartons as they are shipped to Nigeria from abroad. “Most of the books I sell are foreign books from America, Canada, and others. We have people that gather these books and send them down to Nigeria. When they arrive in Nigeria, we (book vendors) are called to come and buy.”
He added that not all these books are used, as some of them are pushed out of the store by publishers when new stocks arrive so that the new ones can stay.