Writing my new book Influence and Thrive was the biggest project I’ve undertaken in the last few years. The process took two years and four months, from the time I wrote the first word to the day it was published, and the process was far from smooth. I experienced several disappointments but also learned a few lessons.

Recently, I shared personal accounts on LinkedIn on some lessons I learned from rejections during my book journey, which I’d highlight in this post. If my story inspires you to believe in yourself and your work, then my account would be worth it.

The background

When my manuscript was done and my book was undergoing production, I started contacting professionals and business leaders to invite them to read and provide advance reviews. I had no referrals or influential ‘connections’ to leverage on, so I relied on one of the things I knew how to do and do well in business communication – persuasive writing. I set my sights ridiculously high and used LinkedIn to contact many business leaders and top-notch professionals. 

As an introvert, contacting people I didn’t know personally to request favours was awkward and nerve-racking. I almost didn’t start but I willed myself to do it.

‘After all, the worst that could happen is nothing, I cajoled myself.

‘If you don’t ask, the answer will always be “no” ‘, I berated myself when I procrastinated.

‘Just do it!’, my exasperated inner voice ordered

And so began the torrent of messages I sent.

But I didn’t just target influential people based on their leadership titles. I researched and contacted those whose superb communication skills were evident in their work or whose work I admired.

I crafted concise, sharp messages. I was strategic in striking a balance between the benefit to the reviewers and the future impact of my book on one side, and the need to satisfy their curiosity on the other. (I was an unknown professional residing across the Atlantic.)

My LinkedIn profile views increased as some of those influential people ‘checked’ me out. Then nothing happened. Many didn’t respond, nor did they accept my personalised, intriguing connection requests that I’d taken the time to write.

Days passed and then blurred into weeks. Despite sending numerous messages, I became disheartened when I didn’t receive supportive responses. But I’d shrug and console myself: ‘Well, at least I tried!’

Still, inwardly, I began to doubt myself and my book. Perhaps I was over-confident and overestimated how valuable the book would be to professionals, entrepreneurs, and business leaders (the book’s targets). 

Then unsurprisingly, the inner critic became merciless:

‘What were you thinking, Lucille, taking on four broad communication themes in one book? No one does that!

Eventually, the tide turned, and to my relief, some responses began to come through.

People who responded politely declined but wished me well. Some promised to buy the book when it became published. For those who turned down my request, I understood their position: It was the peak of the pandemic and they couldn’t find the time to read and review my work. One of such leaders was a C-suite executive in a big pharmaceutical, which eventually rolled out a covid vaccine that would be widely used months later.

Of all the influential people I contacted, one of the most memorable accounts was from Michelle Obama’s camp.

My request to Michelle Obama

I’d set my sights on Michelle Obama for good reasons. I’d admired Michelle and Barack Obama for years. They’re both listed among my top five communicators. 

Still, I love Michelle’s powerful and heartfelt speeches. Like many around the world, I watched her historic entry into the White House on CNN in 2009 and appreciated her candid interview with Oprah after she left. I always found her articulate, authentic, and fearless.

She was an impressive ally during her husband’s presidency, but I’d also read about the impact of her work outside the political office. Well-educated and as sharp as nails, I knew Michelle’s insights on communication would be priceless. So I wanted an opportunity to interview her and share her best advice for communicating persuasively to win hearts for worthy causes or to rally support for ambitious programmes. 

Yes, I was a fan. But I knew the possibility of getting Michelle Obama on board was slim to none. Again, I willed myself to try.

‘Remember, Lucille – if you don’t try, you won’t know, came the swift, sage retort from my inner voice when I found reasons not to bother.

There was also a glimmer of hope I held on to – that Michelle Obama might be intrigued enough to make an exception for an unknown African female communications professional.

So I went online and quickly realised that I could only request an interview via a form. To stand out, I’d planned to send a hand-written letter via a courier service. But physical letters were prohibited – the website warned – due to safety concerns.

I composed a well-considered piece and made the online request.

Then I waited.

One month and a few weeks later, I received the response below from the Press Office of Barack and Michelle Obama. 

Response from the Press Office of Barack and Michelle Obama

Although the request to interview Michelle Obama was declined, it was done in such a thoughtful way that I didn’t feel defeated. It showed that someone took the time to read my message and consider my request.

Now I’d taken time to craft the message. I knew I had to exude authenticity and the admiration I felt for Michelle Obama. I also had to show why her input mattered. Whether the consideration I gave the note influenced a response from the Obamas’ press office, or whether they replied to every message they received – I’d never know. But what I do know based on my experience, is that when writing to influential people, you’d need to research their backgrounds, interests, and evoke some emotion that will intrigue them to respond (even while realising that realistically, not all would. But at least you’d have tried your best).

Below are the snapshots of my original message to Michelle Obama. Notice how I began, how I segmented the message with clear sub-headings, and my call-to-action.

Then I got straight to the point by giving brief information about my book. To boost my credibility, I also mentioned some important names I’d managed to secure interviews with.

But why did I specifically want Michelle Obama’s input and not others? What was special about her? A lot. Since I’d watched some of her stirring speeches over the years, especially her last speech as the First Lady, it was easy to express my admiration. You just can’t fake that emotion, and I didn’t need to.

Then I ended by reiterating the call-to-action so that Michelle Obama was reminded of the purpose of my message. I also decided to spark some curiosity by highlighting the fact that I wasn’t a US citizen, but an African woman who’d watched and admired her from afar. This point was critical because sometimes all you’ve got to leverage is your story or your uniqueness as X, Y, or Z. 

Due to limited space, the last lines of my message and the sign-off were cut off but that didn’t matter as I conveyed all the important parts of my request in the space provided online.

So what did I learn from my unsuccessful request?

1) It’s great to receive support from influential people and credible sources. Featuring Michelle Obama in my book, alongside the other six professionals and leaders I interviewed, would have been fulfilling. Nonetheless, believe in yourself and do your best to ensure your work shines. You really don’t need those big names to validate your work

2) Don’t listen to your inner critic or other naysayers. My message to Michelle Obama was well-crafted. But not everyone would like your work, especially if you’re confident and persuasive in your writing. Still, believe in yourself. And remember, you can’t please everyone.

3) Be bold in your convictions. Visualise your success, and don’t lose steam.


Although I technically ‘failed’ and didn’t get the opportunity to feature Michelle Obama (and others) in Influence and Thrive, I discovered I had ‘grit’ and was able to move on. Moreover, the process of researching, planning my message, and writing with heart was invaluable. I’d like to think that my heartfelt message was what prompted the response from the Obamas’ press office. Again, I can’t be sure, but is it possible they would respond to every message they receive online, or just to those that were thoughtful and well-written? I’d like to think the latter was the case.

What does my account mean for you? Be bold. Dream big, ridiculous dreams! Set ridiculous goals. So write to the president/prime minister of your country, to Oprah, to Gates, to Branson, to Musk or the Queen of England. If you receive the support you requested, then your efforts would have paid off. If you don’t, at least you know that there won’t be a person on the planet you couldn’t write to – which will free you to approach other writing projects with determination and purpose.

And when you do write to those influential, powerful or living legends, use my message to Michelle Obama as a reference, but add your spin and personality. Revel in your uniqueness and use it to strengthen your case.

If you’re not ready to put in the effort to ensure a superbly written piece that will be worthy of the attention and consideration of your influential recipient, then don’t waste your time starting the process.

Learn the latest on effective business communication in Influence and Thrive!

The book tackles nonverbal communication, public speaking, and business writing for two target audiences: professionals, entrepreneurs, and business leaders in the first group, and corporations and organisations in the second group. 

Order your copy today. ’Influence and Thrive: How Professionals, Entrepreneurs, Business Leaders, & Corporations Use Effective Communication To Get Results’, is available on Amazon, in Kindle, paperback and hardback versions, at Barnes & Noble, on  Kobo, at  Waterstones, and in many other international outlets, stores, and libraries worldwide.

And don’t forget to check out the Influence and Thrive website for all information about the book, including the trailer, advance reviews, exclusive offers to Nigerian residents, and how to contact me. Then email me your thoughts on how to intend to apply the foolproof techniques I recommend in the book to get the results you deserve. And please post your reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones, Goodreads, and on your favourite online retailer. Please help me get the word out of this invaluable communications book. Thank you so much for your support!

And below’s a quick video of me unboxing the first print run for Nigeria. Clearly, I couldn’t contain my excitement.

Over to you:

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N.B: First  image  is  courtesy  of  Alexas Fotos via Pixabay. Screenshots are courtesy of Lucille Ossai. Last image is courtesy of Tookapic, via Pixabay.

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