Dan.com
NameSilo
There are various domain name books. Some concentrate on branding and company naming, others on the nuts and bolts of domaining as a career. Some books are mainly hype, unrealistically portraying the selling of domain names.

This week, the book Accidental Domain Investor was published by long-time domain investor @Elie Eweka.

I purchased the electronic version of the book on release day, and have now had a chance to read it. Here are my reflections, along with excerpts from the book, and answers to questions I posed to the author.
InterviewGraphicEweka.png

Why Did You Write This Book?

I am always interested in why authors put the effort into writing and publishing a book, so I asked Elie.
I started working on this book about three years ago. The reason I decided to write this book was to share my experience. The book is not intended to show people how to make a quick buck in the domain business, rather it is to help old and new domain investors learn from my mistakes and use my success to improve their chances of success.
He went on to add,
Writing Accidental Domain Investor, was also an opportunity for me to look back at where I am coming from, where I am now, and where I would like to be in my domain investing. This book will make you laugh, think, and react to some of the decisions that I made in the past.

Who Is This Book Intended For?

I asked who he sees as the primary audience for this book.
This book is for anyone who is interested in learning about domain investing or acquiring a domain name for their business. In this book, I shared some of my experience working with business owners, selling domain names to fund my passion, and simple ways to overcome objections.
While much of the book is clearly intended for domain investors, the author also covers the basics of what a domain name is, why it is important, how domain names are acquired, and other information of interest to businesses or organizations that will use domain names.

The book is rich with personal stories and reflections. In answer to my question about intended audience, he added:
If you need a good laugh, this book is for you. If you want to read about the challenges associated with selling domain names, this is the book for you. Some of the information that I shared in this book is something that we often overlook, but works.

A Riveting Personal Story

As well as a book about acquiring, pitching, selling and using domain names, this book is in many ways the story of a life. The book recounts a fascinating personal story. In fact, I found it so gripping that I could not put the book down once I had started reading, and read the entire 207 page book in part of one day.

Chapter 1 relates how Elie arrived in New York City from Nigeria, homeless and without local support. He slept in a public park that first night. After a few twists, he lived many months in that first year in New York City in a homeless shelter. He relates the compassion and support he received along the way, opportunities and setbacks, and his path to a fulfilling and happy life. Yes, that included domain names, but there is much more to the story than that.

Things Heard On Buses

In Chapter 2, the author relates an experience from January 1997 that was the spark for his interest in domain name investing, leading to the book title.

On the bus to his teaching job one day, he overheard people talking about selling things online on the then new eBay. Later on the same bus, he overheard two other people talking about possibly selling a domain name for $10,000, and the seed was set. He engaged with them, and that became the spark for his domain name investing. As he writes,
The voice in my head kept replaying how someone registered a domain name that he is planning to sell to CompuServe for $10,000.

Thinking Outside The Box

Chapter 5 is called Thinking Outside The Box. The chapter includes this quotation from Chuck Swoboda that particularly resonated with me:
Whether you realize it or not, there are boxes all around you. You’ve been taught what is—and isn’t—possible. You’ve also learned that there are risks, and often repercussions, for trying something totally new and different.

The author recounts a number of interesting brand histories in Chapter 5, Thinking Outside The Box.
Thinking outside the box has led to some of the most innovative ideas or brand creations. Think about how Google, Coca-Cola, Haagen-Dazs, Huawei and thousands of others came into being.

The book is not weighted down with chapter endnotes, but there are enough to help you locate source material to learn more, if desired.

Being Realistic

One aspect of the book that I like is that it is balanced and realistic. Yes, right from the preface, the author mentions converting a hand-registration domain name into a $50,000 sale. But in the same paragraph, he cautions:
It is important to understand that there is a great probability of you losing money or waiting a long time for the right buyer to come.

Learning From Mistakes

In the first chapter the author writes:
In this book I will be sharing valuable information about everything that I have learned in the last 23 years, much of which were costly mistakes.

One ‘mistake’ he relates is purchasing an aftermarket domain name with a plan for a blog, without realizing that he really did not fully engage with the proposed topic for the blog, or how to write on that topic.

In Chapter 8 Goliath vs David, the author discusses receiving a UDRP notice, and his decision to fight it personally, ultimately unsuccessfully, rather than consult legal counsel.

All Things Considered

Perhaps the chapter with the most actionable advice for an entry-level domain investor is Chapter 6: All Things Considered. In that chapter he covers multiple steps to take prior to acquisition of a domain name.

Step one is checking blacklists, using tools such as MXToolBox.

Step two, also concerned with reputation, is using the WayBack Machine to check on prior use, if any.

A trademark check is next. He mentions the free tool Trademark247 as one site to use.

Among other things Elie checks prior to acquisition decisions, possible meanings in other languages, using Google Translate, and an assessment of term popularity, through LinkedIn and other tools.

See the complete list of checks, along with detail on each, in Chapter 6 of the book.

If you buy the book primarily to guide your early domain investing, you could jump immediately into chapters 5 and 6, although you will have missed an incredible personal story told in the early chapters.

It’s Not About You

Another chapter jam-packed with practical advice is Chapter 9 Sell Like A Pro. It deals largely with promotion of domain names and outbound queries and negotiation. Possibly the most important message is the following:
If you start debating the customer, in an attempt to tell the customer how smart you are or how many domain names you have sold in the past, you have missed the opportunity to present to the customer an alternative view as to why owning this domain name might be the missing puzzle in the customer’s plan to reach a wider audience with their product or services. Selling domain names is not about you.

The chapter includes how to approach that first outbound call, which days of the week are the best to make initial contact, and how to plan for the call. He includes a typical script of a call to illustrate the points in a concrete way. If you are new to outbound, on social media he recently suggested doing a practice call with a friend or colleague.

Domain Aftermarket

Most readers will find Chapter 10 Domain Aftermarket lacking. He asked a number of marketplaces to share with readers why their marketplace is best, but only NamePros responded to the request.

The chapter does not adequately, in my opinion, differentiate marketplaces that are aimed primarily at end users from wholesale markets serving domainer-to-domainer transactions. It is possible that my thinking is narrow, though, as it is pointed out that:
NamePros isn’t just composed of domain investors; it’s made up of a wide range of domain owners, venture capitalists, end-users, web developers, webmasters, domain service providers, and more! Their first journey to NamePros often starts with a Google search wanting to learn about buying a domain name.

Even though most marketplaces did not respond, the book should have included a basic rundown of the main marketplaces, and differentiate a general marketplace like Sedo, Afternic and Dan, from a brandable one, like BrandBucket, SquadHelp, BrandPa and Namerific, or a wholesale one like DNWE. The author told me he is planning a second book that will provide much more detail on marketplace alternatives.

Inside the Mind of a Domain Buyer

In Chapter 14, Inside the Mind of a Domain Buyer, Elie covers the important distinction between how buyers and sellers think about the same domain name. Elie has a unique perspective, as someone with experience both as a developer who has purchased domain names, and as a domain name investor selling names.

The author relates how buyers approached the negotiation in some key acquisitions including those for the domain names sumo.com, klout.com, carrot.com, dropbox.com and others.

More Than Business Users

He relates in the book several examples of names that were sold and used by nonprofit organizations. I asked him if he wished to expand on this topic. While his answer was lengthy, here are some key points:
  • The challenge associated with working with nonprofit organizations is that most domain investors and marketplaces do not have an in-depth understanding of how nonprofit organizations work.
  • The reverse is true as well, most nonprofit organizations have limited knowledge about domain names and the aftermarket. Also, many do not see how owning an expensive domain name will help further their mission.
  • They do not realize that owning a website with a good domain name would boost their credibility with intended clients.
  • Domain bloggers and podcasters, and domain conferences, can help by inviting large nonprofit organizations' CEOs to their show, and explore why they invested in good domain names.
  • Many domain investors view nonprofit organizations as not having funds to acquire great domain names. But that is not true. There are several multi-billion-dollar companies that operate as not-for-profit organizations, and invest millions every year in marketing.
12 Domainer Stories

The author devotes Chapter 12 to Domain Investor Stories. He asked a number of domain investors to relate their own path in domain name investing.

You probably know @Alvin Brown for his interesting blog and podcast, KickstartCommerce. In this chapter he relates how he got started in domain investing in 2012. He offers some great advice including
Take the time to learn and perfect your ability to identify undervalued domains using a data-driven approach.
He recommends using mock auctions, where you record your intentions but don’t actually bid, and becoming familiar with ExpiredDomains.

Anthony Kirlew, of BrandsEmerge.com, relates his personal journey in domain names, that includes expertise as an author and speaker, digital marketer, financial coach and, for the past number of years, domain name investor. He talks about the important question of how to re-engage with domain investing.

Dennis Tinerino, perhaps better known as @Domain Smoke, through the DomainSmoke.com daily expired domain newsletter, relates his journey in domain names that started in 2013. He moved from developer to domain investor, and made his first sale 49 days later. Dennis shares this advice:
If you think you can generate revenue instantly in domains, you most likely won’t. Be realistic, don’t expect any quick sales, do your best not to buy anything right away and make acquaintances in the investing community. By doing this, you will allow yourself time to see how things work, save money, and find the area of the market that you enjoy most.
I interviewed Dennis on the NamePros Blog: From Smoke to Fire.

I particularly appreciated reflections shared by Joseph Çiprut in the book:
I decided to be an investor rather than a speculator. Instead of buying lots of domain names in the secondary market, I concentrated on hand registering names after researching high growth sectors. I made it my aim to learn the underlying business my domain names live in so that I would be able to hold mindful conversations about value, significance and impact with a prospective buyer.
I interviewed Joseph Çiprut in the NamePros Blog Joseph Çiprut, the Cognitive Master.

Check out other interesting domainer stories in Chapter 12.

Recent Developments

The writing, editing, layout, and publication of a book typically takes years. I asked him if there were recent developments that he would have included if writing the book today.
It is hard to keep up with all the changes in the domain name industry and technology because they are intertwined. For example, .xyz went from being unknown to most outside of the industry, to becoming one of the most recognized extensions to the cryptocurrency and cybersecurity industry. Sadly, hackers and notorious individuals are also attracted to .xyz.
Secondly, I could have focused on the brandable marketplaces and their operators. Sharing more light on what they are doing or could do to promote the industry. The brandable marketplaces have seen tremendous growth and I think they could replace naming companies.

Final Thoughts

If you approach this book seeking a practical how-to guide on placing backorders or auction bids, listing names on marketplaces, landers, domain transfers, pricing, and similar topics, you will be disappointed. This is not that kind of book.

However, if you view the book as a source of inspiration, strategy and tips, informed by decades of experience, you will find this book valuable. How you view domain name opportunities will expand as a result of reading this book.

The book uses narrative to demonstrate ideas, rather than just state principles. For example, he relates negotiating the sale of a domain name to a church. When they asked ‘How much?’ his answer was highly unconventional, but resulted in a sale to the satisfaction of both buyer and seller.

This book introduces us to Elie, someone who has worked in our ‘industry’ for more than two decades. It is a vibrant authentic telling of his riveting personal story. Accidental Domain Investor is an eloquent reminder that domain investing is done by real people, people with incredible life stories.

Elie Eweka devotes a number of pages to interacting with domain name communities:
Investing in domain names has not only helped me earn extra income, but has also open the door for me to meet other domain investors from around the globe.

In the closing, Elie writes
Let my stories and tips in this book help you become a prudent domain investor, successful startup founder or lifetime learner as you move to the next stage.

The book Accidental Domain Investor by Elie Eweka is available in Kindle and Paperback formats, with Look Inside available to get samples of the book. The ISBN-13 of the paperback edition is 979-8363860980. The book is 207 pages in length. The Kindle edition has text-to-speech enabled. The book was published by Dixon Publishing Company, with a publication date of Nov 19, 2022.

You can reach out to the author here on NamePros at @Elie Eweka, or on Twitter at Elie360.

It would be interesting for readers to share in the discussion below what started them on a journey in domain investing. Was it an overhead conversation on a bus, as it was for Elie?


Sincere thanks to @Elie Eweka for writing this fascinating book, and for promptly and eloquently answering each question I posed.
 
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D Haynes

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Have to say that when I read the title of the thread I thought it was going to be something with Domain Shane (Cultra) as Accidental Domainer was his "thing". Might lead to some confusion.
 

Bob Hawkes

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Have to say that when I read the title of the thread I thought it was going to be something with Domain Shane (Cultra) as Accidental Domainer was his "thing".
I suspect that many domainers got into the field through some sort of 'accident'. I hope others will share their start.
It would be interesting for readers to share in the discussion below what started them on a journey in domain investing. Was it an overhead conversation on a bus, as it was for Elie?
-Bob
 

D Haynes

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I Googled "how to make money on the internet" and got a story about a guy who was making 600 bucks a week through domain parking (shows how long ago it was). I've never made any money from domain parking lol but it got me into domains. Was still a few years before I found NPs.
 

LoveCatchyDomains

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Thanks for another wonderful article.
How amazing, that someone can go from the streets and homeless shelters to becoming a successful domain investor! Hopefully, Mr. Eweka has been able to "pay it back" to those along the way who helped him in this amazing journey.
For investors of the future, it's a reminder that with enough determination, persistence, and creativity, their efforts really may lead to success.
 

FolioTeam

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Thanks for the interview. Enjoyed it immensely.

For me, I was searching for a domain name to use for a pet project website when I stumbled upon domaining.
 

Kazzia

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My entry story: Since the early 90's I knew computers would revolutionize our life, but for the life of me, I could not figure out how to get in on things. I was always rounding up computer geek friends to figure out how to make money. Never could get any good ideas, other than selling things, which I did not want to do. It wasn't until 2004 when I heard you could make money without selling anything by using google adsense.

My business plan was to make a little website and get one dollar per day. Then create another, and another. Once this proved workable, I could ramp it up to a few hundred sites - a few hundred bucks a day. And just keep going. The first crappy site I hand built with html. It was hell learning that. I got it to #1 for a small category with my three word exact match - in all the search engines. It brought in a few bucks a day, after awhile. So, I did it again - same category and a two word exact match. But...this one produced nothing. So, I tweaked and tweaked but only some random pennies. I spent too much time trying to debug, and figured it was a bit of luck. So, off I went tying to duplicate the success of the first domain.

But then, someone emailed me about the second domain - wanted to buy it. Wow, I didn't even know you could buy and sell them. Stupid of me not to realize that sooner. I figured if it was taken, then case closed. Duhh. But this buyer and I were discussing a price by email. I hand-regged it, so anything was profit and the site didn't make money. So...on my 30 day old hand reg, I told them my lowest price was $1000 - take it or leave it. And they bought it. Haha.

So, I said screw this website building, I will take my $10 to $1000 in 30 days and run with it. From there it was a bumpy ride but always learning. The first sale was just luck of course.

I have usually sold my names too cheap, trying to cycle them into better names. Only in the last couple years have I ramped up pricing on my best names, and stick to my guns. One example is early this year, a name I had up for like $2500. Godaddy reached out to me with a buyer offer of $1500 I believe it was. In the past I would have closed that somewhere between $1500 and $2500. But this time, I researched the name in depth and figured there was one company that if it was them that wanted it, would likely pay up on it - they certainly had the money. So, I gambled a bit and told the rep that I reconsidered my $2500 price and it was now $15,000, but I might raise that in the next couple months. Ha ha, my BIN was hit and sure enough it was the company I thought it was, and in use.

To me, domaining is a lot of luck though. You have to be very good, AND lucky. One investor can hold a name for a decade, then sell it to an investor and they passively sell it for ten times the price a week later. Or, you hold the exact .com of a company that does huge sales, and they prefer a three word hyphenated .net. To this day, I can't figure out why so many companies get tens of millions of dollars in funding, and want to hand reg a crap name. The experience and skill involved, is essential - without it you will lose. But luck plays a big role too.
 

karmaco

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Very nice review Bob. I recently heard Elie speak on Clubhouse and he is just as engaging as what you describe. I wish alot more domainers networked there. There are some great weekly rooms and clubs. Learning from others in this niche can lessen the amount of mistakes we inevitably make. Glad to see another perspective in this new book.
 

Elie Eweka

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Bob is one of the most engaging, humble, smart, caring, intriguing, and educators that I have come across in a while. His style of writing is electrifying, refreshing, and informative. Bob's story about how he became a domain investor is worth reading. What I love about the domain industry is that regardless of your entry point, you will still make money if you are willing to do the legwork. I credit my success to blogs, other domain investors' experience, and platforms like NamePros. I believe every domain investor has a story to tell and I look forward to reading other investors' books about their mistakes and successes. Thank you my fellow investors for your prayers, encouragement, and support. Accidental Domain Investor is available at Amazon (MyDomainInvestor.com ).