Skip to main content

To Succeed at Your Art, Know How to Play Well in Business

Image placeholder title

This week I'm in a somewhat philosophic frame of mind; maybe it's
because I'm facing new challenges at my job that stretch the boundaries
of what I once thought I could enjoy.

In my early days as an acquisitions editor for F+W Media, I found this quote by David M. Ogilvy:

In
the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative original
thinker unless you can also sell what you create. Management cannot be
expected to recognize a good idea unless it is presented to them by a
good salesman.

Up until the time I read this
quote, I had primarily thought of myself as one of those
creative-artistic stereotypes who disdained the numbers and focused on
aesthetics, and art for art's sake.

Frankly, that became boring fast.

What
became more interesting was: How can I create something that is
exciting to me and other people? And like Ogilvy says, unless you learn how to speak the language of upper management (or the gatekeepers), you won't get far
with your ideas. You can speak one language to creative people, but you need
to frame things differently for people who make financial
decisions. E.g., when you walk into your bank and ask for a loan to
fund your wonderful idea, it's always in relation to making a profit (for you and the bank).
Same thing in publishing when you approach an editor or agent.

The
writers who succeed fastest in selling a project are the ones who can
get in this business model mindset—not necessarily the writers who are
most talented.

At F+W, I'm now in the process of building a
spring forecast that estimates how we think we will perform this year
against our original budget. It makes you think hard about what you're
doing, why you're doing it, and how to change what you're doing to
produce better results next time. Without such an evaluation, how can
you be pushed to your fullest and most creative extent? As Robert Frost once said about writing verse, you need to have a net.

Put
another way: If you're rejected continually, do you think of a better
way to present your business case, or do you assume that people have
shunned art or not really seen your brilliant talent? Most likely,
people are not shunning art or talent. They are shunning what hasn't been
presented to them in a compelling or beneficial way. You have to know
what your audience responds to.

Fortunately, writers who know how to put themselves in the shoes of another—who are excellent at that thing called empathy—should be able to recast, reframe, revise their ideas so they make sense to anyone, no matter what their mindset. Use your imagination. What does the other person want to hear?

Remember, people usually enjoy saying yes.
Even better, they enjoy delivering an excited, definitive, "Yes!"
Give them a great reason to say it.

Photo credit: Llawliet

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Writer's Digest Best Live Streams, Podcasts, and YouTube Channels 2022

Here are the top live streams, podcasts, and YouTube channels as identified in the 24th Annual 101 Best Websites from the May/June 2022 issue of Writer's Digest.

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

What Is Fan Fiction in Writing?

You might have heard the term, especially if you’re in online fandoms, but what exactly is fan fiction? Managing Editor Moriah Richard explains.

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

5 Ways To Use Short Stories To Grow as a Writer

Short story writing can be a gateway to writing your novel—but they’re also fun and worthy stories in their own right. Here, author Dallas Woodburn shares 5 ways to use short stories to grow as a writer.

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Not Having an Online Presence

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake is not having an online presence.

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Shirlene Obuobi: On Writing From Experience

Physician, cartoonist, and author Shirlene Obuobi discusses the writerly advice that led to writing her new coming-of-age novel, On Rotation.

WD Poetic Form Challenge

WD Poetic Form Challenge: Kimo Winner

Learn the winner and Top 10 list for the Writer’s Digest Poetic Form Challenge for the kimo.

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

8 Things Writers Should Know About Tattoos

Tattoos and their artists can reveal interesting details about your characters and offer historical context. Here, author June Gervais shares 8 things writers should know about tattoos.

Tyler Moss | Reporting Through Lens of Social Justice

Writing Through the Lens of Social Justice

WD Editor-at-Large Tyler Moss makes the case for reporting on issues of social justice in freelance writing—no matter the topic in this article from the July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest.

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Intentional Trail

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character leave clues for people to find them.