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Selling Art & How I Learned To Love Sales PLUS Book Recommendations

Tuesday, August 20, 2019, Los Angeles

By Tess Taylor


After a recent NARIP Webinar, I sent a follow up email to our members and listeners with notes and book recommendations that may be useful to others as well so I’m posting it here.

How To Sell Art

This was triggered by the many people who tuned in – industry folks who either work with artists or in some cases are artists themselves – who asked about sales. How and when do you sell stuff, especially art, and especially if it’s YOURS?

This is a great question as it’s hard for many people – particularly artists – to do.

Who Needs A Canoe in the Middle of Arizona?

Sales is a hugely fascinating area for me. My parents are both academics rather than business types, and I was raised in an environment where it was considered rude to negotiate or question the seller.  My brother joked that my folks would shop around for ages and until they found the absolute worst possible deal, then they’d pounce upon it and buy it.  Lovely in every way, my parents had no real business acumen and were vulnerable to the influence of seedy salesman.  This explains why we had a canoe in our backyard in the middle of Arizona (no major body of water for miles around).

When I realized my path was to have my own business, I buckled down and took a cold hard look at unpleasant facts.  I realized that I hated sales, mostly (I later realized) because I didn’t understand it, and thought it was the realm of the great unwashed, the weasels, the hustlers… why would I want to keep company with such sleazebags, much less become such a person?  Besides, I felt (foolishly) that I was above it all, I would remain “clean” and “pure” and not have to stoop to selling something, that people would recognize the genius of my offerings and race to buy them without having to be prompted or sold.  In fact, a large part of my decision not to pursue a career as a concert pianist was that I didn’t want to have to sell myself or my music (there were other reasons, too, as in I didn’t want to have to practice 4 to 6 hours a day for the rest of my life – if you think being a professional musician is hard, try competing as a classical musician :).

I mention this because I can relate to the pain of selling oneself and/or one’s music.  It’s difficult.

So I had a lot to learn, and realized that I’d have to force myself to understand sales, or I would end up working for someone else. That lit a fire under me.  A large fire.

Get Cozy With Negotiation

It also become clear that I would have to get cozy with the handmaiden of sales – negotiation – which was brought home to me after I realized what a complete and utter ass I was to pay (literally) sticker price for my first car.  I still curse myself to this day for such foolishness (*heavy sigh*).  I thought I was so clever at the time.  That error has goaded me into making much better deals for myself now.

And so I understand the reluctance to get into sales, especially when one sells art. Today, I have reversed myself and love everything having to do with sales, negotiation and marketing. I read every book I can find on the topic, and find the psychology of it all fascinating. I don’t claim to be great at any of these things, but I hold my own and work to improve constantly. Mostly, I never want people to feel as if I am shoving something down their throats, but I am comfortable raising a flag to let them know if I do have something that I think they might find useful.  This doesn’t make me as deeply and wretchedly uncomfortable as it used to.

Toward that end, I share here a list of a few of my favorite books on sales, marketing and negotiation. Roger Dawson’s books on negotiation are the best I’ve found (and I’ve read tons), and I am a huge fan of all Dan Kennedy books (he specializes in sales and marketing). Robert Cialdini’s book (Influence) is a classic and a must-read. There are plenty more which I will add to this list.

Check them out.  Better yet, check them out at the library!

Tip: I like to create a digest of the best tips and advice or strategies from any great or useful book I read.  Who can remember everything?  Not me!  Also, I find that once I write these things down, my recall of salient details is much better (see book below, Write It Down, Make It Happen on this very topic).  The act of writing helps me to remember.  At some point, I’ll publish my digests on the best books.  Derek Sivers of CDBaby has done this which I love, but I have to tell you I was doing it long before he was (he just happened to publish his first 🙂

Got Any Favorites?

Got any favorite books? Drop me a line and let me know, especially ones that changed your life or that you found utterly fascinating and couldn’t put down. I would love your recommendations to expand my reading list!  Fiction and non-fiction recommendations are welcome – please post them in the COMMENTS section below or tweet / Instagram me.

Check out NARIP’s Bookshelf for future reading recommendations at

Take care, happy reading! And get busy selling!

Tess Taylor

T: @TessTaylor


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The following books are generally related to sales, marketing and negotiation, with a few others thrown in for good measure.  In alphabetical order:

A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink. A fascinating examination of why those who wish to succeed in the 21st century must adapt to a whole new way of doing business. The author notes that three major factors – abundance, automation and Asia – have already wrought drastic changes in America’s work force. The one thing that can’t be outsourced, done more cheaply or mass-produced is the production of great ideas. The author recommends ways to avoid obsolescence, stay ahead of the curve and excel in your chosen field.

Artist Development: A Distinctive Guide To the Music Industry’s Lost Art by Eugene Foley. Very on point with useful samples of fact-sheets and how-to advice. Author Eugene Foley offers FREE evaluation of artist packets, an excellent benefit. He’s seen thousands of them, knows what works and what doesn’t.

Buzz Marketing: Get People To Talk About Your Stuff by Mark Hughes. I took away great ideas from this book, which I implemented immediately with excellent results.

Getting Things Done by David Allen. Essential for getting yourself organized, setting priorities.

How To Succeed in Business By Breaking All The Rules by Dan S. Kennedy. Once I discovered this author, I devoured all of his books. His advice is highly useful, direct, easy to apply immediately and yields results.

Indie Marketing Power by Peter Spellman. Peter Spellman is one of the few authors I know in the music business who combines practical knowledge and experience with a high level of academic rigor, scrutiny and research. This is an excellent book on marketing.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr. Robert B. Cialdini. Cialdini’s book is the result of years of study into the reasons why people comply with requests in business (for example, in sales) and other settings. Highly recommended.  His latest, Pre-suasion (essentially, what takes place BEFORE a person makes a decision to buy and how you – the seller – can optimize to prime your customer for a purchase) is also excellent.

Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive & Others Die by Chip Heath & Dan Heath.
This excellent book took a detailed look at why some ideas and messages burrow themselves into our brains and are effective, and why others don’t. Very useful.

The New Psycho-Cybernetics: The Original Science of Self-Improvement and Success That Has Changed the Lives of 30 Million People by Maxwell Maltz, M.D., F.I.C.S. I’d heard about this book but had avoided it  because “psycho-cybernetics” sounded vaguely cult-ish to me. How wrong I was. The premise of this book is that unless and until a person achieves total acceptance of himself, he is bound to self-sabotage at some point. The core message of this book is outstanding, highly recommended.

No B.S. Time Management by Dan Kennedy. This guy is good, I like his “no B.S.” style.

Secrets of Power Persuasion by Roger Dawson. If you can’t negotiate, you’re at a disadvantage. Everything is a negotiable!  Having had no experience with negotiation growing up, I read every book on the topic I could find, and Dawson’s books are the best. I was so motivated, I phoned him up and negotiated 25 free copies of the book out of him. That was fun!

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. This New York Times Bestseller got on the book charts for a good reason. It’s a fascinating exploration of how trends are created.  Gladwell has gone on to write other bestsellers, this is still one of my favorites.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. A book about how to break through blocks and win your inner creative battles. Highly useful. Helped me immensely.

Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser. I am a big believer in writing things down to make them happen, and this book details why this is such an important practice and the huge rewards it yields to those who do it.

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