John Perry is an accomplished author known for his diverse interests, extensive career in advertising, and dedication to the fine arts. Born in a small town in Kentucky and raised in Houston, Perry developed a love for music early on, excelling in classical piano, singing, and choral conducting. He later pursued his academic interests, earning a BA cum laude in English from Vanderbilt University and engaging in additional studies at University College, Oxford, England.

Perry’s professional journey began as a copywriter for a small Houston agency that gave him a chance to build a portfolio. He then gradually moved up in a higher position in the advertising industry as a radio producer and creative group head. As a founding partner of American Network Radio, he played a pivotal role in producing and syndicating radio specials featuring iconic figures such as Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Emmylou Harris, Larry Gatlin, and others. Transitioning to freelance writing over two decades ago, Perry achieved significant success, co-writing the bestselling novel “Letters to God,” which earned a spot on the New York Times bestseller list in 2010.

Beyond his writing endeavors, Perry is deeply involved in music and philanthropy. He is an avid supporter of the fine arts scene in Nashville, contributing to the growth and sustainability of institutions like the symphony, opera, and ballet. His passion for classical singing, piano, and choral conducting recently culminated in a memorable performance at Carnegie Hall in February 2024, marking a milestone in his artistic journey.

How did you get started in this business?

My journey began with a deep-seated passion for writing. There aren’t that many freelance writing jobs available in the economy, but I kept knocking on doors. Finally a small ad agency was willing to give me a chance and my career grew from that. 

How do you make money?

Today, most of my income today comes from writing fees. Originally it was my advertising salary. I make some money (not a huge amount) from royalties and consulting. I have never made any significant income from music. It has been my hobby, not my career. American Network Radio, for all its success and all the fun I had, was never profitable. 

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

My freelance business was profitable from the beginning. I started small and kept my company lean. It has gone through seasons of unprofitability once in a while over the years.

Becoming profitable in the traditional sense took several years, especially transitioning from advertising into a purely creative field.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work?

When I was starting out, there were very few times when I doubted it would work. I couldn’t imagine doing anything except writing. There were times when I felt doubt, but the answer for me was to focus on the page in front of me and keep on writing.

How did you get your first customer?

My first customer as an author was a publisher who owned a chain of bookstores. I had worked on their advertising. They liked my work and asked me to write a book jacket copy, then an introduction to one of their titles. That led a few months later to my first writing opportunity as an author.

What is one marketing strategy that works well to generate new business?

My marketing strategy is to write the best books I can, be a team player, deliver on time, and always be on the lookout for new ideas and new opportunities. I don’t generally use social media. 

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

The toughest decision I’ve made lately was to spend two years researching and writing my new book on urban America without knowing what the return will be. 

What do you think makes you successful?

Persistence, passion, and the constant pursuit of learning have been the keystones of my success. Staying true to my interests and values, even when they didn’t align with the mainstream, has allowed me to carve out a unique path in the creative world.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Satisfaction for me always lies in the excitement of the next project!

What does the future hold for your business?

The future involves more storytelling, with a focus on bringing hidden historical narratives to light. My upcoming book on urban America and the work of Louis Lomax represents a step towards exploring more complex and socially significant themes. He was the first African-American journalist hired by a major newspaper chain, and the first to have his own major-market TV show.

What business books have inspired you?

I can’t think of a business book that I’ve read. Successful business comes from doing good work and building good, lasting relationships.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

I’d advise my younger self to trust the journey and to never give up! The path of creativity is seldom straight, but each experience, whether a setback or success, contributes to your growth and understanding.

Are you willing to be a mentor?

Yes. Sharing the lessons I’ve learned, not just about the creative process but about navigating the complexities of a career in the arts, is something I’d find both rewarding and fulfilling. There’s a unique joy in helping others find their voice and path in the creative industry.

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