3 timeless business lessons I learned from an Irish writer conference

timeless business lessons

By Mars Dorian, {grow} Contributing Columnist

A few weeks ago, I attended a multimedia writer conference in Dublin, Ireland.

During the darkest morning, I schlepped my sleepy body toward the windy Docklands where renowned authors and content creators from the Anglo-Saxon world revealed their top tips and career experiences.

Even though the conference was about multimedia storytelling, its lessons were relevant for any content creator and online business owner. Let’s face it, good marketers tend to be great storytellers, or should I say, story-sellers.

Below, I want to share my top three lessons from the writer’s game conference.

1) Ask and Approach

One of the key speakers was comic/book and game writer Antony Johnston. He shared stories about his incredibly diverse writing career. In case you don’t know, he wrote the iconic space horror game ‘Dead Space’ and created Atomic Blonde featuring Charlize Theron.

He was a journalist turned RPG writer turned game writer turned comic writer turned novel author turned scriptwriter and he’s STILL going strong after almost 2 decades in the biz.

One ‘secret’ of his success? Asking and approaching without asking for permission.

When Antony started out, he asked a British game magazine to post some of his articles. The editors weren’t looking for pitches, but they liked his posts so much they published them anyways.

He then leveraged his experience to approach comic publishers and game companies with unsolicited pitches. No one was going to hire him if they didn’t know about him.

He also cautioned listeners to learn the difference between sincere asking and spamming people with requests, so ask and approach with style!

Another speaker of the writer’s conference, best-selling fiction author Glenn Meade, needed expertise knowledge about the FBI and other US agencies. He simply asked around his circles until he found a mid-level employee. According to Glenn, the guy LOVED sharing his experiences without revealing sensitive information.

Glenn said, “Nerds and experts love talking about their craft. They feel honored if you approach them for advice.”

2) …and adapt your pitch

One of the key speakers talked about approaching book and game publishers, saying that most writers were only blabbering about THEIR goals and wishes.

The UK speaker suggested to always focus on the needs of your potential employer and client instead of plugging your own skills. Nobody cares about your craft if you fail to make it relevant to THEM.

He also said that regardless of your background and expertise, you always have to change your pitch to suit your client’s projects. A game developer working on a big single-player RPG looked for different writing traits than a publisher producing a car chasing game.

I committed a similar mistake in my early online career, talking about what I DID instant of ASKING my potential client or listener how my service was relevant to THEM.

Once I switched my pitch from “I’m an illustrating content creator & storyteller” to “My art and content helps people stand out in crowded marketplaces,” I attracted more clients and gigs.

Curiosity about your (potential) client builds instant rapport. Remember, interest is flattery. And since people are self-focused, helping them achieve their goals helps you get more business.

Lesson: before you pitch someone, ask the person what they want and what their goals are. Only then can you adapt your pitch and make it relevant to THEM.

3) Your personality is your cash cow

During the writer conference, Antony Johnston, the novel and game writer I mentioned above, was constantly besieged by eager attendees. They pierced him with questions, but during a break, when he stood near a ticket counter, I intercepted him like a tie fighter. My question: How can I build first relationships with book and game publishers when I’m unknown?

He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “You have to be good at your storytelling craft, but you don’t have to be the best. More importantly, you want to be a fun personality that your clients want to work with. If you hit your deadlines and are low maintenance, clients will return.”

It sounds like a no-brainer statement. But when I listen to my author friends, they often complain about cover artists not returning their emails, being snarky or simply unreliable.

My mother, a fine art painter, developed a natural curiosity for people.

The result? She gets invited to lecture in Azerbaijan and the US, gets hired to run premium workshops in Tuscany, Italy, and receives sponsored studio space in the center of Berlin. She’s an incredible artist, but she’s an even better connector that clients and partners want to collaborate with.

Being reliable, trustworthy and a fun personality will put you so ahead of the competition.

One of my core clients, Srinivas Rao, has worked with me for over 8 years. He said I’d always deliver and was open for his criticism. He enjoyed not only my art but also my personality.

Lesson: Work as much on your service and craft as on your personality. Developing curiosity for your clients, being approachable, reliable and easy to communicate with is more important than you think.


Algorithms and apps change all the time, but the core principles of human-to-human interaction are timeless. If you work hard on your client focus, craft and personality, you will be way ahead of your competition.

Mars Dorian is an illustrating designer and storyteller. He crafts words and pictures that help clients stand out online and reach their customers. You can find his homebase at www.marsdorian.com and connect with him on Twitter @marsdorian.

Original illustration by the author. 

All posts

The Marketing Companion Podcast

Why not tune into the world’s most entertaining marketing podcast!

View details

Let's plot a strategy together

Want to solve big marketing problems for a little bit of money? Sign up for an hour of Mark’s time and put your business on the fast-track.

View details

Share via