Country songwriter Tom Doug-las pens tunes for the likes of Tim McGraw (“Grown Men Don’t Cry”), Jim Brickman (“The Gift”), Collin Raye, Garth Brooks, and others. Before hitting Hitsville, however, Douglas spent 13 years selling commercial real estate in Dallas. Here’s what he learned before giving up his day job:

American Way: What’s the big difference between selling real estate and selling songs?

Tom Douglas:
I was a broker trying to lease out shopping centers. In Nashville I’m more like the developer. I build the song, then try to get the song pluggers motivated to rep my songs to the artists and record companies. You can’t sell something you don’t believe in.
American Way: Any similarities?
You’ve got to specialize. People don’t build apartments one year and single-family homes the next. I write a serious, message-oriented song, not the tongue-in-cheek, up-tempo stuff. Same with your prospecting. Some sites are right for a dry cleaner, others for a bank. You don’t play the same song for Reba McEntire and Tim McGraw.

American Way: How have all the Napster copycats affected you?
They’re taking money out of every songwriter’s pocket. Billions. If the next generation comes up thinking music should be free, these companies won’t have the capital to keep creating new product.

American Way: All salespeople get rejected. How do you handle it?
I write about 100 songs a year. Of those, maybe 10 get recorded, and it’s great if you get a hit single every year or 18 months. But you forge ahead. It’s like the salesperson’s motto: “Every no is a step closer to yes.”
For more from Tom Douglas, visit his Web site: