I participated in a fantastic Writers Workshop with Neal Wooten and Martha Templeton. Some of the information covered was a refresher, but I did enjoy getting their insight into what gets published. They really drove home the importance of hooking the interest of readers in the first sentence and how agents and publishers are like anyone sorting through a pile of potential employees, rarely giving documents more than a passing glance before moving on to the next person.

Neal shared a photo of Snookie from “Jersey Shore” to illustrate the importance of having a platform of potential readers than an author can attract. In other words, the inferior author with the book proposal who can demonstrate the capacity to generate the most exposure online or by word-of-mouth will likely get a book deal faster than someone with vastly superior talent who nevertheless lacks the ability to self-promote.

It got me thinking about Media Kits, which I’ve helped musicians, actors, models, attorneys, medical professionals, and others use to properly promote themselves. Typically, these consist of a bio, a top-notch headshot or group photo, occasionally a purpose statement or description of their product (tour dates, white papers written, case studies conducted, etc.). Much like a resume, the Media Kit is what SELLS someone on hiring the band to perform in a club or be added to a festival lineup, the blogger to get a sponsor or convince advertisers to pay for banner ad spots, or — in the case of writers — create buzz about a project so people want to learn more and shell out their $15 for a hardcover or eBook.

Publicity Media Kits

Author Jerry Ellis, photographed at his home by Steven Stiefel.

I’ve actually photographed the covers of romance novels for a publishing company in Atlanta. I’d do 1 or 2 studio photo shoots a month, typically with some Fabio-like hunk and a pretty girl representing the damsel in the book.

One of my past romance novel cover shoots

Neil affirmed my thoughts that the romance novel marketplace is huge. I’m not sure I could write that stuff, but it’s been fun playing a part in creating covers that entice readers to buy into the fantasies that the authors sell.

I’m primarily known for my photography, but I’m also a copywriter, penning a couple of dozen blogs for the marketing agency where I work. I write about topics as varied as recycling strategies, dental implants, wedding tent flooring, adjustable beds, etc. When I was younger, I also wrote screenplays, but I stopped because it seemed like a foolish pursuit at that stage in my career.

Alabama filmmakers

When I was younger, my idol was Steven Spielberg. I wanted to become a filmmaker and wrote screenplays.

My latest writing idea is putting together quotes from contemporary people about what life is like in 2019, the twist being that their stories all revolve around their memories of key moments in history. For example, my memories of the Shuttle Challenger exploding or 9/11. Talking about my day may be pretty boring, but adding rich context to events we all know will be fascinating, especially for people reading it 50 or 100 years from now. In this non-fiction time capsule, I’ll reflect on how much technology, in particular, has evolved in my lifetime, and how my daughter has no concept of what an 8-track-tape was.

Will people even read in the year 2119? Or will they simply use techno-enhancements to mentally process concepts independent of what we think of as written language? I’m also a bit of a futurist and love prognosticating about what may lie ahead. Hopefully, not a dystopian hellscape.

I’ve discovered that different tones and treatments are needed for various messaging and mediums. I adjust my tone according to the “voice” of the brand I’m representing in copywriting a blog. When I wrote newspaper columns and news stories, I switched back and forth between my impartial, impersonal news tone and the more folksy, impersonal tone of opinion columns. There’s a distinction between newspaper and magazine writing — in which you want to omit needless words and get right to the point of what you are saying — and writing a story where there’s greater leniency for higher word counts to paint a picture for the reader with descriptive words.

Interviews can also be fascinating, especially if you do your research and ask the subject something that they’ve never contemplated before so the story goes into unexplored territory. When talking to celebrities, a publicist often tries to limit where an article goes, so it is fun to see them wondering whether they’ll need to step in and reel their client back from the edge of provocation. It pays not to stray too far off the reservation.

I love writing. I particularly enjoy writing this blog because, unlike the ones I write for work, I’m not in any particular rush to finish and always speaking about things that specifically interest me. I don’t know who reads this blog, but I appreciate it and hope that my words bring you value as a reader. I’ve segregated the topics I frequently blog about into four separate blogs on this website by category. Otherwise, it can seem pretty schizophrenic bouncing among from completely unrelated topics rather than following a tight focus.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah…

At Neil’s workshop, we also briefly discussed options for Indie publishing for Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, Smashwords, and Ripple Reader. Self-publishing some photography books is a major priority of mine in the year ahead. I definitely want to better monetize what I can bring to the world with my creativity.

The primary benefit from the workshop, for me, is going to be reconnecting with CREATIVE writing. While I try to apply creativity to the blogs and content I write at the marketing agency, it is easy to get into creative ruts when a timer is going and you really must use economy of words if you expect anyone to actually take the time to read it. We all need a reminder of what we have inside of us if only we tap into it.

My favorite thing Neal said regarded how we, as writers, handle rejection. To paraphrase, he said that we do not change one bit when we get a rejection letter (so we shouldn’t attach so much emotional resonance to them), but all it takes is one person saying “Yes” to change our lives. That’s a great way of looking at it.

I can recommend Neal’s writing workshops. He’s a former math teacher and stand-up comedian who serves as the curator of the Fort Payne Museum and has been writing for the Mountain Valley News and the Huffington Post for 11 years. His books have sold more than 25,000 copies and accumulated over 500 reviews on Amazon and four became Number One Amazon Best Sellers. His novel, Pit Bulls vs. Aliens, was the first book to be offered a publishing contract by Kindle Scout. His novel, Reternity, has won 10 national awards and was named to Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011.

Learn more about his workshops.