Writers Workshop: Media Dancing

Reality Television

At some point in your writing career, you may find yourself dealing with the media in one way or another. Until it happens, you may long for that day. After it occurs, and especially if it occurs frequently, you may come to a very different conclusion about these encounters. Nonetheless, being a writer and dealing with the media are sometimes ham-and-cheese inevitabilities.

When it comes to publicity, to that Shanghai-la land of “free advertising,” the media can be your friend. The dark side of the relationship is that you are a product to the media presentation, a kind-of adornment designed to make their titillations more interesting to their viewers. This seems to be especially true when it comes to television, which thrives on short news cycles and sensationalism.

Now, I have a rather jaded attitude about working with the media, a phobia that goes back decades and always made my literary agent cringe. This is a result of too many years of working with the media, combined with an inbred dislike of being put on center stage. I have always preferred the background when it comes to working with the media. However, that is my weakness, not yours. You should give the media a fair try when they come knocking. It can greatly help your exposure and sales.

So, here’s how I rate various media outlets. It’s a personal view, so be sure to give it no more than a moment’s thought.

Television: You will generally be relegated to a “talking head” or “expert” role for most productions. From time to time, you may be involved in a reality-based TV series or a longer, more serious newsy piece on a particular subject. In any event, you will still be the adornment, the decoration to provide some kind of legitimacy or “draw” to the production. It’s good for exposure and sales. However, don’t be surprised if you find yourself represented in a very different way than you first presented yourself. Most of the recorded material can be found on the cutting room floor. The impact of this kind of media is usually short-lived, so don’t expect a long-term bang for your time. However, there are exceptions. I was recently told by one of my readers that a reality series in which I first participated nearly ten years ago is still being aired. Obviously, this is good for the writer. TV exposure has its place.

Radio: The best are hour-long presentations that are live and in which you are the sole participant. Now, I’m not thinking of those late-night, “my mother married an alien” kind of productions. I’m thinking more of mainstream radio. I’ve always liked these, the live interaction, especially when callers are allowed to come into the program. Radio is no longer a powerhouse media stream but it still has value. You can’t beat NPR or a local station that gets involved with local issues and local authors.

Film: Wow! This is a mixed bag of tunas and sharks. I’ve been involved with film production from several sides and both ends, front and back. I’m a big fan of independent films, especially documentaries. I have also worked as a consultant for the Hollywood scene. I have always wanted to stay in the background with this form of the media. I enjoy the art, the production, and the creative process that goes into making the finished product. However, I do not like the egos that typically surround this kind of work. Also, the bigger the project, the bigger the egos that seem to surface from nearly everywhere. In other words, I have a pretty bad attitude about major film productions and the folks that surround the process. I do not recommend my attitude. In fact, I ask that you keep an open mind about this whole subject. If given the chance, give it a try, but always remember that these kinds of productions are not designed to highlight you or your work. Even if the production is based on your own creation, it will be changed to suit the needs of the production and directorial ends of the business. If you become part of this branch of the media, whether in front or back of the production, you must realize that you will forced into many compromises that you might not like. However, that’s the price for playing the game. Love it or hate it, this kind of media has lots of punch. It can be both a friend and an enemy at the same time, and you may never figure out which is which.

Print: Newspapers, magazines, blogs, whatever the form it takes, this has always been my favorite form of media. I suppose it makes sense since I’m a writer. I enjoy dealing with most of this end of the media, and it’s something familiar. However, be aware that you are still an adornment with the print media. Like the other media forms, you cannot have control. From my point of view, the upside is that print media has a slightly longer half-life than television or even film productions. This is a bonus if you are able to present yourself effectively. Print media also has a habit of knocking on your door more than once. If they figure out that you have something interesting to say (print) on a particular subject, they will come back again and again. This kind of repeat exposure is always good for your writing career.

So, the bottom line. Do you really need the media in any of its incarnations? Strictly speaking, no. You can live a meaningful life without ever dealing with the media. However, it has its role for any writer. Good media can boost your sales and get your words to a larger audience. This is obviously a good thing. Just keep in mind that you will never appear in any form of media as you know yourself. You will meet the media on its own terms, always.

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