Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Interview with Jen Larson: Copywriter

I met Jen on the emergency prep team at our elementary school. She asked me to join it because she was bowing out after four years of service. She knew I was once a firefighter and thought I'd be good for the job. Gee, thanks Jen! Kidding. I love it, and loved getting to know her better. 

Since our time together at school, we've caught up at our local pool with the kids, and Jen always has her computer with her. Swimsuit, head covered by a fedora, wine glass on the table, fingers flying, that's how I picture her. 

Jen's a hard worker, but she doesn't forget about the fun. Her quirky sense of humor, and quick wit would surly resonate in a book. I look forward to reading her masterpiece...someday soon I hope.

Below are the questions I asked Jen.

1.    How did you win your first copywriting job?

Wow. I think my first paid copywriting job was writing a friend’s wedding announcement when I was in college or maybe high school. I later wrote her divorce announcement but that’s a different story.

2.    Do you typically know the budget you are working with before you start a project?

It’s tricky because I never want to lose an inspirational job because of a rate. I’ve been known to write some freebies but not since my boy’s tastes in shoes has surpassed mine price wise. Let’s just say I’m very reasonable because I feel so lucky to get to do this.

3.   What time restraints are you typically working under?

Crazy…never anything but crazy. They know that as a freelancer, I’m their bitch (sorry can I say that?) If I can’t do it yesterday they can find someone younger and prettier, no wait, cheaper and hungrier to do it.  That’s the bad part about freelancing.  

I have been in the basement of museums writing while my family is upstairs enjoying the exhibit. I’ve written from vacation, the bathroom, my car on my iphone, on a cocktail napkin (I occasionally have a cocktail) and the pool while my kids frolic without a care in the world mere feet from me. I know how important deadlines are in my industry, so I sip my wine and bear it.

4.    Do you have to do market research on competitors before you write?

Sometimes I have to simply because I’m completely unfamiliar with the content.  I had to write about laser hair removal systems and had no clue how they work.  I now know. I’m like a dolphin.

Other clients, like my fashion clients, include research that’s much more fun. You also don’t want to get to know the others too well because it’s always the goal to have a unique untainted voice.  That’s always my goal anyway…that and to leave readers feeling something, anything as long as it’s something.

5.    Give us 5 words that describe your typical workday.

Unshowered followed by these five…
Overwritten….edited….on time…wine.

6.    Do you work alongside graphic designers? Please describe that relationship.

I almost always work with an art director unless it’s a pure copy piece like a blog.  Most of the relationships are great and they are super appreciative to have someone to make them look better.  One of the longest relationships I’ve had (longer than my husband) is with my art-director friend Robert. 

We worked at an agency together, then Ann Taylor, and now Dior in France. He gets to take full credit (because I could care less over here) and I get fabulous frocks that he sends me from the fabulous fashion shoots he attends for ads that bear my words and his art. I get chloe and never have to get out of my sweats…there’s a joke there somewhere.

7.    What time do you wake and what do you eat for breakfast?

I wake whenever Eli (her son) gets in my face to start rifling questions at me…usually around 7 if I’m lucky. Breakfast is a smoothie and coffee with real half and half….why skimp when it’s only half bad right?

8.    Do you get publishing credit for pieces you've written for companies?

Only in my personal portfolio or my website.  Advertising really isn’t like that unless your work is entered in award shows or at Cannes, etc.  For me the credit is always the call back.  I have clients I’ve had for 10 years and that to me is my byline.  When I write my blogs though, there is definitely a face and a name to the copy. 

9.    What kind of contract, if any, must you sign? Are you able to work for two companies in the same industry?

There is no conflict of interest because I’m a contract writer. If I were a staff writer, I would not have the freedom to write for a competitive company.  Genius, right?  Yes, I sign all kinds of inane forms. Makes them feel good and they have those neat yellow tabs so the blond writer knows just where to sign.

10. How do you advertise yourself?

I have to say I’ve been lucky. After 15 years at an ad agency, I made contacts without even realizing it. It’s very incestuous and word of mouth is king.  I get calls from people I worked with 15 years ago who have moved on to new ventures and need a writer…then they tell two friends and so on and so on.  

In fact I just recently got two jobs writing websites from an old boyfriend.  Who knew?  I do have a website under construction though and that will be very helpful to be able to say, just click on my site rather than schlepping around my ancient portfolio. Trying to stay young and relevant is not easy when you present hard copies in a leather bound portfolio.  Gotta go digital.

11. You say you are interested in writing a book. How will your experience help you? Hinder you?

Copywriting really has nothing to do with the book I would want to write.  I think if you can write, you can write.  Copywriting is about writing engaging copy that sells and gives a voice and a nuance to a brand, etc.  My book would be something much more personal. Copywriting keeps my skill set polished, but a book would be a labor of love, not a job.

 A book that would interest me would be a forum where I could publish short snippets of my work on a certain topic. 

12. What is the genre you are most interested in?

Humor. Real life. Something colloquial and relevant that leaves the reader feeling like they’re not alone, they’re not crazy and being perfect is overrated. 

Maybe I could write a book called “Self Deprecation…a Field Guide”  Or another thought I have is a book called “Dude, this is exactly what you should say” It would be a user's guide for men to teach them how to give good lip service.  I can think of so many occasions where 5 little words could have changed the course of a fight or a conversation for the better. (I'm thinking 5 Little Words would be a great title, Jen.)

I would paint different scenarios and tell men exactly what a woman wants to hear to solve each predicament….”Wow, you must be exhausted.”  “You’re right” “I’m sorry”  “I wasn’t thinking”  “I don’t know how you do it all” etc.  They don’t need to mean it, but they do need to say it.  Once they learn this, the divorce rate will plummet I predict. Lol.

13. How can my audience help you advance your career in writing?

Spread the word. But only if you believe it.

14. How's live as a working mom? Is your husband supportive of your dream of writing a novel someday?

Scotti is very supportive of course.  He thinks I should’ve done something bookish years ago and is definitely a fan of mine. In my mind, the book is written. I can see the words, the cover, smell the pages.  But it’s not written. It’s still just a twinkle in my eye. Counting on a second wind someday when my life is less demanding.  When is that again?  I guess I’m not one of these women that surround me who truly can do it all.  I can only do some of it.  

15. Would you recommend a copywriting job to other writers?

It’s a very different business when I came up because today is all about new technology and the digital space. I came up going on shoots and writing headlines, TV commercials, radio commercials and going on fun productions in lots of different cities and countries. 

Today’s industry is smarter and so much more efficient but it’s exciting to see all the new ways to write with social media, etc. It’s a fun job, for sure, and for me there were not many other options. I knew I had to be a writer in some way shape or form.  It was the one thing that I loved, was good at, and could get paid well for. 

Also, it’s never the same job twice…unless you count revisions. Then it’s the same job over and over and over. 

16. Who is your favorite author right now? What is your favorite book?

I’m not able to put down the Hunger Games right now, hence the dark circles under my eyes. Actually I’m halfway through Catching Fire, book two and am mesmerized. Favorite author though is Ann Rand.  Hands down. And I like this girl named Ang Azur. Have you heard of her? (No. I'll have to check her out.)

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