When I started this journey as an author, my expectations were simple. I would sit at a desk, crank out a couple of thousand words a day, email the completed manuscript to my editor, and wait on the book to arrive back on my desk.

But editors never think my first draft is as brilliant as I do—thankfully! They suggest revisions. Annoyingly, their changes make the stories better.

Still, that’s writing. At least, it’s re-writing.

But once the writing is complete, so much more work comes. For example, cover design is all about graphics and images. I dare you to listen to conversations about fonts and hues and spacing without your eyes glazing over.

The marketing experts take your novel and boil it down to 144 words to create the blurb, an ugly word describing the advertising text that appears on the back cover. The blurb for The Lottery is ready to go into all the advertising. Check it out:

Every small town has its secrets. And this one could tear his world apart.

Nathan Thomas feels grateful for his loving family and a steady job in a town where work is scarce. Still haunted by a deadly accident that severed his closest friendships, he hopes his bad luck is well behind him. But a fresh betrayal and a shocking revelation could take everything he loves away.

With his marriage strained to the breaking point, Nathan’s forced to confront his devastating youth for answers. As he fights for his family, will accepting the crushing realities of his past let him secure a possible future?

The Lottery is a heartfelt novel set in a quiet Appalachian town. If you like relatable characters, true-to-life hardships, and unforgettable drama, then you’ll love D. K. Wall’s captivating story.

Buy The Lottery to experience working-class struggles and triumphs today!

I would joke the marketing gurus who blurb—is that a verb?—get paid more per word than the author, but, in fairness, they also produce ad copy. Amazing how they can write ten different headlines using more or less the same words.

I can’t forget layout artists—the people who take the words of the manuscript and format it into the final book itself. They use fascinating phrases such as recto and verso. No, these are not medical conditions, but the right (recto) and left (verso) pages of a book. File that one away for your appearance on Jeopardy.

With all those pieces of the puzzle complete or underway, I thought my work was complete. Then the phone call came requesting a headshot. I was at a loss. No, I didn’t already have a photograph of me looking authorly.

The most recent headshot I have is from my corporate finance days. Dark suit. White shirt. Red tie. The classic image of a banker, lawyer, or mortician. The goal was to appear authoritative, serious, and professional. Basically, the look of anyone who has ever written a textbook that can put graduate students to sleep. Not exactly a selling point for a novel.

Nope, they said, that would not do. I needed to look like an author. Cool, hip and a little geeky. Everything I am not, except for the geeky which overflows.

An appointment with a photographer was arranged. Only one question remained. What do I wear?

Don’t worry, they said, we want a casual, natural image. Dress like you do every day.

The sound you hear is the UPS driver laughing, one of the few people outside of my family who has ever seen me in “work” clothes. My office is inside my house. Steps from my bedroom. And the kitchen. And the door to let the dogs in and out a hundred times a day.

I wear sweatpants and a ratty T-shirt. That’s on the days I bother to get out of pajamas.

My coworkers are a bunch of fuzzy canines. They don’t care what I wear as long as meals are served on time.

The marketing people, however, didn’t think that was the image that people expected on the back of a book cover. Though, I would bet if an author poll was conducted, the vast majority would say it’s a natural outfit.

Getting more specific in their coaching, they reworded the wardrobe request. Just wear the clothes you wear when you go out in public.

Forgive these poor city folks who think normal means slacks and sports jackets. I live on the top of a mountain. I’ve been to funerals where people wore clean overalls. They were the ones who took the time to get dressed up.

It’s one of my favorite parts of rural living. I spent my life wearing suits, ties, and shoes that required polishing. But I’ve traded all of that in for the clothing of a special designer label.


Carhartt jeans. Carhartt T-shirts. Carhartt sweatshirts. Complimented with a fine selection of sneakers and work boots, a total of five pair of shoes. Six if you count the house shoes I wear most days.

Prepare for the shock, but still not the look they expected. Specifics started flowing. A tweed sport coat. With the leather patches on the sleeves. Or perhaps a sweater. You know, like an author.

I have a closet full of clothes from my old days. The things I considered casual then, but now think of as dressy. And that haven’t been worn in years. I gathered a couple of sport coats, a few button-down shirts, and even a sweater or two. The clothes were loaded in my Jeep and I drove down the mountain to the photography studio.

Dressed in proper garb, clothing I haven’t worn in years, I stepped in front of the camera. Now, the photographer said, just act natural.


Pose naturally, came the answer. Think about those two words together.

I felt self-conscious, so specific directions followed. Lean against a chair. Try sitting. Cross your arms. Stick your hands in your pockets.

Positions I don’t use in clothes I don’t wear—all to appear natural.

The worst part? Smile, she said. You can smile. Come on, smile bigger. I have crayons for you if you’ll smile.

Yes, the photographer takes pictures of children. Unruly, uncooperative children. And she swears the offer of crayons works. It did for me. It made me laugh. And she took the winning photograph.

And so, here, today, is the grand reveal. The official author photograph. All it took was some coaching and a box of crayons.

Photo by Beth Brown
Beth Brown Photography

More Essays


  1. Tawny Wall on January 23, 2019 at 11:14 am

    Dang! Crayons??
    I wish I had been there for that shoot. There are some things that instantly come to mind that would make you smile… well, maybe more red… but a smile none the less. My little chickaboosey… the nose flares… poof-poof bunnies… and my all time favorite… sneezing in an astronaut helmet (well, that may be more me than you, but think about it!!).
    It’s a great picture and I’m truly proud of you!
    Your little sister

  2. Rachel Churchill on January 23, 2019 at 11:34 am

    Sweat pants under lined coveralls were so much more comfortable than jeans. Running shorts would dry by the time we were back to the house from our daily play in the lake. The dog walking life… if I ever have to have a head shot, I’ll take crayons and think of you.

  3. Paula on January 23, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    You look very authorly

  4. Sondra on January 23, 2019 at 4:41 pm

    I LOVE the ‘look’!!!! You had me hooked at 6 Siberian Huskies!!! You look HAPPY and I love it!!!!!

  5. KimL on January 23, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    Nailed the “writer” look! The blurb is great and I can’t wait to read it!

  6. Terry (+Rory) on January 23, 2019 at 6:20 pm

    A very handsome guy!! With a nice smile!!!

  7. S Deaver on January 23, 2019 at 11:58 pm

    You haven’t posed naturally until you’ve had to do it in glasses, with the photo artiste trying to avoid glare! Well, maybe you got to enjoy all the 10,001 tilt-your-head suggestions anyway. 🙂 Great pic!
    (Now why did I think you’d have black hair and glasses?)

    • D.K. Wall on January 24, 2019 at 7:57 am

      Oh, I wear glasses. After several attempts, I had to lose them because of the glare. That added to the fun since I could no longer see the photographer.

  8. Jean Burkhardt on January 24, 2019 at 6:24 am

    Wow-Here at last is a picture of the Hu-Dad I read about daily in the Thundering Herd. I always wondered what you looked like! LOVE your stories.

  9. Zoe on January 24, 2019 at 4:26 pm

    Ok so now we know Hu-dad… very handsome, as we expected, but really .. and I mean this in the nicest way.. shouldn’t you have included a dog… or two… I mean I will buy this book because I know what an amazing writer you are, you have brought us into the sibe tribe with life, humor realty and sadness.. but all done skillfully ., so you have one book sold .. still .. just one dog on the back..

  10. Jo Ann on January 24, 2019 at 5:57 pm

    Hey your cute now just add some Husky glitter on those dark pants “perfection”❣️

  11. Patty Markiewicz on January 25, 2019 at 2:17 pm

    I know what you mean about living rural and in sweats. lol Everything else is uncomfortable!

    Great picture. You definitely fit the authorly look.

    Good luck on the next phase of your book journey!

  12. Jackie parsons on February 26, 2019 at 8:47 am

    Knew your mom and dad and even you as a very young child in Greenville S.C. Looking forward to reading your new book and backing up to read some previous ones.

  13. tammy j on April 26, 2019 at 7:57 am

    I’m always late to the party.
    “you clean up real nice!”
    looking forward to your latest book.

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