Little fish, big fish....which do you feel like when you're acting as an author. Strange question I know. When I first started attending conventions I felt like a little fish... a tiny tiny tiny fish. Why? Was it because I only had two books and a short story under my name? Possibly. Was it because I really had no idea what I was doing? Mmm most likely. I touched on this a while back, but it's been about a year and a half since, so it's time we touch on it again, but in a little more depth this time. That is why I'm breaking it into parts.
Today we're going to cover physical appearances. What I look like on a normal day, where I'm
chasing around children, cleaning house, and just writing is completely different than when I'm face to face. Example? Well let's take a look: My hair is pulled up (and most likely not very well), I'm wearing a Pink Floyd shirt (not very flattering) and if you look closely I'm wearing loose black pants. Now, I'll be honest, I am likely to go grocery shopping in that outfit, but I'm not likely to go to any writer's event in it. (please excuse the legos. I was playing with my daughter)
But it shows my personality. I don't care. If you're going to a convention, a conference, or an event, dress appropriately, dress to your brand. I'll admit, I struggled with this. Should I go around wearing corsets and BDSM gear? I could, except for I write multiple genres. I know an author who has totally made corsets and masks her thing, it works for her brand and that's how she dresses at every event. No one ever sees her face. Again that works for her, but since I write multiple genres, I dress according to the convention and which reader group I'm more likely to face. Some examples? Most conventions will find me in a black dress, leggings or tights, and boots. My hair is always down and fixed (this helps me look older, trust me, it's needed.) I always wear heels, because well I'm 5'2" I'm short. For a more casual event I wear something nice, maybe nice jeans with a tailored polo or a nice shirt, maybe a sweeter dress. Something decent. If there's a chance I'm going to introduce myself as an author, I'm dressed and ready to present myself.
Moving on to the other part of physically presenting yourself as professional...engaging with readers and other authors. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, just go up and say "Hi, I'm an author read my book." No. Now if you're at an event where you have to introduce yourself, say a fact about yourself, or some other ice breaker situation, then yes, you can say that you're an author. Just don't do it randomly or forcefully.
I just got back from an event where I had a wonderful time sitting down and chatting with readers and authors alike. Not once, unless asked, did I mention I was an attending author. Why? Readers are smarter than most people give them credit for, they can recognize a name. My name is in the program and on my name badge. Also, I was on panels, that's kind of a dead give away, they make you introduce yourself on panels, that's when I get to tell people I'm an author and what I write. Also, they'd see me at the book signing, that's also a pretty dead give away. Readers like it when you can connect on the same level as them.
Okay? But what do we talk about? Well, anything really, I had an hour conversation about cats. I also had a breakfast conversation about BDSM struck up by my collar and woman brave enough to ask me. You are a normal person, let your readers know that. Also...unless it's super important, do not text, read emails or check facebook while talking to people. Hello rude! Why should they care who you are or what you're talking about if you're more interested in your phone. Eye contact, an interested tone, ask question, converse people! It's not that hard, and it's professional. No, you will not like everyone you meet, but you at least need to be polite.
Have a table at the event? With the exception of IRC, where the tables were short and the moving space limited, I stand up every time someone approaches the table. Why? So I can have better eye contact. If they pick up a book, or are looking at them, I'll give a little piece about them, to give them enough info. If they just come up to the table, I do the simplest thing ever...I say "Hi, how's it going?" I had someone come back and buy my whole series because of that. We talked for a bit, they walked off and then came back.
Professionalism isn't just about how you look, but how you act. This is a job, a career, and you should treat it as such.
So while you wait for my next part in all this some questions for you to think on.
What's your brand and how can you dress?
What is appropriate for the events?
How do you act around readers and customers?
How can you improve any of this?