Public Image

I have never been much of a media junkie. Maybe it’s because I prefer fantasy and speculative fiction to the drama created by ‘real’ lives–I’m more of a ‘what if’ person than a ‘what is’ person. Reading books was an escape into that world from this one, and I never looked further into the author’s life than reading the blurb in the back of the book and wondering why they picked that picture.

Now I want to be one of them, and just as much as I feel I missed my right time in history (a little King Arthur, anyone?), I might have missed my write time for being an author. Now, instead of that blurb inside of a book jacket, authors are expected to be a well-crafted online media presence that includes a web site, a blog (sometimes the same thing or blended together), fan sites for their popular books/series, a twitter account, an author Facebook page, and some other things that make circles and links.

Oh, yeah, and they’re supposed to write great books, which can’t go online or it fudges all of the nitpicky copyright stuff.

And people want pictures. Not pictures of you as you actually are while you do this media work, in pajamas with bedhead and no bra, but pictures of you standing stoically in front of some unnamed grand mountains, or by a bridge that goes nowhere, or bonding magically with a beautiful stallion. They want pictures of their author heroes that look like book covers.

Or you can just do a head shot.

I, personally, never counted on this. I am much better at writing in my pajamas than I will ever be at shopping. I would prefer to disappear into the worlds in my head and forget about this one, with all of its social media obligations. But the people in the worlds in my head don’t buy books, which in turn makes it so that the social media connections, in the end, keep me in my pajamas.

To be an author, it is worth taking the time to cultivate your public image, both for media and for personal appearances. Authors are celebrities in their own circles, and while we don’t have to exactly worry about every pound and inch being tracked by image hungry fans, we do need to care about the impressions and connections that we make. In the end, publishers and fans don’t just want our books, they want us.

I went to a conference this year, which I loved, that taught me some very interesting things about the presence an author has. I did not think that fashion, or personal appearance, or public behavior had much of an impact on what people thought of you as a writer. Erase all of those things. When you go to any event, or put your thoughts online, you are presenting yourself as a complete package, and hopefully a professional one. As I sifted through the presentation options, The list of presenters impacted my decision far more often than the panel topic. In an early panel, a lady was dressed so strangely I didn’t even hear what anyone said, just stared at her top hat and sequins and wondered what on earth she had been thinking when she got dressed that morning. In others, the presenters were dressed nicely enough and I was able to be mentally focus on what they were saying, and I finally felt like I was getting my money out of the day.

Bottom line? I want to be a professional writer. I want to be a package that interests fans and gets me on conference panels and earns the respect of fellow professionals. I want to make a happy living in my pajamas.

So, time to go shopping, and nothing I buy will have sequins. Or a top hat. Or tie-dye. Pinky swear.

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