Welcome to post 5 of The Year of Living Authorly. The subject of this post is one I initially had to grapple with, but I eventually made my peace with. You’re an author at a convention. You want to attract people to your work. You want people to have a certain image of you. What is the best image to put forward?
Much like an online persona, it’s best for authors to do something they feel comfortable with. I’ve seen authors dress as their own characters. I’ve seen authors dress in vaguely fannish clothing. I’ve seen authors dress like I might dress for my job as a professor. Is anyone one of these approaches better than another?
Conventional wisdom suggests that it is best to treat your author work like you might other work, that you should dress like you would as a professional. BUT I know that some authors trade on the kinship that they feel with fandom, and wearing a big floofy hat, or dressing vaguely like Jim Dresden is expected for these authors.
My particular dilemma with image is that I come from cosplay roots. From about 1985 until around 2007 or so, if you’d asked my friends what I did at conventions, they would tell you I made awesome costumes. Seriously, I used to do about 5-7 costume changes a convention. It was my raison d’etre for going to these things. And it was a blast. I was taken very seriously in the world of fandom costumers, and people still oooohhh and aaaahhh today over those pictures.
But I ultimately decided that in order to go where I wanted to as an author, I needed to professionalize. Why? Well, I wanted other people to publish me, and I wanted to make sure that I was seen as a capable person who could meet deadlines and took my work as an author seriously. I didn’t feel I could do this while I was dressed as an anime character or even Granny Weatherwax (and honestly, who wouldn’t take Granny Weatherwax seriously?). I thought it would serve my image better to go away from being a fan to being a professional.
I have to tell you, I’m not sure if this is the right decision, but I am comfortable with it. I will not go so far to say that I might never get fannish at a convention (read tshirts, goofy hats, etc), but if there’s a convention where I want people to think of me as a professional author, I am going to dress in a professional way and comport myself like a person who takes writing seriously. And honestly, there are cons where I feel I am not going to meet people in the publishing industry, but they are few and far between. The con I attend where I geek out the most, Convergence, is still a place where agents, editors, and fellow writers are going to be, and you never know when opportunity will come knocking.
Okay, so, that said, I know lots of authors who work the other mojo to their advantage. Chris Paolini used to dress up as a character from his book while he did his readings, I understand. Many writers make a memorable impression in fannish clothing. Cool. Do what works for you.
Me? While I don’t want to blend into the background, what I do want is for my demeanor and my work to be taken seriously, even though I am writing about demon binders in the 19th century. So, my advice is this: be professional until maybe you have gotten where you want to go. Then, maybe, you can play a little.
Next up: The cost of conventions. Can you afford them? How much does a convention cost anyway?