By Mary Emma Allen
Do you recede into the background when people meet you or do you present a memorable appearance? We’re told it takes 30 seconds to make a first impression. How do you want to be perceived as an author?
This often is something we writers don’t think about. As writers who strive for recognition, we often never think of what could set us apart from others or what might set writers we admire apart, in addition to their writing.
“Develop your own style, your signature,” a children’s author and workshop teacher told us when she discussed doing book signings or giving school presentations. She mentioned the importance of dress and told us she decided to create an image for herself . . . one when she appeared at functions attended by adults or met with editors and another when she appeared in schools to talk with children.
Leaving an Impression
A variety of factors will be involved when you create an impression… favorable or unfavorable . . . that will cause readers to remember you.
“Why should this matter?” you ask, when readers will be buying and reading our books without our being there . . . and when most editors will buy my work without ever seeing me.
Everything we can do to create a favorable impression with readers and editors, when we do have an opportunity to meet them, certainly helps. A favorable impression, one that they remember when our name is mentioned, helps even more.
Developing Your Signature
This author at the workshop wore colorful flowing dresses and chunky jewelry. She’d dressed the way she does when giving presentations for children in schools and libraries. She said children enjoy bright colors and appealing jewelry.
Another of her suggestions was dressing like one of your characters when giving a presentation, reading or signing book. This certainly calls attention when you’re doing readings or book signings in book stores where you want to catch the interest of customers and draw them to your area.
Appearance Depends on Occasion
Your appearance also depends on the occasion and the type of writing you do. I recently attended a health fair where I set up a display about my book on Alzheimer’s, When We Become the Parent to Our Parents I wanted to look professional, someone knowledgeable about my topic.
To me this meant giving attention to my appearance and not looking scruffy. Once I used to wear clothes and colors that made me recede into the background. However, I’ve found the “secret me’ enjoys wearing the colorful clothing I enjoyed as a child.
This doesn’t mean wearing gaudy clothing, but something well coordinated and comfortable, something that makes me feel good about myself. Then I can feel good when talking with others about my book and my work as an encourager to caregivers.
If one is at an outdoor craft fair or function, where weather might be a consideration, dress according to that occasion. Jeans and similar clothing could be appropriate. If your book is about the out-of-doors or connected with sports, then dressing in clothing associated with those occasions would be more in keeping than skirt and panty hose and heels or suit and tie.
Dress Depends on Age
Dress often depends on the age of the audience or the editor you’re meeting. Those of an older generation have a different idea of appropriateness than someone who is comfortable with “dress down Friday.”
Keep in mind that the way you dress at a book event or meeting with an editor can have an effect on how you’re received. It might be worthwhile to give some thought to developing a characteristic type of dressing that it associated with you.
I’d enjoy hearing from writers who have had success in developing a signature style of dressing.
© 2002 Mary Emma Allen
Mary Emma Allen writers for children and adults, fiction and non-fiction. She’s also a columnist and travel writer, as well as speaker and teacher. She blogs at Mary Emma’s Potpourri of Writing.