Keeping Up Appearances, not the TV show


I’ve been thinking and talking a lot about my image in the last few weeks because I’m a planner and in 2 months, I will be doing my first public appearance.  For most, two months is a long time to start planning things like wardrobe, make-up and hair.  In my world, I’m not sure 2 months is long enough for that kind of planning.

Anyway, so I did a lot of discussing it with others and there was a lot of input about creating an “image.”  I was told I had to wear suits, nice blouses, slacks, dress shoes, hire someone to do my hair, get a manicure the day before the public appearance, hire someone to do my make-up, etc.

That’s all well and good, but let’s be honest, if I do all that for my book signing, no one is going to randomly recognize me on the street.  I’m not sure that’s a bad thing, but while I’m creating this “image,” I’m actually creating a very fake me.  I get it.  Readers want to know that I put effort into coming to the event.  However, is it more important to see a fake me or a cleaned up version of the real me?

While I was sorting through the advice, one writer made a good point: Don’t create an image that is too high maintenance to maintain all the time.

Huh… Ok, so… I had to prod that deeper and think about it.  The realization was this: the answer lies somewhere between the two.  Yes, I should make an effort, but no, I shouldn’t give my readers the impression that I’m this perfectly manicured, nicely dressed Barbie doll.  For me, this means I won’t be dressing up too much… anyone expecting to see me in a suit, slacks, uncomfortable blouses, or a dress is going to be disappointed.  I have spiffy boots that look great with a nice pair of jeans.  I have a beautiful hand-crafted leather belt covered in Celtic knots with a fancy Celt buckle that also looks great with a pair of jeans.  If I tuck in my T-shirt, you can see the belt and it stops it from looking “sloppy” and makes it look “casual.”

I will have my hair done.  If someone else doesn’t style it for me, I’ll be wearing my hair in a ponytail or bun.  And today marked Day 1 of attempting to wear make-up every day, because as one writer told me; make-up can tame or hide a multitude of sins.  If I get a manicure, it will be because I’ve given in to someone else’s desire for a “Spa Day” and god forbid what else will happen to me during that time (I’ve never had a manicure, pedicure, or any special beauty treatments… I’ve never even been tanning).

All of this has a point, aside from just explaining my own inner turmoil.  As writers, doing public appearances, we have to create an image.  That image can impact our sales.  But it also impacts how we feel about ourselves.  While I debated going blouse shopping, I realized that I was already starting to dread the signing.  I didn’t want to have to play dress up.  I spent years in an office cubical, wearing all the right suits and blouses… and my favorite part of being a writer, is not being forced to dress like a doll every day.  So, create an image you can maintain and wish me luck on the whole “wearing make-up every day” thing.

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10 Comments

  1. debra simcock

     /  August 13, 2014

    I like your approach.

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  2. Maria D.

     /  August 13, 2014

    I agree – you want to look nice without looking like someone else…lol…the only reason I would recommend the manicure is because hopefully you will be shaking people’s hands – you don’t have to get a fancy color on your nails or anything like that. It’s just nice to have a “professional” do it because their tools are better and usually their technique and polish are better too (since it is what they do all day).

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    • You say that like I paint my nails… I don’t bite them anymore and I keep them clean, but that’s as far as nail care goes in Hadena’s world. I’m not sure I even know how to apply polish!

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  3. I think that having an image as a writer is important, but it doesn’t have to be a polished corporate image.

    Personally, I go for “working class poet”. I emphasize the contrast between my low brow work experience and my passion for esoteric literature. That’s my schtick, my author image–the guy who unclogs toilets and changes lightbulbs during the day and argues about the theology of Phillip Dick at night.

    What’s your author identity? If you were a stranger reading your books for the first time, what mental image would come of the person who wrote this? Would it be of someone in a suit with perfect hair–or maybe somebody a little wild around the edges? People expect authors to a little off the wall.

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  4. Every author is different and they prepare in different ways. One thing to keep in mind–people are there to hear you and to get to know you and your books. Most don’t care what you look like, except to know that you respect them enough that you didn’t come to meet them looking like a slob. Do what makes you feel comfortable and confident. If wearing something new and having your hair done gives you a boost in confidence, go for it. If doing that makes you feel uncomfortable and undermines you, don’t do it. Hope this helps.

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  5. . . . . what Susan said! Don’t let discomfort undermine your wonder.

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  6. I think the way you look already represents you and what you write. Sure, for a signing or public event, make effort to spiff it up a bit, but wearing a suit or a dress (which, by the way, I’m having a hard time picturing you comfortably in a dress) is not want your readers want. They want to see you. I think you’ve come to a good conclusion. Just be who you are. Susan has a very good point. Another writer might feel a boost of confidence by dressing up and getting a manicure, etc. You do want will make you feel confident at your signing.

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