Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dress for the Job You Want

Cynthia Shapiro is a client of mine and the author of Corporate Confidential, a book I recommend to anyone working in the corporate world. Not only is her book a fascinating read, but it contains invaluable information that could save your job. It could also save your writing career.

Recently I was reviewing Corporate Confidential and Cynthia’s soon-to-be-published next book (still untitled), and I was amazed at how much of her information could pertain to my clients and authors in general. Information on cover letters could be used for query letters, job interviews are just like pitch sessions, and how to relate to upper management is very similar to working with an editor.

While I’m sure I could do an entire series of posts on how Cynthia’s books can relate to a publishing career, there's one secret that has stuck with me: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This isn’t a new concept, and for anyone who has ever read a job book you’ve probably heard it before, but how does this pertain to authors? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean you have to dress in a suit to write your book. No, pajamas are still acceptable writing attire. What it does mean is if you want to be a bestselling author, then you need to dress like one. Whenever you’re out promoting yourself as Author (at conferences, signings, or meetings with your agent and editor), you need to be dressing for that part you want, and dressing the part goes way beyond just the clothes you wear. It’s the way you talk, your book covers, your publicity material, your query letter, and your Web site. It’s anything that represents you and your brand.

So who do you want to be? Whose career are you comparing yours to and who would you like to emulate? Think big, I know I do. You can be a bestselling author or you can make people think you’re going to be. Dressing the part makes people believe that you’re an author they would regret missing out on. Who would you be more impressed by, the author in jeans and a T-shirt or the author wearing a striking suit? When I meet someone, whether it’s in person, through my Web site (because truthfully that is how people first meet these days), or from a letter I send, I want their first impression of me to be, “Wow, I need to get to know this person.” For authors, the first impression you make needs to be, “Wow, I’m really missing out by not having read this person’s books.” And trust me, this works with agents and editors too.

The truth is that we do judge a book by its cover, it’s why book covers are so important. So make sure your cover is always at its best. It should be clean, professional, well pressed, and impressive. Take a look at those Web sites, book covers, and clothes and see how you can do your best to dress for the job you want and not the one you currently have, or even worse, the one you had previously.

—Jessica

12 comments:

RenaissanceGrrl said...

I could not agree more, I swear sometimes I'm more visual than a guy and if I stumble upon a particular website or blog and the color scheme or banner don't initally catch my eye I'm definitely inclined to move on to something else.

Same with book covers although I can't always verbalize what catches my eye about a particular book, but if that certain something isn't there forget about it.

Terri Thayer said...

I love it. Permission from my agent to shop! In fact, not just permission, a flat out directive. Valley Fair Mall, here I come!

I met Catherine Coulter at an RWA conference. She wore a suit with pantyhose (above and beyond here in CA)even on Sunday, when everyone else had dressed down. While it was a bit stodgy for my tastes, it was obvious who was the famous author in the crowd.

Wait until you see what I'm wearing at Malice Domestic...

Kate Douglas said...

Thank you, Jessica. I'm showing your blog to my husband who is still making snide comments on the new suit and VERY EXPENSIVE shoes I bought for my trip to NY! Actually, when I dress professionally, I feel more professional. I may spend all day, every day writing in my jammies and tank top, but when I meet other authors and people within the industry, I want to look my best. At my age, I can't do it on charm and good looks...a nicely fitting pantsuit and good shoes provides the crutch I need.

Anonymous said...

These last two posts are amazing! SO helpful. Thank you!

Kimber An said...

I learned about this in nanny school. American nannies have long suffered from a poor image not shared by our English sisters (and brothers!) Some people still equate nannies with babysitters. Even the 18 year olds coming to the school wanting to be the Real Thing had a hard time grasping that they needed to appear and behave in a professional way in order to be treated (and paid) like a professional. Check out the school's website if you want to see what I mean.

http://nanny-governess.com/

Judy Schneider said...

You are right, Jessica, famous authors LOOK famous. Did you ever notice that local news celebs sport the same aura? Even when you see them in person and realize they're wearing a casual jacket and jeans, they have a presence. Their hair and makeup are noticeably striking, and they project their voices to match the upright manner in which they carry themselves. They are always "on" and we authors need to be similarly prepared.

I have always believed that it's better to be overdressed than underdressed--a message I'm struggling to pass on to my teenagers.

Anonymous said...

Great post. Encouraging on the day before I go for a big job interview with exactly these beliefs in mind. Class and carriage are important when trying to move into the big leagues in any profession.

Of course you have to back it up with substance, but without the polish, the substance is often not recognized.

Thanks for another good post!

Chris A.

kathie said...

Thanks for this post and the one on querying. Both posts are specific and give the soon-to-be published author an inside edge. Now to put that edge to good use!

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'd be a bit turned off by an author at a signing in a suit, especially a male one. Or any sort of business wear. It's so old fashioned. (I'm 30 and can't remember the last time I saw any one who wasn't a secretary, salesman, or a finance guy in a suit. My CEO wears flip flops, even to conference.) Cute shoes, non-GAP jeans, and a cute top would be so much more appropriate. Authors are artists and shouldn't look like drones.

L.C.McCabe said...

I remember that advice distinctly from John Malloy's Dress for Success books that I read in the late 1970s (?).

If you take the time to look the part, and it'll help you to feel the part. Then others will start looking at you differently and recognize that you have higher potential than your current status.

It is in essence: dressing for success.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I'd be a bit turned off by an author at a signing in a suit, especially a male one. Or any sort of business wear. It's so old fashioned. (I'm 30 and can't remember the last time I saw any one who wasn't a secretary, salesman, or a finance guy in a suit. My CEO wears flip flops, even to conference.) Cute shoes, non-GAP jeans, and a cute top would be so much more appropriate. Authors are artists and shouldn't look like drones.

I see nothing "inappropriate" about dressing up. I think it shows a sign of respect for the event. (I work in advertising as a writer, and dress down most days. But there are times I have to dress up or I'd look like a fool.)

At the signings and conferences I've attended, the authors I've seen typically wear nice slacks and jackets or sweaters.

I remember seeing Catherine Coulter in a smashing leather blazer once. I gotta get me one of those!

Lexi said...

Well said and thanks for the tip!