Yay! We’ll all get to see our friends again, we’ll also make new ones, and that’s the whole point…right? Or maybe not? Socializing and having fun are certainly important. Without a doubt, they are often the high points of the events we attend. However, there are a few very important items that we need to be mindful of.
It used to be that there were only a few conferences (cons) each year, featuring or welcoming LGBTQ writers and readers (RWA National, RT, AAD, Lori Foster’s). But now, there are so many more – GRL, Rainbow Con, The Novel Approach, UK M/M Meet, to name a few. As our industry, and our genre continue to grow and mature, we gain more and more opportunities to represent ourselves online, and more significantly, in person.
Where is the line between work and fun that authors/editors/publishers need to be aware of, in order to be taken seriously? Now we know that, deep down inside, every author wants to be on the NY Times (or USA Today or Amazon) Bestsellers List. Someday, one of you writing M/M will make it onto one of those mainstream lists. However, readers/editors/agents/publishers are watching, RIGHT NOW, how you present yourself while sitting on a panel at a con. When you’re sitting up at that table at the front of the room, you’re being viewed as a PROFESSIONAL, with valuable skills, information, and insights to impart to the audience. How should you present yourself?
In the business world (and admit it, writing is your business), how do professionals present themselves? Now, I’m not saying you should be in a three-piece business suit, BUT a nice outfit, with tasteful makeup (for those comfortable with makeup), will tell attendees clearly, that you know your business! Think about it; would you take someone seriously if you went to a business seminar, and a panelist wore a ratty t-shirt and jeans with holes in them? Would you believe in the quality of their product, or their information, if they slouched in their chair looking bored? I certainly don’t advocate buying an entirely new wardrobe, completely lacking in color or personality. But, if you wouldn’t wear it to an office (on casual day) why would you wear it when you need to be viewed in a professional capacity? In a meeting with your boss, do you slouch and look disinterested? Or do you sit up straight and make eye contact?
And remember, you’re being watched online, too, even more often than in person. Let’s be honest…how many times have seen someone behaving badly/rudely/nasty, either in person or online, and thought “oh yeah, not buying/reading anything of theirs, ever”? Your online image and your in-person image combine into your full professional package. Readers/editors/agents/publishers are always watching you, and you want them to always see you behaving nicely in person/online, and reflecting that in your appearance. If you have something you just need to rant about (and we all do at different points), do it quietly to close friends, and not in the lobby of the hotel, or on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram. What’s the old adage? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Even back then, Thumper was right, because, even if you delete from your blog/wall/feed chances are, someone has a screencap of it, so it will never be forgotten.
Now, I’m in no way saying don’t have fun at cons. ESPECIALLY at the evening festivities where the entire point is to loosen up and have some fun. But, as the GLTBQ publishing community is getting bigger, and gaining more attention, shouldn’t we want to be viewed in a positive light? As hard as we all work, shouldn’t we be viewed and treated like professionals?
~ Kris Jacen is the Executive Editor at MLR Press
10 thoughts on “It's Con Season! A Guest Article by Kris Jacen”
Nice article. Good tips. Thank you.
Great advice, Kris. Worth paying attention to. :)
Even though we talked about this while you were writing the post, a long lost memory stayed hidden until just right now!
Way back when I was a police dispatcher, we didn’t have a dress code. The day shift had some clothing rules because command staff and the press would come and go, but even then, the rules were basic (like bras required, sweats and pajamas only allowed on graveyard).
One day, our captain saw me working on a volunteer project after my regular shift had ended. He invited me into his office for a chat. (I was just getting to know him and I liked him. He eventually promoted to the #3 spot in our entire department.) On this day, he thanked me for always taking care with my appearance, no matter what shift I was assigned to (even graveyards!). I was nothing fancy, but these days, I think you’d call it business casual (where jeans are okay). He said he appreciated knowing that if he needed a dispatcher at a moments’ notice, who could speak with the Sheriff or appear on camera, he could count on me to look and sound professional.
I thanked him in return and explained that professional was precisely what I was aiming for. To be a dispatcher, we had to pass a pre-screening skills test, and a background investigation. We trained for 6 months and spent 12 months on a probationary period. Those who promoted spent another 3 months in additional training and 6 months on another probationary period. I considered our job to be a PROFESSION (and we did have a career track to follow). We all had a special set of skills. We were highly trained and capable of performing tasks and exercising judgement that other people could not. I took pride in all of this and I thought I should look and act like someone with some expertise. I feel the same way about being an author. I’m an expert. I have specific knowledge and a certain set of skills that not everyone has. I have my flaming red hair, I live in jeans, and I’m fond of my USMC tshirts, but I make sure to look and sound knowledgeable and capable, as well as flashy and sassy! Sitting on panels isn’t my favorite activity, but good posture and eye contact goes a really, really, REALLY long way! :D
Great article, Kris, and a positive reminder for us all! Thank you for the advice
This was definitely good advice that people should take note of– always good to act in a way where you don’t come off as unprofessional, especially when you want people to take you seriously… When I attended GRL a few years back it amazed me to sit and listen to the authors etc talk about there experiences and what us newer authors could expect in the future.
I think it is important to remember you’re leaving an image in someone’s mind. Yes have fun, go to the parties, don’t become fall own drunk because people are watching. If you want to wear funky, hippy, avant garde clothing then more power to you. Just remember that s how you will have to look from here on out. Sometimes names are forgotten but you always remember a face.
Excellent post Kris, and a subject dear to my heart not just as an author but in all my business dealings. Business wear has definitely relaxed over the years I’ve been working, and I approve of that because i really believe people can work just as well whatever they’re wearing. But more importantly, I also think that any role that puts you in view – even online! – of the public, you should dress and behave with respect. I think it gains you more genuine friends and opens more doors – as well as helping you to have more fun! :)
And thanks for the shout-out for the UK Meet in June :)
Thanks all for your comments. I’m hoping that everyone takes just a moment to think about how they present themselves to the public – in person and online.
And Clare? I’m so coming over for the UK Meet next year. Save me a spot and tell David we need to have a drink.
Great article, Kris. A couple of years ago at Sleuthfest, a woman author pitched a woman editor in the ladies’ room, and it became the talk of the conference — as a DO NOT DO!
Great article. Thank you.