Monday, April 14, 2014

Selling Your Package

By "your package" I mean YOU. (What did you think I meant? You have a dirty mind.)

I started off in my troll cave. I researched the agents and their submission processes and I spammed out queries. During the querying process you hone your letter, trying to showcase your voice and cover the key points of your story with  brevity and hook the attention of the inundated agent assistant. At this point, the package is your query, not your manuscript. You might have the best book in the world, but if your query doesn't get their attention, no one will ever see it.

Your book = the face.
Your tube top = the butt in the mirror.
I finally left my cave and started attending conferences. I live in Southern California and the dress code here can be described as, "what's a dress code?" Most of the industry professionals are from the East Coast where, if you believe What Not to Wear, they dress up to go to grocery shopping. Shopping aside, the agents and editors at the conferences are dressed professionally. Ergo, if you want to show respect and present yourself as a professional, you should dress professionally. You're pitching your manuscript(s), but the first thing they see is you. You are the package.

Note: I am not a fashion guru by any means. I would describe my look as "scumbag" and am currently wearing yoga pants and a TMNT t-shirt my brother 'accidentally' left here two Christmases ago. I'm actually a little more done up than writing alone at home usually warrants -- My hair is clean and am still wearing a bra.

You may ask, "Erin, aren't you being shallow? Don't you think the agents/editors care more about my writing than what I look like?" To that I would answer this:

Of course they care about the writing, but they are considering whether or not you will make them money. They are wondering if they can work with you. All of this comes from that first impression. Are you worth more than that one book you're pitching? How will you handle public relations? Signings? Social media? Simple things like sitting up straight, smiling, and making eye contact is worth almost as much as your pitch. Hygiene, breath, clean/pressed clothes -- all of this goes to showing who you are. If you rock the scumbag look to an agent session it may seem like you don't have your stuff together or that you don't respect their position. You may have a great book, but if you're covered in cat hair, smell like old beer, and are wearing the same sweats you wore yesterday that is the first thing they see. The same thing goes if you decide to present yourself as sexy (something I see a lot with my high school students who equate "dressing nice" with what they would wear to a club). Think of the position you want as a writer, not a stripper. Put your boobs away and wear shoes you can walk in. While everyone says not to judge a book by the cover, we all do. First impressions matter.

No, I'm not an agent or editor, so I am not speaking from experience in their specific field but I have worked in sales. Think about what you're selling. Your book? That's part of it, but during a pitch you're selling the package of yourself as a writer. The agent/editor is a professional -- you should aspire to be, too.

I'm not telling you to buy a new wardrobe for a conference. Nor am I telling you to be someone you're not. I look on the well groomed version of me as just another facet of the whole. Be clean and comfortable (although, personally, I'm willing to deal with a little discomfort -- sometimes the discomfort is a reminder not to get too relaxed, to remember my purpose, and to sit up straight). At conferences I wear suits, slacks, and dresses that fall into the business professional category. I make sure everything is freshly pressed, not missing buttons, etc... I may be just shy of hobo when I'm grocery shopping, but at conferences I am pulled together, clean, and tailored. Ultimately the entire conference is like a job interview and you need to be on constantly.

Saying the word "package" so many times brought this video to mind. Though it has nothing to do with professional attire, I'm posting it for your viewing enjoyment.






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