Monday, March 5, 2012

Your Time to Shine: Appropriate Attire When Marketing Your Book

Are you ready to take center stage?  When a publisher accepts your book, you must move into the spotlight. Perhaps spotlight is a bit dramatic, but you will leave your computer for a more public arena to market your masterpiece.

Marketing is business. While writing in your faded jeans or discount store cotton flannels, did you forget the term business dress? What will you wear to your signings, presentations, and other events? Does it matter?

Yes. Your clothing makes a statement about you. What do you want it to say? For example, what do jeans say?  Jeans match a western author’s genre, or how-to books on hunting or fishing. But if jeans don’t somehow tie into the book’s subject, they could send this message: “I’m not a business professional, and after all, it’s Saturday afternoon.”  

Treat all forms of publicity like a job, and remember the clich√©: “dress for the job you want.” A civic club’s program chair could pick up your card from the signing table. A pressed shirt, creased pants, and polished shoes tell him or her you will not show up at their lunch meeting in athletic shoes and a tee-shirt removed from the dryer after wrinkles have set. Of course, when that program chair calls you, it’s still smart to ask questions about what their speakers usually wear.

In preparation for a talk, questions concerning appropriate dress are as important as learning about the microphones and other needed equipment at the meeting site. But the answers you receive may be incorrect. A group’s membership may be large, but their all-volunteer board can change from year to year. If a spokesperson tells you casual dress is fine, what exactly does that mean? And do that person’s standards reflect the membership at large?

At the Saturday meetings of the Panhandle Professional Writers, for example, probably half in attendance wear the Texas weekend uniform—jeans and a casual shirt. Chris Stewart, a copyright attorney who has spoken at several meetings, always arrives in business dress—a dark suit, light-colored dress shirt, tie, and dark lace-up shoes. Conversely, the attire of a recent speaker fit right in—neat enough, clean-looking, but ultra casual. She delivered an excellent workshop; nonetheless, certain members expect a level of professionalism that at least includes what is known in the business world as business casual. For some the perception of super casual translates to a lack of respect.

When speaking to a group, conservative dress is a wise choice. Women have more latitude than men.  They can choose between a knee-length skirt or slacks, and often pantsuit or pants worn with a classy sweater set. But women must be careful not to fall into a fashion trap. Ruffles, a tight fit, or low-cut necklines, send the wrong message.  Also, women should be aware of what distracts their audience. You want listeners to remember you, not your swinging necklace, floating fabric, or sequined material.

According to studies by Dr. Albert Mehrabian at UCLA, nonverbal communication is more important than our words. What that means to you: what you wear helps you sell yourself, which helps you sell your books. And that's what you want, isn't it?

(c) 2012, Bernice W. Simpson

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