What Do You Wear to an Author Event?

Not too long ago, I was talking with someone about my upcoming novel Rose. They said that it might not be a bad idea for me to maybe get some fancier get-ups, seeing as the book was being published by a company and I was in a better financial position than I was in college to do a book tour.

Now generally, I just wear whatever’s comfortable, and this person’s job required them to dress much nicer than your average Joe in most situations. So I wasn’t sure I really needed a new suit jacket and some fancy pants. Still, it stuck my mind. A lot of authors dress up when I’ve seen them at readings or on TV shows. And one author I really liked, Richard Castle from Castle (yeah, I know he’s fictional, but he’s got tie-in novels in our world, so he kind of counts) always wore nice shirts, pants and jackets. And Castle is kind of like the adult, mystery author-version of me. Perhaps I should get some new duds.

On the other hand, Stephen King usually wears sweaters and jeans to author events and TV appearances. When I went to see RL Stine at a reading (yes, that happened), he was wearing just a button-down shirt and pants. And one author I’ve had some contact with and was a huge voice during the recent Cockygate controversy usually wears tank tops that show off her tattoos and a cap when she makes YouTube videos (and in our increasingly digital age, that platform works just as well as TV).

So what to do? Well, I do what I do in times like this, I turn to Facebook author groups. And I quickly got a response in return. The answer: it depends.

More specifically, it depends on what kind of impression you’re trying to create. Some authors want to be seen as no different than their readers, so they dress as they do during a normal day off. Others like the effect a suit or a nice dress creates with an audience and thus dress up. And other authors like to dress up in a distinctive manner. This can be as simple as dressing up as one of their characters (especially if said character has a particular look), or as dressing up as a particular type or idea of a character. Our good friend Joleene Naylor recently went to an author event where she dressed up as a vampire like out of the stories she writes, and it apparently worked well for her in more ways than one.

Son Owen and father Stephen King on Good Morning America recently. As you can both see, they’re just wearing some comfortable button-downs.

In addition to personal choices, genre can sometimes affect what you wear to a book reading or in an author bio pic. Mystery writers tend to dress up more, as that makes them appear more distinguished and intelligent, which is what we want writers of mysteries to be. Horror authors, however, still deal with misconceptions that we’re all cannibalistic murderous sex-fiends, so we often dress pretty normally. Unless of course we have something to cosplay as, and then all bets are off!

In any case, what you end up wearing to a book reading or during a YouTube interview or whatever depends largely on your own personal tastes and comfort, the image of yourself you wish to put out there, and perhaps the expectations of your readers. If you’re confused, network with your fellow writers and see what they have to say. Surely one of them will say something to help you pick out an ensemble for your next reading at the local bookstore.

As for me, I think casual clothes will suit me well in most situations, though I can see some instances where I might want to put on a nice button-down and a jacket (Trevor Noah, call me!). It’s just how I roll. And honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What do you prefer to wear to an author event? Do you have any tips on how to dress for one?

14 thoughts on “What Do You Wear to an Author Event?

  1. pameladbeverly August 18, 2018 / 6:51 am

    As others have said, I think it depends on your book’s subject matter and the venue. Interesting topic, Rami.

  2. williamkendall1 August 18, 2018 / 10:57 am

    Business casual, I think. You can get away with black jeans, but a jacket and perhaps a turtleneck or button shirt, or a blouse for women.

    No death metal t-shirts either way.

    It occurs to me that it’s been years since I’ve worn a tie, and I’m not sure I remember how to do one anymore.

    • rami ungar the writer August 18, 2018 / 11:00 am

      I’m sure a YouTube video is out there to remind you of how to tie one. 😂

      Business casual is a good look. That’s actually what I wear to work most days. It will never be my favorite look, though, so maybe that’s why I prefer casual.

  3. Angela Misri August 18, 2018 / 2:05 pm

    In my case, because I write about 1930s London, I bought a lovely flapper dress for my first book event. I’ve used it a lot since because I got so many compliments. Now, this new series about zombies may not have such an easy fashion parallel…

    • rami ungar the writer August 18, 2018 / 2:10 pm

      That sounds perfect for you, Angela! And as for the zombie series, you could always try either ripped shirts and pants or combat gear.

  4. leslietallmanning August 19, 2018 / 5:39 pm

    I write so many different types of books, some YA, some adult, male or female protagonist, etc. One time, I got together with two other authors who, like me, had written historical fiction. Since each of our books was from a different era, we each dressed the part of our female protagonists. I must say, we got some amazing photos for social media! That said, as a former teacher, I realized while teaching that when I dressed well, as opposed to dressing down, my students showed more respect. I am not saying that my readers need to show their respect, but when we at least take time and care with our clothing, our readers will take us more seriously. I go to so many author events where writers are wearing old sweat pants, dirty sneakers, and cat hair covered T-shirts. I never buy their books. I feel like if you respect your own work, and put a high value on how hard you work, and how dedicated you are to your art, others will respect it as well. Whether you dress as a vampire, or a suffragette, or a doctor, or an airline pilot…wear clean ironed clothes, wipe off the pet hair, and look your best!

    • rami ungar the writer August 19, 2018 / 6:01 pm

      There’s some food for thought. Thank you for contribution.

  5. Adan Ramie August 22, 2018 / 2:05 pm

    I have never put a moment’s thought into what I would wear if I were asked to be on TV (or even a YouTube video) until this post. Thanks, Rami. You might have saved my skin in the future!

  6. Norma Beishir August 30, 2018 / 10:14 am

    When I was with Berkley, they wanted me to go with a glitzy image, which is so not me. I hated it. Midwestern casual is more my style.

    So I stopped doing events.

    • rami ungar the writer August 30, 2018 / 10:17 am

      I’m not a fan of glitzy either. For the red carpet? Maybe, if you’re JK Rowling or some humongous celebrity. For an author event? Heck to the no.

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