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?

Social Media: Friend or Foe?

Recently, someone sent me an article called Why You Should Consider turning Your Back on Social Media. The article is geared towards small businesses, but what are independent authors if not the smallest business unit there is?

The gist is that in some cases the time spent updating Twitter/Facebook, including commenting, making connections, and creating content can sometimes take more time than they’re worth in terms of sales.

When I first published Shades of Gray over a year ago, I jumped on the Facebook (and to a lesser extent Twitter) bandwagons. I spent hours setting up pages on facebook, making “friends”, commenting on their stuff and trying to come up with clever advertising techniques.  I generated a few questions, like “Wow, I want to get published too! How do I do it?” and several “congratulations” or “Your book sounds interesting”, but if it resulted in any sales I’d be surprised.

MySpace, on the other hand, did generate sales because of the blog. Though as far as I know I could count the “random” sales on my digits. Mainly, I was able to sell to people I  already interacted with on more personal levels, such as reading their blogs or because we were in poetry groups together.

Oddly, Flickr (a photography site) has generated several random sales. In fact, my newest Amazon review came from a new Flickr contact.

So, I wondered how it was with other authors. Have you found a great success with social networks? If so, were the sales generated worth the time it took to set up the pages, get the contacts, keep the contacts by being friendly (eg commenting on their statuses/photos/tweets/messages and such), etc. ?