Professionalism. Okay, let’s talk about being a professional for a moment since it’s the topic of the moment (super fabulous discussion over at Smart Bitches, by the way – as per usual because they are smart cookies as well as smart bitches)
Professionalism – I get my manuscripts in on time and I do my level best to be sure they’re clean and will be easy to edit. I reply to communication from my editor, agent, publisher and readers in a timely manner. In my communication with them, I remain professional – I don’t use text speak (although I do say “dude” to my agent and Angie but not at first until they knew me). I work my ass off to promote my books in a professional manner. I don’t drive by promo spam on loops. I don’t make every comment about me and my books. I work hard to sell well and to be responsive to my market and my readers. In public I don’t slag off other authors, I don’t slag off reviewers or reviews, I don’t slag off publishers, editors, etc. I may express dismay over something like the recent RWA ruling or when a letter shows up in RWR or RT slamming gays or erotic romance or what have you, but I’m going to try very hard to do so without getting raw and crossing lines even while being professional. I NEVER drag readers into my professional issues.
I show up for promotional events early. I do my part in promoting the event. I bring treats. I work well with others at events. I am polite and orderly and I act according to the situation. For example – at Babeland I did a reading with several other wonderful erotic romance authors. This is an adult toystore, I read sex scenes. At Borders I wouldn’t generally do a reading but if I did, I’d choose an action scene or an emotional scene without sex. At a conference I’d also read non-sex scenes unless the reading was specifically geared toward sex writing.
I always dress up for promotional events because well, it’s about image and to a certain extent, Lauren Dane is a character. Some people won’t like that or don’t agree but to me, it’s true. When I am Lauren Dane at a promotional event, I am not the person I am at home. I’m not going to yell at my kids or wear sweats and show up with my hair shoved in a messy pony tail and wear flip flops. I am there in a context. I put on makeup, make sure my nails look good, etc. I have a few outfits I love, most of them are vintage looking because I love the way 40s and 50s inspired clothing looks on me. Feminine and sexy but not overblown. I feel pretty and comfortable in it. If it’s a signing and I’ll be there a while, I try to go for comfortable, a pretty sweater, nice pants, etc. I thought in the future I’d probably dress up more for signings though (although I’ll still bring treats, I promise).
There’ve been some rumblings in romancelandia about how “unprofessional” it is to dress up in costumes for promotional events and I disagree. Firstly, as I said, I believe we’re all in costume anyway and secondly, because dressing up is fun and if an author can do it and feel comfortable with it, why not? I resent the idea that Liz Maverick and Marianne Mancusi dressing up like their characters to promote their books and the fabulous new Shomi line at Dorchester was “unprofessional” and I really, really resent both women being referred to as prostitutes or “pedophile lure” because they took on the anime/manga look of the covers from the line.
Here’s a picture of their outfits at the signing. I hope they don’t mind that I’m putting it up here. They’re both clearly of age, neither of them looks slutty or “pedophile” bait. They’re clearly promoting their books and the characters (BTW, the covers of the Shomi books are fabulous).
Mainly at a signing, you sit at a table. People come to you with your book and you sign it, chat and really, it’s a very cool thing that anyone actually wants your book much less takes the time to come and get your signature. If Maverick and Mancusi felt comfortable in their costumes and didn’t get so drunk they couldn’t stand or puked in a trash can, I can’t see why anyone else would care what two authors out of 400 did.
When you’re in public, don’t get so drunk you pop someone in the nose. Don’t flash your girls at the waiter. Don’t tell Nora she’s wrong when she says she likes Heather Locklear. Don’t treat the staff with disrespect. Don’t snub people at the book signing. Be gracious, be who you are but with filters, laugh, enjoy and worry about your own behavior. Worrying about whether or not reviewers are allowed at RWA Nationals, worrrying about whether or not Sherrilyn Kenyon wears a swan on her head, worrying about Liz Maverick’s skirt length – it’s all just, well, none of your business and frankly, a waste of your time. For the record, I’ve been with Sherilyn Kenyon at a few cons with signings and you know what, her line is always long. People, READERS LOVE her. I’ve never seen her be anything less than gracious to her fans either and let me go on a limb and say a swan on her head isn’t really turning readers away from her or romance.
Romance is a HUGE genre. That’s our strength, not our detriment. There is room for the feather boas, the pink hats, the chiffon dresses as well as the costumes like Mancusi and Maverick wore – and everything in between. We all approach our writing differently. I don’t expect everyone to think the way I do about their careers. But I certainly don’t expect to be called a streetwalker because my view is different either. Professional does not mean bland, it doesn’t mean hateful attacks on the morals of the people who do things differently either. We can all do our thing without the sky falling.