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.

15 comments to “Professionalism”

  1. Charlene
    July 18th, 2007 at 2:02 pm · Link

    Dang, Lauren, you crack me up. I have Wired, BTW. Can’t wait to read more from this line. I think their approach to promoting the books was fun and appropriate, and hey, if Sherrilyn Kenyon wants to wear a swan on her head, she can, as long as she signs my book. :mrgreen:

  2. December Quinn/Stacia Kane
    July 18th, 2007 at 2:42 pm · Link

    I heartily agree. Why shouldn’t they wear whatever they like, for an event with the public? Can’t we even go so far as to say they have a responsibility to their fans to adopt a persona, to appear larger-then-life?

  3. Bev
    July 18th, 2007 at 3:30 pm · Link

    As a voracious reader and a big fan of so many authors, I say let them wear what they want if they feel comfortable. That feeling of comfort will transfer to the fans

  4. Gennita Low
    July 18th, 2007 at 10:23 pm · Link

    It would have been very strange, were Barbara Cartland still alive, if she didn’t sweep into a room with boas and pink poodles, along with the diamonds ;-). I would have been disappointed. She was “branding” before the term existed in marketing. As for the RWA Literacy fashion brouhaha, for myself, I didn’t really think anything other than, “Holy Cow, that’s a big ass swan hat on Sherri’s head!”, had a good laugh, and then marvelled at her wearing it for two plus hours till I came home and read the 200-plus comments about the hat and M and M’s short skirts and stockings.

    I am still taken aback at the “pedophile lure” comment. Wow. Obviously not a manga fan there.

    Nora Roberts made some valid points about the general perception of romance by outsiders. On the whole, though, with or without a giant swan hat to target, some media will always continue to mock the genre by twisting words and quotations from any interview about romance books.

    It’s funny to me that if Anne Rice had shown up at her signing wearing full vampire regalia, it wouldn’t have caused the tidal wave that Sherrilyn Kenyon’s swan hat and vampire teeth did. Just because Anne Rice writes (or used to) horror-vampires-fantasy. Yet SK is denigrated by people in her own genre for putting on fangs because that doesn’t spell professional. SK has always had a Goth fashion sense, anyhow, so to me, her signing “clothes” was very her. When I watch her standing there for more than two hours, graciously taking time to talk to each and every one of her fans till every one has had a chance to meet with her (when 90 percent of the authors have already taken off), remembering dozens of names from her forums (that always amazes me), that’s acting pretty professional in my book.

    As for Liz and Marianne, I didn’t even think they were in “costume” till the blogs started talking about it. Liz, whom I’m friends with, is a marvelously eclectic writer and always dresses snazzy and fun. She was so busy promoting her new book at RWA that I didn’t even get a chance to talk to her except a hi/bye in passing. Now I find out her thighs are the talk of RWA! 😉 Dang, can’t leave that girl alone for a minute.

    What’s going to happen when Laurell K. Hamilton joins RWA? Literacy will never be the same! :mrgreen:

  5. Christine
    July 19th, 2007 at 6:55 am · Link

    Love your blog as always. You always have something insightful to say. With that said do people have nothing else in life to worry about. Go get a life. Or even better go volunteer someplace and take that energy focus it someplace instead of worrying about this.

  6. Lauren
    July 19th, 2007 at 7:12 am · Link

    I feel for Nora Roberts because any time anything anywhere gets said about romance, she’s got to field it. Being the “spokeswoman” for romance has to be a huge pain in the butt for her so I get her general frustration, LOL. Then again, she’s like, “eh, whatever. It’s odd to me but do what you want”

    Thank you, Christine!

    Charli – I know, she’s just fabulous and it’s probably just me but I like it when people put a little theater into what they do.

    December – I like to think there’s room for all sorts of personalities in romance. If dressing up or being theatrical isn’t your thing, that’s great too. But I think it’s fun when I see other people do it.

    Bev – thanks!

  7. Collette
    July 19th, 2007 at 8:35 am · Link

    You know, I suppose this is one of the reasons I like you…you’ve got sense.

    Sometimes, these “blow ups” strike me as being easy to resolve if everyone just had sense. I don’t think this one is quite like that (although there were a few comments, like the pedophilia one). I have been loving the discussion in the comments over at Smart Bitches. Really interesting. Gave me things to consider that I hadn’t. I’m in the whatever-floats-their-boat category myself.

  8. N.J. Walters
    July 19th, 2007 at 9:02 am · Link

    Excellent advice, Lauren. As always, your blog is informative and entertaining. You have a way with words. 🙂

  9. Holly
    July 19th, 2007 at 9:15 am · Link

    Maybe as a 24 year old, my view point is one sided, but those girls look just fine.
    I have no idea how dressing like that actually offended people. If they were wearing anything more, they would have been covered from head to toe! As far as the swan hat goes, who cares, was it hurting you? No, I didn’t think so. It’s her choice, and that’s that. You don’t like it, she does, get over it!!!!
    I’ve never been to a conference of any kind, and this makes me glad. Being new to the whole romance “thing” it’s a slight turn off that we can’t all act like adults. This shouldn’t feel like middle school where we write mean notes about people that aren’t like us.

    I love your blog and your viewpoint about things

  10. Ciar Cullen
    July 19th, 2007 at 10:12 am · Link

    Good for you, Lauren. I agree and blogged in a less serious and coherent fashion about that. One can be professional and have a personality. Those authors look adorable, and even if they didn’t, it wouldn’t be for me to say anything about it. THAT would be unprofessional, in my opinion, and also be a social faux pas. I thought it was interesting that Nora’s post stopped the conversation dead. Diversity is the spice of life, at RWA, on the bookshelves, and in every day situations. The older I get, the more trivial the…well, trivial stuff seems.

  11. December Quinn/Stacia Kane
    July 19th, 2007 at 1:27 pm · Link

    Oh, I didn’t mean everyone should do it. But Kenyon, for example, has a very specific image, and I think it would really disappoint the fans is she showed up in a plain suit.

  12. Lorelei James
    July 19th, 2007 at 1:36 pm · Link

    Interesting discussion.

    Where are the fashion police? Oh right, it appears certain people have crowned themselves as such and feel free to wield that billy club at will. It very much reminds me of high school and the “can you BELIEVE she wore that to prom?” mentality. This is just another reason why I”m not renewing my RWA dues. Now people feel entitled to belittle others in public forums because of their *clothing* choices? Where will it end?

    If romance writers keep quibbling about shit like this they will never get the respect they deserve. You’d get laughed out of the room if you commented on so and so’s outfit at a mystery writers conference. Oh, and the whole costume thing hasn’t harmed the sci-fi fantasy community either.

    Back to my hidey hole.

  13. Shelley Munro
    July 19th, 2007 at 2:07 pm · Link

    Shaking head. Less said the better, but this sort of kaffuffle doesn’t shed good light over the romance community.
    Great post, Lauren.

  14. R.G. Alexander
    July 21st, 2007 at 8:12 am · Link

    Wonderful advice and I agree with everything you said. People are a little {understatement}too worried about the things that dont matter. As you said Lauren Dane, these ladies who I saw and thought were cute by the way, are characters/authors. Professionalism in the entertainment industry-which is what we are in as we write entertaining fiction {imo}-is a little different than professionalism in a boardroom. At least when it comes to dress code.

  15. Lillian Feisty
    July 25th, 2007 at 7:05 pm · Link

    Awesome blog, Lauren.

    I wonder if any of these people complaining have been to a major city in the last decade. Those outfits wouldn’t raise a brow in San Francisco.