Please welcome guest blogger Sofie Kelly. Leave a comment today and you could win a copy of both of her mystery novels!
Sofie Kelly is the pseudonym of award-winning young adult writer, Darlene Ryan. Darlene’s latest teen novel is Cuts Like a Knife, a Junior Library Guild selection. Sofie writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Cats mysteries. The next book in the series, Copycat Killing will be available May 1st. Visit her at www.sofiekelly.com.
Whenever I tell someone I'm a writer I almost always hear, "You don’t look like a writer." If I ask what I do look like, the answer I most often hear is an academic. A few times I've heard that I look like a psychologist.
I think it's the glasses.
Back when I worked in radio I was always hearing that I didn't look like my voice. "I thought you were blonde," people would say when I showed up at some community event, looking at me somewhat disappointed. (When I say "people" I mean guys and when I say looking at me I don't mean in the eyes.)
The face we present to the world does matter. Readers--as well as agents and editors--like to be able to put a face to the name. And a photo of me in my paint-spotted sweatpants with my hair standing on end is going to make a very different impression than the photo of me smiling in the sunshine at the park. But I think there’s another part to a writer's image that's even more important than how our author photo makes us look, and that's presenting a professional image.
Do you have a business-like email address? (Not bobbys-girl or bbq-king.) Do you answer emails within a couple of days or have an auto-respond message to explain why you can't? What’s the message on your voicemail? (Your acoustic version of the Bay City Roller's Saturday Night is not professional unless you're looking for work in a tribute band.)
When your manuscript is finished is it properly formatted and checked for spelling mistakes and grammar errors? When an agent asks to see it, do you get back to her in a few days or a few months? Do you wrangle over every single suggested change with your editor? Do you argue for days about serial comma use and whether or not Ms needs a period? (It's not an abbreviation so I maintain it doesn't.) Do you meet your deadlines? Do you say please and thank you?
Being reasonable, responsible, and easy to work with is part of creating the image of a professional writer. No one's suggesting you have to be a pushover. But over time, people get tired of working with the "difficult artiste," no matter how brilliant his or her writing is.
Maintaining a professional image makes it just a bit more likely that you’ll have a long career. And no one will be disappointed if it turns out you're not blonde.