Yay! We’ll all get to see our friends again, we’ll also make new ones, and that’s the whole point…right? Or maybe not? Socializing and having fun are certainly important. Without a doubt, they are often the high points of the events we attend. However, there are a few very important items that we need to be mindful of.
It used to be that there were only a few conferences (cons) each year, featuring or welcoming LGBTQ writers and readers (RWA National, RT, AAD, Lori Foster’s). But now, there are so many more – GRL, Rainbow Con, The Novel Approach, UK M/M Meet, to name a few. As our industry, and our genre continue to grow and mature, we gain more and more opportunities to represent ourselves online, and more significantly, in person.
Where is the line between work and fun that authors/editors/publishers need to be aware of, in order to be taken seriously? Now we know that, deep down inside, every author wants to be on the NY Times (or USA Today or Amazon) Bestsellers List. Someday, one of you writing M/M will make it onto one of those mainstream lists. However, readers/editors/agents/publishers are watching, RIGHT NOW, how you present yourself while sitting on a panel at a con. When you’re sitting up at that table at the front of the room, you’re being viewed as a PROFESSIONAL, with valuable skills, information, and insights to impart to the audience. How should you present yourself?
In the business world (and admit it, writing is your business), how do professionals present themselves? Now, I’m not saying you should be in a three-piece business suit, BUT a nice outfit, with tasteful makeup (for those comfortable with makeup), will tell attendees clearly, that you know your business! Think about it; would you take someone seriously if you went to a business seminar, and a panelist wore a ratty t-shirt and jeans with holes in them? Would you believe in the quality of their product, or their information, if they slouched in their chair looking bored? I certainly don’t advocate buying an entirely new wardrobe, completely lacking in color or personality. But, if you wouldn’t wear it to an office (on casual day) why would you wear it when you need to be viewed in a professional capacity? In a meeting with your boss, do you slouch and look disinterested? Or do you sit up straight and make eye contact?
And remember, you’re being watched online, too, even more often than in person. Let’s be honest…how many times have seen someone behaving badly/rudely/nasty, either in person or online, and thought “oh yeah, not buying/reading anything of theirs, ever”? Your online image and your in-person image combine into your full professional package. Readers/editors/agents/publishers are always watching you, and you want them to always see you behaving nicely in person/online, and reflecting that in your appearance. If you have something you just need to rant about (and we all do at different points), do it quietly to close friends, and not in the lobby of the hotel, or on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram. What’s the old adage? “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Even back then, Thumper was right, because, even if you delete from your blog/wall/feed chances are, someone has a screencap of it, so it will never be forgotten.
Now, I’m in no way saying don’t have fun at cons. ESPECIALLY at the evening festivities where the entire point is to loosen up and have some fun. But, as the GLTBQ publishing community is getting bigger, and gaining more attention, shouldn’t we want to be viewed in a positive light? As hard as we all work, shouldn’t we be viewed and treated like professionals?
~ Kris Jacen is the Executive Editor at MLR Press