I mean, when prompted with 'football player' you probably think of a big, muscular guy. 'Basketball player' probably summons images of someone tall. How about librarian? Do you suddenly picture a woman in glasses maybe? Okay, so these are stereotypes, but at the same time they are stereotypes because they are common.
So what is the stereotype of an author? What is the first image that pops in your mind? When you read an author's work and then find them (either in person or online) are you often shocked by their appearance?
I get the feeling I might not be what most people picture as an author. A series of recent responses to my appearance prompts this particular observation. In particular, a recent interaction with a bookstore employee really left me wondering. The encounter went down something like this:
Me (approaching the information counter): Hi, my name is Kalayna Price and I have a book being released by Roc next month. I was hoping you could tell me who I should contact to inquire about setting up a book signing.She did eventually give me the email address of the person in the store who handled book signings, but I couldn't help being perplexed (and a little put off) by her immediate assumption that I was self-published. Perhaps she'd had a recent encounter of her own that made her act so prickly, but I have the feeling my appearance had something to do with her reaction. It might have been my age (I'm in my twenties--though many of the writers in my genre are in the late twenty/early thirties range) or perhaps the fact my bangs are blue currently. I clean up fairly well, as in I was wearing conservative makeup and business casual clothing the day I went to the bookstore, but certain things--like the blue hair--are hard to hide. Maybe there is some factor I'm not considering for her reaction, but the fact I didn't fit into some perceived concept of what an author should look like is the first explanation that hit me, which is why I'm curious what you out there think an author looks like.
Bookseller: I'm sorry, we don't have signings for self published books.
Me: Well, it's being released by Roc. That's an imprint of Penguin.
Bookseller (no pause): Having a signing will depend on if the book is returnable or not.
For me, what an author looks like is a murky subject. I mean, as I am an author, I'm rather biased. Also, I break down 'what an author looks like' in to two categories: the writing author and the public author.
In my experience, the writing author looks like your average joe on a Saturday (maybe even slumming it a bit) because when writing, with the only people we encounter during the day being those in our heads, things like putting on make-up and dressing sharp are just distractions that take time away from writing the book.
But the public author? The one at conventions or book signings? Well, she or he is a much more complicated and diverse breed.
From what I've seen when meeting other authors, business casual to suits are the norm--though not the rule. I've seen authors show up in everything from jeans and tee-shirts to tuxes/ball gowns to costumes of one of their characters (and everything in between). While my personal tastes gravitate toward big black boots and corsets, I do try to dress approriately for the situation. That means at professional writing conferences I pull out my suits and try to minimize the fact my hair is two or more different colors (at least one of which isn't found in nature) at any given time and I save my fishnet gloves and stripped tights for fan conventions.
Situations where expectations are less defined are a bit more difficult. As Grave Witch is just over 20 days from release, I'm having to consider what I want to wear to signings--which I have started scheduling despite the above bookseller's response, though that response does give me pause.
These are my questions for you: How much does a person's perception of what an author should look like influences their impression of an author's work if they have never read said work? If you were at a bookstore and saw an author standing by a table with his/her books, would their appearance affect whether you stopped to look at the books? Would you be more intimidated by certain looks? More likely to take someone who looked a certain way more seriously?
I'm extremely curious, so please chime in!
Happy Tuesday everyone!