Not long ago, a friend and I were discussing what it takes to “make it” in the publishing industry. This friend argued that getting accepted isn’t always just about the quality of writing, but sometimes about “a pretty face.”
I responded by asking him why, if that were the case, do I know so many beautiful people who are seriously good writers without agents or publishers?
And we went back and forth a bit over that. Him insisting that appearances can make a difference, and me insisting that it’s all about the writing. The conversation stayed with me for several days, as I contemplated his words, until I found the middle ground that my friend and I had somehow missed.
I still don’t think authors are accepted because of how they look. But I do think that those who take care to look professional, and for that matter, act professionally, probably have a better shot at landing that agent or publisher (or both). It’s kind of like when you interview for a job. If two people who are equally qualified show up, the guy wearing jeans and a T-shirt will find himself at a disadvantage to the one wearing a suit and tie. The same kind of thinking goes for social networking and blog posts. And especially for jacket cover photos.
So maybe my friend and I were both a little right. It is about the writing. It’s absolutely crucial to have good writing with all the necessary story elements. But being an author is also about appearances. Especially when it comes to self promotional efforts. (And just to clarify, by appearances I mean showing up clean, groomed, with combed hair and well-fitting appropriate attire.)
What have you done to make yourself appear more professional?