Cynthia Shapiro is a client of mine and the author of Corporate Confidential, a book I recommend to anyone working in the corporate world. Not only is her book a fascinating read, but it contains invaluable information that could save your job. It could also save your writing career.
Recently I was reviewing Corporate Confidential and Cynthia’s soon-to-be-published next book (still untitled), and I was amazed at how much of her information could pertain to my clients and authors in general. Information on cover letters could be used for query letters, job interviews are just like pitch sessions, and how to relate to upper management is very similar to working with an editor.
While I’m sure I could do an entire series of posts on how Cynthia’s books can relate to a publishing career, there’s one secret that has stuck with me: Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. This isn’t a new concept, and for anyone who has ever read a job book you’ve probably heard it before, but how does this pertain to authors? Well, it certainly doesn’t mean you have to dress in a suit to write your book. No, pajamas are still acceptable writing attire. What it does mean is if you want to be a bestselling author, then you need to dress like one. Whenever you’re out promoting yourself as Author (at conferences, signings, or meetings with your agent and editor), you need to be dressing for that part you want, and dressing the part goes way beyond just the clothes you wear. It’s the way you talk, your book covers, your publicity material, your query letter, and your Web site. It’s anything that represents you and your brand.
So who do you want to be? Whose career are you comparing yours to and who would you like to emulate? Think big, I know I do. You can be a bestselling author or you can make people think you’re going to be. Dressing the part makes people believe that you’re an author they would regret missing out on. Who would you be more impressed by, the author in jeans and a T-shirt or the author wearing a striking suit? When I meet someone, whether it’s in person, through my Web site (because truthfully that is how people first meet these days), or from a letter I send, I want their first impression of me to be, “Wow, I need to get to know this person.” For authors, the first impression you make needs to be, “Wow, I’m really missing out by not having read this person’s books.” And trust me, this works with agents and editors too.
The truth is that we do judge a book by its cover, it’s why book covers are so important. So make sure your cover is always at its best. It should be clean, professional, well pressed, and impressive. Take a look at those Web sites, book covers, and clothes and see how you can do your best to dress for the job you want and not the one you currently have, or even worse, the one you had previously.