Difficult Conversations – Part Three
“Don’t Take This Personally – But It’s Personal”
So this week we’ve been covering “difficult conversations agents have with their clients.” We’ve already discussed “This book isn’t going to work” and “I shopped your project but I can’t get a publisher to buy it.” Phew, heavy stuff!
Oddly enough, I dread today’s difficult conversation more than any of the others. It goes something like this:
I hate to bring this up but:
…your headshot doesn’t look friendly or inviting
…your website needs an overhaul
…your blog content could use improvement
…your Facebook page needs work
Honestly, this stuff IS personal, and I don’t like to talk to writers about it. But I’m here (as we’ve said a hundred times) to help the author build and maintain a successful career, and everything counts! Every single thing you do or say in public, every time you are “seen” whether in a photo or in real life, it all adds up to your public persona.
Has it occurred to you that as an author, you’ll be a “public figure” and people will form opinions about you based on every little thing? You want your public image to be inviting, so people will want to buy and read your books.
Now, if you’re unagented and uncontracted, and not trying to sell any self-pubbed books, then you don’t have to stress out about this quite yet. But keep in mind that when you’re out there trying to build a readership, everything matters.
Years ago when I was an in-house editor, I had to talk to an author about his hairstyle and clothing choices. Ugh, I would’ve rather done anything but that! What a horrible, awkward thing to have to talk about. I think I pulled it off by coming at it from a side angle, saying, hey, I have this stylist that I think you should talk to – he’s really great at helping authors refine their image. In the end it seemed like he accepted it okay and I was probably more uncomfortable than he was. But I’ve never forgotten how much I hated having to do it.
If you’re ever in this situation and your editor or agent speaks to you about something personal like your headshot or your blog or even your clothing for public appearances, please understand: She didn’t want to have this conversation! She would avoid it if she thought she could. But she believes this is important for you, so she took the leap.
Try not to be offended (although at first you’ll probably feel attacked and get defensive) and instead, be grateful that someone cared enough to have this difficult conversation with you.
#1: How would you respond to your agent broaching something like this with you?
#2: Take an objective look at your own headshot, blog, Facebook page, etc. Would anybody have good reason to suggest you upgrade?
© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent
Honestly, this would be the easiest to deal with out of all these difficult conversations. I could take having to change my image some. I’d love advice on that, honestly. The writing is the part that’s hard.
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>I doubt I'd be offended. The only thing they could do to offend me would be saying something like "you really suck and nobody likes you." because that's not true. clothing, headshots, facebook, whatever, that stuff doesn't bug me. maybe I'm just not offended enough but stuff like that… it's so unimportant in the whole scheme of things. why should it bug me?
>I remember back in my single days when I was trying to impress this guy. And friend of mine managed to whisper in my ear that I had pizza stuck between my teeth. I was embarrassed, but thankful that someone cared enough to tell me anyway. That's how I see subjects like this. Yes, you're mortified, but you also will get the pizza out between your teeth. I'd be grateful to anyone who set me straight.
>#1: Some one, albeit not an agent, has already approached me about this. She e-mailed me about my website. I said “Thanks, I’m still working on my website. If you have any suggestions or ideas I’d love to hear them.” She didn’t respond back. That was two years ago.
#2: Yes, this is the latest comment I received from a friend: your headshot is 10 years old, the new color scheme of your site looks great but some pages need to be completed or done and add a guest book, and while the blog looks great- blog something!
Something I've noticed is that while people are willing to point out what needs to be done / fixed it's not so with offering suggestions or ideas. I'm sure that there are people out there who would give ideas and suggestions. It's very rare that some one will with me.
>Well, it isn't personal, it's business. The writer takes care of the art of writing, but not all writers understand the concept of marketing themselves, so they need to leave that to the professionals. Image is everything and a bad image *could* affect sales. Even as a professional marketer for other corporations, I still seek advice for my own marketing. Sometimes we're too close to ourselves to see the bigger picture. But frankly, if you can't take professional suggestions, or even a major professional overhaul to improve your image, then being in business isn't for you. That's fine if you want to sit in front of your computer all day simply because you want to write and you're not concerned about your image. But if you choose to publish your work, that's business, and a lot of sacrifice, responsibility and humility comes with being in business and standing out as a professional. But you also need to distinguish professional advice from opinion. As well, your Web site, headshot, etc. needs to be updated yearly, and that takes a bit of investment. The process, however, can be a lot of fun!
>1. I'd take the advice. I've often sought out friends who are blunt on purpose to look at my site or my web-blogs (and writings), to give me honest critique. Although I still think they aren't being completly honest at times. 🙂
2. I don't know. 🙂 I'd be honored if anyone would look at my site and offer 'critique' that is constructive.
>Strangely enough I could probably cope with these conversations a lot more than the ones about my work being not great.
>Oh dear, is that why the publishing industry is in trouble?
Not only do publishers and agents think they know what people like in books, they think they know what people like in personal style!
Balderdash! (To put it politely.)
>I'd love a makeover and having a professionally designed website is right up there in my priorities.
I do agree with Gary – I'm someone who sucks up writing time blogging, tweeting, and titivating my website. It's almost become an addicition.
>Lisa, go here http://en.gravatar.com/
and upload your picture along with your email address.
ET from the looks of you, I think you would have to try really hard to come up with a bad head shot.
>Wow! That really IS personal, but thank the Lord I've got at least a couple down pat.
So, what would you say to someone that has a recent and studio headshot of publishable proportions, has a good dress-sense (because she's also a made-to-measure dressmaker), can deal well with people, but doesn't like to blog for privacy reasons (respect for hubby's wishes, mainly).
as a way around this I recently adopted a nom-de-plume and the irony is that my NDP has more 'followers' than my real self 🙂 Funnily, this is what I was aiming for. But deciding what to blog, how often, and when sometimes seems more than it's worth. I'm not a huge blog reader either, and am wary of a little bit of narcissism creeping in because like, hello, us writing LOVE the affirmation to the flesh.
I left facebook on purpose. Do I REALLY have to go back? How accessible do I need to be, and how much control can be placed over that?
>80 comments on this blog post–do you think you hit a nerve, Rachelle?
I read every comment. Consensus: You're a caring agent, willing to tell clients the tough-but-needed things like "Get a haircut." (In the nicest possible way.)
And we (at least most of us) welcome that kind of feedback.
I can't tell you how many times I've revamped my web site–and I'm about to do it again as I transition from nonfiction to fiction. It's time and it's money–but it's also necessary to reflect who I am as a writer.
And I'm updating my pro photo too. It's a pet peeve of mine: Meeting someone after only only seeing their pro photo and thinking, "Was that a high school graduation photo?"
I think I've figured it out — I'm not a Blogger user; I am, however, posting through my Google Account, so I assumed that the photo I have for my profile — that shows up in gmail.com — would translate here. I guessed wrong.
Then there's OpenID: an eye with an orange stick coming out of it; a pencil; a WordPress icon (::shudder::); a cloud and something called "AIM." Looks like I don't get a little photo to go along with my comments. 🙁
>Constructive criticism is apart of business, whether you are selling watches or books. We all have room for improvement.
>Rachelle, it's always fun to read the comments to your posts. I appreciate your perspective as one who works to help authors have the best chance at success. Thanks for the reminder that there are things you don't want to have to share, but do so because it's in the best interest of the author. Thanks for your transparency!
>Well, I'm all kindsa hot AND humble. I take my style from nature. How could you go wrong with natural?
For instance, I have tumbleweed bangs, plum lipstick, and a fur bikini for my author shot. 😉
>I think it's absolutely OK to give physical appearance advice when it deals with marketing. It's like being told how to dress for a job interview – and some people need to have that advice given. As long as it is done tactfully with good intention, I see it as helpful. Crossing the line would be to suggest an expensive photographer, pricey wardrobe or anything that reeks of selling a specific product. If I was told, "have a professional take headshots," giving me the choice of who to choose – that's great! It's the professional part that matters so you don't end up with the classic facebook I-took-this-myself-in-the-bathroom-mirror-see-the-dirty-shower-curtain-behind-me? look.
The website stuff is important too. I just saw an author profile on a major publishing newsletter that gave a link to learn more about the author. Guess what – the website was under construction with no extra information. Not great timing. Sometimes it happens, but it looks unprofessional. And by now, I've forgotten the authors name and never learned anymore about their work.
>As you can see by the beautiful "e" emblem I'm sporting for my profile pic, I would more than welcome a professional's advice…especially in the area of technology!
>I am a complete idiot when it comes to dressing myself, doing my hair, etc. I would be ecstatic if someone walked me through what to do! As far as I'm concerned, writing is *easy* compared to fashion and style (and I don't think writing is easy!)
If my agent ever made suggestions like these, I would only be grateful.
>Do we get the $5,000 gift card to upgrade with? haha. I got a professional photo done right away, because I love getting photos done and what a great excuse. Please, somebody tell me I need a new wardrobe so I can have a reason to go shopping!!!
Seriously, if you told me I needed to it would be painful, but only because it would mean I am lacking in self-awareness, because this is one area where I feel I'm doing okay.
>I love this post, Rachelle. And I would welcome such advice, even though I'd feel awkward (why do you think I didn't want to Skype with you?! I was afraid you'd think I was a goofball on camera…and that you'd see the dust on my blinds!).
I need a professional headshot…my eyes are all googly.
>I've enjoyed this series and have learned tons from it this week.
This post is the post I like the best. I would welcome any advice from my agent on improving my profile picture, fb page, blog, website…my platform online or off.
I would put the other conversations on the scary side.
I will admit, I think I do need an upgrade on my profile photo.
>I would be grateful to be told about any of these things, just as I was grateful last Sunday when a friend told me the hem of my skirt was stuck to the velcro on my jacket and toilet paper was stuck to my shoe. Embarrassed, but grateful.
This is all part of an agent's job. I just got a new headshot done, and I stand ready to revise my blog, website, or Facebook page at a moment's notice. I just hope I won't need a new wardrobe until I have an advance in hand to pay for it!
>I would rather hear this type of feedback than find out later that there was something I could have done that would have increased my chances at success.
I find it interesting that so many people say to focus on the book first and not worry about your online image at all. Well, of course the book is the most important thing. I'm not suggesting it isn't.
However, many people underestimate the subliminal messages their readers think or feel when faced with an author photo or looking at an author's website. These things are important. Don't you think it'd be better to start now–before you have an audience to judge you–rather than later, when the stakes are much higher and you are already busy with so many other things related to your book release? Call me crazy, but I know how long it takes to "learn" things like social media and online marketing, and I'd rather take off running when my book gets published.
>I probably need to update everything and be a little more careful about what I say online. I've been trying to be good for a long time, while still maintaining who I am as a person. That's the key, I think–authors need to be carefully crafted images of themselves and not somebody else.
>My only worry is that you would feel uncomfortable having to tell me any of this stuff.
But, hearing it? I not only don't care, but I would expect this sort of feedback. Also please tell me if there is toilet paper on my shoe, if I need to blow my nose, etc. PLEASE.
For pete's sake – so many industries and jobs come withOUT anyone to help you understand the rules of being a professional in that arena. Advice is very welcome.
>To me, this conversation seems MUCH easier (even fun!) than the previous two. The first two are dream-shattering kinds of conversations. This one is just about helping us look our best when that dream finally becomes reality!
I think authors should be extremely grateful to reach this point in conversation with their agent.
Rachelle, hope that gives you a little comfort the next time you have to bring up this subject.
>Sounds like the best and least painful approach for everyone, would be for the author to ask our agent,
"What do you think of my FB page, website, headshot, and wardrobe for public appearances?" It helps an author own and embrace the business of publishing and one's role in it, and lets the agent off the hook to bring it up. I'm noting this in my mental file!
>Lynn, I *want* to be nominated for What Not to Wear. Whole new wardrobe. Personal shoppers. Major score! Most of the time I'm content to hang out and write in my Ogunquit sweatshirt. But there comes a time for professionalism. It’s pretty obvious when someone wants to come across professional in this industry and on the flip side, when they don’t.
Facebook is a conundrum for me. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. (Could be due to some odd run-ins I've had w/ it). I’ve gone through hot and cold phases there. And I’m still grappling with what I think about fan pages. Yours makes sense, but I've seen others that make me scratch my head.
Courtney, you crack me up!
I’m open-minded and believe I’d receive this kind of advice well.
>Actually, I would welcome that kind of feedback. I would WANT to know what I can do to improve in every way, including a public image. Because if you are thinking it, so are all those other people out there. While the truth might sting a little, better a short sting now than a public humiliation later.
>Oh look, my google account still used the picture I'm talking about!! hahaha. I should probably change that!
>I actually really welcome this kind of advice. I used to use a photo of myself on FB and stuff (this was a few years ago) and I loved it because it was snapped at my thinnest post-baby weight. Then I had a wonderful friend lovingly tell me it did me no justice and I needed a new picture. I was surprised, but not hurt because she'd been so kind in the way she told me. I valued her opinion so much and I knew she wasn't saying this to hurt me.
I feel the same about my agent. Her opinion means the world to me, so if she told me something like this, I'd really take it to heart!
But oh, I'd hate to have to be the one TELLING someone this information!! lol I don't envy you that, Rachelle!
>It's funny, but this would be the easiest to hear 'cause those things are easy to fix.
>If my agent had to have That Talk with me, I'd listen, and find a way to do whatever she said. Except wear high heels, but anything else is entirely possible. After all, we're trying to sell books, here!
And then, I'd apologize to her, for making That Talk necessary.
>As a human being with the fashion sense of your typical ground hog, I can only say I've heard these things before. *sigh*
>I can understand how difficult it must to make those suggestions, since you never what what sort of reaction you'll get. However, we are all in our own little worlds and for the most part think that we're doing well enough with our photos, manner of dress and social content. So we truly need a brave soul to point out our faux pas and we need to be grateful someone is trying to help us be the best we can be.
>Rachelle, I think any thinking author should rejoice if you (or another agent/editor) were to broach any of these topics. When it comes to creating a public image, very few of us authors can say we're experts in this field, and NONE of us can claim that we can be totally objective when it comes to our own PR attempts. I say, "Bring on the free advice!"
In the future, maybe you can cushion the potential blow for more defensive types with an approach such as, "Congratulations! You're really starting to get our attention as an author, and that means it's time for all of us to consider seriously every facet of your public image for the fans. We've discussed your particular assets, and here's what we would like to suggest to make your good public image into a stellar one….."
>This really is the kind of feedback that goes beyond the job description, and that I'd want. Excellent.
>There's some tough love happening there, and it makes me feel sorry for the agents.
What if you put together a simple packet of tips for authors as they come in under your representation to help them deal with some of these issues? That kind of treatment could still address the problems, but in a less personal manner that might make it easier to take. (A little humor in it would probably help too.)
You'd still have to talk to a few people one on one if they weren't quite getting it, but it might be worth it to eliminate at least a few of those awkward conversations.
>I've been asking people for years to nominate me for What Not to Wear. Also I'm camera-phobic, which doesn't help. It's safe to say I know my image is not all it could be. I'm good at putting words on a page, and not so good at that nebulous "marketing" stuff. So if anyone, agent, publisher, or concerned stranger, could nudge me in the right direction, I'd be eternally grateful.
>Expecting your call…
Rachelle, I would be ecstatic if someone gave me a reason to go on a shopping spree 🙂
The only question is, could we use it as a tax-write off since it is job related?
>Make me look my best for a head shot? Sure. I'm easy to get along with, and I love pictures. As someone who works in a professional market, I dress the part, but any input is appreciated. I would hope my future agent feels comfortable enough, since I'm looking forward to a great relationship with this person. I like people who tell it like it is. Help me to not embarrass myself in public…unless I mean to. 🙂 Anything we show the world is going to brand us, so I keep it honest. Right now my blog is just for me, but when the time comes, I know there will be changes. I don't have a problem with that.
>I'm always open for help in those areas, particularly with blogs and facebook. So often I flounder as to what's really effective. It's nice to have people who can give an honest and professional opinion.
>Now I see my avatar didn't come up. Let me try this joke again . . .
>Rachelle, we absolutely don't mind! That's the conversation we want you for. Of course, Susan Grant, successful Sci-Fi Romance writer, had already told me one of the first things you said to me: put a photo on my blog. Sometimes we need to hear things twice. Now, about my avatar . . .
>I would SOOOOO much rather hear that I need to change my wardrobe/hair/web page than that you couldn't find a publisher for my book!
Those life-things all feel so much more manageable than doing a complete re-write or coping with an orphan manuscript.
>I recently had a headshot taken and it was the best investment ever. I write parenting articles for regional parenting magazines but I've used my headshot in some other areas, too.
>ET @ Titus2:3-5: I'd also suggest you change "ET @ Titus2:3-5" to an actual name. This applies to everyone who doesn't use an actual name when commenting on blogs, twitter, etc.
This will help people perceive you as a real person. Things like this matter! It's for the same reason that I like people to use their actual photo for an avatar rather than some other kind of image. When you're gathering a tribe, you want people to be able to relate to you as a person. I feel weird addressing you online when I don't know your name, and I shouldn't have to click two or three times to find it.
See – one of those "personal" conversations! Hope you don't mind!
>ET @ Titus2:3-5: I could hardly disagree with you MORE! Yes, an author headshot can be fun. While "fun" may not be the most important adjective, it's close to what I think ARE the most important ones: inviting and friendly. You want readers to glance at your headshot and have a feeling that you're a person they could talk to, maybe someone they'd like to get to know.
So don't eliminate "fun" from the list of words that might describe your author photo. Of course, the kinds of books you write should definitely have some influence over what kind of headshot you have.
I think your headshot is very cute – and it's fun! But if you wanted to try some different looks, I'd say there's no harm in calling your friend back and taking her up on the offer of a free photo shoot. You have nothing to lose, and you may end up with two or three alternatives. It's nice to have choices when our photos appear in so many places on the web (our blogs, FB, twitter profiles, etc.)
>While it might be somewhat awkward, I'd consider this an act of kindness! It's impossible to see yourself from all angles, so I'd appreciate an agent's willingness to hold up a 3-way mirror.
>Hi Rachelle! I *cringe* at the thought of you or another agent having to have a conversation like this! That said, if an agent approached me about my blog, I feel like I wouldn't be too upset…to me, my blog is professional and since I'm not an expert, I'd take the advice pretty well. If you were talking about my headshot or my personal appearance, I'd be SO mortified…
>To Lisa with the Blogger icon…
If you upload a photo to your blogger profile, that photo will appear when you post comments on blogger blogs. When it comes to other blogging platforms, that's a whole different (and more compliated) story.
Also, I'd really suggest you make your profile public. I clicked on your name so that I could come by and tell you this "in person," but couldn't access your profile. Tough to build traffic when people can't travel over to your blog from other sites. 🙂
Rachelle – I would want to know. For sure! In fact, a friend recently offered to do a free photo shoot for me to update my head shot. "No offence," of course. While my gut reaction was to be a bit insulted, I decided to take a step back and really evaluate whether I'm in need of an update.
As it turns out, her opinion was that my photo was not "fun enough." I suspect that she's not aware that head shots are not necessarily supposed to be fun, as she's just learning photography. Want to know what was HARD? Finding a way to politely decline her offer!
That said, what do you guys think of my head shot? Is there room for improvement?
>Actually, I would invite this conversation…that is why I would want an agent. They know their business better than I know ..and yes..it is about an image..a brand so to speak
>I have a niece who looks like a model. She buys almost everything from the thrift store. She knows HOW to shop and she has the tall lean body of a model.
In fact she has a great business making purses out of vintage sweaters and etc that she buys at thrift shops. She is not a writer, though.
>Sadly a lot of success today depends on the look, and sometimes not on where it should be which is the talent. But what was then is now, so i guess you have to do what you have to do in getting your work out there. Richard from Lebanon county's Amish community.
>I love that you posted about this — it shows you care! I'm always open to suggestions on how to improve — whether it's my writing or my online presence, maybe even my outfit 🙂
>David, thrift store clothes can be pretty stylish if you know how to shop! Just make sure they fit and don't have visible holes. 🙂
>You mean I gotta stop buying my clothes at the thrift store?
>I warned my agent and publisher that I had barely any online presence at all – no website, blog or twitter account – and they said it wouldn't matter at all. I have a personal facebook page but not one for my book, and no headshot in my book.
I did make a nice book trailer though, and had a few professional photoshoots done by newspapers to go with their interviews etc. Perhaps I am missing a trick here by thinking I am better off focusing on the work rather than expending lots of energy on building a platform??
>Believe it or not, I'd be much happier to face this type of difficulty instead of the previous two. I wouldn't be upset or offended at all if someone confronted me with this kind of problem. 🙂
>It's hard for me to imagine that someone who actually gets to the point of having an agent could be thin-skinned enough to be offended by this. Surely by that time we've all had to go through painful critiques of our babies, our WIP? If that isn't personal, what is? I think the critique process ought to set us up for handling these conversations with grace.
>I'd rather my agent or editor tell me than not. I mean, we want my books to sell, right? And those little "image" things do make a difference.
I need a new headshot, and have been asking around. I probably need a blog overhaul. But I have time to figure that stuff out.
>One of the reasons I would like to have an agent is for guidance in how to effectively promote and market my work, so I don't think I would be offended by suggestions such as you're talking about here.
I'm not stressed out about it (yet) as my novel isn't quite ready to query, but I'm already trying to lay the groundwork for when I have a book to promote. Hopefully I'll just need some minor adjustments to my image rather than a complete overhaul.
>I think I would be crawl-under-the-desk embarrassed at such a conversation. But as soon as I say that, I realize I've never been in the public eye, so this conversation could very well happen if I ever am. And I would probably appreciate that information coming from someone who can deliver it kindly. Because they would have to pull me up from under the desk after.
>I wouldn't look forward to a conversation like that, but I'd want to take care of whatever required it. How I appear online is certainly something I pay attention to, and sometimes that means I can't joke around or be silly with friends online where it's public. I write for teens and tweens, and I never want a casual remark to a friend over a more adult subject matter come across wrong or get back to a younger reader where it night not be appropriate.
Online feels so private, but it's really not.
>The conference at Blue Ridge had a lovely photographer taking head shots. She prayed with each of us before taking our photos and helped us get into a positive attitude.
Most women can only see their flaws. This photographer wanted us to see ourselves as God sees us, before she started snapping that camera.
>This is the most exciting post I have read. You really are a career agent.
People don't realize you aren't saying we can't be ourselves. We just need to be our best selves.
I may wear funny clothes but in James Rubart's marketing class last year he made me stand up and mentioned how I don't look like the other women, and that it was good not to look like everyone else.
To have an agent tell me to get those frizzys tucked under my covering and get a better whatever on my blog and to get that frown off my face. . . I would feel loved.
>I am SO clueless about where to go next with my website/blog and SO open to suggestions on photos social media. I know other authors out there just like me. We're members of the "Okay-will do-thank you!" group.
>I think if my agent and I had a good, trusting relationship I could take it. I've learned in life that even people who only know me marginally really appreciate it when I tell them they have spinach in their teeth or a strategic button undone. I think most folks would rather have a trusted associate give them good advice than have strangers tell them basically the same thing less nicely via comments and reviews.
>Yikes! This makes me want to go make a facebook page. LOL And as for my blog…hmmm, it could probably be upgraded somehow, I just don't know how!
>It takes a whole lot for me to get offended. I'd probably be a little embarrassed in a what-was-I-thinking sort of way, but I'd appreciate the guidance.
>Makes sense. It's an extension of the underlying theme of your blog: write authentically, rebound consistently, take correction humbly.
>I guess it's all part of the author/agent relationship and hopefully I'd take it in the spirit in which it's meant – to make the best of every opportunity!
>Easy…I'd say, "Well, what would you recommend?"
>As long as you'd be commenting on my professional appearance and not my personal preferences, I'd be OK. I mean, yes, I understand that my hippie dresses probably aren't the best for author photos…but I wouldn't give them up around the house for anything! 🙂
>P.S. I'm so blog illiterate, I can't even figure out why the rest of you have little photos in your comments and I don't! 😀
>Yeah, so if there's anything you think I should do in my profile pic, like comb my hair, just let me know. =)
>I think I agree with Gary. Writing a good book should be my main focus. I feel that a lot of aspiring writers are putting the cart before the horse by creating slick websites and blogs before they have a marketable product in hand. I don’t intend to get out there until necessary. If that time comes (“if” = conditional), I’d certainly take direction my agent or publisher on everything. Until then, I’m not writing on spec.
I have a basic website advertising my professional writing services — that’s it. If a client wants additional promotion from me, that goes into the contract, and it’s not free. My Facebook account is only for people I know in real life, and I do hope it shall always stay that way. Twitter? Everyone else is far more clever than me. ☺
>Ick. I think the only thing worse than telling someone these things would be … hearing them. Still, better to know than not to know!
>"Years ago when I was an in-house editor, I had to talk to an author about his hairstyle and clothing choices. Ugh, I would’ve rather done anything but that! What a horrible, awkward thing to have to talk about. I think I pulled it off by coming at it from a side angle, saying, hey, I have this stylist that I think you should talk to – he’s really great at helping authors refine their image. In the end it seemed like he accepted it okay and I was probably more uncomfortable than he was. But I've never forgotten how much I hated having to do it."
I take it you would also let the ladies know when they need to run off the muffin tops?
Hey, I have this lady named Jenny Craig…
>Oh and thanks for the post, Rachelle. It helps to see your perspective. It would be so hard to make that kind of call. I like what Joanne said, too. I'd rather take that call from my agent than be embarrassed in front of the whole internet. 🙂
>Honestly, I can't say a conversation like this would never hurt, but I would want to respond professionally. The way you're presenting it here–professionally, kindly, in my best interest (and I think that is what I would expect from my future agent as well)–I think I would take it well, consider the suggestions and make the changes I can and should.
I've also thought I want to look over things like my website and such before I go querying again. Been tempted lately to go making some design changes, actually but I've kept myself from doing it for now because that seems a bit cart before the horse.
>This made me laugh and lifted my spirits! I wish my hair were the problem, and not my rewrites. 🙂
>I never like myself in photos, so I would be glad for any input from an experienced agent.
>I think I'd freak out if someone told me I need to overhaul my entire wardrobe. Headshots, sure that's fine. I mean, for now with what my budget allows, it's photos taken on my webcam or someone takes them for me on my point and shoot. Obviously I'd splurge when it counted, say when I have a book deal, but for now people just need to see that I'm a person not a spam bot.
I'm working on the blog and facebook interfaces, the Twitter stuff. I've recently separated out my personal facebook from what I use for writerly interactions. There's my account for personal stuff and my page for writing stuff.
I think it's serviceable for now and it's an always-changing thing, my online platform. I'm always trying to figure out how better to avail myself of the various sites.
>I hope my agent would do this for me. Several years ago, I was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, which primarily manifests itself as a total lack of awareness of social cues. So things like how to appear in head shots are beyond me (and my eyes look really odd in photos anyway). Appropriate dress? I have to be instructed on what to wear for every event, and if it's not blue jeans and a hoodie, I'll probably be squirming anyway.
When I was diagnosed, my biggest fear was that I lacked the social skills to make it in this business, because even though it's supposed to be about how well you write and tell a story, it's really about self-promotion. But as I adjusted to having, finally, a diagnosis to help me understand why I've never managed to fit in, I've also developed a powerful desire to express in words and story my perspective on what it's like to live with a disability/difference and to make visible those of us who are too often invisible.
>Honestly … agents and other people close to authors should do this more often. A lot of stuff I see needs work. My background is in tech so I really know the value of good design and UI. It's just so much more professional and pleasant all around.
>Whew…glad to hear you'll have those tough conversations with your clients if you have to.
I'm guessing most of us would like a straight-shooter. It's better to be embarrassed with an agent, than embarrassed in front of your readership.
BTW…does this comment make my butt look big?
>You know, I think I'd be very receptive to this kind of help. I have 2 big sisters…this is a conversation I have regularly (and I'm 33 year's old). Silly, huh?
>For what little my suggestions are worth:
Use a professional to take your headshot, perhaps even someone who does celebrity shoots. It's amazing what a difference it makes. (And if you're in Sydney, use the lady who did mine…she's brilliant.)
It seems to me a lot of people worry about their web sites and marketing before they have a finished book. You can sell a book without a web site, but you can't sell a book without a book. Write the book first.
Maintaining your own web site might be fun, but it's also time you could have spent writing. I went through five or six iterations before realizing that the stock standard blog systems are all that any normal author needs, especially since these days they all have static pages, and they're quick and easy to use.
And most important, when it comes to all the online media stuff, just be yourself!