“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?
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