Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Importance of Image

I have been listening to a YA audiobook in my car whenever I travel.  I don't want to name the title of the book because I'm not enjoying it. Ok, that isn't true.  I'm starting to enjoy it, but I've had a real difficult time getting into it. And it's not because of the actual story, which is really quite cute.

It's because of the actress reading the story.

She's AWFUL.

She reads with sort of a whine in her voice that makes this supposedly level-headed sophmore sound more like my whiny 6-year-old. And that's not what the story should sound like, IMHO. I probably would have stopped reading it because of this actress except that I needed to read this novel for a whole other set of reasons that really aren't the point.

So what is the point?

The point is that even a really good story can lose its readers because it isn't showing them what the story really is . And it got me thinking about image in general. Your image that you are so diligently building (maybe) on your blog may help you in so many ways, but if it isn't an honest portrayal of who you are, it can hurt you.  It can hurt you enough to turn away a potential reader, or even more specifically, a potential agent reader. Say an agent reads your query and then glances at your blog (as I have read many interviews of agents that say they do) and he or she sees that you only post really sporadically even though the sidebar says you post MWF.

What does that say to the agent?

Possibly they will think, "This writer isn't diligent or committed. What will this writer be like when I ask for edits? Will this writer turn in the next book on time?"

It could happen. For real.  Why else do you think those agents are looking at your blog? To see what you look like? No, they want to see who you are.  And if you aren't who they want, the agent may not request your book after all.

They might also think, "Ooh, fun and whimsical author who doesn't waste her time conforming to rules." And that's cool if that's who you are. (But I'd make sure you don't say you post MWF then, because it's that false advertising thing again).

This isn't really meant to be a high-pressure post. I'm not telling you to be someone you're not. This is just the type of conversation I have with my clients. I ask them, who do you want your customers to see when they look at you? Do you show it in every message you put out there? It's ok if your customers come to your website and leave if they realize you really aren't what they are looking for. Like if they come looking for YA and find you write Adult Mystery. But it's devastating if they come to your website and leave not realizing that you are exactly what they are looking for because you didn't tell them.

So now I'm asking you: Who do you want agents to see when they come to your blog? Do you show that?


Michelle Fayard said...

Excellent post and questions, Laura. I'd rather fail while being myself than succeed trying to be someone else.

McKenzie McCann said...

Hmm, this is a very good point.

Agents are supposed to be author support systems. I want my blog to accurately represent who I am, because I don't want an agent to come in with any false ideas. I don't want to give the impression of writing on a strict schedule if I don't, or as another example, I don't want them to dismiss me as just being a teenager trying her hand at writing.

An agent wants the author to succeed, and I think the best way for them to help me is if we start without any misconceptions.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

That's a very good question, Laura. I guess I have to do some thinking because I'm not entirely sure of the answer!

Laura Barnes said...

@Michelle - me too!

@McKenzie - great points. I think some people are so desperate to get an agent they will pretend to be something they are not, but that usually won't work for the long run.

@Susanna - it's not an easy answer, Susanna. Take your time figuring it out :)

Anonymous said...

Hmm... that's a good question Laura. My blog is more about a personal slice of myself and about the trials of trying to become a writer than actually about my writing, but I do think that I'm trying to be somewhat professionally respectable - and I've been pretty good about posting six days a week lately. (Whew!)

It's nice to meet you, I'm in your MG/YA Campaigner group, so I should be seeing you again down the campaign trail!

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