The print hung in a nice gallery and was professionally framed with a suede matte. The artist had a large variety of his work on display. He was on hand in person and introduced himself to me as I looked at his work, telling the story behind the image. His personality was warm and articulate. I eagerly bought his work.
Art isn’t limited to work that hangs on a wall, and as authors we have a responsibility to our success to present our work and ourselves in style. I have gone to many book signings to find the author distant and self-important. At other signings I’ve found tables littered with gimmicks and an author that seems willing to almost pay readers for their presence. Both are extreme examples.
Two kinds of people come to book signings. Those that already know you and are coming as fans, and those that are looking for an author encounter. The second set, those looking for an encounter, are who can become your fans. Both sets should be treated like royalty, because for an author, they are.
When we present ourselves publicly, we should strive for presentation worth purchasing. Have an uncluttered table that shows your book(s) off to their advantage. Use real bookends that go with your theme, a nice cloth and avoid handwritten signs on cardboard unless it somehow compliments your work. Let your personal taste and style show through, but tastefully and professional.
You should present yourself in the same manner – professional, friendly and engaging. As a former punk of the 80s, I’ll be the last one to talk down self expression. For creatives, however, there is an important choice to be made. Do we want our art to be brilliant, or ourselves? A flamboyant look can discourage potential readers from approaching.
There’s also the matter of creative energy. It’s a renewable resource, but not bottomless. Spending hours scheming up a new, magnificent look is hours spent away from creating writing. It seems I see two kinds of creative producers – those that produce lasting work and those that produce their own image. Flaubert has one of my favorite quotes on the subject; “Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
An author is an author 24/7. At any given moment we may be meeting a potential fan or the friend of a potential fan. We don’t write books to be rich and famous – there are too many easier ways besides scribbling. We write books because we desire to be read. Make sure your presentation adds value to your work rather than detract from it, and become the cover your book is positively judged by.