For those of you who are unaware there has been this strange debate going on in the romance writing world about these two young female authors who dressed in costume for a conference. The costumes were akin to school girl outfits and were worn to promote their latest works. (anyone interested in the debate itself can check out Pub Rants [scroll down to the July 18th entry]- where you will get yet more links on the topic.)
This debate has sort of fizzled recently, I'm a bit behind on the times, but I was thinking a bit more about it and wondering why the authors got such ire directed towards them. A lot of arguments centred around a 'lack of professionalism', and then the debate turned towards the reputation that romance novelists have within the industry, of the general stereotype of what a romance novelist is.
But I couldn't help but wonder if some of the anger was sparked by the fact that the young women in question were both rather pretty and had no qualms using said prettiness to promote their works. I don't think that this anger I'm referring to was directed even at them, (some people commented that it was awful the publishers making them do this, which so was not what happened) but rather at the fact that it seems like nowadays, even in the writing world, looks matter.
I'm an actor. And so I know what it feels like to be constantly judged on your appearance. In fact one of the things that I thought was so cool about submitting to literary agents as opposed to acting agents was that I didn't need to send a picture. That my letter was in fact an audition, an example of the quality of my writing, as opposed to my headshot which basically just told a prospective agent what I kind of looked like but said nothing to my acting ability (yes you send a CV as well, which can give some impression as to what you can do, but you still haven't actually done it in front of them). It was so freeing. It didn't matter that I had brown hair. Or that I wasn't skinny enough. Or fat enough. All that mattered was how I wrote.
And that I am sure is the draw to many many authors.
But things are changing, not hugely, but with the internet, and youtube and the world becoming far more visually oriented, an author these days has to appeal to many different kinds of media. The whole concept of author promotion gets many authors upset. I can kind of understand this. There was a time an author could be a recluse, in fact often the reason a person became an author was because they were such a thing. But now more and more is being demanded of an author, the amount of self-promotion, the 'thinking outside the box". Now add onto to that the pressure to look good! We know that looking good is the most important thing for any individual in society, the highest level of achievement to strive towards. So why should authors be left out of the mix?
Now all this is just a commentary, not even an editorial really. I personally do not take any issue with what those romance author women did, I think they look cute! I also think that if you have something going for you, use it! The reason certain non-fiction authors (who are not celebrities) have great success a platform. Well fiction writers have to find something that will sell their works too you know! I also always strongly believe in promoting yourself, especially if you are comfortable in doing such a thing. And if anyone wants any suggestions in that area may I link you to the fab JA Konrath who just seems to know all the right things to do.
My point is simply, with regards to that romance debate, I just think that possibly the fuss was maybe about something bigger. To quote myself from the comments section over at that Pub Rants post: "[I wonder if] in the end many people in looking at [the authors] may be seeing something symptomatic of a general trend in society, and it gets people more riled up."
What do you think?