Those of us, who don’t live under a rock, know that the publishing industry is in a volatile state. With retail stores filing bankruptcy, decreased profits and royalties, and increased costs to consumers, one has to wonder if they will make it in the industry. To find the door, you have to have a great story, but to get in the door, you have to show professionalism and let the publisher know they can market you and your book.
Everything we say or do represents our personal brand. Your personal brand is how you differentiate and stand out from others. The cliché that first impressions are made in the first few seconds holds true, not just in the publishing industry, but everywhere. Your personal brand is synonymous with your reputation and with the explosion of the internet this is ever more important to remember. Since people respond to professionalism, attire, attitude, and facial expressions, then if you want to sale your book then you have to sell yourself.
When I was fourteen, I learned that presentation was the staple to getting treated with some type of legitimacy. Albeit young, I quickly realized that my hair was the most important aspect of my presentation. Even now, with my stained jeans and flannel, a perfectly groomed mane is at the foundation of first impressions. I sported my uncut head of hair, somewhere between Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain, long enough to be cool, but short enough not to be mistaken for a female from behind. During the start of my summer break from school, my hair started to become heavy, not with voluminous body, but dense, enough to make my neck ache from the extra stress.
The change felt like it happened overnight. Friends stopped by, but left quickly, saying they had to get somewhere important. My sister made faces when I would walk into a room she was in. Subtle changes in people’s behavior were deafening at that age. I started to wear more deodorant and changed my clothes more often. No matter what I did, the reaction to me remained the same and I suddenly became an outcast. Five days into the transformation my girlfriend stopped calling and sent a letter. It said: “I am moving to Texas.” Our parents were close friends, but this was the first time I had heard of this.
By day seven, it was clear I was in exile, tossed aside like a feral alley cat. My hair felt like it doubled in weight, and had a terrible oily shimmer. My parents began to constantly question if I was taking a shower. I somehow felt close to the oil soaked pelicans in the Prince William Sound.
In two weeks, I transformed from the cool kid, to the dirty kid. The elderly lady behind the counter in my small town squinted at me and acted like I was going to steal something. Even my family abraded me like I wasn’t good enough.
“Nicklas,” my mother yelled, “what is wrong with your hair? Are you showering?”
"Of course I am showering.”
Despite the loss of my friends and first girlfriend, my mother made me point out what shampoo I was using like I was a child.
“There, that yellow one,” I said. “The new one.”
“Nicklas.” My mom snatched the bottle and held it close to my face. “This is baby oil! Your sister uses it to shave her legs.”
It took nearly four days for my hair to return to normal and gradually my friends came back and I got a new girlfriend, but the baby oil had taught me that presentation was crucial to being taken seriously, which brings me back to branding in the publishing world. If you’re trying to break in, the brand you’re selling is yourself; it’s The Professional. Publishers want to know that you take the business of writing just as seriously as they do and the best way you can do that is treat any interaction with a publisher like you’re applying for a job. When you’re writing your cover letter, don’t use informal language like the editor is an old college buddy, but treat the cover letter like it’s accompanying your resume. Also, follow submission guidelines. Not following them is the equivalent of being 20 minutes late to a job interview and expecting to still be interviewed. Speaking of job interviews, if you get the opportunity to pitch a publisher in person, dress like you’re going to one (no faded jeans, no holes in your shirt, no looking like you just rolled out of bed). These things “do” matter.
As I found out first hand, impressions are everything.
Nicklas Roetto is the Production Editor at Gold Man Review. To read more about Nick, go to http://www.goldmanpublishing.com/nickroetto.html
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