My publication date is six weeks away, and my best friend just asked me "so, what do you wear to do a bookstore event?" And I realized I have no idea.
I had the same question this past winter! And now that I live in a part of the country where "dressy" means wearing your newer fleece vest instead of the one in which you split wood, I asked a few friends for help. Here's what they said. –Sarah P.
I always get dressed up for readings. We writers have so few excuses to get out of our sweatpants!! For me, I usually wear a dress. I think it's nice to dress up for my readers, and you also never who's going to take a photo that will end up on Google images! So pick something that photographs well from every angle. But most of all, have fun with it. Writing is a solitary art. Readings and book events are the rare occasions when we get to leave the computer and socialize- enjoy it!
Poet and memoirist Sandra Beasley, author most recently of Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl and I Was the Jukebox knows of what she speaks. Beasley tours for months at a time:
I would recommend that authors get an advance sense of the position in which they'll be speaking at the bookstore. If you're going to be seated, don't wear a short skirt. If you're going to be at a podium, don't put all your visual interest below the waist. It feels dirty to say it that way, but you know what I mean.
If there is the slightest chance you'll be raising an arm to emphasize a point--or call on a question--choose a fabric where you're not introducing the audience to your utter excitement over this event, a.k.a. your pit sweat.
Because I often travel for extended stints, packing a suitcase with black and red clothes makes it easy to mix and match efficiently. Downside: seeing yourself in a dozen snapshots, each taken in a different town, each wearing approximately the same outfit. I love that red t-shirt with the ballet cap sleeves, but I swear to god I'm burning it before my next poetry collection comes out.
You want to look professional, with little hints of creativity. One item that stands out if sufficient, like big jewelry, or red shoes, but the rest of the outfit is subdued, but not boring.
Watch the sexy factor— cleavage, short skirts, and so on.
Wear something you are comfortable in and that travels well.
YES: Something that is flattering and comfortable and projects the you you’d like to present.
NO: Bathing suit, unless you’ve written a book about wearing bathing suits. Lingerie, unless you’re EL James. Eveningwear, unless you’re on the dias accepting the Pulitzer or Nobel.
Sandra Neil Wallace is a children’s author of the middle-grade novel Little Joe, and an historical novel Muckers, forthcoming from Knopf in 2013:
DO: wear a signature accessory like a chunky turquoise necklace with a crisp dark denim dress.
DO: test an outfit first. I packed a newly-altered pair of slacks for hubbie Rich Wallace when he was about to do an out-of-town signing, but they actually got lengthened instead of shortened by mistake. It made for a funny conversation as he still had to wear them!
DON'T: wear bright, long-sleeved shirts that show sweaty armpits, wrinkly linen, or bangles that get in the way of signing.
Thriller writer and HuffPo blogger Karen Dionne, whose latest book is Boiling Point, had this to add:
My suggestion is to wear the tallest shoes possible to your book event. You'll be on your feet for a couple of hours, mingling and speaking, so you want your footwear to be reasonably comfortable, but don't sacrifice comfort for height. Platforms are great. You want to create the most commanding presence possible because you're the star!
Thank you to Brenda, Sandra, Mollie, Nichole, Sandra and Karen!