You've published some horror stories or maybe a novel. As a published author, it's time to make a name for yourself—set up a Facebook page, attend some conventions. You want to project a knowledgeable, successful image. Someone people will want to read and editors will want to publish.
But you worry no one will take you seriously. Maybe you're a mild-mannered suburbanite. The "office drone" type. A matronly stay-at-home mom. You lack that horror "vibe".
So you create one. You adopt a nom de plume like Vlad Slything or Mistress Darkly von Deathblack. You post angsty messages to Facebook. Attending your first convention, your outfit is heavy on black leather, black lace, black eyeliner and black nail polish. You project a sullen and brooding disposition. And this is easy since we create characters on the page all the time, why not in the real world?
While some fans think it's cool, you're surprised when authors, publishers and editors don't take you seriously.
The reason? Writers are not performers. Our showcase is the page. As an author, you'll be judged on your expertise and quality of work. A costume sends mixed messages, like you need it because your work can't stand on its own.
Now, this is not to say you can't indulge in some cosplay or wear something elaborate. In fact, clothing should be part of your personal branding. (E.g., Neil Gaiman just walked into the room. What's he wearing?) But if you're on a panel about writing, the effort you put into your Lestat-esque outfit might eclipse your skills and experience as a writer in the minds of attendees.
Costumes aside, there's your attitude. No one likes someone sullen and brooding. (Okay, maybe a few millions Team Edward fans.) It's stand-offish, rude and just plain anti-social. The writing community is a very social group and many horror authors I've met are funny, friendly people. The Morticia Addams wanna-be slinking in the corner, sipping her red wine and reciting Emily Dickinson when you try to talk to her, will find herself alone and missing out on opportunities to network.
Consider this: if you write fiction, the real you comes through in your work. So don't pretend to be someone else when interacting with readers, writers or publishers. Hiding behind "Lord Slashen Byrn" will alienate people because they can tell you're not genuine.
Now, if you're shy or somewhat insecure (like me), it's OK to adopt a persona and pretend to be someone else, but make sure it's a version of you, not some assumed personality. Bring certain elements of your personality—your humor, your intelligence, your ability to help connect people—to the fore. Wear clothing that represents who you are, not how you think you should be seen. Leave the horrific elements in the story; bring your best self out in public.
Matt Moore is a horror and science fiction writer who believes good speculative fiction can both thrill and make you think. His columns and short fiction have appeared in print, electronic and audio markets including On Spec, AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Leading Edge, Cast Macabre, Torn Realities and the Tesseracts anthologies. His novelette Silverman's Game was published by Damnation Books in 2010. He's a two-time Aurora Award nominee, Friends of the Merrill finalist, frequent panelist and presenter, Communications Director for ChiZine Publications, and Chair of the Ottawa Chiaroscuro Reading Series.
He lives in Ottawa, Ontario. Find more here.