I stumbled upon this thread over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, and found it rather fascinating, with strong points on both sides of the issue.
A brief summation: this past weekend was the national Romance Writers of America conference. Apparently three authors (Marianne Mancusi, Liz Maverick and Sherrliyn Kenyon) caused somewhat of a furor with their unorthodox--and some believe inappropriate--attire. Supporters have come forward on both sides of the issue. Some claim the authors were merely trying to bring deserving attention to their works and their outfits were simply extensions of their personality, while others (including mega bestsellers Nora Roberts and Jennifer Crusie) claim the authors' lack of professionalism demeans them and other authors in the genre.
(Apologies if this wrapup does not illustrate the points satisfactorily. Read the original post and comments for a better picture)
Sherrilyn Kenyon and her swan hat
Marianne Mancusi and Liz Maverick (and their knickers)
I met two of the authors, Liz Maverick and Marianne Mancusi, at BEA. They were incredibly nice, and wore outfits that stood out like Yao Ming on the PGA Tour. To me it seemed like they were worn in good fun. And after reading the Q&A and starred review in Publishers Weekly for WIRED, I bought Liz's book. I thought WIRED sounded different, cool, and my perception of the author didn't play a role in the purchase.
I have never been to an RWA convention, so I don't have the authority to comment on what is and is not "appropriate" attire. Not to mention I have the fashion sense of Ace Ventura. But I wonder if this debate extends to other genres, outside of romance. Having been to several crime conferences, I can't say there have been authors who stood out to such an extent due to their appearance (Marcus Sakey and Barry Eisler's slobbered-over hair notwithstanding).
Do you feel at a convention that represents a given genre, authors should eschew "gimmicks" and be respectful? Or is attire (among other traits) something that should be up to the individual, without prejudice? And are gimmicks merely empty marketing tools, or are they justified in order to garner attention for the author and his/her work?