I recently gave a talk at the National Writer's Union meeting in New York about setting up book signings and how to go about getting your audience to buy your book. It was well-accepted and most folks went away with a lot of new information. During the question and answer period following my talk, most of the authors in the group began to carp about this publisher, that publisher, problems with agents not doing this or that, etc. Much to my chagrin, I discovered what may be the most significant problem in our industry.
The authors, themselves.
I presume (ugh) that most of you know the difference between a writer and an author. It became very obvious as to why the vast majority of authors don't get to first base with sales, promotion, PR, or for that matter, anything else, including publishers and agents. Not only do many of them not know how to "write," but even worse is that they don't believe that they are actually the personification of authority on their own subjects. Couple that with being gun shy in front of audiences and lack of pride of appearance and presentation.
If you don't take your work seriously enough to go into the face of the world in a presentable manner, book and persona, why should anyone care about your profound typing skills? The days of the hard-drinking, cigarette smoking, and obnoxious attitudes have long left the scene. The "artist" has by evolution of society necessitated the need to also become a businessperson. Many of the folks I spoke with also admitted to never having read the contracts they sign. Granted, legitimate publishers will not overtly seek to screw their authors, but that does not mean that you don't have the right to question something that doesn't lay properly in your belly.
I recently read through a contract with one of my publishers, and although it looked like a Microsoft user agreement, I was able to eliminate about seven paragraphs and stipulations that I wouldn't go along with. Guess what? The publisher concurred and we came to terms. They even applauded the fact that I took time to go through it.
The same goes for the manner in which you perceive yourself being perceived. Irrespective of the subject you are writing about, it is incumbent upon you to present yourself in a plausible manner and thereby alleviate any misunderstanding about your lack of knowledge of the industry that is allegedly feeding you. Agents and publishers alike respect your authority when you know what you are doing, and if the chance occurs that they feel you are too smart for them and decide that you are difficult to deal with, so be it. Believe it or not, there are many others out there waiting for you.
Confidence is something that you innately develop by believing in yourself and your work...and presenting it as such.