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Author Photographs

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This is the second in a three part series about the author as a consumable part of the book. It’s a look at how readers respond to current marketing tecniques and why.   This series is more a reflection of the reader and the reader’s mindset and not meant to be a criticism of the authors themselves.   (As an aside, I find it interesting that no matter how many times I say this, some authors still take this as a personal attack.   It’s not, I swear.)

Off the top of my head, I can think of three authors whose publicity photos differ according to their pen name:

  

In these six publicity photos, a reader is being sent a different message. Essentially, in the first set, the authors are warm and friendly. In the second set, they all have an edge to them. Presumably the message here is that Bird, Roberts, and Silver write warm and friendly books. Their alter egos, Ward, Robb, Kenin all write books with an edge. The Shomi Girls’, by their dress, must write about women catering to the schoolgirl fantasy.

Which then begs the question–if an author is writing about sexy books, do we expect a sexy photograph? If they are writing women’s fiction about knitting, do we expect them to be sitting in a rocking chair with knitting needles?   Wasn’t it a huge comedown when you saw the ladies from AuthorTalk in their pajamas? Where’s the sexy in that?

Asked another way, do looks really matter in the publishing field?   Ron Hogan published an article in Writer’s Digest earlier this year that explored the anxiety of authors and their bio photos.   There is some suggestion that female authors in the lit fic section are more likely to get a book contract.    Lisa Selin Davis, author of Belly, suggested that  “Most of us, as we’re reading, flip back and forth between the text and the picture, trying to imagine the person in the photo in the midst of writing,” she says. “And most of us are drawn to beauty-’more interested in folks who are attractive.”

I don’t know that I’ve ever bought a book because of an author’s publicity photo.   Photos are sometimes placed on the back covers instead of blurbs and then I’m just irritated by author photos because I love the back cover blurb.   (I actually think that in terms of ranking the attention getting nature of items within the book it goes 1) cover, 2) back blurb, and 3) first chapter).

So why are there author photos? Why are their author bios if so many people find them to be non influential in making a buying decision? Are author photos/ author bios a relic of marketing passed by or is it about creating brand/image? If it is the latter (and I suspect it is the latter), then what is the brand/image of a paranormal romance author? or an erotic romance author? Or a romantic suspense author? (I would laugh my head off if Roxanne St. Claire’s next author picture features her holding a gun).   Is the author photo just there to humanize the book?   I can’t tell actually.   Is it so that we can imagine that person, the author, sitting next to us telling the story?   

Katherine Taylor, author of Rules for Saying Goodbye, told Galley Cat this:   

“I haven’t had a very long career as a writer, but while I was publishing stories, and when I got this book contract [for RULES FOR SAYING GOODBYE, published last spring by  FSG] nobody knew what I looked like or who I was at all. My appearance had nothing to do with anything,” Taylor says. “But I’m not terribly concerned…The book is there, the book is always going to be there…I think the book stands on its own. All the noise surrounding it is just noise. I feel like whatever you have to do to get your book in the cultural conversation is all fair,” Taylor continues. “Because the bottom line is, you’ve put so much of yourself and so many years of your life into what you’re doing. The greatest tragedy would be if nobody noticed.”

I’m interested in hearing others’ opinions.   Do you like the author photo (some last week did not like the coy over the shoulder look or butterfly hands)?   If it was gone, would you miss it?   Why do you think it is there?   Would you buy a book based on what the author looked like?   If you were to rank the marketing items on a book, what are the biggest influences of purchase from 1 to whatever?   

If you are an author, how do you feel about the author photo?   If you could design the perfect author photo, what would it be?   I’m thinking if the point is to get noticed, I would pose provactively in the nude with my “naughty bits” hidden no matter what the topic would be and my titles would be things like “Copyright Law Stripped Down” and “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Problem: The eBook Reading Advantage.”

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

109 Comments

  1. ms bookjunkie
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 05:34:50

    First of all, I just have to say that I HATE it when the author photo is on the back cover! Seriously, when checking out a book in a store, I REALLY DO NOT CARE what the author looks like, I’m interested in what the book is about. If it is difficult to find out what the book is about, I will move on to the next book, not matter how the cover intrigued me into picking up the book in the first place.

    For me, the story comes first. After I finish the story I do check out the pic & bio of the author and do admit to slight disappointment if they’re not there -but the disappointment won’t kill me or hinder me from buying other books by the author. I can live without the pic & bio, much more important is a backlist of books by the author and information about what next to expect and when. Yes, the internet is at my fingertips but I’m lazy. Don’t make me go look for crucial information!

    As for the questions (or to summarize):
    1. I like a good photo (I’m as curious -or maybe not quite- as the next person) but I’m okay without it.
    2. No photo? Small disappointment, but no problem.
    3. It’s there to put a face on the story? Satisfy curiosity? Pull in readers? Create a brand (hopefully)?
    4. I would never buy a book based on the author’s looks! (I hope -it could really turn into a waste of money *eyeroll*) I don’t care what the author looks like, I care about whether I like the story or not!
    5. Marketing items ranked:
    1) Cover
    2) Blurb on back cover
    3) First paragraph/page/chapter (depends on how much time there is for the decision)
    4) Mentions of recommendations by favorite authors
    5) Author bio – (will they have had life experiences that might make for a good writer/interesting story?)
    6) That’s it. If I haven’t made the decision to buy by now then obviously the book isn’t for me!

    Edited to note that rank is not quite always in that order.

  2. Kat
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 06:38:35

    Essentially, in the first set, the authors are warm and friendly. In the second set, they all have an edge to them.

    I think maybe the photos are the other way around?

    Anyway, I don’t mind the photo. I prefer something that looks professional but not too staged. Something that looks honest. I’m not averse to some minor Photoshopping, but I have to admit to a bias against soft focus. That said, it would have to be pretty unusual for a photo to turn me off buying a book.

  3. Nora Roberts
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 06:49:37

    As a reader, I do like author photos. I’d say it’s a matter of having a visual on who’s telling me the story. Kind of putting a face with the voice.

    Plus I’m nosy. I want to know what he or she looks like.

    As an author, I know photo shoots can be complicated and LONG, but with the right photographer can be fun and interesting. I also see them as just another marketing tool, and one that takes a relatively small and painless amount of my time.

  4. Kristie(J)
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:05:16

    I think maybe the photos are the other way around?

    LOL – I thought the same thing. I like to see author photo’s on the inside back cover. Like ms bookjunkie, I don’t like it when they are on the back cover. Though this doesn’t happen as much in romance books, there is nothing more frustrating than having to searchfor the story blurb!! I also like it better when it’s done by a professional photographer. I’ve seen some author pictures that look like they’ve been taken by a neighbour or a friend and I always think they would have been better off served spending the extra time and money and have it done right. At the heart of it, this is a product they are putting out and while authors may not have much (or any) control over the front cover, they should do their very best on their own pictures.
    I think the above examples you used are great. Different style books = different style photos; it’s a great idea and shows that the authors are thinking of their audience.

  5. Sparky
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:10:03

    I have never checked an author’s photo until after I bought the book. Even then the photo means very little to me except when the author is trying too hard (paranormal, sure, but the author doesn’t REALLY have to wear that much black, that much occult jewelry and, really, if she were actually that pale I’d check her for a pulse) which makes me laugh or sometimes giggle at Sueish tendencies (how many heroines look kinda like the author? Or how the author wished she looked?)

    But obsession with looks in so many industries bothers me. It’s bad enough that even the greatest voice in the world won’t sell your CDs if you don’t have a hot bod to back it up (and worse that a hot bod WITHOUT a great voice or musical talent CAN sell CDs) but authors? I can’t think of anything LESS relevent to the quality of a book than what the author looks like.

    In fact, I beg of publishers – if author photos ARE influential in buying books then PLEASE STOP USING THEM. Because I shudder at the idea that books will only sell/be published if the author is sexy. So I’d love it if I never saw an author photo again – especially if it gets us away from this idea that an Author is a BRAND *shudder* Who let the marketing department drip all over the literature? That stuff stains you know!

    As for buying books:
    1) Recommendations by friends/reviewers I trust. It could be bound in brown paper for all I care if I have a good rec
    2) Recommendations by other authors I like
    3) Site recommends (authors who bought what you bought also liked…)
    4) Coverish (pick up value – but only to encourage me to turn it over and read)
    5) Blurb
    6) Back to cover (to laugh at how it doesn’t fit the blurb)

  6. GrowlyCub
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:22:41

    I have never bought a book due to an author pic and don’t see that happening either and I absolutely detest it when the back is all author photo with or without quotes instead of back blurb (as awful as the blurbs usually are).

    Based on author photos I have not bought books because I found the pictures off-putting (only when they took up the whole back, otherwise I wouldn’t notice it until after I finished reading the book).

    I have snickered a time or two at the over the top glamour shots used (especially if I had met the author in person and knew what they ‘really’ looked like) and in one case I felt pity because the author has a squint and the picture was very unflattering and it was used all over her website, too. I remember I even discussed that particular photo with a fellow reader. I hasn’t kept me from or encouraged me to buy/ing her books, though.

    I’d like to say I’m totally immune to a pretty woman/handsome man, but that’s just not true. For this particular product (book), however, the picture really does not work in the sell only in the not-sell function (the books I haven’t bought had smug looking authors on them).

    Interestingly enough, while I have only read her Bird books, I find the Ward picture more attractive, but even so that won’t get me to read her paranormals, because I have zero interest in that kind of story.

    I have read neither Silver nor Kenin, but again find the ‘edgier’ picture more attractive (red collar on pink flower petals? What was the photographer thinking!?). I’d have to say that if I ever decided to read one of the author’s books it would be more due to the fact that she was mentioned in this article than the fact that I found the picture attractive.

    If there were no picture I’d notice that after finishing the book, but the world would not come to an end. Like the bio, the picture helps me relate to the person in whose world I was just immersed for hours and fulfills my curiosity, it does not decide which books come home with me, and only in certain cases it decides who doesn’t.

  7. Jenre
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:23:35

    I don’t like author photos at all. If it were up to me I’d have them all banned. I’m not interested in what the author looks like and if I were curious I would look on the author’s website for a photo. Novels should be judged on their content not on what the author looks like or rather how the author has been made to look through flattering lighting and make-up.

  8. Jessica
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:38:16

    I don’t care either way about the author photos, and I’m betting that even if this thread goes to 100 responses, the general sentiment will be the same.

    I’ve definitely had some snarky thoughts about some author photos, never that someone isn’t good looking (who cares) but “she is so desperately trying to hold on to her youth — this is so airbrushed”, to “she is trying way too hard to look sexy”.

    But, if we’re going to have them, I think they should be professional, like the ones you showcase (the one on the bike is a little silly, but still). I’m amazed at how many author photos look like their 10 year old took it in the back yard. And I’m also amazed that it looks like no effort went into styling hair, makeup, jewelry, or clothes. I’m not saying people need to hire the team from Queer Eye, or try to look really different than normal, but hundreds of people will be looking at this photo in perpetuity, and it just seems strange to me when some authors clearly don’t even bother trying to present a polished appearance.

  9. theo
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:46:38

    Cover
    Back Blurb
    First two or three chapters (if I can make it that far)

    I’m shallow, what can I say? A great cover will draw my hand and eye like a magnet every time.

    That said, I too am a nosy Parker and love to see what the author looks like, though the picture has no bearing on whether I buy or like the book. It’s the voice, the characters, the plot…all those normal things that make a great story that decide for me if I buy it or not and then continue reading.

    I do have to say, from a compositional standpoint though, the above picture of Nora Roberts, a la black leather jacket, is outstanding. That photographer had a great eye for atmosphere and emotion!

  10. Rita Oberlies
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:47:17

    While as a reader I would never consider an author photo a ‘need to have’, I do consider it a ‘nice to have’. Seeing a snapshot of an author helps fill in a visual blank. Sometimes it creates the OMG I can’t believe that woman who looks just like my grandmother could write such dark characters moment.

    It does not, however, influence my purchasing decisions.

  11. Shannon Stacey
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:49:29

    I can still remember (eons ago) the first time I picked up a Danielle Steel paperback, turned it over to read the blurb and found…a big old picture of Danielle Steel. I remember being struck by what I perceived as arrogance. “Don’t worry about what the book is about. It’s Danielle Steel. Just buy it.” I didn’t. Then I got older and wiser and realized 1) the blurb was in the front of the book and 2) her books DID sell just by her name. Then I got older and wiser still and realized the author doesn’t make that decision. Now I expect it from authors far enough up the ladder and just flip to the front of the book.

    My favorite author photo was probably Suzanne Brockmann sitting on her staircase. Natural, casual, and giving the appearance, at least, of being the real her.

    But, as an author who doesn’t photograph well at all, I wish author photos would go away entirely. :)

  12. Anne Douglas
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:55:34

    I’m with the ‘don’t really care’ crowd.

    But I’ve decided, should I ever be in need of an author photo, I’m going all out to stump the ideal. Something like legs akimbo, hair mussed, makeup smeared, bonbon box on the floor half empty, lying on a chaise looking like I’ve been ravished by the two hunky men holding it aloft.

    Yeah, I can see it now…

  13. Mrs Giggles
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 07:58:59

    Two author photos stick out for me.

    Meljean Brook’s close-up. It accentuates the beautiful fey-like features on her face, and it goes very nicely with the tone and setting of her stories.

    Marjorie M Liu’s photo for her Dorchester books – the one with that bag on her back that carries that cute dog. That is such an adorable picture and so refreshing normal when I contrast it to the kind of stories she is writing.

    Other than that, author photos all seem to blur together as one. Unless the author is a hot naked man, but I haven’t seen that before.

  14. Sherry Thomas
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:18:09

    My books don’t even have author photos.

  15. (Jān)
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:27:02

    Author photos are of no interest to me, unless I’m trying to figure out if the person who wrote the book is a man or a woman. That’s the only time I care. The rest of the time I feel a little sad that an author felt they had to pony up for glamour shots instead of letting their writing speak for them.

    (And I have to agree, those writers with only their photos and no blurbs on the back annoy me to no end, and I never buy the books since I can’t tell what the heck they’re about.)

  16. Dalia
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:30:42

    I don’t look at author photos – most times I won’t realise there is one until I reach the end of the book (and sometimes not even then).

    But if the book is going, as Tony would say, grreat!, I find myself flipping to the back wondering just who wrote this mahvelous piece of work?! And if the book is a pile of…not grreatness, I’m wondering, Good Lawd, who wrote this tripe?! Either way, putting a face to a story is nice.

    But not necessary.

  17. Treva Harte
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:36:53

    This is slightly off topic but not by much — most authors who get photographed for interviews and other promo ops tend to be attractive even though other authors may also be quoted in those articles. Amazing, huh?

  18. Mel Francis
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:42:15

    I have 2 author photo rules: No hand to face shots and no ‘Glamour’ shots. Sadly, I see tons of those.

    I do like the different photos for the pseudonyms and I do like the author shot and bio in the back of the book.

  19. Jennifer Estep
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:50:47

    I look at the author photo out of curiosity just to see what he/she looks like. The photo has no affect on whether I buy a book or not. I’m most influenced by: reviews, excerpts/sample chapters, genre, cover, and buzz level (i.e., everyone saying “You HAVE to read this”).

    I prefer profesional-looking photos — a nice, head-and-shoulders shot that is crisp, clear, and has a high resolution. But this may be because I’m also a journalist who has had to find some way to brighten/tone/despeckle/sharpen lots of less-than-perfect photos over the years.

    And I would point out that not all authors get the professional photo shoots like Nora Roberts mentioned above. I could be wrong, but I think most authors are just asked to submit a photo. So maybe when talking about the author photo, the focus should be on those authors who do get the photo shoots from their publisher (or pay for it themselves or whatever) and the marketing ideas behind them. Just a thought.

  20. Tee
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:51:53

    Interesting, because I’m one of those that do check for a photo and a short bio. If either one or both are not there, it’s not a problem at all; although I do enjoy seeing at least a quick blurb about the author. This would be especially true if it’s an author I read consistently. I would think it’s a natural thing to wonder a bit about her/his background. But if they decide, for one reason or another, not to include either a photo or short profile, that’s their prerogative. I don’t know why romance, women’s fiction or chic lit books should be treated any differently than general fiction books. Observing the books my husband reads by male authors, the majority appear to contain gigantic photos on the outside or inside back cover and some kind of personal sketch. Even though I may not read them, I do look–curiosity, I guess.

    As to the type of photo, that’s their choice, too. Some select more wisely than others. I can name a few where I have questioned their decision of shots; but since it was theirs to make, more power to them.

  21. katiebabs
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:55:39

    I hardly ever look at the picture of the author in the book. So whether they wear pj’s or some feather boa, it doesn’t matter to me.

  22. Tracy MacNish
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 08:59:03

    I like author photos – I’m always disappointed if the book I’m reading doesn’t have one. As a reader, I just like to see the face of the person whose brain I’m sharing for the ten hours or so it takes to read their book.

    As an author, I chose a picture of me that’s friendly, because I am. I didn’t worry about matching the tone of my book, but more about which photo was more slimming and if my hair looked decent.

  23. Corrine
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:05:39

    I do look at author photos (again, that damnable curiosity that always get the better of me). Normally it doesn’t influence my reading experience.

    BUT there was one book where I was a little influenced. The author was, to my judgmental mind, a little geeky looking. The heroine was extremely clumsy and cursed with bad luck, and somehow in my mind the two got mixed – never mind that the physical description of the heroine was nothing like the author! By the point that the heroine got her hair corn-rowed Bo Derek style, I was seriously laughing out loud at the mental picture of this geeky author with her corn-rows and big glasses. I kept imagining every time the heroine moved those stupid beads clinking off her frames. I couldn’t finish the book.

  24. ME
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:16:13

    Author photo’s certainly don’t influence whether I buy a book or not…that’s just silly. I do however love to see what my favorite authors look like, and that is just plain old human nature.

  25. DS
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:18:23

    Author photos on hardback books? No problem, because the information is usually printed on the end flaps of the dust jacket. Author photos on paperbacks– no need. Some others like Danielle Steel and Nora Roberts sell books just because it is by that author.

    I laugh at (not in a totally unkind way): Glamor Shots (fuzzy, soft focus); overly photoshopped; highland cos play– especially if the author is clutching a big sword– Elizabeth Chadwick sometimes has a picture of herself in character at a Viking or Anglo-Saxon (can’t remember which) reenactment camp which is interesting and not the same thing; trying too hard for street cred; and high school year book photographs.

    Also photographs should really have a sell-by date. Diana Palmer used (maybe still uses?) a very nice hat photo for decades.

    Finally, I think the author photo taking the whole back cover of a paperback is a holdover from the early 80′s. The first one I remember noticing (because it was so snark worthy) was Barbara Cartland’s photographic back covers.

  26. Jody W.
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:27:19

    As with the bio, I like a photo when it’s there, inside the back cover (not on the back cover). As an author, a professional photo session can cause much anxiety and expenditure, and we all have different tolerance levels for those. Whether or not people buy your books based on your appearance (thank DOG most don’t), many will still make assumptions about you based on it.

  27. Gennita Low
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:30:03

    But author photos are useful to the author!

    1) When I lost my ID at the airport after a convention, I whipped out my book and showed the guard my picture. “see? I’m really me.”

    2) When someone booked a hotel room under my author name, I whipped out my book and showed the picture. “See? I’m really her.”

    3) My mom and dad don’t speak or read English but bless their hearts, they like to show my books off by…yes, whipping out one of my books and showing THE picture. “See? That’s really our daughter.”

    4) My funnest example of my publicity photo helping me out was when a reader/some kind of assistant noticed me standing in line for a Nascar teeshirt giveaway and she’d actually just read my book (and seen the photo) and she got me to the front of the line where ADRIAN PAUL was signing, showed him my book and yeah, he signed MY book. Yes, that was fun. Yes, I framed the photo AND the book ;-).

    See? Author photos = helpful.

    /tongue-in-cheek

  28. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:36:18

    As an author, I personally hate and abhor when somebody asks me for my pic. I’m almost notoriously camera shy, for a variety of reasons, none of which include shyness, though. If nobody ever asked me for one again, I’d never complain.

    Personally, speaking as a reader, I don’t much care what an author looks like. I want their book. That’s it.

  29. Cathy
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:43:33

    Photos don’t directly influence whether I buy a book, except when the photo takes up the whole back cover and the blurb is reduced to 3 sentences on the first page. I find this a little ironic, too, because the photo is on the back cover – facing inward on the shelf – so I’ll never see the photo unless the cover/title/author grabbed my attention enough to pick the book up in the first place. I’m not sure if the photo is supposed to entice me to buy the book, or if it’s just a celebration of the author’s success – but, then again, if the author is that huge, why do they need a full-cover photo? Their fans probably already know what they look like.

    Although the presence of a photo won’t deter me from buying (usually) I generally try not to look at author photos right after I’ve finished a book. There’s something unsettling about reading an erotic romance and then getting to the inside back cover and realizing the author looks a bit like my grandmother. Or, just as bad, realizing that the main character is a physical avatar of the author.

    Having written all this, I guess for me I prefer to have my seeing of an author photo seperate from my reading of their work. I don’t mind running across their photo on a blog or website like this one, but I prefer to not have it lingering in my mind as I read.

  30. MaryKate
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:45:58

    Well, I’m kind of echoing everyone else to say that I don’t really care one way or another. I buy based on recommendations, love of the author’s previous work or some other criteria. But I almost always look at the picture, and generally what I’m thinking is, “Great shoes!” or “I love that jacket!” or occasionally, “Wow, unfortunate hair or clothing choice”. But that’s about it. Photos have no bearing whatsoever on whether I’d buy a book. But I understand that they are a marketing tool and I’m sure I’d obsess over my photo if I were an author.

  31. Meljean
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 09:58:24

    My editor nixed the photo where I was straddling a giant pipe, alas.

    On paperbacks, I prefer the back blurb to the author photo. Hardbacks, it doesn’t bother me as much because I know the info will be on the dust jacket flaps.

    I look at author photos if they are there (if they aren’t, I don’t feel as if I’m missing anything.) The better the book is, the more likely I am to be interested in the author themselves, in a “who wrote that gorgeous piece of work?” way. I haven’t been SOLD on an author photo, though.

  32. Kimber An
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:01:34

    The human face has a primal effect. Ask any newborn baby you meet. The best authors’ photographs are not the most glamorous ones, in my opinion. The best ones are those which show the face clearly (no sunglasses, for example) and convey his or her personality. This tells me on a primal level, “Read my story. I created it out of the most honest part of my soul just for you. I worked hard to make it well worth your money.”

  33. Julie
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:16:04

    I’m with DS @25 in that author photos should have a sell-by date. It’s interesting to know what the author looks like, but that’s not a sales point for me.

    I do some freelance photography and I know what goes into a good picture. I also know that some people (like me) just don’t photograph well. I’ve struggled with that issue for years, and while I understand the temptation to keep using that one good picture, it doesn’t seem the right thing to do. Of course, this is coming from the woman who renewed her drivers license by mail for years until the state dragged her in kicking and screaming for a new photo. ;-)

  34. Leslie Kelly
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:19:36

    Well, just as an aside…I was intending to use the same promo pic I had done this past spring for both my personas. Then the jackass photographer tried to hold me (and NAL) up for more money and all these ridiculous rights after the fact. I had 24 hours to come up with a new photo for the inside back cover.

    Good thing hubby is a good photographer and my back yard is so nicely photographable. I chose two shots, one for LK, one for LP, because, for the first time in as long as I can remember, I liked two shots of myself!

  35. Leah
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:30:06

    I think it’s fun to know what someone looks like, although I shudder to think what someone would think abt my author photo (if I ever get one)–something along the lines of “dang, she’s fat and that hair–how can she write about romance?” I have to say that I am always glad when I see RT pix of real live authors who look about like me–ulp! middle-aged, with the baby weight that time forgot ;)

    The appearance thing does make me nervous though. Guess I should count those Weight Watcher’s points and get some good extensions!

    Oh, and as for real author photos–they don’t affect my buying decisions, and I only remember a few authors by sight. I think b/w flatters everyone, but if you wanna be goofy, with period dress, etc., because you’re fun-loving and want an excuse to wear your hoopskirt, then go for it!

  36. Moth
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:42:55

    Do you like the author photo? I’m in the camp of people who like cute, well-done ones. I like Neil gaiman’s usually because he themes them to his books. The one’s him and Pratchett took for good omens were excellent. On the other hand (and naming no names here) I hate turning over a brilliant, sexy book and seeing a cheap, poorly shot photo with the author looking terrible, it kind of kills my buzz.

    If it was gone, would you miss it? I didn’t even realize Sherry Thomas didn’t have photos on the back of her books and I’ve read both of them. I’d say no.

    Why do you think it is there? Not sure. A lot fo folks seem to like them for curiosity’s sake. I’d say someone in marketing caught on to that and thought it would help…somehow.

    Would you buy a book based on what the author looked like? Only Neil Gaiman’s. ;P (Kidding)

    If you were to rank the marketing items on a book, what are the biggest influences of purchase from 1 to whatever?
    1. Recommendations- SBTB’s reviews are usually spot-on for me, Dear Author. My friend Daron earned my eternal gratitude by giving me my first Gaiman for Christmas. I’m definitely a word of mouth kind of girl.
    2. Excerpts- so many times now having a chunk of really good dialogue or prose has sold me on a book. (ex: Mr. Impossible, Beguilement, Chef’s Choice)
    3. Back cover/plot synopsis- I’m a girl who goes digging for spoilers if I’m on the fence about a book. If there’s a rape or an unhappy ending or whatever I want to know before I decide to read that book.
    4. Author blogs- if I like their blog voice there have been a few times I checked their book out because of it
    5. Front cover/Title (I actually bought a Catherine Asaro once because the cover artist was someone I love, and once I bought a romance novel because the title was too, too campy to resist).

    Author bio and author picture do not even make the list of why I would read a book. I’d also like to point out that the strongest incentive to read something by an author is already liking one of their books and wanting more, more, MORE!

  37. Jill Sorenson
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:44:52

    I agree with Kimber An that the best author photos are compelling or charismatic, not necessarily “gorgeous.” Maybe we imagine we see something in the author’s eyes. A hint of intelligence, I hope! I can clearly picture Dean Koontz and Stephen King, who are not handsome enough to mesmerize, but striking nonetheless.

    Patricia Cornwell’s author photo is smart and attractive and real, not soft focus or glammed up. Do I equate her with the character Kay Scarpetta? Probably.

    I like Julia Quinn’s photo also. Softer, yes, but fitting to the kind of book she writes.

    I think some authors are kind of neurotic (hello? ME), so posing for an author photo can be an uncomfortable experience. Maybe that’s why they choose candid shots rather than posed, professional pics.

  38. Chicklet
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:46:57

    As a reader, I think of author photos (like bios) as a bonus, not a requirement. For the most part, I don’t look at the photo or read the bio until I’m done with the book, so it doesn’t have much of an effect on my interpretation of the book, and zero influence on my buying patterns.

    As for authors’ looks influencing what manuscripts get purchased and/or which books get big publicity campaigns… I wish it didn’t happen, but my gut tells me it does. In the late 1990s, I worked at an independent bookstore, and when we got our shipment of A Perfect Storm and got a look at the author photo of Sebastian Junger, I said to my coworker, “That can’t be the actual Sebastian Junger. It’s gotta be some model the publisher hired to pretend to be Sebastian Junger.”

    Of course, it was the real Junger, whom I met in the store a few months later when he did a signing for us. (Verdict: Just as hot in real life, even though he was utterly exhausted — we were his last stop in a 32-day, 28-city tour.) But since looks play such a huge part in the music industry, I’m forced to conclude it plays a role in the publishing industry, too. It sucks, but there it is.

  39. Terry Odell
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:47:24

    I’ve got a new book out with a different publisher next month. They told me to provide a photo, so I used the one from my website, which my son did for me. I’d love to have the bucks to have a professional shoot if I have to have my picture on a book. But I’m so bad with faces, I usually don’t recognize authors in the flesh even if I’ve seen their pictures on their books.

    Would I buy a book because of an author photo? No way. but I agree with those who say it’s nice to have a face to go with the book.

  40. Lori
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:47:44

    God, that JR Ward shot: I just want to give the girl a cookie.

  41. karmelrio
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:51:20

    I usually don’t notice author photos. If I DO notice them, it’s because they’re really well done (Nora’s) or they’re … not. No names, but I agree with what Mel said above – I can’t stand the blurred-out Glamour shot, the great majority of hand-to-face shots (I always think of Deb photographing Napoleon Dynamite’s Uncle Rico in her basement), and the author ‘n pet shot.

    And I heartily dislike when the author photo replaces the back cover blurb. But this happens most often on hardcovers, which I check out of the library anyway, so I can’t bitch too much there.

  42. Patrice Michelle
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 10:56:25

    I’m as curious as the next person when it comes to wanting to see what my favorite author looks like. Though what I think is interesting is when the author looks nothing like I’d pictured him or her in my mind. Guess that’s about the same ratio since, I’ve only had one reader tell me I turned out to look exactly like they pictured me. :)

  43. Drew Armstrong
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 11:10:39

    I like author photos… I do not think they really influence my decision to purchase a book… (well most of the time… I am male and some of these women are beautiful…) What I really like about pictures is it helps me to be able to spot them if I ever get a chance… I have met Stephen King on the set of a movie I was an extra in and knew who he was… with no picture I would never be able to know who they are when they do a cameo in a novel moved to film… I think that is fun to watch for…

    That being said… I know I pay attention to what bands look like… those with beautiful women singing I get more attached to… I don’t know if it is that I am fantasizing about them singing to me? or what… but it makes a difference… Authors who are beautiful… may have a slight edge for me. That being said I know what Orson Scott Card, Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Robin Cook, Clive Cussler, Nora Roberts and Patricia Cornwell look like (off the top of my head… and they are just a few of the many authors I follow…

  44. Lizzy
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 11:25:13

    I guess I don’t really mind either way if there’s an author photo on a NEWER book … but the only one I absolutely MUST have is an author photo on an OLDER book, because those are usually funny as hell, a visual smorgasbord of Farrah hair, unholy eyeshadow combinations and popped collars.

    I’m actually popping my collar right now, just thinking about it. LOVE.

  45. KE
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 11:33:15

    Looks like pretty much everything’s been said on this topic, but I just had to say my funniest author photo moment was when I picked up a new Dean Koontz book, and he went from completely bald man to HAIR. Why, Dean, why? Bald men are sexy! And everyone’s seen the old bald photos for YEARS, so we know that’s either a toupee or hair plugs.

    When I get my author photo done (dreaming here) I would go for something like JR Ward with the sunglasses. Casual, not overly done up and posed, and in a natural setting. I also like profile or not dead-on front shots. Somehow these are more interesting/flattering.

    Least favorite, was a book I read that was by a very attractive woman who was formerly some sort of ‘entertainer.’ Clearly, this was the selling point for her getting a contract in the first place because they made a big deal of this woman’s background on the back of the book before they wrote any blurb. She was very attractive, but it was rather disconcerting to see half the back cover taken up by this woman’s photo.

  46. Teddypig
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 11:39:29

    I like Nora’s chair pose the best.

  47. Jinni
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 11:44:43

    I do not like the outdated author photos (Farah Fawcett hair, shoulder pads), but authors shouldn’t update photos unless the new looks better than the old. Or perhaps they should consider something timeless and go with that.

  48. Alice
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 11:47:29

    Pictures never mattered that much to me. Quite a few of my fav authors either never published photos (Christopher Pike anyone?) or I didn’t know until years later after they’ve passed on. I also love the authors (mostly non-English authors) whom draw a little picture represenation of what they look like.
    For me:
    Title (oh noes!)
    Cover
    Back Blurb (please, oh please NO photo there, I want to know what I’m buying, not who wrote it…I can see the authors name already O_o)
    Chapter.

    One thing I actually enjoy much more than author bio or author picture is when the authors write a little about their thoughts, experiences, or research of said book. I find it more interesting to see their take on it rather than what their lives are in reflection of their writing or if they’re ‘pretty’ enough. Geez, isn’t the point of reading to be imaginative rather than have paper cutout images hand fed to me?

    P.S. I loved the Author talk when the ladies were in their PJs. It made them more real.

  49. Susanna Kearsley
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:01:13

    Also photographs should really have a sell-by date. Diana Palmer used (maybe still uses?) a very nice hat photo for decades.

    You’ll appreciate this story, then, DS:

    I was a lowly waitress when my second book won a big British award, which created a whole lot of media interest up here in Canada. All of a sudden I was on TV and radio, being interviewed for the major national papers, all of it, and one of the biggest Canadian fashion magazines featured me in a photo shoot (to the Great Amusement of all my friends and family, who know first-hand how fashionable I’m not…)

    Said fashion magazine brought a make-up artist, hair stylist, and wardrobe woman who wheeled in a whole rack of clothing to try on me, finally settling on what I call the “Dave Clark 5″ shirt (flocked velvet, big sleeves, very 60s). I was then put on location with a professional fashion photographer who told me where to sit, how to pose (with my chin on my hand, of course, thus breaking both of Mel Francis’s rules, above), where to direct my gaze, etc., etc.

    When it was all done, after I’d (literally) scraped off the make-up and washed out the hairspray and changed back into my real clothes, I was left with a pretty nice picture that my publishers were thrilled with, even more so because they hadn’t had to pay for it.

    Here’s a small version of that photo: http://www.curtisbrown.co.uk/books/client/user253/

    When I turned 40, though, with my eighth novel going to press, I decided it was time for truth in advertising, so as not to end up like all those real estate agents who still use their photos from the 1970s…

    So I paid for another professional shoot, doing my own hair and wearing my sister’s old jean jacket, looking like Me.

    This is the photo you’ll see at the bottom of my web site’s home page: http://www.susannakearsley.com/

    I sent this newer photo to my publishers. They looked at it, made polite noises, then told me, ‘Thanks very much, really, but we think we’ll just use the one that we have…’

    I chose not to take it personally. But it’s not always the fault of the author, you know.

  50. Tina
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:09:34

    I like the author photos, it personalizes the book for me. When I look up an unknown author, my first click isn’t the “Book” page, but the “About Me” and I hope to see a picture there.

    Funny thing about JR Ward, I spoke a bit with her at RT one time, and if I remember correctly, she said she had to wear the sunglasses because her eyes were sensitive, not because that was her “JR” persona. I’d never seen her Jessica Bird photo until today.

    I like Nora’s JD Robb photo, I want to look at cool someday. :D

    Personally, I hate my picture taken, I’d go more the Lemony Snicket route or do a subtle shot of some sexy shoes on sexy feet that may or may not be me. :)

    PS: Is it just me, or does the link to the Author Talk PJ pics go to a Trashy Wedding picture site?

  51. MD
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:23:51

    Those are all really nice photos.
    But I don’t care.
    When I buy a book, I’m drawn to an evocative cover. I read the blurb and if I like it, I read the first couple of pages. If the writing appeals, I buy the book. It has never occurred to me to look for an author photo. I don’t care what the author looks like or whether the author is male or female. If there’s a good story in the pages, that’s all I’m interested in.

    If given a choice, I’d actually prefer no photo in the book. It reminds me too much of realtor ads. They always have huge glam photos of the realtors and tiny photos of the houses. Talk about obnoxious. It comes across as an ego thing and I find it pretty off-putting. Authors’ photos aren’t as bad as that, but I can do without them just fine.

  52. Jo
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:27:44

    I’ll join the crowd, if an author photo and/or bio are there I’ll look at them if not, I don’t miss them. Blurbs, covers and the 1st few pages are that which make me buy (and sometimes just the author’s name will do).

    With regard to the Nora Roberts photo (the chair one) this is how I imagine her Nadine Furst charachter, from her J D Robb books, to look. I’m a person who can’t visualise so this is the only character I ever ‘see’ when I’m reading – unfortunately Roarke is just a name to me and not a face.

  53. Kristina Cook
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:29:58

    Well, I was a reader for decades before I was a writer, too, and I always liked seeing an author photo–just nosiness, or curiosity, I guess. And I don’t even have a preference, one way or another, between professional pics and candid shots. I’ve certainly never bought a book because of an author photo, but I’ve never NOT bought a book because of one, either.

    An an author, I had a picture made because my publisher asked me to, and basically I use whichever one is decent–I’m SO incredibly unphotogenic that out of 200 shots there might be one or two usable ones.

    I am using a different picture for my new pen name, but not because it has a different look (the second shot was simply the other good one from the same shoot) but just because it’s *different.* So, yeah, I guess it’s a branding issue?

    But I’m so lazy that both times I’ve had ‘author photos’ done, I’ve done them at either RWA Nationals or the RT Convention, where it was easy and I didn’t have to think about it too much.

  54. azteclady
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:36:53

    Very rarely do I feel curious about an author’s life, so the mini bio (and the photograph) are irrelevant to me both in buying and reading.

    Online interaction (both the dreaded batshit crazy and the calm, reasoned, rational, professional behaviours) do have an influence on my buying and reading choices, though.

    Either way–in the book or online–I don’t seek the authors out, because it’s about the work first.

    If that makes any sense :grin:

  55. karmelrio
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:41:28

    Jo said:

    unfortunately Roarke is just a name to me and not a face.

    OT
    “My” Roarke looks a lot like a clean-shaven Johnny Depp – only taller, and with an Irish accent. If an “In Death” movie is ever made, casting Roarke would be quite a challenge, because a lot of us have already formed a distinct image of the character in our minds. This is my problem with book trailers, BTW.

    YMMV.

    EnD OT

  56. Anion
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:42:42

    What’s wrong with putting hands in the photo? I mean, I see a hand-against-cheek pose is a little 70′s teen model, but folded hands under a chin or something? Some of us photograph badly and appear in pics to have double chins when we in fact do not. Some of us have lovely hands that we’d like people to see. :-) Or we have a lucky ring or bracelet or something that makes us smile if we see it in the photo.

    I’m not saying I’m any of the above, necessarily, but I don’t see why having hands in the pic is an automatic no, so I’d love it if someone would explain it to me.

    Oh, and my husband took my author photo, because A) we couldn’t afford a pro and B) the only affordable “pro” in town does those horrible against-a-woodsy-painted-backdrop kinds of things, with a cheap lense that makes everyone’s nose look huge.

  57. Gail Carriger
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:44:40

    I’m influenced by the photo. If it is mundane, I assume the author lacks imagination (or is easily cowed by her editor) and view the book with suspicion. I fought hard for an “eccentric photo” and we will see if the house goes for it. It’s either that, or no photo at all. Luckily my editor is open minded. To that end, I am unlikely to buy a book if the author has a mall-style “glamor shot.” I feel similarly about character names. If the names are boring, I assume the book will be too.

  58. MB (Leah)
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:47:21

    I don’t bother about author’s photos. Of course, if there is one, I am curious.

    What I don’t like is when an author has an outdated photo on a book unless of course the book is old.

    Sometimes it creates the OMG I can't believe that woman who looks just like my grandmother could write such dark characters moment.

    Heh, I read a lot of erotic romance and erotica and it’s happened a few times that I’ve seen an author’s pic, with a husband as well, looking like my grandparents and the ick factor has come in.

    Other times though, I’ll see a pic of an older author who writes hot, steamy sex and think, oh yeah, she knows exactly what she’s talking about, she lived in the 60′s and 70′s when anything went.

    And then there are other times when I’ll read a book with really hot stuff going on and think, wow that author’s so lucky, she must be living such a great, exciting life. And then I see a pic and they look just like me, 50-ish, overweight, and slightly frumpy and I think, oh good, I’m doing fine. Shallow and pathetic of me, yes, but true.

  59. Robin
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:49:13

    Anion: Your comment makes me think we should try to start a trend where *only* author hands are photographed for the book cover. Now that’s a trend I could get into; after all, even with computers and all, the hands still symbolically represent the work of writing.

  60. Mel Francis
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:51:15

    The hand to the face dates the author and therefore in my mind dates the book. It doesn’t mean I won’t buy the book, but it does mean that the book has a lot to overcome to win me over. It’s not fair but it’s really not anything I can help.

    And when I said I have two rules, I should’ve been more clear…those were MY two rules for getting my author shots taken because I have such a strong reaction to those two things personally.

  61. Anion
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:53:08

    Do you know, Robin, I’ve wanted to do that? I think it would be really cool.

    I also wanted to post a pic of my hands on my blog and try to get everyone else to post theirs, and do like a big blog project from it.

  62. Michelle
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 12:57:56

    I don’t really pay much attention, but I have to say I love the long black coat in the J.D. Robb photo.

  63. karmelrio
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 13:01:21

    Yes, I also covet that coat.

  64. Robin
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 13:39:04

    I think it would be really cool.

    I totally agree!

  65. Jessa Slade
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 13:40:30

    Anion, you make me tremble. My nose is already big; now I have fish-eye lenses to look forward to?!?

    Meljean, you mean they don’t buy our books based on our looks? (See comment above.)

    Maybe some of you will find this to be too much, but I think Jessica Anderson’s author pic is the best I’ve ever seen. I’d buy the book based on that photo.

  66. Lori Borrill
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 13:40:54

    My books don’t have author shots either, which is a good thing. They are sexy. My photo would be NOT.

    But as a reader I love them! I mean, why not? I consider it sort of bonus material, like you get on a DVD. And I like knowing what an author looks like. I especially like seeing they are obviously much older than me, because it makes me feel like I’ve got plenty of writing years ahead of me if luck will stay on my side.

    Do I buy books because of them, or somehow like/dislike an author more/less because of what they look like? No. After all, Stephen King and Dean Koontz are two of my favorite authors and…ahem…

  67. Bev Stephans
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 13:46:59

    Generally, I buy a book based on good reviews and/or word-of-mouth. If I like a book, I’ll go to the author’s website to get a little background. As for author photos taking up the back cover, I don’t really care.

    It is interesting to see the different author photos over the years. If you collect a certain author, you can start with their early works and move forward. If they are best-sellers, they go from ‘submit a photo’ to ‘professional photo shoot’.

  68. Val Kovalin
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:02:20

    Author photographs aren’t a necessity for me as a reader, but I like them when they’re present. It probably helps me to like an author that much more when I can place a face to the words. The more normal and pleasant they look, the better (i.e., they don’t have to get glamorous).

    I can understand why authors want their work to stand for itself and may resent the extra attention that the young and glamorous get from their photos. But it’s a fact that a glamorous young photo can sometimes pick up its own momentum for the author. That’s what happened with Truman Capote’s come-hither photo (taken by Harold Halma) on the book-jacket of Other Voices Other Rooms in 1947.

    Addition: link to photo in next comment

  69. Val Kovalin
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:03:41

    Truman Capote photo: 1947 by Harold Halma photo on the back of Other Voices, Other Rooms

  70. JulieLeto
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:06:05

    I like author photos–I always have. I just like to put a name with a face. That said, I hate having my picture taken. My first author photo was the Glamour shot (it was over 13 years ago!), but I haven’t used that in years. The one on my website is about six years old and though my hair is different (straight now instead of curly) I haven’t changed the photo. My new books have my new photos with straight hair, but I’m not crazy about them. They do look like me…but they’re boring, IMO. But they show my face and they’re friendly and I’m a friendly person, so hey, they’re fine until I find something better.

    My favorite pick of me is up at Plotmonkeys. I’m sitting at a restaurant with friends with a bright blue martini in front of me. Yup, that’s me.

  71. SonomaLass
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:19:30

    Count me in the human curiosity category — I like to know what an author looks like. Especially if I’m reading a lot of his/her books; I know what most of my favorite authors look like, and I do think of them as people, aside from the characters in their books. (People I admire and respect for how hard they work and how good their work is, and to whom I am beyond grateful for how their books have enriched my life.) I also really like it when the era of the photo matches the era of the book — as in, this is an 80s Nora Roberts book, and you can tell by the adorable photo!

    That said, there are obviously some pitfalls here. There’s a double standard of “attractiveness” by gender already in our culture, and it bothers me that it might affect book sales. Especially if people are put off by the idea of someone “unattractive” writing books that are romantic and sexy — and that’s going to cut against a woman more than a man. So romance is the genre where a writer is more likely to be at a disadvantage if photos are mandatory, because you can have a fertile imagination, a brilliant sense of plot and character, and mad word-working skills, and not fit any mold that our culture thinks of as attractive.

    One of my all-time favorite authors was a woman who didn’t meet said standards (and who wrote some of her best stuff when she was old, overweight and had health problems that affected her looks). I knew that (and it didn’t bother me in the slightest), but I bet a lot of people who bought her books didn’t, and I wonder what the effect would have been of having an accurate photo of her on the book.

  72. Daria
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:42:03

    I like to think that I don’t care how writer looks, and for the most part I don’t. It happened ones, and only ones, that I have bought the book based on the look of the writer. I was looking at the mystery section of the bookstore and I had few contenders I was looking at. Ones I flipped to the back of the book and saw the picture of the writer I thought to myself that I would like to see what this person has to say. She was not hot by any stretch of imagination, at lest not to me. No need to say I bought her book and all the rest since then. Since than I do look at the photos, but more often than not I have to force myself to get over them and buy the book anyway, because I’m not really sure that I want to know what this person has to say, but that blurb on the last page is irresistible. So everyone, keep writing irresistible blurbs.

  73. Chrissy
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:48:37

    It always cracks me up to see authors use the same publicity photo for well over 10 years. I will not name names, but COME ON!! I buy ALL your books and I know for a fact that photo is OOOOLD.

    Me, personally, I would be crushed to do a signing and have nobody recognize me. I even updated my blog pic when I was bald. I was bald. So was my photo. I’ve got my hair back, and re-did the photo on facebook and twitter so people can see ME the way I look NOW.

    *shrug*

  74. shenan
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:51:57

    What attracts me to a book —

    If I am in a store, the first thing that gets my attention is the title. If a title is unimaginative, I assume the story is as well. So I generally don’t even pick up a book with a lame title. Covers don’t generally attract me to a book, although they can turn me off one. Once I pick up a book, I go straight to the back cover. (Count me among those who hate author pics that take up the back cover. And worse is when there is no blurb anywhere to be found, with the front of the book taken up with pages of reviews. If I don’t know what a book is about, why in the world would I buy it??) Then I check out the first page.

    Otherwise, I rely on reviews. Reader reviews. Author recommendations or reviews do nothing for me.

    As for photos — I prefer my own vision of what an author looks like. If I even bother to wonder at all.

    As for author branding or promotion — I read for the story, never for the author. So an author can only turn me off books, never on to them.

  75. Chantal
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:53:45

    I love author photos.
    Have you seen Breanda Joyce? She is beautiful, so stunning.

    I like to know what an author what looks. Will it make me buy her book? Maybe.
    I can’t say for sure.

  76. Ann Bruce
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:53:48

    Have no desire to know what the author looks like. If the author looks too much like her heroine, it kind of ruins the story for me because I keep picturing the author in the story *cough* LKH…JAK *cough* …and that’s one of the reasons I’ve been skipping sex scenes in a lot of books.

    If I ever do an author pic, it’ll be a stickwoman pic…but Jane already ran with the idea. :( Plan B is getting a comic book artist to superhero-tize me.

  77. Karen Scott
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:53:59

    It’s nice to know what authors look like, but I can’t say it’s something I look for in every book.

    Asked another way, do looks really matter in the publishing field?

    It doesn’t really matter to me, but I bet it makes a difference to the publishers.

    Listen, homely authors will still get published if they write good (and not so good) books, but I truly believe that an attractive author is more likely to get a ton of free marketing based on his/her looks alone.

    I remember when Diana Peterfreund’s debut book was released a while ago, that she was literally everywhere. She got television interviews, major magazines covered her story etc, and I recall cynically wondering at the time, if she’d have had as much press attention, if she’d been dog ugly.

    The fact is, looks are often used as part of a marketing strategy, in terms of a branding etc, and I can’t see it being any different in publishing.

  78. rebyj
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 14:59:57

    I thought the author photo was so their families would remember what they looked like!

    I’m with everyone else on the photo taking up the back cover. I HATE that when I come across an author I haven’t read and I turn the paperback over to read a synopsis and instead find the author pic. I’ve set down many books and not bought them because I had no idea what the book was about. The cover and 3 line blurb on front isn’t going to convince me and I’m not psychic enough to use ESP to figure out what the plot is about.

  79. LizJ
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 15:06:57

    Author photos don’t make an impact on me at all, unless they’re unusually cheesy. I am getting tired of the edgy, goth-ish paranormal/urban fantasy poses, though – especially if the author can’t pull it off (hopefully no one ever will force, for example, Charlaine Harris and/or Stephenie Meyer into doing those kind of shots).

  80. joanne
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 15:18:29

    Truman Capote photo: 1947 by Harold Halma photo on the back of Other Voices, Other Rooms

    I could cry every time I see that picture and compare it to the last time I saw him in New York. God, he was so freakin’ pretty as a young man.

    Yes, I also covet that coat.

    I lusted. I turned green. I cried myself to sleep for two nights about changing my (personal, for me, cripes don’t hunt me down)decision about wearing leather. My only consolation was that it would look “rounder” on me…..

    I had a picture of Shiloh that someone sent me from a signing. She looks like a person, nothing sinister at all, really, honestly.

    J.R. Ward doesn’t take herself seriously (it seems) and compares herself to a giraffe … again, I’m “rounder” but I get that the grass is often greener.

    Authors pix: If they want to, why not. If they don’t their choice.

    But I’m curious about those who voted that they are partial to a certain phenotypical characteristic..

  81. Miki
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 15:34:03

    I’m nosy, I like to look…after I’ve read the book. And while I think some of the photos are tragic, they don’t affect my purchasing habits.

    Like MB (Leah), I am sometimes uncomfortably surprised to read something hot and spicy and turn the page to see some white-haired woman in pin-curls. It’s not the age so much as the style.

    I also hate the glamour shots, but unlike many of the other posters here, I don’t like the “in character” shots. Until I started reading more online (like here and SB) and learned how little authors have to say on their book covers, I always took those “in character” shots as authors have way too much ego! Now they just make me roll my eyes. I don’t want to see Nora Roberts dressed up like Eve Dallas. (Or any other author, but since the cover was used as an example, it’s fresh in my mind).

    Oh – and you mention “coy, over-the-shoulder shots”? Um…I always took those to be a photographer trick to hide the appearance of double chins. I had to have a picture taken for work…he had me leaning so far forward on the stool I almost fell off! But when I got the pictures – wow! My chin hasn’t looked that firm in years!

  82. theo
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 15:34:18

    My question after reading all of these posts is:

    If the authors are ambivalent at best about the pics (the majority said they’re the least photogenic person in the world which, sadly to say, is a spot reserved by ME! :-P ) and the readers can take or leave them for the most part, shouldn’t someone maybe forward a copy of this thread to the larger houses, so they can see that the entire back cover devoted to their author’s wonderful mug might not be the brightest idea in the box when it comes to selling books? Because I don’t buy without a back blurb usually either unless it’s an author I’ve read several times and I’m seeing most here tend not to at all if the back is only the author’s picture…

    Just wondering.

  83. Chicklet
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 15:51:23

    Here’s a random question that didn’t occur to me until now: Do ebooks (Kindle and otherwise) contain author photos? What about *color* covers, and not black-and-white? So when you’re buying ebooks, you’re bypassing the visual marketing and going straight for the blurb/excerpt or buying based on a review. Hmmmm.

  84. Entwhistle
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 15:54:09

    A minority, and fairly extreme opinion: As a reader, I can’t stand author photos or bios. Not because I dislike authors at all, but because it’s so important for me that the work stand on its own. It’s like seeing the hands that hold the marionette strings; it breaks the magic. There have been several authors whose work I had enjoyed, but have since learned things about them personally that made it impossible to continue to enjoy their work. Just can’t separate the creator from the creation, I guess, but leaving out all of the personal stuff on the book covers would certainly help. A website address is OK, though.

  85. Mary Winter
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 16:33:38

    When I first got published I went to Sears and paid $29.99 for a lovely basic photo package. Something nice, professional, and CHEAP. LOL! Now, I’m just as likely to throw a picture my mom took of me and my horse or something, since it’s the “real” me and the most up to date one. Of course, I could use the one of me on the couch watching tv, and the one moment in time when all (then) five cats chose to snooze on/around me, just to reinforce the idea of the author and all her cats. LOL!!!!

  86. Karin
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 18:52:20

    I don’t really care about the author photo either way. Having it there or not does not have any influence whatsoever on whether or not I buy the book. I prefer books where the back cover has a blurb instead of an author photo, but I will look inside the cover for a blurb if the author photo is on the outside instead. I pretty much ignore the photo after I see it, though, and never give it a second though, or look.

  87. Roxanne St. Claire
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 19:05:47

    I would have responded sooner but I spent the day at a photo shoot and, dang, that Glock is heavy after a few hours.

  88. rose
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 21:13:31

    Is that supposed to J. D. Robb on the back of the In Death series?
    I thought it was supposed to be Eve.

  89. Catherine
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 21:16:06

    Even though this is a hot button for me I didn’t vote in the poll because none of the answers fit for me – an author photo can convince me NOT to buy the book (especially the back cover “spread” that eliminates the blurb).

    Lisa Selin Davis, author of Belly, suggested that ”Most of us, as we're reading, flip back and forth between the text and the picture, trying to imagine the person in the photo in the midst of writing,” she says. “And most of us are drawn to beauty-’more interested in folks who are attractive.”

    This is absolutely not true for me – in fact if I did this I would never finish a book! I read to immerse myself in a book – the last thing I need to do is add more distraction. Life, punctuation, my biases, my cynicism – all these things conspire against my enjoyment of a book. Maybe if I read autobiographies, or exercise books or travel books I might be like Davis and would need that author picture to complete my experience of the book.

    Author pictures as marketing … the more I think about it, the more I think they are aimed at a different kind of book buyer – the kind in a rush or stuck at the airport or in the line at a grocery store. Who has seen the picture on the back of book because that’s what everybody else is reading on the subway and buys the book on impulse.

    I’m not that kind of consumer. I read reviews and excerpts and buy based on that. I still browse in bookstores and buy if the blurb intrigues me. But more and more, I buy ebooks. I love having tons of reading material at my fingertips – I love having the author’s entire backlist with me as I’m reading the latest.

    I think the author photo is increasingly a relic but that could be wishful thinking on my part.

  90. Ciar Cullen
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 21:24:22

    I think the first author photo I ever noticed was Nora Roberts. She looked normal, and friendly. I liked that. It went with my mental picture of someone who would write those books I liked so much. That was a long time ago. And then Terry Pratchett, cause he just looked so damned charming. I really wanted to know what he looked like. I think there are a very few authors who intrigue me enough to care.

    And I have a hand on face shot. Which is reprehensible, because a friend took that, and I’ve been too lazy to have my photographer husband (who does portraits) do another.

  91. DS
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 21:39:42

    @Susanna Kearsley: I thought your name looked familiar. I really enjoyed Shadowy Horses and Named of the Dragon. I think I’ve read others but those are the two I remember best. And only one book in a Kindle edition. I would love to have the rest available for download.

  92. Lissa
    Nov 11, 2008 @ 22:55:00

    I like an author photo – but a small one on the inside back cover with a small blurb about the author is sufficient. I would not buy or not buy a book based on an author photo. I agree too with those who said that the author photo on the back cover in lieu of a blurb is frustrating.

    I do have to say that I prefer just a small, studio headshot to other photos. I find it comical, sad, and somewhat demeaning both to the author and to the story when the author photo is made to somehow represent the heroine of the series. Sorry Miss Roberts – I am pointing to your JD Robb shots in the long leather coat here. Patricia Cornwall’s photo’s became more and more a caricature of Kay Scarpetta the longer that series went on and I found it to be a sad statement about the author. I suppose that it was more a publisher decision rather than an author decision, but given that the photo is of the author, it leaves an impression with the reader that the author is projecting herself into the book, and not in a good way.

  93. Nora Roberts
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 04:33:40

    ~I am pointing to your JD Robb shots in the long leather coat here~

    Hey, it’s my coat! Which I love, deeply. If I’d wanted to represent Eve, I’d have had to lose a couple of decades, a whole lot of weight, cut my hair and dye it brown.

    Actually, I wouldn’t mind doing the first two.

    Nora

  94. Ann Somerville
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 05:16:37

    Nora, if you’re going to ask us to believe you have a weight problem, I’m going to cry.

    It’s unfair that you look so damn good, as well as all your other talents.

  95. Mireya
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 06:24:17

    Frankly, I’ve never cared about authors’ pictures in books, I don’t look for them and I don’t care one way or another if they are in the book or not. If I want to learn more about the author, I look for a website. Speaking of, that is something that peeves me in this day and age of internet: when an author that interested me enough to go look for a website, does not have a website… and worse, when the author has one but never bothers to update it. Now THAT really annoys me.

  96. Jana Oliver
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 09:27:22

    Ah, the update problem. I had the best picture of my life taken five years ago. Fabulous. Made me look great. Now I don’t look like that anymore since I have (ahem) gained a few pounds. A lot of pounds, actually. So the “diva” side of me wants to keep using that wonderful photo where the “realist” side says, “Give it up, babe! Who are you kidding?” Sigh.

    So one of these days I will have to suck it up, get another photo and hope the photographer is as talented as the one from 2003 (who is no longer in business). Truth in packaging, I guess. At least I still have my red hair.

  97. Jaci Burton
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 13:41:38

    I had one of those professional photos taken (for my website) a couple years ago. Hated it. Cheesy. This year we had family pictures taken at a gorgeous garden spot, so I had the photographer take a shot of me because it’s more natural, more me. The most interesting thing in the picture is the daylily and the concrete deer behind me. Heh.

    And come on, Rocki. The Glock’s not that heavy. Were you carrying extra clips? ;-)

    I also think Nora should have her picture updated annually. Wearing different shoes each year. Not that I in any way covet Nora’s shoe collection. ;-)

  98. theo
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 14:11:21

    Shoes?

    Ooooh…shoes! I Love shoes!

    As long as Miss Roberts wears that leather coat, she can update her picture every week. I really like that coat ;-)

  99. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 14:22:37

    The most interesting thing in the picture is the daylily and the concrete deer behind me. Heh.

    Most interesting thing about the one I do use (under duress) is that I’m blue. :)

    I personally heart Nora’s coat. Not so much on shoes, but I love the coat. And I don’t wanna hear her talking about losing weight either.

  100. Shiloh Walker
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 14:29:22

    I want Nora’s coat. It wouldn’t fit me, though.

    Since we’re all talking about our pics… the one I have of me that I will use (under duress) is blue. Or rather, I’m blue. *G* That’s why I like it.

  101. Lissa
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 14:37:13

    It is a lovely picture and I am sure a lovely coat – but surely you can see the confusion here –

    description of Eve: tall, slender, short brown hair, works in New York City, wears long black leather coat.

    description of Miss Roberts: tall, slender, short brown hair, backdrop in picture in question – New York City, wearing long black leather coat.

    Just sayin.

    Either way – the point of my comment was not that the picture in any way shapes my opinion of the book, but rather it shapes my opinion of the author and for that reason, I prefer to see a just a plain picture of the author in a natural setting. Love the picture of Miss Roberts in the chair with the great shoes – she looks like an author to me there, not like she is trying to portray the character from the books.

  102. JulieLeto
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 14:47:50

    Who DOESN’T want Nora’s coat? I’ve coveted that coat since I first saw that picture (which, btw, is gorgeous.)

    There is little reason for this girl from Florida to own such a coat…but damn.

    BTW, I never even thought about the authors trying to look like their characters. I saw the pictures more as a representation of theme and voice. I could never look like my heroines…though a few have red hair, most are much taller, much thinner and much more beautiful. And that’s okay by me!

  103. theo
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 15:00:36

    Julie, I can send you snow! Yup, sure can! From Michigan. Then you’d have a reason for the coat :)

    And is anyone else having posting trouble?

    OH! And did I mention shoes? Love shoes ;-)

  104. Nora Roberts
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 15:44:55

    description of Miss Roberts: tall, slender, short brown hair, backdrop in picture in question – New York City, wearing long black leather coat.

    Well, thank you. Sincerely. But at 5’4″ nobody would call me tall. And while I’m not . . . chunky, I’m not slender either. I have red hair, not brown.

    But it’s flattering, really, to have anyone look at my picture and perceive I’m portraying Eve. Since I’m old enough to be her mama! (Ouch.)

    Nora

  105. Melissa
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 17:01:02

    I’m with the majority- not really fussed about author photos. I do like it when they include a little bit about themselves though, so you can kinda relate to them. I guess I sometimes try and imagine the author writing the story, and I make up a picture in my mind of what they look like, then when i eventually finish the story and see the photo it’s strange seeing someone completely different. This always happens to me when I read Sherrilyn Kenyon cus some of the things she writes just don’t match up with her photo! I guess i have to get over that though, not every writer is going to look like the characters in their stories, probably most don’t.

  106. RfP
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 21:38:57

    I can understand why authors want their work to stand for itself and may resent the extra attention that the young and glamorous get from their photos. But it's a fact that a glamorous young photo can sometimes pick up its own momentum for the author.

    Anything that sounds like jealousy from other authors is off-putting, but more importantly, I think it says something unfortunate about the way we judge achievement. If an author isn’t beautiful, is she ill-qualified to write romance? If her photo’s ordinary, is her writerly imagination lacking? If she’s young, has she not put in her time in the trenches? If she looks good, is that why her books sell?

    Take the flap about Marisha Pessl. From Sarah Weinman’s blog:

    we’ve got the many of the necessary ingredients for being news-worthy: Pessl is young, she’s female, and her book sold in the mid-to-high six-figure range with lucrative foreign rights sales. But that’s not all!

    For Pessl, you see, is an “actor, writer and dancer,” who has acted in a “surreal adaptation of Edward Albee’s Lolita, in which she appeared as a mechanical doll,” and who studied English and creative writing at Columbia. But that’s still not all!

    Because — as I’m sure you’ve likely guessed by now — she’s the latest in a long, long line to suffer from “Hot Young Author Chick” Syndrome. I mean, look at that face (after scrolling down a bit.)

    Putting down another author’s interests is an odd way to criticize the publishing world. They’re not even that unusual a combination of interests. Would Pessl be more acceptable if she were older or couldn’t dance?

    And Jennifer Weiner, on Salon.com:

    For me, 2006 marked the lamentable triumph of style over substance. Designated PYT Marisha Pessl’s much-hyped debut came tap-dancing in, all bells and whistles (and footnotes, and illustrations). There may have been a strong brew underneath, but I couldn’t get through the froth.

    That may be a fair review, or it may also be part of a pattern of hating on uppity young female writers. That “designated PYT” sneer is what puts the doubt in my mind.

    As it happens, I enjoyed Pessl’s debut novel, though I wouldn’t argue with those who find it self-indulgent or ornate. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to debate it within a framing that says youth and/or attractiveness means lack of literary merit:

    Attractive photo > Book contract must be based on photo > Book must suck

    (BTW, Pessl’s editor says her face wasn’t part of their strategy, not that that would convince her critics.)

  107. Jane
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 21:44:21

    @RfP: I think its rich that Weiner sneers at the looks of Pressl given that Weiner’s own book ultimately celebrates the triumph of style over substance. At the end of her debut work, Good in Bed, the fat girl gets the guy only after she loses weight.

  108. Michelle
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 22:10:09

    When I look at the J.D. Robb photo I just think Nora Roberts looks “cool/awesome”. I don’t get the feeling she is trying to channel Eve Dallas.

    But for those who drool over the coat like I did here is a great site that even custom fits if you give them your measurements: http://www.leatherattractions.com/productadetail.php?proid=139&catid=3

  109. RfP
    Nov 12, 2008 @ 22:28:54

    Jane, I’ve had mixed reactions to Weiner’s books. They’re better written than the subject matter suggests–it’s not just a dumb-fat-girl story. But yeah, I’m not sure whether the moral of the story is shallow, as you suggest, or it’s the brutal truth of the way the world works, or just that her characters really, truly loathe themselves. Regardless, I agree that she doesn’t seem to have the higher moral ground!

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