Should it matter what I look like? I’m a writer, and what I do is make up stories with characters in them.  My books should speak for themselves.  My physical appearance should be immaterial.

          And yet.  Over and over again I am asked for photographs of me.  It might be publicity shots for events I’m involved in, local newspapers and of course there’s also the online world – it just does not look right to have a Twitter or Facebook profile without a photo.  Don’t you just hate those blank-egg shapes that Twitter bestows on those of us too shy or private to post up a mugshot?  Though I’ve chosen not to have my photo along with the cover of my e-book, Good Recipes and Bad Women, it’s there on my Amazon page.

          So.  What makes a good author shot?  Ought one to look young and sexy?  Surely not, as these qualities – as desirable as they are – don’t necessarily make a good author. 
The interesting truth about authors is that they look just like you and me ;). Before I became a writer myself, I always used to suffer massive anticlimax when I met a favourite author because – oh my God – they looked like PEOPLE!  Someone you could bump into at the supermarket!  That heavy thump you just heard is an idol crashing to the ground.
          Yet our image is marketable, it would seem.  Publishers spend a lot of money getting the right author shot. So we e-book writers also need to put some thought into it.  Publishers tend to favour the head propped on hand look, as if our thoughts are too weighty for a mere mortal. 

          Glasses are a very good idea – too many hours spent intelligently poring over manuscripts and books leads to poor eyesight – authors with glasses are for real!   

          A somewhat dreamy expression works well too.  Or just pick one where you look really young.

Never choose a cheesy grin – or work with animals.

Is it worth dressing up?  Yes – but choose the clothes carefully.

I know a lot of authors keep changing their author pictures.  I do this a little because I am addicted to new haircuts and feel obliged to keep my readers up to date. 

           Having said that, I have been guilty of over-using the odd photo which I felt flattered me.
          I guess readers do like to know what you look like, and I have certainly sought out images of authors who have interested me.
          So yes – it probably is worth taking some care over this.  Not too much care.  If you regularly update your author shot, your readers just might be spending their time keeping up with you rather than your books.
          Remember – your face is your fortune!


Lydia Bennet said…
some writers (often poets) keep using photos many years, even decades, out of date: this strategy actually works, as critics keep calling them 'angry young...' and 'bright new...' when they are pushing fifty! The shock comes when you meet them face to face, and have to hide your reaction!
Bill Kirton said…
I like the 'oh my God – they looked like PEOPLE!' reaction, Sherry. As I read, though, I couldn't help thinking of the Calendar Girls and the Firemen Calendar. It worked for them. So maybe an 'Electric Authors Electric' photoshoot. (NB. I will definitely not be available, even if the shoot's in Barbados.)
Susan Price said…
Yes, yes, a nudie Authors Electric calendar! I knew there was something we were missing. With carefully arranged books, PCs and e-readers... And there's one of us for nearly every day of the month. Group photos on the other days. Which of us is good with a camera?
Bill says he won't be available, but I bet he could be persuaded...
Lydia Bennet said…
great idea, we can use kindles, cats, pc mice, etc to cover our embarassment. and mugs of (not too hot) coffee/tea!
madwippitt said…
A noody calendar? Sorry, but my official body doubles for all PR shots say that they won't get out of their beds for less than 10,000 gravy bones, and certainly won't take their fleecy jackets off in this weather ...
Hmmm, "publishers spend a lot of money getting the right author shot?" The publicity shot in the back of my latest book was taken in my back garden on the self-timer setting of my digital camera.

I once did a 5-hour photo shoot with the Daily Mail in which I got to wear a glamorous white ballgown and sparkly sandals, and someone transformed my face and hair until even my own mother didn't recognise me! (But I wasn't pushing fifty then, of course...)

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