Monday, September 20, 2010

Does What an Author Looks Like Make a Difference? by Morgan Mandel

Just wondered -
Does What an Author Looks Like Make a Difference? If you flipped over a book to the back cover and didn't like the author's picture, would you put the book down and not buy it?

When I have extra time, I watch Great American Country, where I can see what the song artists actually look like. Sometimes the sight doesn't jive with my mental picture of whom the voice should belong to, and I wish I hadn't seen the artist. When that happens, I try to ignore the looks and remind myself it's the song that counts. It's not alway easy to do that.

I know lots of authors go to great lengths to get glam shots, so maybe they figure looks do play a part in whether or not their book is purchased. Or it could be they don't want to get embarrassed by not looking their best, and it has nothing to do with whether or not the picture will sell the book.

 What do you think?


Morgan Mandel
http://myfearlist.blogspot.com/
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com/

37 comments:

Charmaine Clancy said...

I don't personally think an authors picture would put me off or make me want to read a book, but I can totally understand not wanting a bad picture of yourself out there in print for all time (well, for the life of the book). I couldn't go the total glam look, I'd feel uncomfortable, but would probably go a soppy casual pic with my dog :-)

Mary said...

The author's picture doesn't influence me. I would wonder if he/she looked as if they fell off a hobo train if I would trust the writing.
I admit names do catch my eye. Not whether they are famous but if the name sounds like a regular person or a show-off.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I'm not sure whether an author's looks affect sales but I think maybe publishers are more inclined to publish attractive writers than ones who aren't, hoping that buyers will be attracted to them.

P.A.Brown said...

I go to great lengths to keep my picture off the book. I have one on my web site, but not on the home page. Aside from the fact I've never liked photos of me, I also don't think I 'look' like a hard boiled crime writer.

On a personal level, I don't think I'm influenced by looks, but maybe subliminally I am.

Terry Odell said...

Interesting - only one of my publishers uses author photos, and I didn't want to scare small children with the picture, but I can't say I've ever been influenced in the buying or reading by what an author looks like.

Terry
Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Helen Ginger said...

I don't think an author's look affects whether I buy the book, but I can understand that it might for some. And authors do try to make their mugshot fit the book or genre, I think.

Helen

Beverly said...

The author's pic doesn't influence whether I read the book or not, but I do like to know what the author looks like. I prefer a natural shot to a glam shot. Always thought Robert Parker's leather jacket and dog were over the top--although I guess it told me something about him.

Fiona said...

I don't want readers to ever confuse me with the characters I write, so I try to keep my pictures to a minimum. I have one on my website, and that's the same one I used for my FB page. As a reader, I find that the picture does influence my enjoyment of the book. I'd rather NOT know what my favorite authors look like!

Robin Spano said...

I like an author who looks like a nice person with some depth. I don't care if I think they're attractive or if they're shown riding their horse by the seaside or anything, but I want their eyes to be warm and smiling. I think Louise Penny has some great author shots that do just this.

lavada Dee said...

Really an interesting topic. In the things I've read it's recommended to get a 'professional' even a glamor shot but I'm with Charmaine. I wouldn't feel comfortable with a glam look. I try to pick a photo that is flattering but not being photogenic that isn't so easy.

As far as a picture influencing me purchasing a book, No, I go for the writing and get so lost in a good story I don't care what the author looks like.

Cheryl said...

This is definitely an interesting question. I rarely look at the author's photo before purchasing a book. As someone who works in online book promotion, I wish all authors had at least one good photo on their website, as I feel it does allow potential readers to get to know you. I also, however, understand the fear of not living up to a certain image.

Once I'm ready to read a book, I'll turn to the back to see the author's photo and read his/her bio.

Ginger Simpson said...

I doubt I would be influenced by the author's picture, although I might be surprised. I remember the RT conference I went to, and meeting some of the best "romance" authors there left me with a gaping mouth.

As for my own pics...I tried the glamor shot route after I lost a ton of weight and I looked like a hooker with the big red boa they hung around my neck.I try to steer clear of cameras, but I've finally realized that for an old broad...I don't look so bad...according to the pictures I've seen at http://www.peopleofwalmart.com/ *smile*

Mark W. Danielson said...

Fortunately, writers are in the background, thus their words tend to speak for themselves. I can't think of a single reputable author where I've been drawn to the book because of the author's appearance. In the case of celebrity books, appearance is critical -- even to the point of air brushing and computer trimming. Glad I don't fall into that category -- I'd never sell a book.

Jim (and Karen) Overturf said...

People get confused about Jim, anyway... If they read about Kurt Maxxon in one of the mysteries, they'd have no trouble distinguishing Kurt from Jim... but let Jim give out a business card with KurtMaxxonRacing.com in bright red at the top, and Jim is "Kurt". When I leaned over to pity Jim one day, over the man's not remembering his name, he laughed. "At least they remember Kurt Maxxon..."

Mark Troy said...

I personally think every author should follow Dylan Thomas's lead in "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog," and put a dog on the cover. Or maybe a squirrel, or whatever inner animal they connect wit.

Celia Yeary said...

MORGAN! Never. An author's looks aren't important, but I absolutely love to see a photo of an author. Having said that, I will now say, please do not use a photo that's ten years old, and I'd rather not see a photo that's digitally enhanced to make you glamorous. A professional photo, yes, is great--just make sure it looks like YOU. Then I will love you--Celia

Mary Jo Powell said...

I don't think I would accept or reject a book based on what the writer looks like, but what I do look for in an author's picture is context. Not head shots. a picture of the writer with his/her dogs/cats/majestic manor house/whatever give me some idea of what he/she is like and an inkling if someone surrounded by kitties is going to write a good dog mystery.

Dorothy Thompson said...

If I hear about a book and go to purchase it, it's very rare that I look at what the author looks like, but unfortunately, publishers and promoters do take great pains to put their authors in the best light and put more effort into this. Representing authors myself, I do see where it bothers authors to put up pictures they aren't comfortable with but are there any of us comfortable with our own pictures? I personally like glam pictures for back of books, but I had one author who wrote a book about hiking in the Appalachians and his author photo was him standing on a cliff with the mountains in the background. I loved it. I think they make great author photos when the author can bring in some element of the book.

Patricia Harrington said...

I like Mark Troy's suggestion about having a dog, not substituting for the author, but taking the main frame. I don't judge the book by the "cover" or author's photo. On the other hand, vanity does reign and I'd like to have a nice looking pix of myself. Congrentially smiling . . . 'cause that makes people feel nicer.

Cheers,

Pat Harrington,
Coming January, Winter's Soul (a gothic mystery) Museitup Publishing, January

Patti said...

I used to work in radio and would have people come to the station and would say either "I pictured you like this or this but you're different ("I thought you were much taller") OR they'd say, "Yeah, you're pretty much what I pictured" LOL! So it happens outside of publishing and in most of entertainment. I still picture singers in my own head but after I've seen them several times, I get used to what they look like! As far as book photos, I'd rather see the author as is first off so that I'm not freaked later LOL!

Morgan Mandel said...

Not naming names, I remember going to a book signing once and was totally surprised by what the author looked like. That's because the glam shot on her book made her look much different than she actually was.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com
http://myfearlist.blogspot.com

Suzanne said...

To paraphrase the singer Susan Boyle, "This isn't a beauty contest."

Suzanne Adair

Keena Kincaid said...

Hi, Morgan. I don't think what the author looks like has never affected my decision to purchase (or not) the book.

That said, a friend of mine casually mentioned once that every time she read of my books, she pictured me a the heroine regardless of what the actual heroine looked like. I was appalled and now wonder if strangers who see my photo also put my face on the heroine.

Debra St. John said...

I personally don't buy or not buy a book based on what an author looks like.

And I really hope others don't either, because I don't use an author photo at all. (I try to keep my "real life" separate from my writing life.)

Maggie Toussaint said...

Hi Morgan,

I can't speak for all authors, but I paid to have a nicer photo of me taken once I became a published author for the same reason I dress nicely for special occassions. I want people to see that I take this seriously.

I'm always curious as to what an author looks like, but I don't make my buying decisions based on the pic.

Great topic!

Maggie
http://mudpiesandmagnolias.blogspot.com/

Mike Dennis said...

I've commented on this topic before on another blog. Essentially, I believe that an author doesn't necessarily have to look like a character out of his/her genre, but he/she should definitely not look very much UNLIKE those characters.

A scary example would be a photo of Soupy Sales on the back of a dark noir novel. Scarier still would be a photo of Charles McGraw, in full trenchcoat regalia, on the back of a lighthearted cozy.

Writing4u said...

Having three books published in hardcopy, I have gone through the headshot scene and come out alive. I always felt I had the perfect face for radio but somehow, my visage seems to have passed muster on a book cover and on a blog. If you are both curious and brave, you can see me at:

http://members.authorsguild.net/trachtenburg/

I do not believe that the author's looks have any negative impact on sales though it can have a positive one on book signings! I know for a "fact" that many people who attend signings can't or don't read but they go to meet a famous or infamous writer and get to press the flesh!

Me? My personality was always my "face" and it has always served to gain me trust and attention. Perhaps it is the fangs and green drool.

But seriously, I feel my career which was very public has not been harmed by the fact that I do not look like Robert Redford, Brad Pitt or even Will Ferrell. But then again, I always believed that most of the people who believe they are God's gift, really aren't all that much to write home about.

Ricky Bush said...

By golly, I think that this post touched a nerve--based on the number of comments.

Anonymous said...

The author's picture does not affect my purchases. I cannot believe it really would for anyone who reads. In an era when experienced & talented screenwriters had to sue over age discrimination, it is understandable that authors would be very fearful about things like this.

--Brenda

jenny milchman said...

Definitely wouldn't influence me--it's writing, not modeling--and I've often been glad that being an author doesn't have the limited shelf life of an actor or dancer. I think a smile or friendly expression might do something, although with mystery/suspense writers maybe we want more of a glower!

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I had a glamor shot done for one of my first books and as the years went by, it certainly didn't look much like me.

Mow, I just get photos taken here and there, and the ones I really like I use for book covers, etc.

Marilyn

Morgan Mandel said...

Like Marilyn, I got glam shots done with my first book, one of which I used today. Most of the time I use shots from writer's events or other happenings for a more personal feel to the picture.

Morgan Mandel
http://myfearlist.blogspot.com
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Sally_Odgers said...

If you read Elizabeth Peters' Jaqueline Kirby mysteries, you'll probably know the one where she goes to a writers' gathering and discovers quite a few of the glamour-pusses are fronts for the REAL authors. In the fictional world appearances must matter.

Sally_Odgers said...

If you read Elizabeth Peters' Jaqueline Kirby mysteries, you'll probably know the one where she goes to a writers' gathering and discovers quite a few of the glamour-pusses are fronts for the REAL authors. In the fictional world appearances must matter.

Jane Toombd said...

As a readerr I don't care what my favorite authors look like--it's their writing that keeps me reading them. But as an author, I'd hate to have a goopy photo of me out there. So I paid a professional photgrapher. Her advice prior to the shoot was priceless: Wear long sleeves, arms don't look good. Have a natural-looking hair-do even if a hair-dresser does it. Use make up, even if you don't ordinarily use it, but keep it toned down. Wear colors that flatter you and not with busy pattered material. The result was an ageless photo that I'll probably use foreve. I may not look young in it, but I certainly don't look like the old bat I am either. Jane

Donna Fletcher Crow said...

An author's appearance isn't important, but knowing something about an author can affecct one's view. for example, I had been a long-standing admirer or historical novelist Rosemary Sutcliffe. When I learned how depserately disabled she was my respect doubled. I still find it impossible to imagine how someone so disabled could have managed the enormous research that went into her excellent novels.

Morgan Mandel said...

Thanks for the great response to my question!

Morgan