The Delicate Art of the Author Photo
December 20, 2010 § 14 Comments
So you’ve spent the past year locked up in your tower with the door firmly barred, pouring your tortured soul forth onto the page. Your plot is perfect, your characters delectable and your prose is positively the most delicious collection of sentences ever to grace the literate world. You’ve consumed approximately a billion cups of coffee/tea during your anguished artist’s process, and your teeth are of a colour to match. Your hair or beard has grown down to the floor and it feels like a decade since you last had a manicure. (Maybe it even is).
But it’s finished! The glowing manuscript of gloriousness lies before you, ready to submit to your publisher. Your work is done. There are a few details like editing, typesetting and so on to be done, but you have an editor and a publishing team to help you with that, right? You can relax a bit. Maybe even have a conversation or two with real people instead of your characters.
But no. Think not so, because a grave ordeal yet lies before you. There is the final trial, the last hurdle before Mount Olympus, Home of the Gods, is yours. It is called: The Author Photo.
It seems to be a quirk of relatively modern publishing that we all need to know what the writer looks like. And since we are all mortal, and therefore shallow, it really helps if the author happens to be a babe, doesn’t it? Even more so if there’s even the vaguest possibility that they might be appearing on TV.
Sadly not many authors are blessed with boundless imagination, limitless literary talent, inexhaustible determination, advantageously masochistic tendencies and unearthly beauty. A pity. So what do publishers do about this?
Why, ship that author off to an empty airbase somewhere with a small army of beauticians, stylists, make-up artists, lighting technicians and photographers, that’s what (…or the low-budget equivalent). And smile to themselves as they hear the screams of authorly anguish drifting by on the breeze.
It will be worth the pain, because eventually you will emerge like a butterfly from the cocoon. Positively shimmering. Like this:
Not bad, hm? Here are some examples.
Elizabeth Kostova wrote a rather brilliant literary thriller. It is about scholars and vampires. Hence the expression of mysterious knowingness and the elegant posture. It manages to say ‘I’m an intelligent, educated woman of taste. I’ve written stuff. I’ve published books. And I know where the vampires live’. All at the same time. (And it really helps if you manage to have an exotic-sounding foreign surname to go with it).
Mr. Grisham’s photos always seem to feature the same super-cool, squinty-eyed look. It suggests sophistication, knowingness – again, because all authors are Knowing – and above all, coolness. More coolness than most of us will see in a lifetime.
J. V. Jones, author of fantasy books. Sleek blonde hair, large eyes heavily emphasised and a cunningly displayed dimple. This one says ‘wicked knowingness’ through and through.
Stephanie Meyer’s pictures always play up the wholesomeness. All understated make-up and natural curls. It’s that ‘girl next door, I’d-never-ever-have-sex-before-marriage’ look.
Freda Warrington is an excellent dark fantasy author. Her books are full of vampires, black magic and, er, dark stuff. In which case it’s absolutely advisable to be suitably black-gloved and eye-linered. Oh, and with a mane of dark, dark hair.
Be warned, would-be writers. The day your manuscript is accepted for publication is the day the nightmare begins to loom. You’d better start preparing now. How will your author photo look?