Author Photos

February 16, 2011 § 8 Comments

A month or two ago I wrote a decidedly tongue-in-cheek post about the art of the author photo (here). We all had so much fun with it that I’ve decided to revisit this topic – especially since there were some great suggestions from readers last time around.

Have you ever noticed how perfectly contrived author photos often appear? Their presence inside the front or back cover is becoming very common, as if it’s desperately important to know the face of the writer when you’re reading a book. And humans being rather shallow creatures, it really helps if the author looks simultaneously super-hot (especially if they’re female) and super-cool (especially if they’re male).

Here’s the latest crop.

Belgarath the Sorcerer

David Eddings.

It’s been suggested that there’s a degree of smugness about this photo. I can see it: something in the curl of the lip there. I suppose if you’ve made millions of dollars from your fantasy novels you’ve a right to be.

Fantasy authors are often male, and there seem to be two main ‘looks’ that publishers go for here: the ‘outlandish/crazy/mildly deranged’ look and the ‘sober, venerable Master Author’ look. Mr. Eddings is a perfect example of the latter.


Patrick Rothfuss

I don’t question a man’s right to have an awful lot of hair if he wants to, and in this case it serves him well. Every time I see a picture of Mr. Rothfuss, it seems like the photographer is doing everything possible to play up the UNUSUAL HAIRSTYLE. That’s because it fits in very well with the ‘outlandish/crazy/mildly deranged’ appearance that we humble readers often expect of our male fantasy authors.

The text of the t-shirt would be enough to make Mr. Rothfuss my hero, by the way, even if I didn’t already love his book,  The Name of the Wind.

Jack Reacher. I mean... Lee Child.

Lee Child

I don’t believe I’ve ever encountered an author more in love with himself than Mr. Child. Here’s a great quote from an interview, found in part here:

“I know I could write a literary book as good as Martin Amis or anybody like that. It would take me about three weeks and it would sell 3,000 copies or whatever they sell.”


I wouldn’t imagine that Mr. Child is making any attempt at all to look as macho as his primary character in the above photo. Would you?



Candace Bushnell

I feel like it would be impossible for Ms. Bushnell to be anything but blonde. And nicely made up. Imagine if she was a brunette, with messy hair and no lipstick. It would break some sort of universal law.

I couldn’t find a photo of her mid-shop, sadly, which seems like a missed opportunity.


Am I really who you think I am?

William Shakespeare

I’ve called the art of the author photo a modern tradition, but I don’t think that was entirely fair. They were well onto it centuries ago.

This picture has everything. The knowing air, the slight smirk, the eyes that seem to Look Into Your Soul. What’s even more impressive is that something in the man’s air seems to say: I might have written those plays. Then again… it might have been someone else. Doesn’t that just drive you crazy?

Do author photos help or hinder your reading groove? And do you have any other great/terrible ones to share?


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§ 8 Responses to Author Photos

  • Brian says:

    Joe Abercrombie is a surprisingly good looking dude for a fantasy author.

    • Charlotte says:

      Ha. I like the implied assumption that fantasy authors are not usually very good looking. Then again, it’s a lot to expect of an author in addition to all those peculiar qualities required to actually write complete novels approximately once a year.

      I’d never seen a picture of Joe Abercrombie before, but you certainly have a point.

  • saradeurell says:

    LOL! Love this entry. I used to be a supervisor in a bookstore – in charge of the displays and new releases and so on – and smug author photos were a regular source of on-the-job entertainment for the staff. One of the things I thought was funniest in that vein was comparing Nora Roberts’ photo on her romance novels to her mystery writer alter-ego, J.D. Robb, photo. SAME PERSON, totally different “look” for the jacket. Nora is all soft makeup and flowy pastel clothes and gently swoopy hair; J.D. has a black leather jacket, spiky hair, and harsher, darker shades of makeup. It’s so weird.

    • Charlotte says:

      Wow, what a fantastic anecdote. That’s such a perfect example of the absurdity of it all, it has to go in my next author photo roundup. Thanks so much for sharing that!

  • Even though I’m not a famous author, I have always desired one good, dramatic black&white photo of myself. Really!! My fiancee is a musician and on her band’s last album the photos of her are these perfect b&w photos..kind of like the cover of Beatles first album.

    • Charlotte says:

      Black and white photos can look so very beautiful, I don’t blame you at all. Being a fan of history myself, I have rather a fancy for a good sepia photo. Why don’t you go ahead and get one done? Maybe you could get one done with your fiancee as well. That could be amazing. A bit like families used to have magnificent oil paintings done, years ago.

  • Andy says:

    Haha I love this series, keep it coming! These authors really do know how to sell themselves. I wonder where we make the connection between ‘Oh this author looks hot’ and ‘This book must be very good’

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