I’m finding it…

I'm finding it fascinating, this question of what makes a good author photo for a literary book. Do you want something which conveys personality, which seems warm and inviting? Do you want something which makes the author look serious, imposing, somehow literary and deserving of snooty awards?

Part of the question, I suppose, is what purpose these things serve. There are the photos sent out with promo material, to radio and tv people. For tv, I suppose you want to go for as conventionally attractive as possible, plus a suggestion of a talkative, entertaining personality? For radio, much the same, though the attractive part is less important?

But for a book cover, what purpose does it serve, having the author's photo there? Does it make you more inclined to buy a literary novel, if the author looks serious and literary? Inquiring minds want to know -- how do you respond to author photos on books? Do they have any effect on you at all?

These are the photos that are pretty clearly pulling ahead in the poll, and they're pretty different in style. The first one is my favorite, I think because it feels very much like me. When I see it, I want to smile. The second one somehow feels the most like a typical author photo to me -- perhaps because it's a little reserved, a bit distant? The next two are aesthetically pleasing, if somewhat lacking in energy, character. The last is great fun, but seems maybe more like it should be a photo for this journal, rather than for a serious literary book? Jed said that if I wrote Lemony Snickett-type books, it'd be a good author photo for those...

Thank you all again for voting, btw. Very interesting! All of this is very helpful, as I try to figure out exactly how one goes about this kind of thing. There are so many possibilities, and if I do end up paying a professional, I'd like to have some idea beforehand of what kinds of expressions and the like work best (also what color clothes, what style of haircut, etc.)

And yes, I'm obsessing about this. I think it's because I can no longer affect the quality of the book itself, so all I have control over are the various promotional materials...

7 thoughts on “I’m finding it…”

  1. I assume I want the picture to look like someone I’d want to talk to. Which could mean attractive, literary, approachable….

  2. Christopher and I are in agreement on number 4 — it’s flattering, cool AND avoids all the major author photo sins.

  3. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Wait, Gwenda — now I want to know what the major author photo sins are! Maybe I should’ve asked that question first…

    Bob wants me to take some more with closed mouth. I live to serve…

  4. I like #1.

    And I don’t look at photos until after I’ve read the book. So the idea of a smiling fun author is good.

  5. de-lurking for a moment… #1 makes you look like you have fun occasionally, which gives me more confidence in your literary book. The last one does that too, but I have to agree with Jed on that one.

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