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The Comfortable: “The Torso-twist-with-arm-resting-on-back-of-couch”
June 27, 2013 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Against Author Photos [Part 1.] For Author Photos [Part 2.] by Stephen Burt

Related: Author Photo Clichés, 'How to'.
posted by Fizz (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I just don't buy any books with the author on the cover. I've found this is a vastly better way of ensuring more quality reads than just reviews.
posted by selfnoise at 12:25 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Don't judge book covers by their authors?
posted by Going To Maine at 12:27 PM on June 27, 2013


I have a rule-- don't look at the author photo until you have to. When something makes you think, what kind of ______ ________ wrote this? Then you peek at the back/inside cover.

Agree that buying a book with the author's face on the front cover is a no-no.
posted by cell divide at 12:28 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I fucking hate author photos. I write books because the only useful stuff about me is in my head, not on it. I agonize over these stupid things. If you're pretty, People might review your book. If you're fug, you're going to be mocked.

Good photography is expensive-- my advance doesn't cover a good package of professional photos AND the copyright licenses I need because everybody wants to print it all over the place. (Library newsletter! Signing poster! Foreign rights calendar!)

So, I drink and my husband takes approximately 10,000 digital photos of me, hoping to get one that my editor won't hesitate about using. And after all that, people are going to come see you in person, then post on Twitter about how much fatter you are than you were in your picture. Or older. Or femaler.

Ugh. Fucking author photos. I should get John Scalzi to pose for mine. He seems to have fun with it.
posted by headspace at 12:37 PM on June 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Agree that buying a book with the author's face on the front cover is a no-no.

You put this rule aside when selecting autobiographies, I hope.

The weirdest author photo issue I can recall is when I realized that, as he got older, Dean Koonz's author photos sported more and more hair and he looked younger and younger. It's uncanny!
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:38 PM on June 27, 2013


And then there's the author photo on the back of the hardcover of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency which Douglas Adams created on his Apple Macintosh Plus "after a difficult night".
posted by RonButNotStupid at 12:38 PM on June 27, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've found that my new purchases are heavily correlated with how appealing the author's pets are in Twitter photos. I'm not sure I'd actually recognize most of their authors.
posted by restless_nomad at 12:40 PM on June 27, 2013


I recently read Count Zero for the first time. I had to get it via inter-library loan, and it was the original hardcover edition, complete with library wrapping so I couldn't remove the dust jacket.

The entire back of the book, edge-to-edge, is the most mid-80s photo of William Gibson you can imagine. Sort of like this, only moreso.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:48 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


William Gibson's photos aren't the issue. It's the first time I heard him speak - he has a down home, southwestern Virginian accent combined with a high and reedy, wavering voice. He sounded like the comedic relief cook from an old western. There was a moment of conceptual shear I still haven't gotten over.
posted by Slap*Happy at 1:08 PM on June 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I drink and my husband takes approximately 10,000 digital photos of me, hoping to get one that my editor won't hesitate about using. And after all that, people are going to come see you in person, then post on Twitter about how much fatter you are than you were in your picture. Or older. Or femaler.

That's pretty much my method, too. "Husband snapped this in the backyard because I can't afford a freakin' photographer" seems to be the big YA author photo cliche.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 1:19 PM on June 27, 2013


William Gibson's photos aren't the issue. It's the first time I heard him speak - he has a down home, southwestern Virginian accent combined with a high and reedy, wavering voice. He sounded like the comedic relief cook from an old western. There was a moment of conceptual shear I still haven't gotten over.

William Gibson's accent is largely Canadian with only occasional lapses into Appalachian on certain vowels.

Are you sure you haven't confused him with Henry Gibson?
posted by Sys Rq at 1:40 PM on June 27, 2013


I love author photos. In my line of work I see more author photos than most -- and I have a favorite. The QUEEN of the cheesy author photo is none other than Danielle Steel. She's written over 100 books and has a different picture of herself gracing every. single. one. She seems to have a penchant for wearing furs and an extraordinary amount of jewelry. Sometimes, though, she surprises me. I was thrilled to see that my two favorites were in the building.

This security camera photo shows a disheveled Ms. Steel creeping around the locked gates of her mansion. A fire broke out while Ms. Steel was taking a mid-afternoon nap. Not having time to find clothing, Ms. Steel grabbed the closest thing to cover herself: the exact same duvet that I owned as a seventh-grader in 1991. Ever conscientious of her image, she also grabbed a tube of matching lipstick.

My favorite by far is from the back cover of HRM. It's a photograph of Ms. Steel, reclining on the back of a stuffed chair, in front of a life-sized painting of herself. I believe she's wearing the same jewelry both in person and in the painting. I just love the idea of having a photograph taken of oneself while sitting in front of a life-size painting of oneself, taking care to coordinate the jewelry between both of the selves.
posted by Elly Vortex at 1:51 PM on June 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't believe in author photos on the back of the book. I just slip my head shots inside every copy
posted by The Whelk at 2:36 PM on June 27, 2013


I thought the point about realizing a certain sci-fi author was black from a book photo was interesting. Also, I think this is the first comment in the thread that directly references the linked articles. Also, I know Steve from college.
posted by snofoam at 3:01 PM on June 27, 2013


So, I drink and my husband takes approximately 10,000 digital photos of me, hoping to get one that my editor won't hesitate about using.

I've had to take approximately 10,000 digital photos of my wife for an author photo, and it's not much more fun from the other side of the camera. I eventually resorted to taking photos with one hand while showing her cute bunny videos on a smartphone in other hand, to try to get her to smile and relax a bit. Pretty sure that's not how the pros do it...
posted by TheophileEscargot at 5:11 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Double goes for the author bio. The author's name can also get you thinking in terms of gender bias unless it is Pat. It is probably better to leave that off too. The book title is most problematic because it is usually picked by some publisher's lackey who wants to make it sexy. Don't even get me started on cover art...
posted by JJ86 at 5:30 AM on June 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I thought the point about realizing a certain sci-fi author was black from a book photo was interesting

It is, and really I do agree with both of the posts. For the most part, author photos really are pointless and, maybe in some cases, actively harmful for sales. Generally-speaking, I don't look at them and don't miss them if they're not there.

But of course the point about bias is important. I do read a reasonable amount of genre fiction, and I'm absolutely guilty of assuming that all the authors are masculine-presenting white men. I know that's not the case, of course, but it certainly can't hurt to be reminded.
posted by uncleozzy at 5:49 AM on June 28, 2013


Don't even get me started on cover art

Oh dear. From American publishers, it seems like the only books I am visually attracted to these days (in the sense of "oh, what's this? looks interesting!") are YA novels, because the covers of most regular novels seem to scream to me "This Is Probably A Very Bad Book And Stupid."

It's criminal what they did to the US editions of Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers of London series, which have charming, intricately illustrated covers in the original UK editions – that also make sense in relation to the storylines of the books and the atmosphere and theme of the series. If I had encountered the first book ("Rivers of London") in its US incarnation first (renamed "Midnight Riot" with ugly, violent cover imagery) I never would have picked it up unless someone I trusted emphatically urged me to. It looks like nothing I would ever enjoy.

As for author photos, I personally prefer to go looking for photos, bio info and interviews with authors once I become fond of them because of their work, and usually resent being bombarded with a lot of personality promo about the author before I have even read a word they've written.
posted by taz at 6:35 AM on June 28, 2013


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