Mirror Mirror on the Wall..
I was hoping you could demystify something for me. How important is the physical appearance of an author? I've read all these articles about Nell Freudenberger and Zadie Smith, and most of the articles sound a lot like jealous rantings. They seem to be written by people who are having lousy luck getting published, and are grasping at straws to come up with some reason why they are being "discriminated" against other than their lack of talent. But is their any truth to their diatribes? I love reading your blog, and I think that if anyone can separate the BS in all the "looks sell books" rants, it would be you. Thank you very much for your time and your hugely helpful blog!
If your friends think they are being discriminated against cause they are butt ugly, ask if they sent a photocopy of their ass along with the manuscript. Otherwise, how would anyone know?
Until agents require you to send headshots with your manuscript, what you look like doesn't matter compared to what you write.
That however is for fiction.
Non-fiction is an entirely different matter and here, the ugly truth is, face counts. Why? Cause non fiction books require PLATFORM. That means you have your mug in front of people as a professional speaker, a radio show host, a frequent guest on Oprah, and things of that ilk.
And the truth is, that kind of performance type activity tends to select in favor of people who are good looking (Tony Robbins aside). You also have to have boatloads of personality.
It doesn't hurt to be good looking in any kind of industry including publishing, but hey, anyone who hangs out at Science Fiction cons, writers conferences and the American Library Association annual meeting knows they aren't in Atlantic City with Miss America and her coven.
If you mean during post publication that looks sell books, ask yourself when the last time was that you bought a book cause the author photo was hot. I buy Vanity Fair when Mr. Clooney graces the cover, and Mens Vogue of course (mint condition except for that teensy weensy gin splash). It might get the authors on TV but again, we know that what sells fiction is word of mouth.
"Here honey, read this Louis L'Amour, he's got a hot author photo"....
Almost no unpublished author thinks their work sux. Therefore, logically there must be another reason they keep getting that "not right for my list" form letter.
Clues and News: 85% of what comes over the transom sux and 95% isn't publishable. You do the math.