Say....cheese it!

I'm an old, shopworn, retired elementary teacher. After I handed in my chalk, I enjoyed doing nothing. No shoes to tie, no noses to wipe, just free time. Then God looked down or the devil looked up, saw me wallowing in sloth and put me to work as a writer. I still haven't figured out why because I'd never written anything in my life. My first novel was published by a small publisher when I turned 60.

Now, Harcourt has my latest novel. Here's my question. The author photo. I don't want one. It would definitely not be a selling point. Now, I was in the cutish category for the first half of my life, not anymore. Do the big publishers insist on author photos? I haven't brought up the subject with my editor because I'm hoping she'll forget about it.

Well, you might check your contract. Lots of them say "pony up a photo".
This is one thing you don't want to leave till the last minute.

Couple things; first of all, you're more self conscious of how you look than anyone else is.

Second, you'd be surprised what makeup artists can do, not to mention the airbrush stylings of photo shop. For proof, you need look no further than the hilarious comments posted by Kitty --who has managed to convince herself Miss Snark is Elaine Benis, AND put her in the arms of George Clooney. A situation to be devoutly wished for, but nonetheless....a far cry from reality.

If you want to see a truly wretched beyond belief awful photo of a guy who's not that bad in real life take a squint at Dan Kennedy's author photo in LOSER GOES FIRST. I think he was hungover. Or dead. Or both. No matter how you tried, you could not look worse.

And relax, Harcourt is no slouch when it comes to picking beautiful writers.


Bethany said...

O wondrous Snarkalicious one,

I got an email this afternoon from a Very Large Agency who pretty much said, "We're still looking at your book-- is that all you have? Do you have anything set in Japan, where you grew up?" My first reaction was, "Ohmigod they might want to see more of my writing!" which was quickly followed by, "Huh?"

I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth, because I'm honestly so thrilled that they gave me a second thought in this crazy world that I'm speaking in cliches, but I only mentioned in my bio that I used to live in Japan. It wasn't like I said, "I lived in Japan! Ask me how!"

Naturally, I responded to them immediately offering up what they wanted to know, but I'm still wondering at this. Why in the wold would they ask for something so specific?

Anonymous said...

My God, Miss Snark! You're talking to Frank McCourt!

Deran Ludd said...

I would also suggest that the author go for something other than a glam shot. I mean, go for something more, you. A life-long teacher with something (obviously) interesting to say. That's a photo caption right there. If the author has an agent that really knows them, maybe that agent can get the publisher's folks to see that. And like Miss Snark said, the photo crew can work wonders. They WANT you to look good. And if they do, and you're not glamorella, go with what you are. That could make you author look appealing to people that look at it on the back of the book. Unless you're writing teen chicklit :=), and even then...

Dawno said...

Many, possibly most, of my favorite writers are not photogenic - even after the assumed makeup and photoshopping.

Assuming it's a book by an author I've never read before, you can bet I selected the book based on either word of mouth or a good review, the author's picture doesn't make a darn bit of difference. I have not once put down a book because I saw the author photo - attractive or otherwise.

I have, however, passed on many books while aimlessly browsing because they had covers that turned me off.

Anonymous said...

I would believe it if I found Miss Snark had wheeled in George Clooney with a blend of hair-flipping and witty compliments.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Snark,

I love your blog. :) Now that I have you on my side, I'd like to ask you a favor. Most of your readers seem to be writers who are yet to be published. Some of them may be terrific writers--I would never call them wannabees. Yet I think there is an innocence in most of their comments, which is, oddly, framed as a deep understanding that Publishing Is A Business. I remember fondly this phase of my own career. I was certain that I understood publishing in a way that all these whining published author ingrates did not. I swore that if I were ever given the chance to be published, I would wake up every day thanking [insert god of choice] that I'd been allowed to fulfill my dream!

It did not turn out to be true. I have three novels published, and I love my career. I'm considered a success by my agent and publisher and friends. Yet being published has turned out to be--surprise--like everything else in life. It has its ups and downs. It is not All Good.

If only you could teach your devoted snarklings that being published is more like getting married than like winning the lottery. Only the desperately single view marriage as Just So Great that if you say anything bad about yours, you're ungrateful. Just so, only the inexperienced think that all their problems would be solved if only they were chosen by an agent or a publisher. As an agent, Miss Snark, you know this is NOT true. Being published is the beginning of an often heartbreaking process for the writer: the realization that they won't be reviewed, that the chains won't carry the book, that no one they know will be able to find the book, that no one will read it. I have been very lucky in my own career, but I've seen this happen to most of my author friends. I really believe that if all writers didn't expect Publication to mean so much, they wouldn't have been so hurt when it didn't. The writing is what matters. Publication is nothing compared to writing. I wish I'd understood that when I was waiting, waiting, waiting to be chosen by the powerful, waiting for the validation that doesn't come from being published, but from loving stories and trying to write them as well as you can. All of the unpublished here who are doing that are already writers. They don't need to memorize the Publishing is a Business mantra and prove they're worthy to be chosen by their deep understanding of query etiquette. They already have the magic. They get to write.

Kitty said...

I doubt it's McCourt because, if I recall correctly, he didn't teach little kids. Now, if his big kid students needed someone to wipe their noses ...

I think Dan Kennedy took that picture himself, when he was wasted.

Here's the Clooney’n’Snark picture.

To the author who wrote: I've never been put off by an author's photo. Not ever.

Dave Kuzminski said...

What do you mean not everybody reads my books. Of course they do. They just don't admit to it because it's a guilty pleasure. ;)

Anonymous said...

I love that post above. So true. I try to complain only in front of my published friends. The prepublished don't want to hear it.

On another note, I love having an author photo. The photographer and Photoshop got rid of all my moles and wrinkles and even took an inch off my butt. Two ex-boyfriends from decades ago found my website and exclaimed how great I look. I didn't tell them it was all due to the magic of the airbrush.

LargeCrepe said...

Anyone mention photo's?

Maria said...

Have your photo taken with a pet (if you don't have a pet, borrow one. Like a parrot.) A little airbrushing and a cute animal and you'll not even get much of a glance. (If you're REALLY self-conscious get a horse in the picture and use a cowboy hat. This works better if you write Westerns...but hey, you could work horsebackriding in as a sudden hobby!)

Bernita said...

O dear. Oh dear. Oh dear.
I'm wondering which is worse - being called a "wannabe" or being described as an innocent fool.

LargeCrepe said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
AnimeJune said...

I don't really expect authors to look good.
I mean, I subscribe to "Locus", where they post a big, giant, unPhotoshopped photo of a featured author every month. Rarely do they look their best. Do I care? No.
Besides, you could always do what "Lemony Snickett" does - have the photo be of you with your back to the camera, or shielded by a hat or a conveniently-placed lampshade.

Bill Peschel said...

There's your answer, courtesy of Debbie. Let me add that lighting can do a lot for a photo. A black and white photo, perhaps with you looking off to the side, followed by some delicate airbrushing, and you'd look FABBBBulous!

And as a dedicated half-assed photographer, let me add that they can take a hundred photos of you, and odds are one will suit your needs. You'd be amazed how the human face can change from one photo to the next. So don't worry. Photos are like manuscripts: you only need to send them the best one. The rest you can burn.

Beth said...

To anonymous above--

Thank you for saying that. I'm glad for the reminder that what we need to cherish is the gift writing itself.

Anonymous said...

I've been referred to as an ignorant monkey. Innocent fool is sounding like a step up.

How about an illustrated portrait instead of a photo?

Unknown said...

I play on having my low crowned black Stetson hanging so far over my face, the hat is all you will be able to see.

Either that or my photo will just be of my infamous red and black cowboy boots.

Not being aware of what the exact statue of limitations are in various countries around the world, I intend to take no chances.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Dear Anonymous,

here's a blog you might find interesting. Less snarky than Miss Snark, it gives a healthy dose of reality check as well, esp. concerning the marketing side of publishing.

Miss Snark said...

Everyone is less Snarky than Miss Snark by definition. WritersReaders is still a good site despite the absence of snark.

Feisty said...

Thank you, anonymous, for saying it so well. I am also a pubbed author who has watched many friends cross that threshold to publication only to find out that it doesn't solve their problems, root out their self-doubt, or make their mothers-in-law love them.

It just opens a whole new can of worms that must be wrestled in new and ingenious ways. I must say that many pubbed authors I know are not particularly happy with their publishing experiences but they love being in print and they love writing, so they keep at it.

Unknown said...

To all of you who claim to take bad photos - you're all amateurs! To wit:

After looking at my recent photos, a German magazine immediately flew out a photographer from New York to take another one. We'll see in Febraury if they have enough nerve to run it.

One of Hollywood's top photographers once took it as a challenge to photograph me because reputation for taking bad photos was so legendary.

Then when we next met, he pulled out a dozen contact sheeets and then prooceeded to explain to me - at considerable length - exactly why it was I take such a bad picture.

Miss Snark said...

your halo reflects the light poorly?

wait..you're really a vampire, and thus no reflection at all??

Inquisitiv minds want to know!!!

Unknown said...

Halo? Welllll... that's the first time this cowboy has ever been accused of possessing that particular appurtenance.

As I recall, and I was a here smidge of a snarking at the time so forgive me if I forget all the gory details, my facial features were a little too uniform and not defined enough in relief to photograph as well in 2D as opposed to how they looked in 3D.

My mouth was also not wide enough for me to have a proper smile and that tended to give me a more severe look that I have in real life when my face was animated.

Finally, the light in my eyes for some reason does not photograph (cue spooky music) so they appeared to be even more menancing in a photo than they did in person, which surprised me as no one had ever descibed my eyes as menancing.

I then made the mistake of asking friends about that and their protestations about how that was not all correct... were not even remotely convincing.

Then when blogger Luke Ford came up to me at a party recently - which was the first time we had ever met face to face - he looked me straight in the eye and immediately asked, how many men have you killed?

Needless to say, I will not be posting my photo on an on-line dating service anytime soon.

Dave Kuzminski said...

There is a website that can give you a number of laughs at URL http://www.myheritage.com/FP/Company/tryFaceRecognition.php?s=1&u=g0&lang=EN . You will need to have a copy of your photo on your hard drive that you can upload to their site. It may take a minute for that to finish even with a DSL. Then click on the button to have the demo comparison made and you'll get your results. When you see the first celebrity listed, be sure you click on the arrow beneath the celebrity picture as it will give up to 10 matches based on the percentage you matched up.

Oh, my own? Well, those came out from most like to least as:
Cary Grant
Hugh Grant
George Martin
Rudy Guiliani
Gro Harlem Brundtland
Vincente Fox
Bradd Pitt
David Coulthard
Jim Carrey
John Updike