I recently read an article in the current edition of Quill & Quire magazine about the “Delicate Art of the Author Photo”. Leah Sandals talked about how author photos are getting more sophisticated, and yet, not so.
It seems that author photos, the ones you see on the back book jacket, are changing. Many well established authors tend to use old photos (some from as far back as the 1970′s, maybe the original photo from their first published book?), not really caring about what you see when you turn to the back to glean a few bits of information. Gone are the days when a husband or family friend took the photo you see. Now, many authors are resorting to a professional photographer to capture them in their own environment or possibly, just to look good.
J. K. Rowling’s photo. Professional.
What Sandals noted, however, was that these photos are also become more creative, and sometimes laughable. While one author chose to use a photo of himself wrapped only in a towel to display his athletic form, that might be going too far. I don’t care or want to see something like that. Give me a good head shot any day. (Unless the book is about the author’s transformation from frump to fit, then it just doesn’t matter to me.) Her advice? Use a professional photographer to get something worth putting in the book. And don’t get them done at Sears.
I know that I often look at those photos. Sometimes, I’m surprised by what the author looks like–he couldn’t possibly be the person who wrote this book, I might think–and sometimes, they’re perfect. One of my co-workers often comments to me about pictures. It seems she puts a lot of weight into how the author looks. Does it influence what I think about that book? Not usually, but if the picture is strange, I might not want to look at it again.