author C.C.Cole's blog

Thursday, October 13, 2011

On the Image of Authors

Brooke Shields

George R. R. Martin

Laura Hillenbrand

Ernest Hemingway       

These days, with our escalating Internet visual informative masses, it’s no secret that we see what people look like more often than in the past.  I recall reading paperbacks as a kid, and seeing a picture of the author in the back, with a brief bio.  Usually it was a small black-and-white, with a pose on a fence or leaning on an elbow, suggesting intelligence and relaxation.

Now we see physical images of just about everybody that’s not a hermit.  Music videos, I recall in the ‘80’s, evolved from fashion to not just fashion, but drop dead gorgeous or handsome.  With a little Photoshop, dental bleach, a surgical procedure here and there, a person can transform their appearance into what some call “movie star” style.

I’m indifferent regarding how people manage their own appearance; to do otherwise to me seems an invasion into personal matters.  People with mirrors see what they look like, and beyond that it’s up to them. 

As I wrote recently in my article about “Beauty and Fantasy” people expect good-looking people and/or worlds at one time or another in almost any fantasy story.  But what about the author, the “real world” image of the hard work and imagination to create such beauty?  Does that count?

The simple, obvious answer is no.  A bestselling author can do what he/she likes, and can decide how they look on their own terms.  They’ve hit the top based on their work, so if they look good, cool, if they’re not comely, who cares?  We read what they write, and leave appearance up to Hollywood. 

But what about us new authors?  Can we be so bold as to provide a photo of when we first wake up in the morning?  Or should we invest in a pricey or talented wiz with Photoshop, and give our readers that movie-star look?  Bigger question:  Will an unknown author’s appearance make any difference with sales? 

I don’t buy in regarding an author’s appearance.  If a book interests me, I usually concentrate on the synopsis and readers’ reviews.  If the author looks like an angel or a werewolf, that’s not what I’m looking for.  With my own book, I omitted a photo for “Act of Redemption” and only agreed for a photo for “Children of Discord” after some arm-twisting by the publisher.

To an extent, physical appearance has its place.  Writers have to connect with people, and in these days of instant visualization, you’re first buying/selling point is not just the book’s cover, it’ also the image of the author.  I admit, if I were shopping for a guide to fashion, I’d prefer the author not resemble a gargoyle. 

New authors, publishers (traditional or self) will give you some guidance regarding the photos for your books.  I like to see a natural look, giving more attention to what’s between the pages than the appearance of the author.   Go forth a write, new authors.  If you’re a hottie, good for you, it will look good on your back cover.


  1. After my publisher put my picture on the back cover of Allon Book 1, I told my husband, I didn't want my picture on any more of my books. He insisted and I yielded when he gave it an old time treatment on book #3, but no more. To me the book is more important than people seeing my face.

  2. But you're really pretty, Shawn. You present well in your videos, so I think a back-cover pic would add a human touch to your writing passion.