Having a good picture of yourself may seem like a dream a long way off, when you’re starting to send out your work as a writer, and only you and your computer know what you’re about. But the need for a publicity picture may come sooner than we think. Are you ready? I was asked recently to supply a photo as I was leading some workshops and suddenly realised I was one selfie short of a bio. What do the well-published writers look like?
I blogged about this before, at http://bit.ly/2tI8u3m
But I am reminded of it today with this crop of author pics which you can see above this post, freshly harvested from The Word Factory, at http://www.thewordfactory.tv/site/working-writers/
Naming no names, which authors would you pick out as:
- someone trying too hard to look pleasant
- someone beating you over the head with their amassed knowledge
- someone a bit distant and aloof
- someone trying to look younger
- someone thinking “Please like me?”
- someone trying to terrify you with their brilliance
- someone approachable, with whom you could have a conversation (that’s expressed rather formally but 2 across and 2 down is giving me that English Teacher Beady Eye and I’m scared she’ll give me lines if I get my grammar incorrect. “Incorrect” – haven’t used that word in forever.) Fortunately, the man in the beret beside her reassures me that I’m a welcome member of the human race and we could have a conversation.
6 along and 3 down (stripey t-shirt) looks willing to laugh along at the whole public/personal face off.
I suppose to a certain extent the writer is affected by his/her genre. If you write Scandinavian Noir novels with a high body-count, you’re unlikely to appear in a photo with your hair in ringlets, clutching your childhood teddy-bear. However, take it too far with severe lighting and stern look and you could actually stray into driving licence photography, where you look like a criminal yourself. The one photo I would defintely NOT use as a bookjacket photo is my driving licence one, because you’re forbidden to smile and, frankly, you could show the photo to any member of the public and ask “What crimes has this person committed?” and no one would query the question.
Going back to the more pleasant photos at the top of this article, when I analyze how I react to these photos, I realise that these elements affect how I feel:
- colour in the photo
- the background (this surprises me, as so little is seen, but sometimes the real colour in the photo is the background)
- whether or not the person is looking directly at you
- how close the person is in the photo affects how approachable I feel they are
- the lighting (one side of the face markedly darker makes the face more difficult to read, and 5 across and 3 down by having a light behind her shining at the viewer makes me think of an interrogation. Looking at her face, she may possibly have seen my driving licence photo and is keen to establish details of my whereabouts on certain dates)
- when I really think about it, it does also matter to me what they are wearing – even though I’m not fashion blogger – I like that 4 across and 2 down has a stripey scarf with colours, it makes her look more interesting than the gentlemen either side of her, who are wearing dark neutrals, one of them looking intense, the other like he’s considering his next move in that game of postal chess with 8 across and 4 down
So really, at the very least, you could take this Yearbook of writers looks and spin stories of your own from it. What if there was a famous writers’ convention and a few of these people turned up – how would they interact? And when you’ve written this up – remember me when you’re famous and send me a copy of the book. I’ll be interested to see which pose you’ve chosen for yourself in the author’s picture on the back or inside bookjacket….