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February 28, 2009

Author Photos: Yes or No?

I always enjoy the Novelist Inc. blog, and the most recent post is one by Pati Nagle about Five Should Haves on a Website. It’s a great post and well worth reading.

One of the things Pati mentions is an author photo on the home page of a website. She says readers feel more connected if they can see a photo of you, and this might lead to them remembering your name when they’re browsing for books in a store.

I don’t have a photo on my home page because I wanted to focus on my books. I might post photos on my blog and I have my picture in the photo section, but for me, a website should be about the books. Yes, I agree, a website needs a personality, but I don’t believe I need my face to be part of that personality.

In the past, I’ve heard of agents and publishers rejecting older authors because their faces/age/sex isn’t marketable. I don’t know if this is an urban legend or not, but it’s a sad fact of life that models and most people who feature in ads to sell products are young and glamorous. Does this extend to authors? I don’t know.

I wondered what everyone else thought. Obviously there’s no right or wrong answer, merely opinions. What do you think? Author photos – yes or no? Does knowing what an author looks like affect your buying decision?


  1. Susan Helene Gottfried

    Affect my buying decision? Goodness no!

    But a picture of me? That would affect others. It would cause them to run screaming in the other direction. And still not get away fast enough.

  2. Lucinda

    The pic that I use in my headers is a candid shot of me reading that my husband took while we were on vacation a few years ago. I think it makes a good point that all good writers are readers, too.
    The funny thing about my pictures is that I always photograph as a redhead, but in person, my hair isn’t red. It’s light brown/dark blonde. So I got a kick out of a friend request that I had on MySpace for Carolina Redheads. LOL! It’s possible that I photograph that way because I have a lot of red highlights. My mother and both paternal and maternal grandmothers were redheads.

  3. Maria

    From an advertising standpoint, an author photo makes sense. People respond more positively if they can see a human on the other side.

    But…what if the author isn’t exceptionally attractive, or is overweight, or old? Does it skew response? We seem surrounded by a public that idolizes beauty, which is why I hesitate to use an author photo.

    I’ve put up a couple of photos of myself here and there on the net, but there’s always a dog involved. LOL. It’s my secret weapon. The dog is way cuter than I am. Hopefully it will distract the reader and he won’t pay any attention to the woman holding the pooch.

  4. Catherine Bybee

    I can see how a picture can help or distract from the bottom line. Lets face it… we are the media generation. Didn’t video kill the radio star? Since I go as far as to post video blogs… not only can you see my mug but you can get a taste of my personality and voice just by viewing my blogs. However, if a man is writing straight romance and under the name of Sally – chances are a picture will not help sales. JMHO.

  5. Shelley Munro

    Susan – it doesn’t affect my buying decision either way, but I’ll admit I always read the author bios at the back of books. If there’s a photo I do find it interesting.

    LOL – Susan, I don’t believe that!

    Lucinda – The photo in your header is lovely. I think it looks really good.

    Maria – that’s my point. I watched a TV show about actors and public figures today, and many were upfront in saying they’d had plastic surgery etc so they photographed better. It was expected if they wanted to get parts, and these were young people. One point that was made was that all the stars had started to look exactly the same with the same standard features. I’d like to keep my face. I’m unique now and don’t want to look like everyone else.

    I have camels and all sorts in my photos. :mrgreen:

    Catherine – I enjoy your video blogs. Personally, I’d like to feel that we’re judged on our work rather than all the other extra stuff. I certainly don’t go looking for author photos etc but if I come across them I find them interesting.

  6. Jennifer Colgan

    I photograph terribly. The last good picture of me was my original driver’s license photo, believe it or not – back when I was 17. I would love to have a cute picture of me to put on my website, but unless I mislead people into believing I’m still 17, it ain’t gonna’ happen. I’ve heard the rumors that attractiveness counts, and whether they’re true or not, they’re enough to keep my pictures off my site.

  7. Kaye Manro

    I certainly don’t buy a book based on the author’s photo. But I do find it interesting to read a bio and see what they look like. I never judge writing ability by a photo, no matter how old or young the author is. True, there are those who do.

    As for promotional photos on websites, I don’t know. I do have one up on my blog.

    There is a truth to this beautiful people thing in the media. As a journalist, I’ve seen it too. But one always hopes that work is based on the writer’s ability rather on how they look.

    An interesting post, Shelley.

  8. Jory Strong

    Photos don’t impact my buying decisions. In fact these days they often make me shake my head and wonder if the author is having a tough time accepting that they’ve aged. More and more, the pictures on the books are twenty years younger than the author is when seen at RWA or in candid shots on people’s blogs. As far as on a website…no impact. For me personally, I hate having my picture taken. I’d have to absolutely love one before I put it up and left it on my site.

  9. Elle Parker

    I wasn’t intending to put a picture on my website, because I wasn’t sure that my “look” really matches the idea of erotic romance writer….but then I realized that I DO tend to find myself connecting a little more easily to those authors who’s faces I can picture.

    I will NOT be putting it right on the home page, though. It’ll go on the Bio page where it belongs. I agree with the commenter in that article who said she thought it was a little too much, having it right on the Home page like that.

  10. Michelle M Pillow

    I only added bio photos after a NY pub told me I needed to get them done for a book launch. Figured, I paid for them, I’m going to use them. lol And I’ll probably keep it for 20 years just so I don’t have to redo them.

    I hate being in front of the camera. But, I think the trick is to get professional ones done (even if that’s a friend who’s a photographer or a newer one willing to work a deal for their portfolio). Lighting, makeup, ect can make a huge difference. Pros will take a lot of shots and position you to your “best side”.

    I’m also a photographer, and I’ll tell you, those mag ads and models are touched up with a team of experts before and photoshop after. Anyone could look good with a spray painted hiney, 12 assistants and a photoshop guru, lol. But it’s sad that it’s gotten to that. I much rather look at a photo with character.

    I love reading bios and seeing pics. For me, it does make it more “real” as a reader. Does it effect my buying habits? Only in the sense that it makes the author more cemented in my mind (if that makes sense) so I recognize the name more when I’m at the store. Though, if I loved/hated the story, that matters more.

    Great topic!

  11. Amy W.

    First off… read it, loved it, couldn’t put it down. Superb job as always!

    Next author photo, I don’t like them. They lead me to make judgments about them and distract me from their body of work. I like where you have your photo in the bio section. If someone wants to know more about you, including what you look like, it’s there for them but not staring them in the face and distracting. OK that’s all I’ve got on the subject. Off to homework land.

  12. Sandra Cox

    I’m curious enough to look when I pick up a book to see if the author’s pic is in it but it has nothing to do with my decision to buy the book.

  13. Shelley Munro

    Elle – I agreed with the commenter too. Personally, I think a photo on the bio page is good. That’s my preference because I like to focus on the product.

    Jory – I’ve seen author photos that didn’t look anything like the person at all. To me that’s almost like hiring someone else to be you, if you know what I mean. I do like author pictures to look like the authors.

    Michelle – you take a great photo. I’m sure I remember seeing your photos???

    Amy – thank you!! Just call me an anxious author. :mrgreen: I hope the homework goes well.

    Sandra – LOL I think we’re all basically a bit curious. Some might cause it nosey. :lol:

    I wonder what writers who use pseudonyms do or as someone said, a male who writes romance???

  14. Lynn R.

    Does a photo affect whose books I buy? Yes and no. For the first few books I buy of any given author, no, I really don’t care what they look like. If I like the books, and wish to keep buying that author’s work, then maybe it night. If I’m more connected with the author by being in an on-line group with her/him, then I’ll want to know more about the author, and start visiting their website and reading the bio and looking at photos. That’s when it affects me, but it still doesn’t affect my buying habits. I will have gotten to that point because I had already developed a liking for that author’s work, not what s/he looks like. My $.02, for what it’s worth.

  15. Christina Phillips

    An author’s photo certainly doesn’t influence my buying decision, but I do like to see a photo of the author, although not necessarily on the home page. I think it more appropriate on the bio page.

    As for me, a few months ago I put my youngest daughter through torture and made her take endless photos of me. And in the end I hated them all so went back to the original one I’d been using for the last three years! Me, vain? Heck yeah! lol!

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