The [Dreaded] Author Photo, Part II: 1,000 Words

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AUTHOR PHOTOS: Mac Barnett, Adam Rex, Hank Blowfeather, CHLOE AND THE LION

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AUTHOR PHOTO: Kekla Magoon, CAMO GIRL

Happy 12/12/12! On Monday, author Laurie Boyle Crompton wrote about coming up with her author photo for publicity use for her upcoming young adult novel, BLAZE. She wrote that her publicist asked for a photo that fit the book’s personality: “comic book nerdy-cool.” Even though the photo isn’t going to be used on the book jacket . . .

So I ask you: Why do publishers sometimes use an author photo and sometimes don’t, especially on the book jacket? I bet most authors don’t especially like having it on there. Also, do most publishers consider the book’s content and how the author photo fits the mood of the book?

AUTHOR PHOTO:  Varian Johnson, SAVING MADDIE

AUTHOR PHOTO: Varian Johnson, SAVING MADDIE

(My publisher for my first picture book Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer asked me to provide a black-and-white photo of moi for their website, no suggestions as to mood or personality. But they never used the one I sent them, as far as I know. Good. I didn’t like it anyway. But I did wonder, inferiority-complexly, why it wasn’t used. *sniff!*)

Shel Silverstein, as he appears in several publications

Like, what’s their criteria? Do you have to be gorgeous, like Laurie, or as handsome as Varian Johnson? If so, why on earth did they ever use Shel Silverstein’s author photo on his book jackets? I mean, let’s face it, that man’s countenance would frighten even Wednesday Addams.

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AUTHOR PHOTO: Shawn K. Stout, PENELOPE CRUMB

I looked over the stack of recently-read children’s and ya books on my dresser. Most don’t use author photos on their book jackets, and the ones that do aren’t similar in genre or content. (I’ve shown a few of them here.) They range from picture books to middle-grade to young adult genres. Hardcover and paperback. The photos don’t really evoke a mood or personality; in general, they’re just really nice head shots.

AUTHOR PHOTO: Lauren Tarshis, EMMA-JEAN LAZARUS FELL OUT OF A TREE

AUTHOR PHOTO: Lauren Tarshis, EMMA-JEAN LAZARUS FELL OUT OF A TREE

So what’s the deal with author photos, huh? Does it have to do with the imprint? Is it printing-related? Is it decided on a whim?

Your guess (put it in the comments) is as good as mine. Probably better. Somebody out there probably knows the answer–if there is one.

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12 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Colleagues

12 responses to “The [Dreaded] Author Photo, Part II: 1,000 Words

  1. I was asked for an author photo and spent too much time worrying about it and taking it. It’s on the website and other internet related things but it is not on the book. I decided it was actually worth it to ask the publisher and their response was blunt and honest so I’m sharing it: they thought I simply looked my age, and that it didn’t really fit the readership of the book. Not sure that helps much as I’d assume that’s fairly ‘me’ specific but that’s what happened.

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  2. Yeah, that makes sense, Peter. I mean, not that you look your age, but . . . Well, you know what I mean, right? But again, consider Shel Silverstein (shudder).

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  3. Aww, Carol, you’re way too kind.

    The way I understand it, most imprints have a policy of either typically including photographs or excluding them. Like Knopf usually doesn’t include author photos–unless your name is Markus Zusak. I wasn’t given any parameters for my author photo (which is, gulp, 7 years old). I just got some professionally made, sent them in, and they used them.

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    • Carol Brendler

      I asked an editor at Philomel (can you guess whom?) who said they almost always use author photos unless the author balks. So apparently it has to do with the personality of the imprint. She also said that it is marketing/publicity who decides about including photos, which, to me, suggests that the author’s appearance may indeed have something to do with it. But again, Mr. Silverstein.

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  4. Joshua McCune

    Wonder if they’ve ever allowed anybody to use an avatar. Shel coulda used one. That photo belongs with his more risqué works, methinks.

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  5. Carol, I have been so curious about this very question. Thanks for posting about it and shedding some light!

    (Now I’ve gone to look at the Putnam books on my shelf–one has a photo, one doesn’t, and I can’t find the third. Hm…)

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  6. I was asked for an author photo but instead I suggested my illustrator draw us as monster caricatures. They thought it was a great idea, but ultimately, no photo or monsterly likeness appears on the flap. Dunno why, but I’m OK with it.

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  7. Laurie Boyle Crompton

    You’re so sweet, Carol! I think it’s interesting that a lot of people assume it’s up to the author whether or not their photo appears on the jacket.
    Also, wouldn’t it be fun if more author photos were taken with us wearing our ‘work clothes’ – aka: PJs!

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  8. Carol, I rather like the whole photo-on-the-jacket thing. I’m still suffering from the feeling of being an imposter even after three novels.

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  9. Replying very, very late, since I was out of the loop in early December. My house (McElderry, S&S) asked for an author photo but made it clear at the time that it would be on the website and in publicity materials, but not on the book flap. It is an across-the-board approach for them that the author’s picture isn’t on the bookflap. I don’t recall that they said why.

    They also asked me for a bio of a specified length, which appears in full on the bookflap, but on their website, the bio was minimized to “Jeannie is an archaeologist and professor living in Colorado,” which is the bio that then appears at all the online book sellers, and which makes me cringe with its minimal, didn’t-try-very-hard feel.

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