Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Authors' Photos

I'm wondering what the rationale is behind an author's decision to use really, really old (as in younger) photos of themselves. Have you all noticed this?

More than once at the national Romance Writers of America annual conference (which is going on this week in Atlanta) I've been shocked to meet Famous Author who looks absolutely nothing like her outdated photo. In most cases she looks about 30 years older.

It's a pity this country is so youth oriented it doesn't value the wisdom imparted by older authors. Of course, some of that might be blamed on the fact that a majority of editors at most New York publishing houses are only a couple of years removed from college, and authors know they have to appeal to these editors who have the power of the pursestrings.

On the subject of author photos, I'm really glad those utterly phoney glamour shots have fallen out of favor -- especially those jaunty hats that few women ever wear. But it seems like half the authors out there are now being captured in a power suit, standing in a confident stance that seems to say, "Take that, John Grisham."

Personally, I like to wear pearls in my publicity shots. They not only convey femininity but also a timeless elegance -- both qualities I like to capture in my books. To see my three-year-old publicity photo that needs to be updated (because of new hair style), check out my website at www.cherylbolen.com. While there, you'll see I'm not exactly young. I'm not yet a grandmother, though I'm old enough to be. I'm actually proud that I have a lot of life experience from which to draw for my books.


Nancy Herkness said...

Cheryl, I'm so glad to hear that I'm not the only one who is shocked at inaccurate author photos (remember Jonathan Franzen's smoldering gaze which wasn't so smoldering in real life?). I met a Famous Author in NYC a couple of years ago and I think my jaw must have dropped about a foot (I'm soooo in control of my facial expressions) because she was at least 30 years older than the photo in her most recent book (which I'd read and loved). I managed to stammer something about it being nice to meet her but all intelligent thought had fled at that point and I quickly fled as well.

When I had my author photos taken the photographer asked me to take off my glasses. I politely refused because I wear glasses 24/7 and I wanted the photos to look the way I do. This came in handy once when I went into a bookstore to autograph copies of my book and they asked for proof that I was Nancy Herkness which is my maiden name. All my id is in my married name. So I held up the author photo beside my face and said, "See?" To this day, I wonder why they think anyone else would want to autograph my books but I suppose stranger things have happened.

As for YOUR author photo, you look maaahvelous! Love the pearls! You can't go wrong with those; they're a classic.

Nancy Morse said...

Yesterday, in a conversation with my 32 year old neighbor, the subject of age came up. She said that she and another neighbor were wondering how old I am. I must confess that I hesitated a moment before I told her that I'm 59. Yet truth prevailed. To my immense relief, she nearly fell off her chair and said that she would not have guessed me to be any older than 45. The sweet young thing made my day. Still, I am what I am, and I would never use a photograph of myself from when I actually was 45, although I completely understand why someone would. It's the age-obsessed culture we live in. Maybe it's kind of like not wanting to imagine your parents having sex. Maybe some of the younger readers don't want to think of someone old enough to be their mother or grandmother writing hot love stories.

Anonymous said...

Cheryl, great post. I, too, have met authors who no longer resemble their taken-eons-ago promo photos. At best it's unnerving, at worst, it's gigglicious.

While you can't blame anyone for putting their best face forward for a book cover or other promo materials, I don't see the point in air brushing away our, uh, wisdom wrinkles.


Sling Words said...

Very well said, Cheryl. We are what we are so why try to fool anyone? As if we could. My author photo needs updating since it too is three years old, but I think I'll wait for the conference in Dallas. Shall we be roomies again?

JoAnn Ross said...

My photo is three years old. I had an appointment with Studio 16 at Atlanta, then I cancelled last month due to this August 1 deadline. So it'll probably be a few more years before I get another one because where I've lived for the past eight years it's hard to find someone who doesn't do the standard yearbook photo, and even more difficult to explain to people why Pocket and Kensington really can't pay them for every picture on copy of every book. Plus, I'd rather get root canals in EVERY tooth than have my picture taken. So, eventually it'll be ten years old and by then I'll probably be retired and won't care.

Meanwhile, I've been arguing for 24 years that readers don't need to know what I look like, but none of my editors, publishers, or even my grown kid or husband agree. So, every few years I fuss and allow myself to be dragged to a photographer. The outfit in my current photo is an ancient favorite black t-shirt I wore because I like the way the standup neckline looks. And thanks to judicial cropping, people can't even see the red clay stains from gardening all over the front of it. LOL

Sally MacKenzie said...

LOL, Cheryl. My photo is only a few years old, but thanks to the wonders of digital photography, it's had a year or two--or ten--subtracted. I HATE pictures of myself, but this was actually fun--both the sitting and the watching the wonders of technology. Well, I write fiction, right? And this way I can move through the world without being mobbed by my adoring fans. Uh, yeah. I did mention I write fiction, didn't I?