A couple of weeks ago I was procrastinating from working on my latest story by meandering around the internet hoping to find something worthwhile to read. While I was mindlessly reading through tweets something caught my eye. Without realizing it, my fingers started to work quickly over the track pad making the screen scroll so fast that my eyes were desperately trying to keep up with all the images flying at them. Then I stopped, leaned back and thought, “Crap, I need a new profile picture.” You know why I thought that? Because all the writers, published authors, whomever, all have awesome, interesting or just gorgeous profile pics.
Once again my image of a writer was discredited. I still saw a writer as someone who is so committed to getting their story down that they forgot to shower, haven’t eaten anything but pretzel sticks and drank so much coffee that their fingers are basically jumping around the keyboard in hopes that they fall onto the right keys.
Now, obviously, if you know that you’re getting your picture taken you’re not going to show up as a slob. I get that. And if you’re going to market yourself you’re going to market a somewhat presentable version of yourself. I looked at my picture, a picture that was taken at the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, and thought, its not working for me.
I remembered a post I had read by Tawna Fenske, in which she talks about wearing glasses and how she was told it enhanced her image, made her look like a “sexy librarian.” It got me thinking. I used to wear contacts all the time, especially when my oldest was first born. Those little hands were quick and she was known to break a pair or two of glasses before the wearer even knew they were off their face. However, now with two, I barely have time to brush my hair, let alone have enough time to stick a finger in my eye, nor would I want to with two children hanging on me. So glasses it is.
My hair is longer and straighter and I thought, well, an updated picture wouldn’t be a bad thing. So, I ventured to my iphoto application and went through the thousands of pictures I have on my computer. I sorted through family vacations, birthdays, picnics and parties. I’m in all of them, with some form of food spilled down my shirt, with small children clinging to me like monkeys and always with a “Oh-my-God-shoot-me-now” look on my face. Not something that I wanted to use to show the world that I consider myself a writer.
Sparky offered to take some pictures and I thought, why the heck not? So, one lazy Sunday afternoon we dumped, er, dropped the kids off at my parents and we went out to a local parkway with interesting scenery. Not expecting anything spectacular we just had fun walking around and acting like we knew what we were doing. We were both pleasantly surprised with the results…and apparently so were a lot of other people.
I changed the profile pic and I got hits on Facebook and Twitter praising the new pictures. As much as I absolutely appreciate the comments, it also made me think about the image of a writer. One of my friends commented that the pictures made me look smarter, more sophisticated, which if you knew me, you’d probably agree with her assessment.
I know a reader isn’t going to pick up a book look at the back cover and say “Eh, she’s ugly. I’m not interested in her book.” But, who knows, they may pick it up, see an attractive photo and give the synopsis another read through.
I admit, I look at the head shots. I like to know what people look like; when I go to websites or blogs I like to see pictures. I like to know that these are actual people with actual lives, not robots that can churn out 100,000 word novels without any emotion. I like learning about people and seeing them in their own environment gives me a better picture (no pun intended) about the author.
What do the writer head shots mean to you? Do you even look at them? Are you more inclined to buy a book from an author that looks like a writer or from one that just looks like any other person? And what about genre writers? Would you pick up a vampire novel with the author’s picture that looks like Mary Sunshine? Or would you look for one that has the author wearing black leather in a sea of mist? Does it even matter?