Do These Glasses Make Me A Better Writer?

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?

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12 Responses to Do These Glasses Make Me A Better Writer?

  1. A.M. Kuska says:

    head shots annoy the crap out of me when they take up the entire back cover. Other than that I don’t care if its an orangutan writing the book as long as it’s good.

    • Kaye Peters says:

      I don’t like that either. As much as I want to know a little bit about the author, I want to know what the book is about more than anything. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Savana Quinn says:

    I have been struggling with the same thing. I avoid cameras whenever possible, so I only have one decent picture of myself, and I am using it everywhere. Pookie and I keep saying we are going to go take some pictures, much like you and Sparky did, but life keeps getting in the way. Or maybe I am just procrastinating. 🙂

    Either way, the pictures we use on our websites and on places like twitter are part of the platform we are building, so it only makes sense we would want to put forth a good image.

    I do tend to look at the author pictures when looking at a new book. Like you, I like to get an idea in my head of who the author is. However, I don’t think that the picture necessarily needs to match the genre. I have read some dark paranormal romances with happy, peppy looking pictures. After all, paranormal aside, it is still a romance. 🙂

    • Kaye Peters says:

      This has been on my mind for quite a bit. But beautiful pictures aside, you know what I really want to be my profile picture? The cover of my book. I’m so jealous of those people…guess I should get off of here and go write that book so I can do the same, huh?

      Before I go, its true what you said about our platform. We’re working hard putting ourselves out there and I guess where we’re at now in this journey we’re most vulnerable. We’re not only introducing our stories to everyone but who we are as well. It’s kind of scary if you think about it.

  3. I’ve definitely thought about this and am still not sure whether my profile shots are the best they could be. I mean, they’re nice shots, but they’re not ‘authorly’. When reading, I do look at the author photo but it doesn’t really make a difference what they look like- unless the photo is completely unprofessional. So maybe we worry too much about these things. 🙂

    • Kaye Peters says:

      It’s a shame that we have to think about our pictures at all, I mean, we’re writers right, it shouldn’t matter what we look like. And what does an “author” look like anyways? However, if there is something to worry over, no doubt I will find it and obsess over it. This is just this weeks 😉

  4. Lisa says:

    First, I really like your picture. I don’t know that I really pay attention to pictures or even the author’s bio until I’ve started reading the book. Then, I often start wondering who is this person. Would I like him/her? Do we have anything in common? Where does he/she live? etc. I know that it is time to put my picture on my blog, but I haven’t found or taken the right one yet. I avoid cameras and am afraid that people will judge me for being overweight or I will look old or something. But the truth should be that, if the words are strong enough appearances don’t matter. And, as I am making more virtual friends I’m beginning to want to see them.

    • Kaye Peters says:

      Thank you for the compliment!

      I usually glance at the picture but pay more attention to the book, of course. But when I realize that I like just more than one of an author’s work I need to know everything about them. I ask myself the same questions (what do we have common, would I want to hang out with them in real life) these questions help me understand the books better, if that makes sense. Like I’m getting a look inside the author’s head and what they wanted to achieve with each book – even if it is just a silly little romance.

      I guess this post stems from having a background in theatre where image is everything. However, one of the biggest lessons the stage taught me was that images can be deceiving and just because someone looks the role doesn’t mean that they should be playing it or that they can play it well.

      Words are what should matter and they should be what we’re judged on – not our looks. I agree with the first commenter on this post, A.M.Kuska, I don’t care what the author looks like as long as its a good book.

      • Lisa says:

        That’s why I direct instead of act. Director’s can just look crazy if they want. I was always cast in character roles (which are fun) because I couldn’t pull off anything else. I don’t really care what an author looks like, the one that throws me is when you see pictures of voices from the radio and they don’t match your image. Woo!

  5. Kaye Peters says:

    Isn’t that weirdest thing ever? I used to work at a radio station and those first few weeks threw me for a loop when I would hear this big booming voice coming down the hallway and when I looked up I saw this 5 ft 3 skinny guy. So weird.

  6. Virginia says:

    This one’s been a struggle for me, too. The pic I’m currently using is 13 years old and I *know* I need a new one, but I haven’t found the time (read I’m procrastinating in the hopes the problem will disappear on its own. HA!). I usually don’t look at the author photos on books because, like radio personalities, they never live up to my expectations. However, I love photos of bloggers. Somehow those make the internet seem more human and less techie.

    • Kaye Peters says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      I completely agree with you. Pictures help make this whole blogging/tweeting/facebooking thing personal. These social platforms connect us by keeping us separated yet getting glimpses of people helps strengthen that connection. Great points!

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