Friday, July 14, 2006

Would you buy a book from this person...?

What sells a book is an eternal mystery, unknown to Man. Or to the woman who works as the marketing /publicity person at XYZ publishers.

We all know that bad books sometimes sell. By the gadzillions. We also know that some blindingly brilliant (and entertaining) novels never seem to take off. But you know what really, really puzzles me, far more than those minor mysteries?

It is this: Why should the publicity department of a publisher think that a photo of me is going to help the sales of my books? Is he kidding?

Now it might be different if I looked like my daughter who is now displayed in 8' splendour on the back of a Glasgow bus (see here). Or my other daughter who is also a bit of a stunner when her two-year-old hasn't smeared lasagne in her hair.

But me? I haven't seem too many women my age and height and weight and unlifted-wrinkle-factor doing much advertising of products lately. I look like the "before" shot for someone going on an Oprah makeover show for really desperate housewives. So how the hell is any photo of me going to help sell my books?

Take my word for it, folks, I write a good book. People who buy my books seem to like them. That's all you need to know. You don't need to see what I look like.

However, I bend to the pressure of the publicity/marketing department. If you did see a photo of me, which one of these would turn you off reading a book of mine the least?

Nope, no good. My daughter is on the back of a bus. I just look like the back of one. I am heading out to a botox party (back in a couple of days), and does anyone know how to use that airbrush thingy on photoshop?

13 comments:

Gillian said...

I like the second one especially. You look very charming and very authorial, both at once (and rahter like your daughter, or your daughter looks rather like you). I do wish you had one of you smiling though - you have the world's loveliest smile.

Kendall said...

Out of those three, I also like the second one best.

I always liked your blog pic, which appears to be gone now. The blog pic you had made you look like an otherworldly priest. Otherworldly because of the misty lighting and odd angle; priest because it kinda looked like you had some kind of priestly collar/outfit on. (In case that offends you - I do mean the "otherworldly priest" comment as a compliment.)

Lydia Teh said...

Yes, 2nd one is nicer. If you have your pix taken in photo studio, the "magic brush" is thrown in for free. I know from experience. See my book cover pix :)

Simon Haynes said...

Hi Glenda,

I got a pro to take a couple of dozen pics of me, and only one came out halfway useable. You need a pro photographer (or an decent amateur with a good camera) so they can frame the shot properly and blur the background. Lighting is important (no flouros, no sun in the eyes, need a reflector board if outdoors in strong light, etc)

There's a reason these guys earn a lot of money, and the results are usually pretty good.

Having said all that, we're writers and not movie stars. Newspapers like to show a picture, but a cover shot is far more useful to us than our own faces.

Satima said...

I agree that the second pic is the best of the three, Glenda, but I also agree that you need a pro with nice misty gauzes and things. I have a beaut pic of me that knocked 10 years and 10kg off. (30 yrs and 30kg would have been better, but even those clever photographers can't work miracles!)

OTOH your being a mature lady is a good advert for the capabilities of older females. I've come to the conclusion that growing older sure beats the alternative:-)

One writer with whom I did a workshop a few years ago made us all laugh when she described how a photographer suggested that he shoot her in almost-rear view, writing on a blackboard!

Kendall said...

Yay, your blogger picture's back. I see now, it's just in the small version that it looks like you have some kind of collar on.

That's the other thing, the same photo at different sizes can give a different look.

Anghara said...

When they did an interview with me in a Canadian newspaper a while back they sent a pro to take a picture to go with the story.

He took a couple of DOZEN shots. Some of them were hysterical - no, I am NOT posting them, but I do have one which (if I ever write a really FUNNY hunmour book) I am *so* using as an author shot. Of the rest, two were really good. But in order to get those the poor photoghrapher climbed down onto the slope of my garden, covered with blackberries, and by the time he was done he looked like he had been in a warzone for a week.

Yep, they earn their money, those guys. And if you want my advice, for you particularly, it might pay you to get an author shot with a sort of jungle-lush background - gives you context, and also (if you REALLY think you want the attention off yourself) it gives people something else in the photo to look at as well as your mugshot.

Get a good photo - it's worth it...

Andrew said...

This week I had a photographer arrive to take my photo for a (local) news story about my book. 60 shots later and I was all over the 'novelty' of it - I hate having my photo taken at the best of times! Still, having taken that many photos, they might find one that is useable. Personally, I like your second shot, though regardless, I only ever buy books for the writing - not the publicity photo! cheers, Andrew :)

KarenEMiller said...

No photo will ever truly do you justice ... unless it can somehow capture your class and generosity of spirit.

Having said that, #2 shows us a glimpse with your fabulous smile.

Bernita said...

The second one.
Sympathize.
If the issue ever arises, I plan to show up in a burkha.
I don't buy books based on author's pictures.

bibliobibuli said...

i've never seen you with makeup on before! and while you do scrub up well, you look more you in casual gear with a forest background

character is all! there's no need to look glam

i like a photo of the author in my books and wehen we have out reading group meetings it's one of the first things we want to look at!

wjfljql said...

Hi,

I remember reading somewhere that some people complained that Zadie's Smith's photo for "White Teeth" had been taken to make her look more 'Caucasian.' I assume they thought that the publisher thought it would help the sales. I don't know.

Alessandra said...

i like the second pic best. whenever i read a particularly good book i always look at the back to know more about the author. it's always better if they have a picture because it helps me to form a visual image of someone who has inspired me. i always like looking at pictures of people especially on the net. im an online dater at webdate*dot*com and if a see a pic that looks interesting that's the time i send him a message.