Author Photo Redux

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31 August 2009

Is it really the last day of August?  I think 2009 will likely go down as one of the most un-summery summers in (my personal) history.  Tomato blight, rain rain rain, a tougher teaching schedule than I had in the spring, a series of ailments and illnesses.  My most summery activity was probably frequenting the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park semi-regularly; I even once, despite my lactose intolerance, enjoyed a delectable, life-changing frozen custard.   

I did spend Sunday of the last weekend of summer upstate in Ulster County with friends who have 47 sublime wooded acres bordering a large creek. If this sounds luxuriously summery, you’re mostly right; but the occasion for the visit was to have my author photo taken by kind and talented Robin, who happens to be a professional photographer.  

I fretted this outing for the week preceding.  The life of the writer — contra my previous life working in a professional office five days a week — is one in which meticulous self-coiffing and productive writing tend to develop an inversely proportional relationship.  I’ve never been particularly girly, but over the last two years or so, I’ve pretty much forgotten the how of the whole thing.  Hair?  Makeup?  Outfit?  Uy.  Like many-a bookish writer types, I fantasized sending in to my publisher a photo of gorgeous Pax the Pup, so naturally winning and photogenic (on Amazon, there is an explicit rule for Authors on the Authors  Administration Page:  Please, no photos of pets or children. Oh, cruel corporate guidelines!)

Pax Blanket

Bring a few different outfits, any makeup you normally wear, and something for putting your hair up if you want to try that, Robin had advised when we spoke on the phone.  Okay, I can do that, I thought.

By late afternoon, we had over 200 photos (the miracle of digital!).  This lighting, that lighting, the white shirt, the dark shirt, smiling, unsmiling, standing, sitting, arms crossed, arms by my side.  We included Pax in a few, for good measure.  The weather cooperated.  By the time we were done, my head was pounding and my stomach a little sick.  But I was grateful; it was done, and I knew Robin had done a great job despite my anxiety.

In a few days, all 200 photos will be loaded up to an ftp site for my review.  Somehow, I’ll pick one or two for the book jacket.  Similar to my previous ruminations about the book jacket design itself, I’ll ask myself: what’s the purpose of this photo?  What do I want it/what is it meant to convey?  How does the photo impact the potential book-buyer or reader, if at all?  Your thoughts?  To be continued…

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2 Responses to “Author Photo Redux”

  1. lisa peet Says:

    It’s unfair how consistently photogenic animals are when they don’t even care what they look like. I’m always a fan of author plus dog, but I know a lot of people find that manipulative or corny or what have you… eh, I just like author photos period, just a little something to hang an identity on. Just so long as they’re not visibly sweaty.

  2. Danny Says:

    I always look for the author’s photo, and I’m disappointed when it’s not there.

    Why I do this, or if it really affects me, I have no idea.


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