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Do Writers Look Like Their Books?

What did you write today? -- Wednesday

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Reality Check Frowning Clouds By Alix .J. Gordon

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Paul Whybrow

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You know how it's said, that people look like their dogs, and vice-versa?

The same can be said of cat owners.

Well, I was wondering if authors resemble the books that they write...could you pick out the science-fiction writers from romance authors and those who pen historical sagas (with a goose quill pen) should you be at a writers' conference?

I don't think that I look particularly homicidal, though I've been writing crime novels for the last three years. If anything, my long curly hair and beard might lead people to suspect that I'm a sci-fi author, or someone who churns out dire outlaw biker thrillers, or maybe non-fiction about counter-culture and rock musicians.

Guessing what someone does for a job is occasionally easy, especially if you've hung around with that crowd. It hardly needs Sherlock Holmes' powers of observation, to identify which people are farmers in a pub bar—their clothing, weather-beaten complexions, footwear and unkempt hairstyles all give them away. I once worked as a barman in an inn that was close to a police station and Crown Court: it was simple to tell the difference between the coppers and the legal eagles, even when they were in plain clothes.

There was also a town pub notorious for being fraternised by criminals, and I observed many similarities between ever-watchful and cynical law-breakers and their pursuers, the observant detectives who believe no one's story.

An author's appearance can be crucial in helping to market and sell their books. I've preciously ranted on about how some literary agencies and publishers have a roster of clients that look like a modelling agency. Maybe, I've been wrong in being cynical about this: it's not that they're choosing attractive clients, it's simply that being an author makes all of us beautiful, handsome, sexy and youthful! :D

All the same, it's impossible for any of us to escape a tendency to have a stereotypical image of how a genre writer should look. As I contemplate creating an online persona to market my Cornish Detective series, I've been wondering daft things, such as should I acquire a long wax-proof coat for my author picture, along with a sturdy walking pole—my protagonist detective has both—for me to be artfully posed on a Bodmin Moor granite crag? Shoot me, now! :mad:

These are the sort of things that authors agonise over, as this article about famed photographic portraitist Marion Ettlinger discusses. Sadly, the article doesn't show her photographs, but here's a link to her website:

Marion Ettlinger

Some of her images hint at what sort of books an author writes, or, at least their stance and clothing suggest their style.

One aspect of marketing that amuses me, is how the dust jacket end flap shows a photograph of the author from 20 years ago, back when his skin was tight and his hair profuse, and he didn't look like one of the Walking Dead. I wonder if the choice is at the author's insistence (I'm forever young!) or the publicity department are blatantly conning the reading public.

So, do you look like the author of your book?

Could a reader guess that you write fantasy stories?

Do all writers of children's books look friendly and approachable, open to new experiences—like adult-sized children?

education-teaching-prose-writers-authors-novels-novelists-shrn3845_low.jpg
 

Rich.

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Great post, Paul, as always.

I've been wondering daft things, such as should I acquire a long wax-proof coat for my author picture, along with a sturdy walking pole—my protagonist detective has both—for me to be artfully posed on a Bodmin Moor granite crag? Shoot me, now! :mad:
I'm so with you on this. I have a visceral loathing of being staged.

So, do you look like the author of your book?

Could a reader guess that you write fantasy stories?
Right now, probably yes. I've let my hair and beard grow and am rarely seen without battered walking boots. Except I probably smile more than most fantasy authors, at least more than you normally see in a typical author pic.
 

Carol Rose

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Seriously though, I have no clue what people think a writer of erotic romance looks like, but I know a lot of them and I assure you we look like everyday, ordinary human beings. :) And many of us are over forty. Or fifty. LOL! I'm sixty, and I color my hair or it would be snow white like my grandmother's was. I need to lose some weight, and in my youth I was called "pretty." :) I dress in comfy clothes (jeans and sneakers, mostly!), and I'm quiet until you get to know me. Then you can't shut me up. LOL!! I most definitely don't have a poker face. I wear my heart on my sleeve. It's too easy to tell what I'm thinking and feeling in person. :)
 

Howard

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Seriously though, I have no clue what people think a writer of erotic romance looks like, but I know a lot of them and I assure you we look like everyday, ordinary human beings. :) And many of us are over forty. Or fifty. LOL! I'm sixty, and I color my hair or it would be snow white like my grandmother's was. I need to lose some weight, and in my youth I was called "pretty." :) I dress in comfy clothes (jeans and sneakers, mostly!), and I'm quiet until you get to know me. Then you can't shut me up. LOL!! I most definitely don't have a poker face. I wear my heart on my sleeve. It's too easy to tell what I'm thinking and feeling in person. :)

You mean you are not draped, Barbara Cartland style, over a chaise-longue, sipping champagne as you dictate to your assistant?! Do you have no respect for your genre, woman?!

:D
 

Barbara

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Do I look like the author of my books? Well, my last novel was about a nutty woman who thinks the Mafia is after her. Feel free to judge from my profile pic. The next novel will be about a guy who becomes a cult leader and then starts killing his flock. Again, judge from my profile pic.

No, seriously. We mustn't give into the pressures of looks, expected looks, blessed-with looks, or whatever looks. I used to be an actress, (still am, sort of), and if I have to read yet another casting breakdown asking for a blond, slim, early-twenties, femme-fatale, I might just throw myself off a cliff (see my entry for this month's flash club on how to do that best).

So please, World, let this writing industry be one industry where we can just be ourselves, with our bumps, green hairs, grey hairs, crossed eyes, or whatever. And, Paul, don't antagonise over what kind of pic to put on your book sleeve or website. Don't pose for any pic in the depth of the Cornish landscape with a magnifying glass. Don't airbrush any pics, or don't bother shaving your beard unless you're fed up collecting food in it. Be true to who you are. The sooner this world gets rid of the fickle kind of thinking of having to look a certain way, the better.

Rant over. I only hope it was in English.
 

Robinne Weiss

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As an entomologist who's been known as The Bug Lady since the age of seven, I'm apparently not allowed to be photographed without an insect. That's fine, as I have a novel and two non-fiction books that are insect-related. But it's a bit annoying when I'm trying to market a book about dragons, and the photographer for the local paper insists I have my picture taken with a bug in hand.

As for the more general middle grade market I write for? I'm pretty spot-on for fitting the demographic. I went to a children's writers conference last year and 99 out of 100 participants were middle-aged women. It was downright depressing, actually. There were a couple of men in attendance--they were all illustrators.
 

Barbara

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As an entomologist who's been known as The Bug Lady since the age of seven, I'm apparently not allowed to be photographed without an insect. That's fine, as I have a novel and two non-fiction books that are insect-related. But it's a bit annoying when I'm trying to market a book about dragons, and the photographer for the local paper insists I have my picture taken with a bug in hand.

As for the more general middle grade market I write for? I'm pretty spot-on for fitting the demographic. I went to a children's writers conference last year and 99 out of 100 participants were middle-aged women. It was downright depressing, actually. There were a couple of men in attendance--they were all illustrators.


@Robinne Weiss, maybe pose with a dragon fly?
 

Amber

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I love the movie She-Devil. I don't think anyone else did but I liked it ... Meryl Streep in her pink suit and her blushing pink life writing her romances ... too funny.

Sometimes authors look like the pictures of their books and sometimes they don't. So, I really don't have much to add to this conversation.

I'm into pictures but certainly not of myself. Sometimes, for fun, I take a few photos, just to make sure I'm still here. Then I delete them. Because, that's not me. I think my facebook picture is from a few years back. My hair was blue then. That was when I was really trying to do peacock hair and I tried green, purple, and blue. Now it's a dark shade with sort of a blue tinge. I've been told it's not blue at all and instead... I dyed it black. It's something I'm pretending I didn't hear. And just today I've been considering adding an aqua streak to the front. I still have some aqua SPLAT! in the cupboard.

All that aside, I'm totally under-qualified to judge what people might think of a photo of me, whether my skin holds up or not, and whether I look like what I write. May the color of my hair continue to be a distraction from any such discussion.

You know all that garbage is marketing. The author of goodnight moon was polyamorous and carried on affairs with married peoples, men and women. She also didn't like children. But honestly, isn't that her right... to not have to act and be a certain way just because she wrote a book many people enjoy? It doesn't make the book any less.

It'd be totally great if The Monster at the End of the Book was written by a real live monster. That would be fun. But I think Grover wrote it. He made appearances in the book itself.
 
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OperaDivaAlix

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I’ve lost three stone and I have a pet cat ex-feral called Bear - and he is completely black. He used to hiss and spit at me if I went anywhere near him and have the odd swipe at me. Now he is the most softest cat ever. He gives me a little head butt in the mornings. He sleeps in bed with me and yes under the covers every night he warms my feet and protects me I suppose. And yes, I’m sorry to say he follows me into the bathroom and rubs against my legs as I do my business lol he never made a sound at me apart from a hiss. Now he squeaks at me to say hello, everytime I walk in a room and he always squeaks for food at 6am lol. Do I look like I write fantasy? I don’t think so, I think I don’t look like I write at all. Compared to some of you @MaryA looks like a very sophisticated woman, cosmopolitan style. @Rich looks very down to earth, with a very friendly, cheeky smile and you have this sudden urge to ruffle his hair. @Barbara looks like a cool chick, who likes to have a good time. I wouldn’t have guessed she worked in the military. @Paul Whybrow you have one of those faces, that has a story behind it and you want to know it. You have a profound stare like your going somewhere and you know where. Do I think your all storytellers from your pics, no! :) have I got the idea or have I offended you all. If I have sincere apologies that is not my intention peeps. Kind Regards, Alix
 

MaryA

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Um, @OperaDivaAlix, thanks for the compliment but you're looking at Coco Chanel who was chic, difficult and an all-round ballbuster. I'm bespectacled, grey-haired, unglam and probably nicer to know.
 

Barbara

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I’ve lost three stone and I have a pet cat ex-feral called Bear - and he is completely black. He used to hiss and spit at me if I went anywhere near him and have the odd swipe at me. Now he is the most softest cat ever. He gives me a little head butt in the mornings. He sleeps in bed with me and yes under the covers every night he warms my feet and protects me I suppose. And yes, I’m sorry to say he follows me into the bathroom and rubs against my legs as I do my business lol he never made a sound at me apart from a hiss. Now he squeaks at me to say hello, everytime I walk in a room and he always squeaks for food at 6am lol. Do I look like I write fantasy? I don’t think so, I think I don’t look like I write at all. Compared to some of you @MaryA looks like a very sophisticated woman, cosmopolitan style. @Rich looks very down to earth, with a very friendly, cheeky smile and you have this sudden urge to ruffle his hair. @Barbara looks like a cool chick, who likes to have a good time. I wouldn’t have guessed she worked in the military. @Paul Whybrow you have one of those faces, that has a story behind it and you want to know it. You have a profound stare like your going somewhere and you know where. Do I think your all storytellers from your pics, no! :) have I got the idea or have I offended you all. If I have sincere apologies that is not my intention peeps. Kind Regards, Alix

Hey @Alix. Me, a cool chick who likes to have a good time?? :)Not sure about that one. He he. But I'm far, far, far from an outgoing a party person, that's for sure. As for the military, I'm not actually in the 'm', I just work for them as a contractor for half of the week. The other half I do other work.
 
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OperaDivaAlix

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Hey @Alix. Me, a cool chick who likes to have a good time?? :)Not sure about that one. He he. But I'm far, far, far from an outgoing a party person, that's for sure. As for the military, I'm not actually in the 'm', I just work for them as a contractor for half of the week. The other half I do other work.
Must be the sunglasses, probably is and how wrong I’m I lol have i just digged myself a hole. I’m going to put the spade down now lol. But before I do, what I mean is your the sort of person you would want to have a drink with and be the first one on the dance floor kinda gal. Spade down as I mutter to myself Alix just shut up lol
 

Barbara

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Must be the sunglasses, probably is and how wrong I’m I lol have i just digged myself a hole. I’m going to put the spade down now lol. But before I do, what I mean is your the sort of person you would want to have a drink with and be the first one on the dance floor kinda gal. Spade down as I mutter to myself Alix just shut up lol

Don't worry, you didn't dig a hole. :) It's a compliment if people think one's a fun person.
 
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OperaDivaAlix

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I babble and talk a lot, have you noticed? lol I’m just very outgoing, annoyingly so. I like to engage, talk to people and occasionally make them laugh. Isn’t that what Litopia is all about socialising, being friendly, having fun and writing stories :)
 
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What did you write today? -- Wednesday

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Reality Check Frowning Clouds By Alix .J. Gordon

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