We all know the expression “You can’t tell a book by its cover.” The joy of the Susan Boyle phenomenon is finding something magnificent inside a body that looks undistinguished and frumpy.
Does it work that way in the book world itself? If we write great prose, does it matter what we look like? If only.
Book buyers do seem to think you can tell a book by its cover. In a recent story on NPR, Martha Woodroof reports “the use of novelist photos steadily increased as the text-driven magazines of the first half of the 20th century gave way to the picture-driven ones of the second half.” Nicholas Latimer of Knopf relates a conversation with a People’s Magazine editor who told him that “if you have an attractive looking author, there’s a better chance that your book will get reviewed.” Latimer bemoaned this state of affairs: “That is just shocking to think that you have to have an attractive author first, and then if they’ve written something interesting they might review it.” (Click here if you want to listen to the whole NPR story.)
I’m screwed. Damn! Is a plastic surgeon as necessary as a good editor then?
Jessa Crispin, the BookSlut, tells NPR listeners, “You know, I have met too many writers who look absolutely nothing like their author photo. So you meet them at a party, you're like, who are you? Like, did you hire somebody for your author photos? Should I get someone to stand in for me?”
Good idea! I have a book coming out in October. Maybe getting the right stand-in for my author photo is the answer. Others employ ghost writers. I'll use a ghost face.