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 sci-fi 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 five 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 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 previously ranted on about how some literary agencies and publishers have a roster of clients that looks like a modelling agency.
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!
These are the sort of things that authors agonise over, as this article about famed photographic portraitist Marion Ettlinger reveals. Sadly, the article doesn’t show her photographs, but here’s a link to her website.
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 is 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?