Click on the image for more information.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Author Photo Hell

It had to happen sooner or later. Now that the new book is coming out, I am going to have to change my avatar.

I wish I could keep it. I love the cover to TOUCH OF FIRE. I helped design that cover. And the artist was very, very sweet abo
ut working with me. I knew even then I would never get a chance to give that much input on a cover again. (Not unless I self-publish.)

If you don't have an art background, you depend on the publisher's professionals to guide you. B
ut when you've been an artist and art director for more than three decades, it's hard to let someone else decide these things for you.

And let's face it. Who knows better than the author what the book is about?

But now it leaves me with the unenviable position of changing my blog's avatar, and the avatar that appears on many forums.

I could use this picture. That's me with Chelly. I love that picture, but it's a bit dated.

I could take a new photo, but in what pose? Should I be serious? Matronly? Flashy? None of those personas appeal to me because they're not me.

Author photos tend to be so fabricated. How many times have you seen a male author in a black turtleneck and a pipe? Or the woman author with makeup so thick, her eyes bug out like she'd just been goosed
by her 3 year old.

Here's the Glamour-shot me. I hate it. That is so not me--or rather it is me, but with tons of makeup. (At least there's no pipe.)

I could take a new picture of me and one of my dogs, but Tank is looking elderly and Iko slobbers on me like a lovesick teenager. That evil dog has slipped me the tongue on more than one occasion too.

I was not amused.

I've never been a fan of author photos. It's too easy to pass judgment on someone by the way they look--a look that many times is fictional itself. That's why I've always been partial to the picture of me and Chelly. That's me. That's who I am. Someone who loves dogs, lives in jeans and schleps about in the sticks.

Of all people, I know how important it is to maintain a consistent physical presence, a face to the words, but does it really have to be my face? I'm not twenty-five anymore. And the only way I'd stop traffic now is if I had a heart attack in the middle of rush hour. there's an idea. LOL.

Do people really care what the author looks like? Do you?

My vote is to use a picture of one of my dogs. Maybe my future dog--whoever she may be.

What say you, guys? Author photo or cute dog?


Ted Cross said...

I would dread this, too, as I never like photos of me. My favorite author photo was Shel Silverstein's on the back of The Giving Tree. He looked so relaxed and unpretentious in that pic. That's what I wish I could capture in my author photo, but I doubt that will happen.

Maria Zannini said...

Ted: I looked up Silverstein. I like his body posture, but his facial expression looks a little scary--especially for a YA author. LOL!

Linda Leszczuk said...

Find an adorable dog and get a picture of yourself with it. If you really want more dog and less you, just make it a shot with you snuzzling his/her fur. You can burrow in as deep as you like.

What would be cool is something that reflects your homesteading. Not sure how that would work. Hey, how about a picture of you with one of the hens?

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: Hey, how about a picture of you with one of the hens?

I thought about that, but then how would anyone know which old biddy was the author? LOL!

Shirley Wells said...

I hate author pics, too. At least, I hate my author pic.

The pic of you and Chelly is terrific. I'd go for that one. Who cares if it's dated? Who's to know? We can't all be twenty-five, can we? :)

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: We can't all be twenty-five, can we?

Even if you are--it doesn't last long. LOL!

Sue Guiney said...

I went through this same dilemma last month (it's on my blog). I was convinced that it had to be a picture of me, but which picture? And is the new one better or worse than the old one? Jury's still out on that....

Dru said...

I like the natural poses of the author and I do like seeing what the author looks like on book cover/jacket. That's one of the things I look for as well.

Take a picture in your garden; in front of the hen place (did you name it yet?); with the dogs. Make sure you're comfortable with the photo.

Lydia Kang said...

I would vote for author photo over dogs. I like the one that Jumpha Lahiri has on one of her covers--she's just looking somewhere else as if in the middle of the conversation and wearing regular clothes, regular makeup. It's natural but still nice.
Good luck with you decision!

Maria Zannini said...

Sue: I don't know what your last photo looked like, but I like your current one. The jean jacket makes you look approachable.

Maria Zannini said...

Dru: I like the idea of a garden picture, but now I'll have to wait until next spring--unless the fall garden turns out lush. :) Thanks!

Lydia: If I looked like Lahiri, I wouldn't care what photo I used. LOL.

Liz Fichera said...

You take a beautiful picture! My fav is the one with you and Chelly. Very adorable!

Krista D. Ball said...

I like author photos where people aren't posing. (Dogs can pose, however)

Maria Zannini said...

Liz: That picture always makes me a little weepy. She was my girl from the day we met.

Krista: My dogs are real ham bones. They see a camera and they start smiling.

Claudia said...

Hi Maria,
To answer your question, no, I don't care what the author looks like as long as the writing is great. You know what they say, go with your gut feeling. If you think that photo of you in the red sweater does not represent you, then don't use it. I see you more as the person with her adorable Chelly. It's approachable and personable. Why don't you have one of you in black & white. B&W pics are really nice. Use a photo that you'll feel comfortable with and that represents your persona. ;)
Can't wait to see what you choose.
Say cheese, please!

Maria Zannini said...

Claudia: ooh, B&W. There's an idea.

I might take the Chelly picture and see how it looks with some Photoshop filters.

I am definitely leaning to the Chelly photo. Thanks!

Falen (Sarah) said...

author photo WITH cute dog is my vote

Barbara Ann Wright said...

I don't care what an author looks like. In fact, I'm often surprised by the difference in a jacket photo and the real person. I've never though of just having my dogs on the back cover if I ever get published, but now I think that's what I'll do. Maybe a pic of you and the dogs where you're wearing some sort of protective, slobber-resistant helmet?

Maria Zannini said...

Barbara: I don't care much on what people look like. I like knowing instead what interests them as people and not just writers.

I'd much prefer a short bio telling me how they like to spend their free time rather than seeing a picture of them in their Sunday best.

Ref: Slobber resistant helmet
Iko would just look on that as a challenge. I can already see the gleam in his eye.

Maria Zannini said...

Sarah: Well, of course you'd say that. Yvie told you so. :grin:

I agree.

Note: Had to repost this comment since I misspelled Yvie's name. I don't want to get on her bad side.

James Garcia Jr said...

I went through the same thing as you this past winter when a photographer and I went all over town looking for that obligatory author's shot. You've no doubt seen it. A bit too serious, but what are you going to do? I sometimes think that I will send my new friends like you a fun shot of me being goofy or laughing hysterically - because most of the time, that's who I am! Marketing tells us that we should choose something and stick with it. I like the glamour shot, myself. That's what I'd vote for. You look very nice. Serious, but not too serious.

MaryC said...

Ted, my students are always intrigued by Shel Silverstein's author shots. I don't know why, but they are.

Maria, I love the pic of you with Chelly. So what if it's dated. It's still you. My favorite pic of me is one I had taken for a GH final back in 1990 something. Using that would be pushing it, I think. ;)That's why I use my dog. He's much more photogenic.

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: glamour shot

For all you know I was planning world domination. As a matter of fact, I think I was. LOL.

Thanks, Jimmy!

Maria Zannini said...

Mary: A cute dog is more inviting than the most attractive author.

:o) Thanks!

Lynn Colt said...

I'll vote for the "another author pic WITH dog" option :)

I like putting a face to the writing, but I do prefer the more natural photos as opposed to the in-a-photo-studio posed ones, since the natural pics make me feel like I'm getting a peek into the author's life. Also, I like to see pics of people with their dogs, because dog lovers are awesome!

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: Also, I like to see pics of people with their dogs, because dog lovers are awesome!

I always say, no matter how mean the person, there must be some good in him if he loves his dog.

I like to see authors with their pets because it makes me feel they are just like me--only famous. :)

Stacy said...

I really like both photos of you. I do think it's nice to have a face to put with the persona - I loved seeing your photos for the first time to have a real person to put with the personality that I am getting to know. I think the secret to good photos is being very comfortable and having fun so the choice of a photographer is really important.

Maria Zannini said...


Thank you, Stacy. I've never liked having my picture taken. The few pictures I've liked of myself were always the ones taken during very happy moments.

Comfort is key.

Charlie said...

I do a bit of marketing in my day job and conventional wisdom is that people like to put a face to things. I don't think people care how an author looks, but they do identify more strongly if they have that picture in their mind.

I'd reccomend getting someone you feel comfortable with to take a gazillion candids on a digital camera. Nothing too posed. Take them while you're doing things you love and don't worry about how they will look while you're taking them. In the end you can delete all but the one that makes you feel good. Use that.

Maria Zannini said...

Charlie: Not so long ago when I used to design advertising, I always made it a point to try to put a person somewhere in the ad if I could.

You are right. People identify to the human element.

Ref: Take them while you're doing things you love...

Ha! The guy would never keep up with me. I'd probably hand him a shovel and put him to work. That'll teach him to take my picture.

Renee Miller said...

I love author photos, but then we have way too many albums and boxes of pictures in a closet and then the ones saved to pictures.

I hate my own pictures though. I am lucky enough to have a sister-in-law who is genius with a camera and who just clicks away. We get 80shots of crap but one or two good ones and those are what I use.

I like the black and white idea with your dogs. You don't have to pose, just let the dogs slobber on you, I bet it turns out to be a great picture.

Wish my dogs would sit still long enough for a photo. They think the camera is a chew toy though.

Maria Zannini said...


Ref: They think the camera is a chew toy though.

For God's sakes, Renee, don't say that too loud. I don't want Iko to add electronics to his diet. LOL!

Iko's a little wiggly for pictures. Tank, bless his heart is a pure angel. He will do anything you ask.

catie james said...

I'm with you Maria - just look at my photo. I'd say go with whatever makes you comfortable & why not make it a shot of both doggies? They're so photogenic! :)

Maria Zannini said...

Catie: I love the feet photo!

And this is what I'm talking about. So often you see a plastered smile and Sunday best.

I might not know what your face looks like, but the socked feet photo tells me you are fun and a little irreverent. It's honest and it makes me smile.

jackie b central texas said...

My Two cents worth, you are from Texas so either take a picture on horseback in jeans and comfy jacket and shirt or by the horse in the comfy clothes.. If worse comes to worse take a picture holding someone else's Heeler or Australian herder puppy. Believe me no one but the publicist cares what the author looks like, the book however better have a good cover because that seems to be what more people have discussions on than even the quality of the written book itself!

Whatever you choose if you are comfortable with it that is all that matters! {Not the Glamour shot though, you looked very uncomfortable!}

jackie ^_^

Sherri said...

I hate pictures of myself, LOL

Ref: author pictures

I do like to see what an author is like...not so much what they look like. So I'd vote for one with the dogs or in front of the 'homestead.'

Love Catie's kinda photo.

Marianne Arkins said...

Author and Dog .... but of course that's because that will be MY next author pic. Me and the pooch.


Maria Zannini said...

Jackie: I was VERY uncomfortable. LOL! It's just all a little too pretentious.

Maria Zannini said...

Sherri: Catie has cute feet. :)

PS I like your photo/avatar. It's very sweet and you look approachable.

That's the look I want. Well, the approachable part. I know I can't pull off sweet.

Maria Zannini said...

Marianne: Well of course you and I are a 'little' prejudiced. LOL!

jackie b central texas said...

I can tell by your posture and the look on your face is kind of like you are being tortured having to "play dress up"! I know the feeling, cannot stand being out of my comfort zone of my well worn jeans and regular slip on shirt and bare feet! Pictures are sheer horror for me as none of them look good in my eyes, even the ones that are not half bad still make me cringe..
However you will figure out something some time...

jackie ^_^

Abby said...

That cover is great! I'd go for... both dog and author photo? Personally, I feel your struggle. I'm young, and almost look too young, and I hate pictures. They usually don't turn out very well.

Usually I do like to see what the author looks like if I like the book. I'm not sure why.

But I like dogs.

Vegetarian Cannibal said...

I don't care what the author looks like. But I do hate author photos. They all look so...artificial and uncomfortable. I am curious to see the face of the person who wrote the book--but I wish more authors didn't do the "glam" photo covers.

If I ever write a book (heh) that needs my photo on it, I would want it to look as natural as possible. Not dolled up and fussed over.

Maria Zannini said...

Abby: the dog and author is winning. Since the one of me and Chelly is already circulating, I might leave that up until I can come up with something better.

Ref: But I like dogs.

You obviously have very good tastes. :grin:

Maria Zannini said...

Vegetarian: I don't really care about author photos either. It's not one of those things I ever think to look up. But if I happen to come across a good book, I always visit their web site or blog. I want to know what makes that writer tick.

Julie Musil said...

I vote for author photo! It's nice for readers to know that the author is a regular person, just like them. And you look great, even without the pipe.

Maria Zannini said...

Thanks, Julie. Are you sure about the pipe? It might make me look more distinguished. :)

Sherri said...

Ref: my photo/avatar

Thanks. That was a self-portrait I took a day before hubby was to leave for Vegas (2 months before the boys and I would) and I wanted him to have a photo. You should see all the outtakes, LOL, but creative cropping does amazing things.

Maria Zannini said...

Sherri: I think that's what I like about the photo. It's very artistically cropped. It tells more of a story than just a regular head shot.

Good job!

Angela said...

I appreciate having a face to put with the author's name, though nine times out of ten I'll forget the face after the first good nap I take. It's the writing I'll remember best.
The one with you and Chelly is nice, so is the Glamour Shot photo. But it seems clear you don't like the GS photo so I would say don't go with that one. I'd really like to see one of you in a playful moment with Iko. I know that's pushing things a bit, but you are a writer and a dog person, what better way to show that then with an updated photo of you at your most natural, which is being loved by and showing love to your babies?

Maria Zannini said...

Angela: I might have to wait until Scorpion Dog calms down. Read: gets a little older.

He's getting better but he still acts as if he hasn't seen me in two years. Silly dog.

Thanks, Angela.