Monday, May 25, 2009

The Author Photo

"If you have an attractive looking author, there's a better chance that your book will get reviewed." - Nicholas Latimer, Knopf's director of publicity, quoting a People Magazine editor (via NPR).

I'll be frank, this post's origin lies in a shamelessly shallow conversation between store employees on Sunday night. Yes, shocking as it may be, it's true: we occasionally descend from the literary empyrean to discuss matters less profound than the existential foreshadowing apparent in Dostoevsky's Crime & Punishment or the influence of the nouveau roman on early 21st century Bosnian poetics. Last night, we were trying to come up with a list of attractive authors (and yet remaining vigilant in our service to you, the book-buying public), which led to the ever-so-slightly-less-shallow topic of The Author Photo. (Pictured above, Marisha Pessl, author of Special Topics in Calamity Physics.)

What makes a good Author Photo? Are they necessary? Do you even notice them? Have you - ahem - ever bought a book based on an author photo? I'm fully prepared to admit that I do pay attention to author photos, if only in a casual way. It's often a pleasant or at least amusing distraction on the job. While I'm not an aficionado or savant, I will offer up some memorable author photos, with the invitation to suggest some of your favorites/least favorites or simply remarkable for a certain Je ne sais quoi.

Roberto Bolano, real casual like

To reiterate: Zadie Smith writes books

Norman Mailer, perhaps a little too casual

William Vollmann wrote a 7-volume treatise on violence

Rita Mae Brown wouldn't be complete without her cat

Sammy Beckett could work on his intensity


kpr said...

I'm going to have to go with Arundhati Roy's
photo on The God of Small Things.

Pete said...

I think I only read any of The Sausage Book thanks to the photo and bio on the back. And my life is richer for it.

Spiros said...

Dashiell Hammett on the pocket edition of THE THIN MAN: unbeatable.

Roman said...

I'll say it: Marisha Pessl is hot.

Anonymous said...

Best author photo I ever saw was Gary Shteyngart's in The Russian Debutante's Handbook.

Samantha said...

I like how Danielle Steele gets a new one for every book. That's like ten massive taffeta ball gowns a year.
You know who's prettier than her author photo? Vendela Vida.