Against Promotional Author Photographs

Excellent authors avoid writing cliches. The problem is that some of these very authors do not apply the same level of vigilance when it comes to taking promotional photographs, whether they’re for magazine profiles or back-of-the-book biographies. In an attempt to look uniquely profound yet accessible, or convey some novel combination of deep thoughts with good times, a lot of writers end up looking exactly the same as their peers. It doesn’t matter if the authors are well-established or just scheduling their first panel discussion — all are susceptible to producing hackneyed images.

Since we don’t expect authors to be virtuosos in every medium, we thought we’d take a critical look at five categories of promotional-author photography as a warning for all future writers who want to break out of the formula.

1. The Sophisticated Photograph (aka “The My-head-is-so-weighted-down-by-great-thoughts-it-requires-additional-support”)

It’s the two-fingered peace sign of tourists. The “say cheese” of extended-family portraits. The pouty lips of Facebook users. The middle finger of punk rockers. Putting your fist under your chin does not come naturally to most people, but given the pose’s ubiquity amongst authors, it must be innate to those within the profession.

Kirk Nugent

Inna Segal

John Updike

Ana Veciana-Suarez

Carol Lynn Pearson