Put Your Best Photo Forward

categories: Cocktail Hour


Bill has already tackled the subject of author photos in a very funny post.  But I want to chime in, too. As I mentioned in a recent cartoon, my author photo just celebrated it’s tenth birthday.  To celebrate the occasion I’d like to suggest that it might be time for writers to start using more authentic author photos.  Below on the left for instance is the photo I use on my book jackets and for talks, and more than one of my hosts at those talks have come up and given me a double take (as in “Is this the right guy?”)  On the right is closer to what I really look like, a grumpy, constipated 50 year old.

I would suggest that the photo on the left demands the thought bubble: “I am up here on this windswept peak, contemplating nature and looking good doing it, and the west wind, like some majestic blowdrier, is fluffing up my hair just right.”  While the writer on the right seems to be thinking “Where’s my fucking coffee?”

What I really look like.

What my author photo looks like.



Here’s another photo I once considered using, but after some thought, decided against.  It just seemed a tad too exuberant: 

(But I’ll never forget those wild nights partying with Janis.)

  1. Tommy writes:

    Facial hair looks about the same, though not as angular.

  2. john lane writes:

    Oh, this is all good stuff! Do you remember that funny NYTimes piece years ago on author photos? The commentary divided them into four categories: props, attitude, hands, and hair. Your photo is definitely attitude, though the mountains make for a good prop, and you have some pretty good hair. I have tried very hard to avoid hands, and I often appear with a hat (prop). I also try to keep my author photo up to date. Both Freud and Jung could have fun with this subject! JL

    PS we both know no serious/realistic author photo of either of us could past muster with out dangling reading glasses.

  3. monica wood writes:

    WMFC??? New online acronym; love it. When I visited my publisher for the last book, I had a jacket photo that my husband had taken about a week before publication. It was fine; it looked like me standing on my porch, with makeup but no wind machine; no big-sky mountain-peaks background (David Gessner), no hunting dog by my side (Richard Ford), no Marion-Ettlinger specialty, with authors in b&w appearing to be trying to twist off their own heads (Ann Patchett, for Bel Canto). And so, I get to the venerated offices high above Times Square, and everyone–from the receptionist to the assistant ed to the sales guy, exclaimed in OPEN-MOUTHED DISBELIEF: “You look just like your jacket photo!”
    And I’m thinkin’: Since the expectation is to LOOK NOTHING LIKE YOUR JACKET PHOTO, I should use a 25-yr-old stand-in next time, especially since the in-person book tour is dead.

    • dave writes:

      Does that stand for Wipe My Face Clean?

      • Nina writes:

        David! It stands for Where’s my fucking coffee? But never mind. I think you look plenty handsome in your fifty-year-old grumpy photo, even if you don’t have a head for acronyms.

  4. Amy MacDonald writes:

    I decided to update my author photos when a child at a school where I was presenting (I write children’s books) announced in a loud voice, “You’re older than I thought!”

    • Bill writes:

      We still read “Cousin Ruth’s Tooth” a lot of nights around here! You’re younger than you think, Amy…

  5. Rachel writes:

    always ask the important questions….like, “Where’s my fucking coffee?!”

  6. Randy Ricks writes:

    I love this, David. Fun stuff! I know ALL of these guys!

    • Tommy writes:

      You talkin’ about that Ultimate Glory, piece? Damn, you Ultimate Frisbee players are all stoners!