I’m still working out this whole marketing thing and one thing I see and hear a lot is: Readers want to see your picture. They want to connect with you.

And, if you dig around not very deeply, you’ll find a picture of me. A slightly older picture from a modeling shoot I did a couple of years ago. And really, a couple of years. Not the “a couple of years in the grand scheme of the age of the world, 20 years is barely a blip” sort. The make-up and shadows are dramatic. You may or may not recognize me on the street. But it’s me. If you’re just dying for a face.

But here’s the thing: is that really what readers want?

Now, I’m in a semi-unique situation in that what I write is primarily gay. I sort of think my mug (no matter how great the picture) is distracting and maybe worse, a real turn off.

I’m up front about being a lady—I am who and what I am and don’t have the cash to change it. It’s not that I’m hiding that. And I don’t think I’m horrible to look at. But I just don’t see why anyone would want to see the man behind the curtain.

I’m going to say this with love, and don’t get offended (she says, knowing what’s about to come out of her fingers) but there are certain author sites I’ve seen where the author is working as the model and face of their work that made me embarrassed for them. They were primarily het writers and maybe that has its own set of rules, but really, I mean, really?

It makes me wonder whether the author pic isn’t a function of an author’s ego rather than what a reader wants. I really don’t know. I can only speak from experience in the mild disappointment I felt in how Chuck Palahniuk looked. Not that it mattered or that I stopped reading his work…but the not knowing let me make him what I wanted him to be.

But, it also told me that he wasn’t putting himself in the stories. Maybe it’s just me, but when I see the author’s photo and then read their stories and their heroine or hero looks exactly like them, it totally creeps me out.

Rationally, I know that stories are often fantasies, wish fulfillment that you can share with an audience. It’s not really how I write (another reason for m/m? you tell me) but I get that a lot do. And, if the heroine is a dumpy brunette who is whisked off on an adventurous life with a vampire, that’s pretty easy for readers to identify with (ouch, hurt myself with that one—covers dumpy brunette hair.) But do you really want to see how dumpy and brunette I am?

God. I just realized that all this time I’ve missed the point of the song “Words” by Missing Persons by thinking she’s asking “Do you see me? Do you care?” But no, it’s “Do you HEAR me?” which would make sense, since you don’t see words.

I mean, other than on a blog. Or a book. You know what I mean.

[youtube=] But seriously, look at her. I can’t concentrate on what she’s actually saying. Dayum. I forgot how hot she is.

13 thoughts on “Do you see me, do you care

  1. Heh! I hear ya. Personally, I think I still look pretty good for a broad in her fifties, so I don’t mind workin’ it a bit while I can. Yanno? But the whole ‘Mary Sue Author-as-heroine’ thing is more than a bit sad. Aside from the fact I also write m/m, I’m particularly phobic of that sort of comparison being drawn between me and the very few female characters I put in my stories. So I make really sure it doesn’t happen. Maybe it’s the whole internet/reality TV thing. Thanks to youtube anyone can be an instant sensation. I don’t know, if it helps people to appreciate my books, (and buy them) I’m in!

    Is that bad????

    1. I don’t think it’s bad to use your image to sell more books. I don’t really cast judgement on those who do or don’t so much as I wonder if it does help sell more books.

      And you look great! I think author to author, I like seeing the pictures. But as a reader–unless it’s a memoir–it doesn’t really interest me.

      But it is an uncomfortable space for us as m/m writers, I think. As has been the major stomping point for the past few weeks, it really is mostly women writing it for women.

      But even so, a lot of women into m/m don’t want a raisin in their cinnamon bun. Ahem. So I don’t want to be a raisin.

  2. I’ve been through the same conundrum, Clancy. I put one on my site for a while after finding one that I felt reflected the inner me, but ended up taking it down. It’s on Nichelle’s blog I think and a couple of others.
    I canvassed a couple of people who are readers and their reaction was that they didn’t want to know what the author looked like as it might affect the way they thought about the book.
    I’m going on Whipped Cream in October and will be chatting. They asked for a photo and I have sent them one because I think that’s a different situation. The people interacting in a blog whether by chat or just reading are interested in the author themselves.

    1. Yeah, I think it does. I mean…yeah. I can see it as two different categories of promotion:

      1) here is my website, buy more of my work–this is maybe where you want to bury your photo under an “About” page or something so if someone’s dying to know more about you, they only have themselves to blame for finding your picture, and

      2) interviews/about the author sorts of materials–this is also about the author and where pictures of the author would make sense, as this is where you are selling yourself to an extent.

      So if a reader goes to read more about the author, again, they only have themselves to blame for finding a picture. I think that makes sense. I’m still a little reticent about including my photo even there. Some of this has to do with my day job, but some of it is also that I want the work to stand or fall on its own.

      But that might be unrealistic given the platform. People are nosy. 🙂

  3. In response to both the OP and Alison and Phoenix, I want to throw in my two cents as a longtime reader and recently accepted author. To me, it’s a huge system shock at times to know for certain what an author looks like.

    If I’m picking up a novel in Borders and turn it over and see an author pic taking up the entire back, I tend to put it back on the shelf. Some don’t, but I do. To me, it’s breaking the wall between fantasy and reality, and I resent it deeply. If the photo is discreetly tucked into the back flap where I only see if it I’m looking for info on the author, I do appreciate that, but I DO NOT want a “sexy” or obviously airbrushed photo. I don’t want the author trying to be a sex object. That’s repulsive to me. NOT because the author is repulsive, but because the author is selling their mind and imagination to me and not their body. When an author cheapens themselves by trying to be physically sexy rather than relying on their obvious mental and psychological brilliance, I’m deeply put off.

    As for myself, I know I won’t be sharing pictures of myself as an author unless I must. I do not feel at home in this body, and I have long ago accepted that I will probably never possess a body which fits my soul. That’s neither here nor there, and it does not reflect on others’ reasons for sharing or not sharing their image. I say this only to express my personal belief that your writing is about internals, it’s about who you TRULY are, and your meatsuit is the least indicator of what’s inside. Let’s not turn authoring into a profession based on looks just because we’re living in the digital age. Keep some mystery. Let the reader connect with you on a spiritual level rather than a physical one.

    1. The big photo irks me, too. Mostly because I’m looking for the book summary on the back, not a glamor shot.

      That said, I totally use glamor shots of myself 😛 as you know. But very small. And I try to bury them.

      1. I don’t tend to think of those tiny glamor shots as being used to sell sex as much as being used to hide behind. It’s like the obligatory “I do exist in RL” shot more than the 400px x 400px (or larger) soft focus provocative blog header or “about me” picture where you could very obviously identify this person on the street…but in a “wow you look so much older/fatter/pockmarked/wrinkly way” rather than in the “daddy likey” way those shots seem to suggest this person wants to be appreciated.

        1. I am biting that flower in a rather coquettish manner… Those photos were for a now defunct site for people with a fetish for girls in glasses. I guess it’s hard for me to not see the photo as sexual, but I did crop it down. To mostly the glasses. Which was the fetish.

          But you do have to talk to me to see it.

      2. I would never have guessed that cute little picture had such a sordid past, Ms Nacht. I’m shocked. Shocked, I tell you.

        *scribbles “can haz flower?” on the icon*

        1. Me as LOLcat. I’d make a great LOLcat.

          Most of those glamorized photos of me have a sordid past. This is because I wouldn’t willingly stand in front of a camera without some sort of compensation.

          That’s why my candids all look so sulky and irritated.

      3. I thought your candids just looked sulky and irritated because you always look sulky and irritated IRL. However, contrasting those with your posed shots, I do begin to see where money entering the equation causes a sudden perky playfulness. Perhaps this is why writing about sex and getting paid for it is your perfect profession. I sense a theme here. Next title from CN: “The LOLcat’s Guide to Buttsex.” I’d pay for that.

  4. i’ve ignored this issue and hope to until i absolutely have to face it–i nodded several times in agreement with your post, and don’t believe we must know what our favorite writers look like. like you said, knowing often takes away from the mystique. kinda similar to the idea of a well-known actor playing a part; his personality overlays the role to the point we can’t allow him to sink into the role completely. the actor is always visible to some extent, and that takes away from the power of the story he tells.
    i’ve been trying for years to reconcile myself to the reality of publicity obligations, when i do finally finish my novel and find an agent and then a publisher–but if there’s a way to be successful as a writer without making public appearances, i’d be the happiest writer EVER.
    (by the way, i still think of you as the angry little girl crying on the sled. makes the erotica a little mindbending, i gotta say. ;))

    1. “That sweet little girl, so annoyed by snow! How could she write such things?”

      haha Yet another reason to remove images from the equation. Or use an avatar. I’ve done that on twitter–using a picture of models rather than myself. Male models. But lots of people there use images that are not them there. On FB I have my own image. Others are using their books as promo and I’m giving that a try but it seems weird to me. I mean, it’s FACEbook, seems like you maybe need to have a face there.

      Or maybe I’m too literal.

      I was just reading Chuck’s 13 tips on writing and this one made me laugh:
      Number Eleven: Get author book jacket photos taken now, while you’re young. And get the negatives and copyright on those photos.

      Oh Chuck.

      And I’m with you about public appearances. I never know what’s going to come out of my mouth.

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