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Judging A Book By The Author’s Photo

This subtitle of the Chicago Tribune article Picture This Writer (requires cookies and registration — cough,cough…bugmenot…cough, cough) pretty much sums up the point of the article: “The right author photo helps readers judge a book by its cover”.

Do you find this to be true? Publishers seem to think a picture is a selling point as it lends insight into the mystery of a book’s creation. Some authors think the opposite. (The ugly ones, I suspect. ;-)) Seriously, though, has anyone made a purchase decision, one way or the other, based upon an author’s photo?

I haven’t. Which is not to say that I have been unaffected by an author photo. Shortly after my less-than-favorable review of Terraforming Earth, I saw a picture of the wheelchair-bound Jack Williamson in Locus Magazine and I felt kind of, well, bad. Here I was slamming the work of a well-respected, but, at the time, faceless author. Seeing what he looked like put a human face on the creator of the work, something that’s all too easy to forget when judging the work itself. I stand by my opinion of the book, but maybe I could have gone a bit easier.

About John DeNardo (13013 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

12 Comments on Judging A Book By The Author’s Photo

  1. Okay, so you are willing to withhold a valid opinion about the book since you saw a picture of the man? Would you have had the same bad feelings if Jack was not wheelchair bound? I guess the thing is that all these books are written by folks and sometimes things work for some folks and other times they don’t. I believe authors know that and at least they have the guts/ability to put thier work out there for folks to read/enjoy/criticize…

  2. My photo has appeared in magazines: a horrifying experience! Like the approach of Chuz, Lord of Madness, the sight would make milk curdle, doors open against their hinges, and chickens lay wooden eggs.

    Personally, I think that the publishers should just take one photo of a chubby balding guy with glasses and a beard and use that for all male SF writers. For variation, photoshop in a hat.

  3. No, no, Tim…I’m not witholding an opinion. Like I said, I stand by my opinion of the book. Besides, have I ever been known to pass up an opportunity to complain? 🙂

    John, funny you should mention your picture. I’ve interviewed you, yet I have never seen your picture (other than the one of you in your youth at your homepage). Forgive me for saying so, but for some reason I have this mental image of you as a looking like George Kennedy. Funny how the mind works. :-S

  4. Would that be George Kennedy stuffing his face at the baseball game in Naked Gun, or the more svelte George Kennedy from Airport?

  5. Ummm…I guess I never really looked as closely at George Kennedy as you have. :O

  6. “I’ve interviewed you, yet I have never seen your picture (other than the one of you in your youth at your homepage)…”

    That picture is my son, Justinian, one year old at the time it was taken. It could not be an (unretouched) picture of me, since the baby is looking at a book with my name on it, and it took me ten years to get that manuscript published.

  7. Whoops. I guess I assumed you had the ability to travel through time. Either that, or my memory failed me. Again.

    Just curious…we play a sort of game here where we pick the Hollywood actor who, based on looks, would most likely play you in the movie of your life. Who would play John C. Wright in the movie of your life? (George Kennedy, maybe? :))

  8. So, what about this John Wright sequel to an A.E. Van Vogt novel, anyway? What’s the story on that?

  9. I wonder who would portray our own John in that movie? Perhaps Joe Pesci from Lethal Weapon… And I don’t look a thing like Colin Mochrie, but JP looks alot like Ryan Styles (which we already knew…)

  10. Well what a coincidence!

    In the mail today I received the January 2006 issue of Locus Magazine (late and with the seals broken. Again.) and whose picture graces the mug shots of the People and Publishing page but Mr. John C. Wright himself. To answer my own question, then, if I were casting the movie, I’d see if Xander Berkely (“George Mason” from 24) was available. 🙂

    Also noted on the People and Publishing page was the previously reported tidbit about Mr. Wright’s upcoming Null-A Continuum which continues the story of Gilbert Gosseyn from the Null-A series by A.E. van Vogt.

    One final note from Locus: Mr. Wright has recently sold the third book in his Orphans of Chaos series to David Hartwell at Tor publishing. Congratulations, Mr. Wright!

  11. No, that is merely a human I hired to distract the assassins from the World Steel Corporation, who are seeking my secret of total conversion of treated copper. I really look like this. On the internet, you can never really tell.

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