Writer’s looks

For some reason the question of writers’ good looks (or lack thereof) comes up over and over again. Far more often, for instance, than the question of whether a writer’s class or connections are assets. How come?

While a writer’s good looks might be used for marketing, it has very little to do with which books get published. I know lots of drop-dead gorgeous folks whose novels have been rejected all over the shop. And lots of plain ones who are published.1 Very few submissions come with attached author’s photo.

The rule in marketing a book is that they use what will give a book or an author an edge. Sometimes an author’s looks are considered an edge. (Anyone ever seen the full page author photo on the back of Perfect Storm?) And yet I’ve seen plenty of books by absolutely gorgeous writers that don’t even have an author photo. Holly Black is stunning. I don’t think any of her books have her photo on them.

Sure looks makes a difference. But lots of things make a difference to a writer’s career—knowing about publishing before you sell your first book, living in NYC, having a good agent. More important than any of them is being a talented and determined writer.

I’ve seen less-than-gorgeous writers promoted to the skies and have huge best-selling novels. I’ve seen pulchritudinous writers get the same treatment and have their books die. In the end it really is about whether a book connects or not. If not enough people like your book it’s sunk no matter what you look like.

Good looks don’t make any more of a difference in publishing (and prolly a bit less, actually) than they do in the rest of the world. There are lots of important things to angst about as you try to sell your first book, or promote it after publication, or continue an existing career, but how your looks are or aren’t affecting your career is not one of them. Forget about it already!

  1. Of course “ugly” and “beautiful” are not exactly universally agreed upon. My idea of who’s good looking and who’s not may differ from yours more than somewhat. I will never get the appeal of Leonardo diCaprio or Gwyneth Paltrow, for example. []


  1. holly on #

    Clearly you didn’t see that slightly open-mouthed picture of John Green they were pimping at ALA a few years back.

    That picture promised many types of literary pleasure.

  2. holly on #


    *shakes stunning ass*

  3. Craig on #

    But the only reason I bought your and scott’s books had to do with the smokin’ author photos!!!

  4. Justine on #

    Oh, hush! You both know that John Green, me and Scott all hired character models for our author photos.

    Plus said photos do not disprove a single thing I writ above. So nyer!

  5. shana on #

    pulchritudinous. nice.

  6. Diana on #

    what, that picture of you on the couch?


    i remain dumbfounded by the number of people who actually mount arguments about this ‘looks’ issue. i’ve honestly never in my life bought a book because of the author’s appearance. maybe the cover model’s appearance…

  7. niki on #

    personnaly I think author photos are boring – I sometimes get very disapointed in a writer from the photo – doesn’t stop me reading it but something dies a bit if I see them with a pompus smile on their faces in cliched suroundings. I think one should be inventive – pull a face, paint your face – or I have a great one of justine drowning in a bath :))

  8. Justine on #

    Shana: Best word ever!

    Diana: Ditto.

    Niki: You know I can ban you . . .

  9. hollis on #

    Are you kidding me? leonardo di caprio is the most beautiful woman I have ever seen! If she wrote a book and it were about cow dung, but it had a full pic on the back, I’d buy 3 copies!

  10. Justine on #

    Hollis: You are certifiably insane. Ewww! There’s nothing but adam’s apple there.

  11. Katie on #

    It’s not the author’s beauty that is the thing, it’s that sense of connection that the author photo creates that makes … some… difference. It’s the fantasy of communicating with the author that the photo makes possible.

    Now whether that *sells* books, I don’t know. But it does affect one’s plesaure somehow.

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