Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Question for Readers

Mary Sullivan

Hi, everyone! I have a question for readers (and any authors tuning in) today. I posted this on Facebook yesterday and got some interesting responses.

In November, a colleague and I will present a romance novel writing workshop at Inspire! The Toronto International Book Fair. Along with my author bio, they need a photo.

My promo photo, shot by a wonderful photographer, and which I love, is now ten years old. I've stopped using it on my website because I feel like I'm cheating when I use it. I've aged a lot in the past ten years! LOL. I don't want readers to get a shock when they see me in real life if my promo photo is too far from what I really look like.

Here is the shot:
Lindsey Maier Photography
I have always been partial to B&W portraits. While the photographer provided colour versions, I really loved this one.

It's classy, straightforward and not too flashy.

When I finally do get current photos taken, I will ask the same photographer for another black and white portrait.

Last year, a friend took a photo of me that I thought was really nice. It is casual and natural. As my mother would have said, there is nothing added nor taken away. It is just me. Here it is:

Kate Bridges
Unfortunately, it is slightly out of focus because I'm using a small portion of the original photograph. Also, I'm wondering whether the best thing in this situation would be to use the professional shot even though it is now out of date.

A friend attended Thrillerfest on the weekend and was surprised that many of the authors were using photos on their back covers from when they were younger. He knew they were old photos because he was meeting the authors up close and personal and could gauge their real ages; however, in all of our promotion, we want to look our best.

As a reader, how important is it to you for authors to have photos that are close to how look like currently?


Anonymous said...

I think it is important for readers to have a current photo, especially if they have been following you and your work for several years. With our inter-connectedness via the internet I feel we all believe we 'know' each other more intimately than in previous times. It seems as if there is no reason not be current with all our technological capabilities to be immediate. Both photos are lovely, age has been kind to you!

mary sullivan said...

Good points, Emma! Thank you for the feedback!

Cathryn Parry said...

Hi Mary, I'm interested in this question, too. (My photo just turned ten this year as well!) Both of your photos are beautiful!

mary sullivan said...

Thank you, Cathryn! It's such a legitimate question for authors, isn't it? I'm interested to see what more people have to say.

Rogenna Brewer said...

Hi Mary; I'm wrestling with this myself as a professional photo can be a big investment and my weight is a yo-yo. I take awful Selfies :/ But am currently using a candid shot someone else took because my only publicity photo is more than a decade old now.

I feel at least every decade (if not every five years) it's important to update.

I knew a gal who used a dated publicity photo and it backfired. I was with another author who commented on how much weight our mutual acquaintance had lost.

I took one look at the picture and said, look at the hair it's her high school yearbook picture from the "80s. I'm not being mean. It was.

We met up with her a few hours later and sure enough she was heavier then ever and a couple decades older.

This is an extreme case of low self esteem, which made me feel very sad for this person. It also backfired because it caused speculation regarding her looks, which I'm sure she would have rather avoided.

Kaelee said...

As a reader I enjoy getting to know what an author looks like. Since I will probably not meet many authors, I will not have the opportunity to compare photos to the real person. I do compare photos taken at conventions and other events to the photo the author is using for promotion. I like it when they are close.

Unknown said...

I like your new photo, but I like more natural, candid photos overall. I think it is important to keep the photo pretty current because people like to recognize others and we do change! My RWA group hired a photographer who came to our meeting and did our headshots there and gave us a very good group discount. Something to consider if you need a new headshot, since they are so expensive!

Mary Preston said...

I think it could be difficult to keep up with a new photograph all the time. I would not expect a current photograph at every turn. I like your black & white photograph. I think a new one every ten years or so would suffice, but it's not a big deal for me.

mary sullivan said...

Rogenna, it sounds like we are in the same position. Such a sad story about the woman who used her yearbook photo for promo.

This is what I fear…that readers will talk more about the photograph than about my writing.

The photo has to support our work, not become a focus of discussion in itself, especially negative discussion.

A really good portrait can be so pricey, though, which is why so many of us are using photos that are a decade old.

mary sullivan said...

Kaelee, thank you so much for your comment. Reader feedback means a lot to me.

mary sullivan said...

Claire, what an amazing service your RWA chapter provided for you. What a great idea! I will mention this to my local chapter president.

mary sullivan said...

Mary, it's good to know you don't think ten years is too long between photos. I've come to the conclusion that, after ten years, it's time for a new shot, but I'm not going to be able to do them more frequently than that.

mary sullivan said...

Now I'll share the feedback I received when I posted this same question on my Facebook page (which is a solid mix of readers and fellow authors).

Almost everyone chose the B&W professional photo. A few people said it was time for an updated photo, but not as many as I had thought…perhaps three out of a couple of dozen comments. Some were emphatic about being fine with a ten-year-old author photo.

After those comments, and the ones I've received here, my decision is to use the B&W photo for this next event, since it needs to go out by Friday, and then consider booking an appointment for an updated photo in the VERY near future. I think I'll go with black and white again. I really do love B&W portraits. Last time, the photographer provided me with colour as well, so I was good to go for every eventuality.

To the other authors, please keep me apprised of what you decide to do regarding your photos. I would love to see updated photographs as you have them done.

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