Author Portraits

Most books carry a photograph of the author. But have you noticed that the picture is not just any old mug shot – it is often posed to suggest the type of work that the particular writer produces?

For example, in the front of my copy of the chick-lit novel It’s a Kind of Magic by Carole Matthews, Carole is smiling in a sisterly kind of way. But in the crime novel The Mephisto Club by Tess Gerritsen, Tess’s face is much more sombre. The difference between the two women’s photos on their websites is even more pronounced and suited to the mood of their books.

I hadn’t thought about any of this until I read a short piece by Bidisha in the Guardian.   Bidisha’s piece was prompted by a new picture that’s come to light of Jane Austen but it got me thinking about my own ‘publicity’ photo which I email off to editors when requested and it also appears on this blog.

The picture was taken around three years ago and I wondered if it needed updating. In the intervening time I’ve added a few more grey hairs and produced another wrinkle or two – so should I be honest about my ageing or stick with the younger me?

Bidisha says that’s she’s been told, “…it’s good to look more haggard (in a picture) than you actually are, so that when people meet you they are pleasantly surprised.” 

I’m not sure that I totally agree with that statement but I don’t want to hide behind a false image so I got my other half to take a few head and shoulder shots of me in the garden.

Have a look at them and let me know whether I should switch to one of the new photos, stick with the old one – or maybe try again when I’ve had my hair done and got my best frock on!

Sally Jenkins - Writer

Picture A

Sally Jenkins - Writer

Picture B

Sally Jenkins

Picture C


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  1. #1 by Bev Morley on July 18, 2011 - 11:31 am

    Gosh, I’d never really given much thought to photographs of Authors before, but now you’ve mentioned it, I had a look at the backs/inside covers of a few books and I see what you mean!

    I hate having my photo taken, therefore the only one of me I’ve ever used is now about 8 years old! I tend to use other pics – such as the one I have now as my gravatar, which is actually the cover of the book I have coming out in August!

    With regards your photos, I think I prefer “A”, purely because you are looking at the camera. I do like your original picture too, but tend to agree (despite my own avoidance of having a new picture taken,) that it’s nice to have an up to date picture of the “real” author.

    I really should follow your lead and have a new mug shot done of myself…

    • #2 by Sally Jenkins on July 18, 2011 - 12:14 pm

      Thanks for your opinion, Bev. I can see the logic of using your book cover as a gravatar and I wish you luck with the launch.

  2. #3 by Tracy Fells on July 18, 2011 - 12:38 pm

    Agree with Bev on photo A – nice smile and looking at camera. A good head and shoulders shot. Personally I’d rather use a stand in (can writers have stunt doubles?) as loathe seeing any photos of myself.

    I used to run a team in Romania and the trend there is to attach a photo to CV (eek!). But often the photos were vastly out of date (10 yrs or more…) – so when interviewing candidates you got a bit of shock when they walked through the door, which totally detracted from what they had to say…so photos rather backfired in that context!

  3. #4 by Baggy on July 18, 2011 - 12:53 pm

    I vote for Picture A –

    The other two look too contrived. Natural wins every time!

  4. #5 by Alison on July 18, 2011 - 1:49 pm

    I think photo A, you look warm and friendly for your blog
    Maybe it depends what kind of article/book you are promoting in which case should you have a portfolio of photos?

  5. #6 by Shirley on July 18, 2011 - 1:58 pm

    I like picture A and I like it better than the blog one.

  6. #7 by Helen Yendall on July 18, 2011 - 3:47 pm

    I like ‘A’ too – but I like C as well. Sometimes those ‘looking into the distance’ photos are nice, and this one works well! It’s definitely worth having some photos that you like ready to send out, as more and more publishers seem to want a photo with your written work. There’s no hiding away any more if you’re a writer!!

  7. #8 by Sarah Pearson on July 18, 2011 - 5:02 pm

    I really like picture A. I don’t know if it is better than your current picture as these avatars are tiny!

    I’ll be honest, I never take much notice of pictures in books, beyond thinking ‘oh she looks friendly’ 🙂

  8. #9 by susanjanejones on July 18, 2011 - 6:54 pm

    Hi Sally,
    I like picture B as it seems more natural. They’re all good though. Definately an up to date one is best. I use an old one, but must update as well.

    • #10 by Sally Jenkins on July 18, 2011 - 7:21 pm

      Thanks to you all for taking the time to comment. Looks like picture A is the winner so next time I get asked, that will be the one I send and now I’ll see if I can remember how to change the picture on this blog too…

  9. #11 by sue on July 19, 2011 - 11:43 am

    Hi Sally
    I like A best, but wonder if it wouldn’t work better with a plain background.

    • #12 by Sally Jenkins on July 19, 2011 - 3:36 pm

      Sue – you may be right, a plain background would look more professional. I chose the garden because I thought the light would be better than using the flash inside.

  10. #13 by Patsy Collins on July 21, 2011 - 11:33 am

    I like A best.

    As I live with a photographer, it’s easy for me to get new photos done and therefore I regularly update the one on my blog.

    • #14 by Sally Jenkins on July 21, 2011 - 11:59 am

      Thanks, Patsy. As you can see I’ve gone with the majority and updated to picture A (although personally I liked C).

  11. #15 by Mel H on July 21, 2011 - 2:42 pm

    I was going to say I liked pic a but looks like you’ve added that one! Good choice! Also makes me think I should update mine – it is…..cough…..a couple of years old now!!

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