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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hide Your Face?

Last week I received more than a hundred responses on a blog I wrote about publishers going a bit too far on editorial changes. And it started me thinking about other advice I've received over the years that were a bit... questionable.

My first book was published in 1984. But when I made the leap from non-fiction to suspense/thrillers in 2002, I found it was a whole new game. In addition to the publisher's marketing rep (who was fantastic and taught me quite a bit about the book industry) I also hired a publicist to help me navigate the new world of book promotion.

The publisher of Kickback requested a picture of me, but my new publicist was adamantly opposed. She thought that once readers knew what I looked like, they would not want to purchase my books. This came as quite an eye-opener. She strongly suggested that I never provide a picture for the book (the cover or internally) and never allow my picture to be printed or posted - on the Internet or elsewhere.

As the left hand and the right hand continued battling it out with me in between, the publisher arranged a photo op. The instructions: black & white and I had to look suspenseful. This picture was the result.

Friends thought I looked 20 years older. Fans were ambivalent (though I got many comments about how different I looked in person), the publisher was thrilled. My publicist was furious and thought it was the end of my career because I'd shown my face.

As a dutiful author, I started my book tour and found that it could be quite challenging to continue hiding my face. After all, I needed it to see where I was going.

As more pictures were taken of me at events, I decided I liked this one much better. It was taken at Book 'Em New Hampshire in 2006.

What do you think? Does it help or hinder an author to show or hide their face? How do you think the author's appearance affects book sales?