By Jaden Terrell
Some of you may know that the first two books of my Jared McKean series have picked up by The Permanent Press. This means the first book, Racing the Devil, will be reissued (again) in June of 2012 and the second book, A Cup Full of Midnight, will be released in August at the Killer Nashville Thriller, Mystery, and Crime Literature Conference. We even have some interest from a few overseas publishers.
It's all very exciting, but there's one bug in the ointment--the author photo.
I don't how the rest of you feel, but for many of us, the author photo moment is a source of great angst. I mean, not only are total strangers going to be judging you--and your book--on the basis of the photo, you also become fair game for articles like this. And this.
I tried to convince the publisher that we didn't need an author photo. I made what I thought were compelling arguments. First, my protagonist is male, which is why we went with a unisex pen name. An obviously feminine photo would defeat the purpose. Second, I don't look like the writer of hardboiled PI novels. I look like a kindergarten teacher--or a special ed teacher, which is what I am--or was. People who see my picture on the back of the book are going to expect a warm, cozy read, which my books are not. They have a warmth to them, but they're far from cozy. A photo of me, I said, would give readers exactly the wrong impression. No one, I said, was going to buy a book because my photo was on it. (Unlike Graham Brown, whose thrillers are exciting and well-written, but who probably sells as many copies because of the photo on the back as for the stories themselves).
My publisher suggested I have an ambiguous photo made, a sort of androgynous look. For a woman who bears a strong resemblance to a fertility goddess, this was quite a challenge, but it seemed like a reasonable compromise. I thought that, since my PI, Jared, has horses, it might work to wear a cowboy hat and maybe an Australian-style duster. If I included the horse, it would draw even more attention away from me.
I went online and looked at dozens and dozens of photographers' websites. After days of searching, I found this guy, Jeff Frazier. You can read his blog here. His photos are wonderful, and he's a delight to work with.
I emailed Jeff and told him what I needed. He seemed intrigued by the challenge, and his prices were reasonable, so we arranged a photo shoot at the pasture where a friend of mine kept two horses. (They're my horses now, but that's another story.)
It was a beautiful fall day, and the pasture was filled with some kind of tall, golden grass that looked like but wasn't wheat. In spite of my near-phobia about cameras, Jeff made the shoot fun and took what seemed like hundreds of photos--some that obscured most of me and some I could use for head shots and other promotional materials. By the time he left, I felt like a movie star.
After my agent, my mom, and several friends had helped me narrow the choices, he sent me two retouched/polished photos, one for the cover and one for a head shot where I don't need to be obscured. The CD with the others is on its way.
Here's what we decided on for the cover. Not so ambiguous, but at least there's a horse to draw attention away from me. That's Pete--short for Peter Pan. Isn't he handsome?
What are your experiences with author photos? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Consider them a necessary evil? Do author photos influence you to buy (or not buy) a book?