"It's like taking a nap on that little rug when you were in kindergarten."

9 Author Photos – Take Your Pick

Hardcover and paperback books take rest on book shelves throughout the house. Sleepy parchment, dressed with ink, beckons readers to open their pages. Seldom is a book picked back up after reading it once. Their sad tops dusted periodically like idle chatskies. Solitary souls, though they be, they still have a comfort and warmth like infrequently used, worn out shoes in the closet.

Sometimes I’ll pick them up and read a page or two as if to say, “Welcome back old friend. I’m sorry I’ve been gone so long.” And one of the things I love to do with them is to look at the author photos on the back cover, or just inside the back of the book. There’s just something about trying to learn more about the writer from just a picture. Some pictures say more than others through the eye of the camera that snapped the photo. While others leave more to the reader’s imagination.

The subject of author photos got me thinking: What kind pictures do authors take, and why do they take the ones that they do? Here are some author photos I’ve gleaned off of Google Images.

My apologies to any authors whose picture is on this post, or to anyone who knows an author pictured below. My intent is not to offend anyone.

1. William Faulkner – The author at his typewriter, with books in the background. Very author-ly! Don’t see many typewriters in action any more.

2. The windblown hair, aka, I’m kind of “hot,” author on the beach, clutching a pillow?? Hmm, not sure what that’s saying.

3. Hipster author, nice “boho-chic” look. The flowers are a nice touch as well.

4. Intellectual-looking, pipe-and-bow-tie author. The goatee adds even a little bit more to the look.

5. The crazy-author-closeup photo. This screams zombie author to me! Love the wild eyes in this shot.

6. The sideways shot. I love the mystery to the head tilted to the side, all askew. The tussled hair is a nice touch as well.

7. Trench-coat-tie-40’s hat-smart-glasses photo. Ditch the pipe and bow-tie look, and make it a bit more serious. Love the scraggly beard in this one. Could double as Indiana Jones in a pinch.

8. Nothing says author today, like a cup of coffee in hand, mind-racing-about-plots photo!

9. You can’t examine author photos without having one with the favorite-pet shot. Here, the late Robert B. Parker (Spenser novels), is shown with his fine looking dog. It doesn’t hurt the picture at all to have the flipped-collar, leather jacket, tough guy thing going on, either.

So … what would you do??
If you were about to get your author photo taken, or have had one taken, which type would you get, or did you get?


  1. Leanne Shirtliffe (Ironic Mom) says:

    I like this post. It’s fun to think about. For my first book, I think I’d use my avatar. I feel it’s part of my brand, if that makes sense. It’s a combination between #3 and #7. Apparently, I rock the tousled zombie look. Or something. 😛

  2. I’d love an ironic, Sears portrait-style photo, but I’m afraid the sarcasm would be lost as soon as the shutter clicked. (All that Vaseline on the lens– wasted!) I guess I’ll have to settle for learning to smoke and trying to grow a goatee instead… does the look convey the same degree of class on a woman, you think? 😉

    • You are photogenic, my friend. No worries there. But I like the idea of the Sears portrait-style photo, hmm …

      They use Vaseline?? Is that the trick? I didn’t know that. See how much one learns from blogging. Goatee on you … don’t think do. :)

  3. I’m so glad you’ve got us thinking about this: I have an uber-talented photographer friend taking my pic in a few weeks, so I definitely need to ponder direction here…

    For you, kind sir, I’d try this approach:

    Windblown/tousled hair, trench coat with upturned collar, pipe, smart spectacles, wordsmithing at a typewriter with flowers in the background and a cup o’ joe beside you. Oh, and you’re giving the camera the “crazy wonk eye.” And the picture is taken sideways. Or upside down.

    It’s an author photo mash-up! Hell, if it worked for all of the above individually, it could work eight times as well collectively. Right? RIGHT?!?!

    As for my picture, I’m thinking next to a dead squirrel. And holding a can of Diet Coke. Or holding a dead squirrel next to a can o’ Diet Coke. Cuz that’s SO how I roll.

  4. Photo? Do I really have to? I want to use an image like on the front of romance novels – you know, wind blown hair, wearing a corset opened just to THERE with a hot guy (my husband, probably) holding me as if we’re dancing and he just dipped me.

    With my dogs in the background.

  5. As evidenced by the fact that I don’t have an avatar, I can’t make up my mind! Actually, *if* I ever publish (which in all likelihood is never), I’ll probably sell better using a caricature as my author photo.

    • I’m sure you’ll publish. I think with pics, you just have to decide and move on. And then you can change it up as you go along. The experts say it’s always best if you have an actual photo vs. an image of something else, unless you’re in art or animation.

  6. Hmmmm, my photos (which are usually for my blog and Facebook/Twitter icons) are usually whatever I look like when my Dad wants to test out something on his camera! I once had a Facebook photo where it was pouring with rain and the lightening cracked across the sky in just the right second (as my Dad was pressing the shutter) and I ended up looking quite scary!
    Knowing me if it was entirely down to me I would cross 9, 7, and 5, leather trench coat over quite smart clothing, and a crazy look in my eyes. Though number 8 would probably make it’s way in but chocolate being my muse rather than coffee they’d have to get a Hershey’s or Dairy Milk pallet in for me!

    • Love that your pics are the ones your dad takes. That’s cool. Would like to see the FB photo.

      And I love that your a chocolate fiend. Nothing wrong with that, my friend! :)

  7. writingfeemail says:

    I love this piece. I found that I was asigning a genre to each picture based on the author’s shot – i.e. she writes romance novels, he does murder mysteries, she pens self-help, etc. Which makes a great point – the type of picture you take may stereotype your writing style. Hmm. I guess I am sticking with my snapshots in interesting places and hope that means you’ll find my work interesting as well.

    • I love your location shots. I still want to go to Venice – even more so now that I’ve read your post.

      Good point about how the pictures go with the genres. I believe you are 100% correct on those photos, now that I think about it.

  8. I realized that most authors like to pose with their beloved pets. I remember Dean Koontz and Stephen King.

    “What kind pictures do authors take, and why do they take the ones that they do?” – Wow. Not many people get to that lane of thinking. Congrats, MJ for getting there and letting us have a peek through this wonderful post of yours.

    My pick would have to be the crazy close-up photo.

    • Yeah, a lot of author pics with pets, out there.

      Crazy closeup for you would be good. But I really like the one you have for your avatar right now.

      Glad you found the post interesting. Wasn’t sure what the response would be.

  9. I wanted a pic of me in a straitjacket and a happy face mask!

  10. island traveler says:

    Each author has a way to of posing that shows their personality, their character or simply the image they project. I like the lady with the flowing her…easy to the eyes with a winning smile. An enjoyable post my friend…thanks. Have a great day.

  11. island traveler says:

    I meant, flowing hair…not her. I’m getting sleepy….

  12. Well you’ve seen mine. DORKY! I want to do some sort of dorky-hipster-badass. What about you, MJ?

  13. Really funny! I am all for head and shoulders. No props! A smile, but not wacky…

  14. I’d opt for #1. I’ve always wanted to look like a writery writer… even if it’s totally faked for a photo :)

  15. I think that’s totally you, Tori. Be sure you have the old typewriter too.

  16. When i saw the title of this post, i thought it was going to be 9 different photos of you and you were going to ask your online community to choose the one they liked best. But this was good too. I always laughed at Paul Auster’s books because he had the same author photo for about 20 years. It was a profile, black and white, very dashing. When i saw what he looked like IRL i was a little disappointed. I guess he was too, which is why he kept the old photo. I’m thinking about ‘riffing’ on this post, (to use the parlance of our times) with a post of some photos of me – cover versions, so to speak, of famous author poses.

  17. I really would love to have something like number one. Like Tori said, a real writery writer. As you can see, mine was taken on my computer’s webcam and is the right amount of fuzzy, great at hiding wrinkles!

  18. Love your take on the pics. I think it’s probably pretty right on the money! I’d have mine taken as a close up on my face I think to show how intelligent I am! LOL

  19. OMgosh! How fun. Love your new avatar, by the way. I like #2, but I doubt they would get a good picture of me like that. I don’t know if any of those would work for me. :-/ I actually know which photographer I want to use. If I can afford her. Hmm. Love her work, and she specialized in authors so she would know what looks good. I would trust whatever came out of a session with her.

    • I can see you with #2 for sure. And I’m sure it would be good. And I say if you want your favorite photographer, than you should have her. Than you would be very happy and the picture would live on once you become famous! :)

  20. Janae's Fallgirl Shepherd says:

    How humorous when think about stuff like that, I guess one has to at some point. I might go for something a little whimsical, scenic and featuring man’s best friend… no goatee though, naturally. Thanks for the good natured fun here!

  21. Judy Berman says:

    I’d like an author’s photo like Elmore Leonard has on “Get Shorty.” Without the beard and mustache. Also ditch the pullover sweater – wouldn’t work in the Florida heat. But the casual pose in the doorway and his smile – really works for me. I also yearn for the old-style manual typewriter. Brings back memories. Great post, Michael.

  22. I like the Parker picture hahaha!

    My picture will be taken from the air.. it would be me with climbing gear at the peak of a mountain at sunset with an eagle on my arm ..and a typewriter.

    Great post!


    • I always liked Parker’s stuff.

      From the air, huh? Interesting. I will have to wait on the ground during the shoot. I’m not a fan of heights, to say the least!

      Thanks for stopping by, my friend.

  23. I think I’d go for #1 but with my laptop and desk. Though #3 is a close second. :)

  24. Jennifer O. says:

    Hm. I think I’d probably go with the Faulkner pic.

  25. The one that I often see is the eight one and I myself would choose that. I think such pose could make me look more err… credible. Well at least as compared with the other kinds. Haha

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