When you start out as an author, it’s thrilling to be interviewed and have your photo in a newspaper. That is, until you see the photo and you think, “Oh, God! I don’t look like that, do I?”
Well, you don’t. Far too often, authors get pressured by photographers into taking corny poses that aren’t flattering, but that the photographers think will work. You know the ones I mean: chin held in the palm of the author’s hand, or head leaning against an extended finger. It’s supposed to say This is an Author. To most people it says stiff, artificial, dumb. And: Who sits like that?
I had to learn the hard way to resist bossy photographers. But first I had to know what worked. When I’m standing for a photo, I never feel relaxed; I feel the opposite: exposed. So author photos of me standing anywhere usually come out looking stiff and artificial.
I feel much better facing a photographer if I’m sitting in a comfortable chair. That makes my whole body relax, and I can smile–if I want to. I don’t always feel like it, and if I smile against my will, I look fake and uneasy.
Sometimes photographers insist on taking their subjects outdoors. Why? Because it supposedly shows that the author isn’t just trapped by books and work. What’s the point? Some of my worst professional photos have been taken outside. Under a tree. I guess the connection might be trees = pulp = books, but in an e-book age, that seems passé.
So, before you agree to have a photographer come to your home, do some thinking about photos first . And don’t be afraid to say “no” to anything you don’t like. Or to postpone a shoot if you’re not feeling well, if you’re tired, or if you haven’t been sleeping and it’ll show. And wear something that makes you look and feel good.
If worse comes to worst, you can always decline, send the magazine or newspaper a publicity photo. If they decide not to run it, they might run the cover of your book instead.
In the end, though, it’s better to be interviewed and photographed than not. And most people don’t notice a bad photo, or at least they mercifully won’t tell you if it’s awful. They’ll be pleased for you about the coverage. A recent bad photo in my local newspaper didn’t seem to register at all with the dozens of people who told me they liked the accompanying piece a lot.
After all, they know me and know that I look better than that. Most of the time.