Thursday, 8 August 2013

Facing facts

I’ve been giving my ‘image’ (dictionary definition: ‘the personality presented to the public by a person, organisation, etc’) a lot of thought since I decided to self‑publish No Stranger to Death. Does an author’s image actually matter when readers choose the books they want to buy or borrow from the library?

Some writers regard the results of their labour as ‘art’ rather than a commodity. However, increasing numbers of books are now sold in supermarkets and online at knockdown prices. We may not like it, but books are subject to the same market forces as the proverbial cans of baked beans. Why else are publishers so keen on series rather than standalones? They are relying on brand loyalty, the consumer’s perceived need for reassurance that their next reading experience will be the same as their last. This is happening elsewhere in the creative industries too. Die Hard 6 anyone?

Where does this leave those of us who self-publish? I may not choose to write a series (in fact, No Stranger to Death will have a sequel), but I’d be foolish not to adopt other business techniques to maximise my sales. And this brings me back to the topic of image. Can and should writers create images which may differ from who they really are, in order to sell more books?

Here’s an interesting example of how something as simple as a photograph can be used to present differing faces of a writer. Those of you who have met him will agree that this affable-looking chap is the Michael J Malone, Scottish poet and crime-writer, that we know:

However, in another of a series of photographs by Bob McDevitt Photography, Michael looks rather sterner:

And finally, in this one – which Michael has chosen for his Twitter avatar – he looks positively menacing, the epitome of an author of dark and gritty crime fiction. Which he is, so this image works for him.

In preparation for the publicity I’m hoping to generate around November 5th, when my novel is published, I went to have some professional pictures taken. The header to this blog is one of them. My lovely photographer, Linda Sneddon, had me pose in a graveyard and reproduced some of the shots in monochrome. Despite all this, I must face the fact that I could never look anything other than what I am: a blonde, smiley, middle-aged woman who wears a lot of turquoise.

Pretending to be someone you’re not must be exhausting and is probably doomed to failure, especially in this age of social media. So I’m not going to even try. Phew, one less thing to worry about!


  1. Bless you, long may that lovely smile grace your face! Some author portraits are a little bit too moody and seem fake. You have to be yourself (and what is wrong with wearing turquoise?).

  2. You look great, Janet!