Thanks, Sarah, for mentioning my Writer’s Digest piece about women authors and beauty standards. As usual with such articles, I got way more feedback from the queries I sent out than I could cram into the story, so here’s a few extra anecdotes—and, despite the wild headline, totally SFW photographs—to further entertain you.
“I’ve never been pressured to get a makeover, being a total makeup queen myself,” says Lauren Henderson. “But publishers have certainly laid out money to get me the most flattering photo possible, and they are very aware of which of their authors look like a moose (to use a English phrase) and which of them are ‘TV friendly’ or ‘mediagenic,’ two of the main euphemisms for ‘attractive and photographs well.’” The picture at right was actually taken for a friend’s portfolio of photos of people in their favorite article of clothing, but when the UK publisher of Jane Austen’s Guide to Dating wanted a new publicity snap, she sent it in on a lark. “Nothing less appropriate, right? They used it everywhere and were over the moon about it. Looking sexy absolutely trumped the fact that I had written a sober, hopefully intelligent dating guide—and they were probably right, as regards sales. We’d be naive not to acknowledge that sex sells.”
Ayun Halliday’s author photo for No Touch Monkey!: And Other Travel Lessons Learned Too Late also came about through an effort to help a photographer friend. “She needed to flesh out her photography portfolio in hope of attracting paying customers to sit for ‘sensuous portraits,’” Halliday recalls, “so I agreed to be a naked guinea pig in return for prints. It was kind of shocking to see what time had done to the old bod, but there was this one winning head shot mixed into the batch that made me feel like, ‘Thank god someone had a camera, because I’ll never look that good again.’ The photo ended up on her book jacket, and “I had to write a disclaimer on my website, acknowledging that I was not in real life this over-the-top glam,” she quips. Fans who’ve seen the more recent pictures at Halliday’s official website might beg to differ, though!
(In the interest of fairness, if you’re a male author with a tasteful nude and an entertaining story behind it, we’re more than happy to provide equal time. I emphasize the word tasteful, you understand.)