Pardon the rather blunt headline but it goes directly to the issue I wanted to talk about.
How important is it for the reader to know the writer’s identity? Does it really matter if the reader can put a face to a name? I know most authors cringe at the prospect of putting their photo on their website. Having just done this myself I wanted to capture the issue while it was fresh in my mind. It goes beyond a general apprehension about the reader seeing my hideous form and on to how this affects their appreciation of my work. It should not matter off course and all authors hope that it doesn’t. But if we can rightly judge a book by its cover and it is the authors job to make sure it represents what the genre expects, we are all stuffed when it comes to how what we look like affects out brand. (Plastic surgery not being an option for the majority of us).
In theory I could be any of these people below.
The problem is as soon as you stick your mug shot on your book or website you create a potential disconnect between reality and the readers mental image of you. They may be disappointed with this discrepancy and its all the authors fault off course. `They’re too young/old; male female; black/white; tall/short etc etc to say what I’ve just read.’ In this social media obsessed world it is pretty easy to see if people are at odds with their brand. Writing used to be a profession where it was possible to escape this judgement but that is disappearing. Is that a good thing?
Take these two for instance. If they were around today and people checked out their Facebook pages before deciding to read their work would they have achieved the success they deserved?
`Mr Shakespeare you must really settle on a genre. Stick to the comedies, you just don’t look like an author of political thrillers.’
`Ms Shelly this book about a monster is not what the audience expects from a lady. Can you make it more Austen’ish.’
This post stems from the angst I had in putting together a few pitiful words for my obligatory biog page. I was going to say this there but that is not the appropriate place for people seeking just name rank and serial number stuff. I toyed with the idea of a headshot wearing a black balaclava with eye and mouth holes. Whilst this might have been a good ploy for the thrillers I’m not sure it would do much for the romance stories. Least not the type I write anyway. In the end I wimped out and did what everybody else does.
So I’ll ask the question again. Are you happy or disappointed when you can put a face to the name you have been reading? Or is it irrelevant as I think it should be?