The Author Photo in a Racist, Opinionated Digital Age

So, I’m dreading the obligatory author photo, but I have now accepted the fact that I need one. If anything, I need to show people I am the one who wrote this awesome-sauce piece of literary genius. (That’s hyperbole. See how awesome a writer I am?)

You’re probably wondering why I’m dreading this. Maybe you’re envisioning a hunchbacked, hairy ogre with very small feminine hands. Maybe now, you’re envisioning Trump. But no, I am not nearly that awful looking. And it’s really not about how I look. I look fine. “Normal” even (if you can really apply that word to something as diverse as looks). But I had my reasons for not wanting to do this, and I think they’re valid. Maybe.

  1. Book stereotyping. This is the same reason why I don’t want to have humans on my cover. I don’t want to limit my audience with racial stereotyping. The book’s protagonist is a black female, and you know that in the first few pages. Most of the characters surrounding her aren’t. It’s like the casting for a Shonda Rimes show. It appeals to an audience that’s not limited by racial demographics. And you see how much Shonda puts herself out there. Very little. But I know that has more to do with her introverted tendencies, which I share. More on that later.
  2. Author stereotyping. It’s like what people said about Kathryn Stockett (author of The Help)–sort of. Basically, people were asking how can a white middle-class woman tell a black working-class woman’s story? But really the sentiment behind it is what can you really tell me about myself when you don’t look anything like me? If you really look at this logic; it makes no sense. The most we learn about ourselves aside from experiencing it ourselves IS through others’ stories–real and imagined. It doesn’t matter who’s telling the story. And how I look has no bearing on the reach of my story. In fact, If I’m writing authentically–which is what a strive to do daily–my story will reach farther than just my neighborhood, or my race, or my Gen-X level of life experience.
  3. Introverts like their privacy. The amount of marketing authors have to take on just to get noticed these days seems immense. Daunting. Horrific. Which means my picture will be everywhere. Everywhere. I’m having a hard time just writing that.
    But really isn’t it all about the book? Evidently not. Until it becomes a movie, then it’s all about the movie stars, and you never have to show your face again because no one will remember who wrote the book anyway, unless you wrote the screenplay. And then, just barely.
  4. A photo is forever on the Internet. Ugh. Self-explanatory and depressing when you think about it.
  5. I could become a meme. Double ugh.

But as I do more research on today’s reader, especially in this digitally-driven market, they want to connect with writers online. That interconnectedness with the author means a closer relationship to the book. In short, if I like the books and I can connect with the writer, I can get more info about the book which makes me like the book more because I feel like I have some insight.

Also, I write in a genre (Women’s Fiction/Chick lit) in which I don’t see a lot of people who look like me. I don’t know if it’s because there aren’t a lot of people who look like me, or because it’s a fairly new genre (compared to others), or just because we’re all introverts. But having my face out there may inspire some writer that looks like me to get her own book out there. And that’s a good thing.

And then, as I’m rewatching “DreamGirls” and “Cadillac Records” and “Ray” and every other movie about black musicians in the 50s and 60s, I’m reminded that I need to represent my work, so no one else can. And what better way to do that than with my face? It’s on our credit cards now to prevent identity theft. Why not put on a novel to thwart plagiarism? (Or try to, anyway.)

So, I’m getting some photos taken. Because…well, why not? Check back here soon for the results! Maybe they will resemble my Tinder pic below:

🙂 Kidding.

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