Authors as rock stars

by Miriam

The publishing business is weird. That’s a given for those of us who toil within its ranks. It’s also unpredictable, quixotic, and often baffling. One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the phenomenon of serious author turned “rock star.” Joshua Ferris, according to Jason Pinter, is the latest Jay McInerney, J.D. Salinger, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Lord Byron, etc., and no disrespect to Mr. Ferris, whose first book I thoroughly enjoyed and strongly recommended, but what is it about him that people find so, well, sexy? And, should that be a reason to rush out and buy his sophomore novel?

Over the years, I’ve come across many very attractive authors, many not so attractive but highly charismatic authors, and some who, attractive or not, were so shy or self-conscious or socially inept that it made perfect sense to me that they’d chosen to become writers – traditionally a solitary and vaguely misanthropic pursuit. Except, of course, nowadays even the most retiring of authors has to glam it up for the cameras, both physically and personality-wise in order to get attention for his or her work. We at DGLM have always been aware that this is a reality of the media-driven age we live in but still cringe at the thought of having to advise authors to “maximize their assets” by working with a p.r. coach on finding ways to become more telegenic, for instance. Personally, I prefer my writers to be reclusive, eccentric and odd-looking and more interested in crafting beautiful sentences than looking beautiful on Oprah, but in the tabloid era that type seems to be a dying breed.

Does an author’s looks or celebrity status influence your decision to buy his/her books?

16 Responses to Authors as rock stars

  1. Cid says:

    I don't think I've looked at many authors photographs of the books I love. Honestly, I probably have a vague idea of what two or three of them look like – and I don't really care. Perfect teeth, hard abs or the newest OMGSOHAWT wardrobe doesn't mean a person can string a complete sentence together that's even interesting. If my favorite author wears a paper-bag and has dreadlocks and chipped fingernails – well – that's the way they choose to live and I still like their latest book. Then again – I'm probably a slight eccentric myself….

  2. Jessica Hill says:

    I buy any book that interests me. While I know what my favorite authors look like, many of the books I read, I have no idea what the author looks like and in some cases, I've never even heard of the author before picking up their book. It's definitely safe for me to say that looks and status have no influence on my book purchasing habits. I'm much more interested in the book itself than what the author looks like or their "status."

  3. Anonymous says:

    I've only purchased one book based solely on the author…Melissa Gilbert's autobio. Otherwise, they had to win me over with their writing. Looks, etc…has nothing to do with it.

  4. David Jarrett says:

    Absolutely not! Without naming any names, some of the most prominent celebrities have written some of the worst books on the market, and often with the "help" of others. Without the name recognition they had before "writing" the books, their works would probably have never been published at all. Madison Avenue strikes again.

  5. Indigo says:

    I'm sorry I've found the prospect of picking up a book based on an authors looks, well – hilarious as all get out.

    Take for example Stephen King. If anyone looked at his original author bio pictures, he's there in all his glory in thick coke bottle glasses. Not appealing to those who base things on looks. Oh yes, age did him a world of good and refined those looks.

    Another example is Clive Barker. Handsome devil, but he's off limits to the female persuasion of us readers. Not to mention his looks kind of overshadowed the dark premise of his books.

    Both men, great authors. One not so alluring the other handsome as all get out. I've loved them both for – wait for it – none other than their writing. Their looks or gender preference never once crossed my mind. (Hugs)Indigo

  6. Fawn Neun says:

    I'm going to be completely honest. Sometimes I hear about one of these rock star authors and feel compelled to pick up one of their books. Not because of the way they look, but because of the way they seem to have accumulated a rather mad following of devotees. Sometimes I fall in love with an author and then am a bit weirded out when I find out what they actually look like (or sound like). This has actually happened, and I won't name names, but the truth is, after being startled by both mediocre writing and mediocre appearance, I gave both writers the benefit of the doubt when it came to their actual work, but I have to say, I was a bit surprised on both accounts.

  7. Kristi says:

    No. I'm thinking of my favorite books and I can't tell you what any of the authors looks like — except for one. I did look at Markus Zusak's picture AFTER buying and reading The Book Thief because I had to see the person who wrote such an amazing book. That's the first time I've noticed an author's appearance.

  8. Kristin Laughtin says:

    I don't think I've ever looked at an author photo before buying a book, and if I look after reading it, it's mostly out of curiosity (and will earn a second glance only if they look exactly as I would have pictured them, are surprisingly good-looking, or the photo is humorous. And even then, it's only a "huh"-type reaction.)

  9. Anonymous says:

    I remember hearing stories before CALAMITY PHYSICS came out about how gorgeous all the Penguin sales dudes thought Marisha Pessl was. I'm sure that helped sales, although not on the consumer end.

  10. Cassandra says:

    Yes, an author's looks and/or celebrity can influence my buying decisions — negatively. If the bio implies that the author thinks his/her being Miss America or a soap star or a centerfold will make me buy the book, I am LESS likely to buy it — because the implication is insulting, and because it seems that the author is more interested in being famous than in writing great books. On the other hand, if I happened on a book-signing or reading by an unknown (to me) author, the person's "presence" could be a decisive factor. But looks wouldn't matter.

  11. M.B. Sandefur says:

    An author's looks and/or celebrity isn't going to influence whether I buy his/her book. It just doesn't make sense. Why would it? So, okay, their attractive… Does that mean they can make me forget about my crappy day? Maybe, maybe not. There's no definitive correlation. So for no it's still a big fat NO.

  12. Tracy says:

    I couldn't care less what an author looks like, but if I catch a book signing or an interview and they're not very nice (it doesn't happen often, but I've seen a few), then that deters me from buying and even reading their books. I don't care how well they write – there are too many nice authors that I would much rather support with my valuable time and hard-earned money. But that's just me…

  13. Alex Jenson says:

    I would never use my photograph to help sell my work. Mind you, if I did, no doubt it would sell millions and I would quickly be invited to be the lead singer of a flash-in-the-pan rock band, but it's not really where I want to go with this literature thing. I prefer the darkened rooms and the sweat over a keyboard – don't ask me why, but I think that's slightly less crazy than swaggering across the audition hall on a TV Pop talent contest looking for your big moment in the limelight. Keep it sexy, but keep it underground. (Please make your own judgement on my tone of voice here) Nice article and very relevant.

  14. Mary Witzl says:

    What Tracy said. I've found myself shying away from the works of authors who I've heard are pompous and rude. Which is probably just as silly as choosing books because the authors are good looking, but there it is.

  15. atsiko says:

    How long until a mysterious, reclusive author is a selling point? 😉

  16. Jille says:

    Looks most definitely do NOT influence my buying, however I can see if an author is getting more publicity due to their style/looks/persona, that more household names will hear about them and therefore, more books purchased.

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