Saturday, April 3, 2010

Maybe Some Days Usher Wears a Beanie

Before you do anything, be sure to go check out this photo titled Life Happens that my dear friend Faye Sommer posted on her blog . It’s so dang cute and hilarious. Seriously. Do NOT miss out on this. Faye is a professional photographer—and an amazing one at that—so I’d much rather send you to her blog where you can check out all of her other amazing photographs while you are there (plus there’s this little issue of copyright—and friendship--that prevents me from being and ass and posting her photo here).

Faye will likely do my professional author pics…eventually. Can you just imagine it? Me, in some stuffy suit and pearls? Perhaps I will give the camera that Usher stare—you know the one he does with his eyes kind of crinkly and half-closed, where you’re not quite sure if he’s half asleep or merely debating different ways to eat you.

I think if I were to post a photo on my book jacket, I would want to have one that looks like this:

It’s not quite the Usher stare. Rather, I’m pretty sure this look says, “I-totally-see-your-soul-and-it-looks-rather-tasty-doesn’t-my-book-look-awesome?” Plus, the phone over the face adds that air of mystery I think all authors should have.

If you think you don’t need professional photos, well, maybe you don’t. What do I know? You can ask Jane Friedman* if you’re uncertain. She’ll likely tell you that every author needs professional headshots.

Actually, I’m pretty dang sure that’s what she’d tell you.

I’ll be honest. I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve been rather resistant to the whole notion of author branding, and this just seems to take it one step further. Like, look at me, I’ve now been hermitically sealed in a brand with this uber professional photograph of me sitting in a random field of poppies staring off like I’m thinking really hard about my super story.

It’s not that I don’t agree that branding is necessary. I mean, fans and followers need something more concrete to hang on to, an image that they can put to your name, right? Usher, for example, will indelibly be, in my mind, that guy with a lazy, fresh-from-the-bedroom smile and a crinkly-eyed, will-you-go-best-with-pinot-or-merlot stare. This look is something I can remember.

But I bet Usher is more than just a sex god. I wonder if it bothers him that this is how he’s viewed? Maybe he doesn’t imagine every woman naked save for stilettos and a spoon. Perhaps, some days he sheds his sunglasses and puts on a beanie and sweat pants. Maybe he thinks to himself, “I really wish people knew about my stuffed pig collection and my penchant for fish tacos. I’m not only an oysters and champagne and handcuffs kind of guy.”

usher with beanie_red_and_white

I suppose his image sells, and in the end that’s what matters.** I just don’t know how to be only one thing. How do you capture in a photo—or in a brand—the everything that you are?

Maybe I’ll just keep taking photos with a phone over my face, so it doesn’t matter who I am. I’ll just be the author with a phone face. Think it’ll sell?

Just don’t look into my eyes. Cuz your soul’s looking mighty tasty.

*Jane Friedman is publisher and editorial director of the Writer’s Digest community at F+W Media in Cincinnati, Ohio

**I feel the need to clarify that I have no idea if Usher actually has a beanie like this one or a stuffed pig collection. If it’s not blatantly obvious to you that the photo of Usher has been altered to suit my purposes, don’t feel bad—perhaps I’m just a crazy good photoshopper (Original photo found here).


  1. You know that picture of me on my facebook in which I'm wearing the light blue prom dress and playing my electric guitar? I want THAT to be my author pic.

    If I'm going to be branded, I want to be branded as a Bad Ass. ;-)

    You though, miss gorgeous, should happily have your photo taken!

  2. Wow - something else to stress about! Thanks a bunch :) (really just kidding!)

    I'm so far from this stage I'm not worrying about it all!

  3. First of all, Usher is f i n e!

    When my short story was slated to publish in an anthology, the editor emailed me asking for a head shot to accompany my bio. *gulp* I didn't have one! My neighbor came over and took hundreds of goofy shots, the best of which sucked yet I emailed it anyways. To my horror, the ghastly pic ended up not only on my bio page following my story, but also ON THE BACK JACKET. Sheesh.

    You'd think this experience led me to get head shots done asap, in case another story sold...

    Nope. But it's on my to-do list :P

    Love your Usher-channeled pic, btw!

  4. I'm so happy to be so far from even having to think about this. Though, in truth I have thought about it and decided should I ever need author pictures I'm going to pay someone to be me. :)

  5. You probably wouldn't like the taste of my soul. Last I checked it was shrunken and blackened around the edges, a bit like toast left in the toaster too long. I'm quite sure that wouldn't be very tasty.

    But who says you can't have more than one author pic? No need to feel locked in, good lady. Ditch the suit and pearls and go for the Hello Kitty t-shirt and cutoff jeans. Yes, in the poppy field. :)

  6. Oh, I like sarahjane's idea--pay someone to be me, yeah. I even yanked my photo from my blog and stuck up a flower. Well, someday I'll get some taken but I won't be wearing a beanie and showing off abs....

  7. My soul is a dark, dark place. A labyrinthine journey into the unknown. I'm not sure what it tastes like as my tongue does not reach it but I'm told it is acrid....

  8. Simon's idea sounds like it could be fun! Who doesn't love Hello Kitty?! :-)

  9. Many of the greatest writers of our time, wouldn't have known what a platform/brand was. They were too busy writing.

    Stick to what you're good at - the writing. The branding will follow :)

  10. I'll need an eye-lift before anyone can take a head shot of me. I'm a lot older than you and everything droops, I'm sad to say, although Faye's photo makes me feel like with the right photographer, maybe there could be hope, without undergoing such drastic measures! Oh silly me. I guess it would be helpful if I wrote a book before worrying about how I look on the cover!

  11. Hello, Carolina! I know what it is you're saying. I guess becoming a published author is like becoming a professional who works behind a desk with a job that has tons of rules to follow. Sitting behind a desk because of the 'appearance' we need to have (author brand).

    I hope I don't come across as weird or even hostile (which I am most definitely not), but being an author strips us from who we are from the VERY start. (Learning to make the changes so that our books are acceptable to readers, editors, agents and publishers).

    It almost feels as if nothing is sacred in our world until we're molded into what is acceptable. What do you think? Am I the only one that thinks this? LOL--it would make a great post, hu? I'll think about it!

  12. “I-totally-see-your-soul-and-it-looks-rather-tasty-doesn’t-my-book-look-awesome?” LOL!

    I think you should use Usher's pic for your profile.

  13. I like the phone face. Yup. Looks good to me :P

  14. I have to lose twenty pounds before I'm ready for a headshot...That must be why I don't have a book deal yet. :)

  15. What? That photo of Usher was altered? Haha just kidding. This was a great post. I don't know how you can capture the true essence of everything in one photo, maybe that's why you need a photographer who knows what they're doing. I like the phone face pic though :)

  16. Well I think I'll just photoshop the one I use now, blow it up, cut my daughter's face out of it again. It's the best picture I've ever taken in my life.

  17. I've thought about head shots. Actually, I'd hold a blank piece of paper up in front of my face, only eyes showing! All this talk about Photoshop. Guess I'll check it out some day. Thanks Carol.

    p.s. I always take my shoes off.

  18. Good post. I wish I had a stomach that at least nearly resembled Usher's abs.

    I read Jane Friedman's post about headshots too. My sister is a make up artist and has a few professional photographer friends, so I'm trying to get her to set me up with a photo session.

  19. I just love that picture of baby Evie - you're right, cute and hilarious! I hope I need a head shot someday, but it seems pretty far away right now.

  20. Hilarious! Especially like your Usher observations. Don't think I need a headshot right now, but I hope to get there someday! :-)

  21. I need to get mine done. When I told my husband I wanted something kinda "mysterious," he suggested shadows to cover my face. Thanks, Grayman. You know how to make a woman feel good. ha! LOVE the phone pic.

  22. Hey Carolina!

    The image of Usher eating fish tacos made me crack up. I mean...what if? Not that I have an Usher fascination anyway but the idea of possibilities does amuse.

    Thanks for joining my blog. I'll look forward to getting to know you here through your blog and at mine.

    By the way, I love that photo of you above! The mystery in itself is a kind of branding. I don't mind the idea of branding because I think of it as an adventure - discovering myself and letting others discover me too.


  23. OMG that photo of her baby is so cute and you're right, funny ;o) Professional photos? Gah, I guess when I'm at that stage I'll do it ;o) I'm sure yours will look wonderful!

  24. I totally think your phone photo would word. Everyone needs a trademark, right? Usher has his abs and his eyes. You have your phone :^)

  25. "I really wish people knew about my stuffed pig collection and my penchant for fish tacos."

    aaaaaand thank you for making me almost spit coffee all over my macbook.

    Your photographer friend takes amazing photographs!!

    Maybe we should do something fun for our headshots... Like do a "TOTALLY 80s FLASHBACK". Big hair. Fluorescent jewelry... Bright pink cheeks and blue eyeshadow...

  26. Hi Carolina. As of late when I read what people have written I tend to focus more on how the sentences are strung together; what words they use, how they use them, how they flow, etc...
    I'm not sure if that makes sense to you or anyone for that matter, but my point is, I love the way you write.

    Thank you for your comment, it was so helpful. I need to hear that it's okay to write unedited and just get the words on the page.

    I am now a follower. ;)

  27. That picture is hilarious, having been peed on by babies myself numerous times.

    And one of my favorite author pictures is of Authoress, becuase her hat and quill and scooped back black dress is just adorable. It only adds to the coolness factor that her face isn't showing.

    Great post and great blog, Carolina!

  28. I think the author branding is pretty much impossible to avoid. In fact, maybe it ought to be embraced. Instead of just being a name, you're a name with a face. You are a PERSON.I think it can do a lot for you as the author.

  29. Branding can bite me. (Well, I do take pretty pictures of my pretty, pretty brand name shoes for y'all.)

    I might give them a picture of me riding a wave on my surf board, from a distance.
    That's the best they're gonna get out of me photo-wise. They can have some witty blurb about my living with my husband and dog on the beach, blah, blah.

    Happy Monday,

  30. I took standard, in-studio head-shots, but next time I'd like something more natural and candid.

  31. There is an award for you at Middle Passages Carol. Enjoy. Tap dance or something.


  32. Haha... Usher. So pretty, even with the beanie and stuffed pic collection. :)

    And the phone face pic, that would totally sell! I love it.

    So happy you're back, Carol! I've missed you. :)

  33. I adore all of you. Seriously. You make me feel all warm and gushy inside. And you guys are right, too. I should embrace the whole notion of author branding. I think the problem I have is that it feels like it forces me to be all squished inside a mold. But maybe I just need to let my brand sort of create itself--a brand that somehow encompasses all the different parts of me, phone face and all.

    I am glad to know thought that so many of you aren't any more keen on the idea of author photos than I am. Ha. We are all of us a gigantic pod of peas.

  34. I'm so far from this. I'm still debating on joining Twitter. Great post as always. Love the new look. :)

  35. I freaking love the new layout! Btw, I'm in IE right now and it looks fine :)

  36. HEY!!! LOVING your fab new layout! You blog wiz, you! The post-its sidebar is awesomesauce!

  37. Ha, ha, ha. I haven't had a professional photo taken of just me since I was married almost 8 years ago. I'm not sure how I feel about it either. I do like the mystery idea though--a phone, or teacup, or something covering most of my face could only be a good thing. :)

  38. Ach, I've fallen so behind on my poor little bloggie. This query prep is killing me. I swear I read your comments as they come into my e-mail. Thanks so much for leaving me notes and for your very generous words. I adore you all <3 <3 <3

  39. I miss you too. That is all.

    PS. Love the new look!

  40. I think Nicole's story proves why authors should consider professional shots. Eventually, you'll be asked for them, and then what? You might scramble and end up with something horrific.

    So, it pays off to plan for a good shot that you can feel comfortable with. You may always have a level of unease with this aspect of your career, but unfortunately that doesn't get you off the hook! :)

  41. Wendy, I <3 you

    Jane, oh you are so right. Truly. Thankfully, I think my photographer friend is brilliant. She'll give me a shot I'm happy with, since it's pretty much a necessity. Thanks for stopping by! And for your insightful comment. I suppose I've lived too long indulging in my Gollum ways. Time to come out of the cave and make a name for myself.


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