News and views from the award-winning author of the novels The Skinny Years, America Libre, House Divided and Pancho Land

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Does an author's' looks help sell books?

I usually find NPR stories enlightening. (The network's journalistic instincts have seemed especially profound since the day NPR chose to feature this blog in its Differences of Opinion web page).  

However, the venerable public radio giant aired a segment yesterday that left me scratching my head. The report by Martha Woodroof, "Author's Photograph Essential In Marking A Book," suggested that publishing industry experts believe a dust jacket photo of an attractive author helps sell fiction titles. One of the featured experts went so far as to state their publication would not review a book unless the author was good looking. (Not surprisingly, this person was from People magazine).

Have we really come to this? Has our public obsession with celebrity and adoration for beautiful people spilled over into the literary world?

After going through my bookcase, I calmed down a bit. Looking through my collection of books, I've come to the conclusion that the NPR report may be overstating the importance of physical beauty to literary success. After all, with all due respect to a gifted writer and a terrific human being, have you ever seen a photograph of Stephen King?

Raul Ramos y Sanchez


Jason Weaver said...

It certainly doesn't hurt to be a looker. The press shots of Jhumpa Lahiri are always like a 'Vogue' shoot (see the punch line to this blog entry). But Lahiri is a fantastic writer and she would never have been published just for her appearance. Publishers have learned to use whatever they have to distinguish their writers in the market place. Extreme ugliness is probably just as advantageous!

Rose A. Valenta said...

I feel the same way. Looks shouldn't matter. Intelligence, talent, and the ability to entertain is more important.