Do Beautiful Authors Have an Advantage?



Customers don’t just see your books—they see you, too.

  • You have your author photo right on your Amazon product page. (If you don’t, it’s noticeably missing.)
  • Your face also appears on your blog, Goodreads page, and other online pages.
  • You appear in the book on the about the author page.
  • Your photo is also part of your press release kit.
  • You may also show up on promotional and marketing materials.
  • Your image may appear alongside any articles that you publish.
  • YOU are most certainly seen in all of your personal marketing endeavors, which can be some of the most effective marketing that you do. (Good luck hiding there. Or if you ignore these opportunities, even worse.)

You want to be seen.

Really, you do. Your author photo on your Amazon detail page offers proof of your humanity. It can help convince customers that you are

  • professional
  • humble
  • confident
  • thoughtful
  • playful
  • family-oriented
  • ALIVE!

When you add yourself to the shopping experience, whether in a photo or in the flesh, you make the reading experience more personal.


Not all authors feel that they are photogenic.

Some authors are intimidated by how they perceive society’s evident standard of what it means to be beautiful.

Many authors tend to be shy.

There are authors who feel that their images would detract from sales more than they might help.

Lucky authors who happen to not fall far from cover model status—do they have a distinct advantage over the other end of the spectrum?

Or maybe they don’t have to look like cover models, but just have to fit into some idea of how an author should look—or how the author of a certain kind of book should look. Does that provide a marked advantage?

Is it about the LOOK?

Or is it about the BOOK?

The look or the book: Come on, now, the book is far more important, right?

Yet that look sure can come into play.


Readers, hopefully, are looking for a good book—not a good date.

It’s the content of the book that matters most.

You buy a book and read it because the words show potential.

Not because the author’s picture shows potential.

Because the story shows potential.

Not because the storyteller has the right look.

You’re not dating the person. You’re dating the book.


But don’t readers already realize this?

They are readers. This isn’t the whole of society. Avid readers are just a slice of society.

Of all society, wouldn’t it make sense for the people who love and crave books to most appreciate and look for inner beauty, versus outer beauty?

Wouldn’t readers favor the words over the look?

Wouldn’t they explore the biography more than the author photo?

Wouldn’t they check out the author’s social sites to help judge character, rather than appearance?


Unfortunately, look may matter to readers.

One thing we know is that many customers do judge books by their covers.

Fantastic covers help to attract attention.

Lousy covers receive less attention.

Does this mean that the LOOK trumps the BOOK?


Or maybe these are apples and oranges.

A good-looking cover may be a sign that the author wanted to perfect all the details.

That the content inside the book was worthy of extra effort on the cover.

That the words and story inside eagerly need to be shared.

The reader will carry this book around, too. The cover has to meet some standards.

But the reader won’t carry the author photo around (unless, of course, it appears on the cover).

Maybe the same customers who judge book covers don’t also judge author photos.


What do you think?

Do you think the author’s appearance matters to readers?

Is beauty an asset for authors?


I have a little word of the day for you.

Pulchritudinous—physical beauty (of a person).

What do you think? Not such a beautiful word?

Read Tuesday

Imagine a Black Friday type of event just for book lovers.

You don’t have to imagine it. It’s called Read Tuesday, and it’s free:

Please support the Read Tuesday Thunderclap. This will help spread awareness on the morning of Read Tuesday (December 9, 2014). It’s easy to help:

  • Visit
  • Click Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr and sign in.
  • Customize the message. (Optional.)
  • Agree to the terms. All that will happen is that the Thunderclap post about Read Tuesday will go out the morning of December 9.
  • (The warning message simply means that Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr need your permission to post the Thunderclap message on December 9. This is the only post that Thunderclap will make.)

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • Boxed set (of 4 books) now available for Kindle pre-order

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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21 comments on “Do Beautiful Authors Have an Advantage?

  1. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I know, not very original. But I think it is more about the professionalism of the photo. I’ve seen author pics that look like the just fell out of bed…after a long night of hard drinking. Not impressive at all. Enough to dissuade me from looking into their book further. It may be the best book ever written, but if no one looks beyond the cover (or even gets that far), then it doesn’t matter. It can still be a casual photo, but at least look decent or like you care.

  2. I’m always disappointed when an author I like does not let us see his/her face. But here’s a thought that may make everyone more brave; the actors we love are often those who are unafraid to look odd or ugly. We love characters like Roseanne and Dan Connor, and everyone on The Big Bang Theory because as exaggerated as they may be, they feel real. Maybe authors should think of themselves as a character–a persona–and get a great photo to represent them.

    • That’s a nice way to think of it.🙂 If the author can accept him- or herself the way he or she is (while showing that they cared about the photo), then readers will probably accept the author, too—right? Seems reasonable to me.

  3. The simple truth is that a gorgeous 20-something with a book will find it much easier to find a publisher – especially if they have used their looks to become a minor celebrity.

    It’s probably less important for Indie authors, although I can imagine an advantage there, as well.

    When preparing my bio photo, I had a friend take literally hundreds of photos. I chose the one I like best, and ironed out a few minor defects (puffy eyes etc) on the PC before distributing it. I think it’s helped me promote my books, especially since it comes across as professional (to come back to Pamela’s point).

    • Wow. You put a ton of effort into your photo. Whatever it takes to show that professionalism, though; it can make a difference.

      Regarding your first point, celebrity status seems like it would even help indie authors create buzz. But I guess I’m not going to find myself in a position to test this out.🙂

  4. Before I became an author myself, I saw author photos on books as sort of egotistical — why should I care what they looked like? I wanted no reminder that my favorite stories were actually made up… by someone with either large pores and a receding hairline or movie-star teeth and a doctored nose. Now, I look deeply into their colored contacts… and see reflected headlights. Now, I understand the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” feeling evoked by every decision an author has to make regarding the (shudder) promotion of The Book. Picture or no picture, to blog or not to blog…
    Once upon a time, I was young and pretty and incredulous and out-of-focus and really quite orange… and dammit, I’m gonna stay that way!

    • I really like the way you expressed this.🙂

      Let me open another can of worms with your “I’m gonna stay that way!” remark. (I believe you.) You can literally stay that way on Amazon. Sometimes, our appearance may change over the years (I know, say it isn’t so), and our author photo might become a bit dated. Do you think we’ll have the same photos up twenty years from now? Do readers want us to update them?

  5. Before I published Happiness as a Second Language, I posted a few snapshots on Facebook and asked friends which should be my author photo for my book cover. Several people voted on their favorites, but luckily, I had two friends tell me that an author photo should not just be some picture taken by your mom on vacation. It should reflect the care and thought that went into the book. They suggested I get a professional portrait done by a real photographer, complete with lighting, make-up, minor touch ups, and I am so grateful that I did. That is the picture you see of me here and in all my marketing and it is much better than the ones I was planning to use. Worth the effort.

    • I think in your case, Valerie, you have the added pressure of appearing visually to be an authority on happiness (and I believe your result does just that).🙂 I have experimented with my author photo in the past, and discovered that one photo versus another on my Amazon page could easily create a 200% or 300% (or more) effect on sales. It was quite an eye-opener. I have an added problem of having a variety of books. I have one photo that helps a few books, but hurts sales overall (so, obviously, I don’t use that one).

      • That was actually a major factor — the message being sent, and among the professionally done shots, I chose the one that made me look happiest. There were a couple that were “prettier,” but they looked too much like an actor’s headshot, as opposed to an author who was an authority.

  6. I’m going to do what Valerie did – get a professional, RETOUCHED to within an inch of its life, photograph – and put it up everywhere. BEFORE I publish in earnest.

    A pro is a pro because he or she can make anyone look their best. So at least I don’t turn anyone off.

    It’s ON the list. I promise. It’s actually in the same category as a book cover – it represents the work, fairly or unfairly, and says the author gave a care to the Reader’s experience, which includes looking at the author’s photograph.

    And polish up the About and bio pages. Etc. So many etceteras.

    But ALL under our control as indies.

    The next step – easy for me – will be to stay out of the public eye, not give interviews, never go on TV or radio – and pretend to actually be the intriguing person in that photo. I may even seriously reconsider the pseudonym bit. What is it they say? ‘Better to be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.’

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