Author photos and online dating profiles

I’ve been thinking about author photos for a while. Mine is this one:

Author Photo Harry Connolly

Yeah. That’s me. It’s not a great photo, but it’s hard to take a good picture of me. At least it’s better than this one or this one. So it’s not great, but it’s the best of a long day of shots. However, look at this one. I’d love to have a photo like that. Hell, I’d love to have an empty, uncluttered table to work at.

And authors have to fuss a little over their photos. Catherynne Valente wrote a post a few months back about her own picture, and how people thought she looked “mean” because she wasn’t smiling. Jeff VanderMeer took a swipe at the “male author with his arms crossed” pose.

So, hey, maybe I should wipe the smile off my face and cross my arms. Or I should look at stats on what sort of photos are most attractive.

That’s right, that’s the blog for OK Cupid, the online dating site. I’ve linked to them before, because they have a huge data set to draw on, and some of their statistics are pretty interesting.

In studying their profile pictures, they’ve found that men are much more likely to post an unsmiling photo as women (by 61% to 35%). Let’s ignore that flirty Facebook kissy expression; writers, don’t make that face for your book jacket. What’s more, they looked at the number of contacts each user received, broken down by photo type. For women, the flirty face (and smiling) while looking directly at the camera were the best choices. For men, it’s looking away from the camera that gets the most interest, especially if he isn’t smiling. Forget about the abs pictures. I have abs, but you can’t see them under all this damn fat.

Now, obviously this shit doesn’t track one-to-one. OK Cupid users are looking for luuurrrve! (or sex, I guess) and, although OK Cupid has been better in other posts, those stats are all about the heteronormativity. Authors just want to look interesting–or at least, not so crazy that potential readers decided to give their books a pass. But it is an interesting way to look the photos we put out into the world, and the expectations people have for them.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to look over this post on taking an enticing picture. Golden hour, here I come.

 
  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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