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If Looks Could Kill
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In today's post, A Face Made For Radio, mystery writer Joe Konrath talks about how important it's becoming for authors to look good.

I'm pretty honest with myself, and I know I'm not going to win any beauty contests.

Under low-lighting conditions, after a lot of drinks, I might be considered average. This doesn't bother me. I'm not a vain guy. And I know that good looks and charisma are two different things, which helps compensate for the fact that the celebrity I most resemble is John Belushi.

But in this business (and in all businesses for that matter) looks do count.

If you've ever watched someone browse the bookstore aisles, they always glance at the author photo in the back. Always. And many bestsellers possess above-average looks. I don't think this is coincidental.

I certainly empathize with Joe (who at least has managed to keep his photo off his books with a sly maneuvre). I'm not much to look at, which is probably why I was at home reading great sf novels and writing terrible sf stories while all my high school classmates were out on dates.

I react to cameras like a thin-skinned celebrity on vacation or a defendant leaving the courthouse. My whole life I've avoided having my photograph taken. At family gatherings, I'm ever alert for a camera, ready to turn my back or drift to the far side of the room before that dreaded click of the shutter.

Poisoned Pen Press wanted pictures of Mary and myself on our books. We managed to talk them into tiny, blurred shots on the inside of the book jacket. Or maybe they decided that was sufficient after they got a gander at my photo. (And don't think I'm linking to a photo either...)

From Joe's remarks and the ensuing discussion the common problem is that most normal folks aren't Hollywood svelte, which isn't my problem at all. Well, actually, I'm probably not svelte either. Is "skeletal" svelte?

According to the charts I'm at least 50 pounds underweight. I wonder if that might be turned into a marketing advantage, in a horrible freak-show sort of way?

Is it just good looks that sell? Or out of the ordinary looks? No doubt Paris Hilton could sell a lot of mystery novels (and almost surely will have a mystery novel out any day now, or did I miss it?) but maybe the Elephant Man could too.

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