It really shouldn’t matter one bit what an author is like. I might have said this before. But whereas it’s pretty common for authors to be both nice and good-looking without it ruining their writing or their books, it is not strictly speaking essential.

I’ve come to hate it when publishers point out how easy this author will be to sell. It’s their books that have to sell. Not the author as such.

Vango, which I reviewed yesterday, was written by someone I’d never heard of and whose looks I only accidentally found out about while checking something on Wikipedia. Even had Timothée looked like an ogre, I’d have loved his book. Perhaps he does look like an ogre and hired a stuntman for the photography session. I don’t know.

I have here on the Grandmother’s kitchen table a book I was sent recently. It actually looks quite decent, and despite first thinking it sounded ridiculous, I half came round and thought I could read it. Maybe. If there’s time.

But then came the words on the back of the proof; ‘written by highly-promotable young author … pitched for radio coverage … debut author slots.’ That was the death knell as far as I’m concerned. I will, as a matter of principle, not read it now. My time and attention will move on to something written by someone old and ugly.

Will I regret it? Might this be the next big thing? Probably not, because those tend to take us by surprise. It will possibly do well. I hope so, even if s/he is young and highly-promotable (I’d not come across this word before, hyphenated and everything, so I can’t stop typing it).

The fact that the book arrived accompanied by the kind of contract I loathe didn’t help.

Some of the best books I’ve read have been written by handsome people. Some of the best books I’ve read have been written by the kind of person who would most likely not be described as highly-promotable. Some of the best books I’ve read have been written by individuals I have no idea what they look like or anything else.

It doesn’t matter as long as the book is good.

In fairness, I suspect the description of the author is mainly aimed at bookshops, who just might want to know that the media will love this author, so will provide lots of free publicity, and that if the author were to visit their bookshop, s/he will not disgrace them by smelling or burping or being hard on the eye.

But I’d like to think that if I ever wrote a book, its acceptance and subsequent promotion wouldn’t be hindered by my rather un-lovely appearance or an age that not much can be done about. Nor even any reluctance to appear in public at all.


6 responses to “Highly-promotable?

  1. If people had thought like this 150 years ago there would be no MILL ON THE FLOSS…

  2. And that, as Daughter would say, would be a GOOD thing.
    But seriously, you are right.
    The way I feel now I would take it as a recommendation if an author photo showed someone normal, a little fat, with crazy hair, and not straight out of school. Preferably not someone with a hot boyfriend (I shouldn’t read tweets!) because I don’t see how that would help.
    On another note, I saw a new picture of Martin Amis the other day. He suddenly looked like Kingsley…

  3. Totally agree. It’s getting to the point where people are picked for their promotability, then have a book surgically attached via anonymous ghostwriter. I shall not name any names, but there it’s happened a couple of times recently.

  4. Sorry, typing too fast!

  5. I remember John Barrowman’s glee recounting how Jordan was annoyed when he was given the ‘better’ bookshop in which to do a signing. (He cheerfully admitted to not having written his book.)
    Honestly, who would you rather queue for?

  6. Someone friendly and funny gets my vote every time!

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