Beauty and Books

michelYesterday, I saw an ad on TV for Revlon. The ad used the song “Addicted to Love,” the 80s anthem by The Power Station. So, these women are all smiling and posing with their beautifully made-up faces and you hear the words “Might as well face it, you’re addicted to love.”

My immediate thought was, what the hell does makeup have to do with love? Okay, I understand that women use makeup to attract mates (which, in the advertising world, is usually men), but, really, what does that have to do with love? Is it implying that a man will fall in love with a woman only if she has contoured eyes, huge fluffy eyelashes, cheeks brushed with the perfect matte-finish shade of cover-up, and glossy, outlined lips?

The way that advertising pushes subliminal (or not-so-subliminal) messages on us to sell their products is so insidious that it has become a thread in the fabric of Western culture, particularly American (why would I ask my doctor about a drug I saw on TV?). And preying on—and actually intensifying—our insecurities about how we look is, I think, the most heinous strategy of all.Lifebuoy

Anyway, I started wondering if this applies in the literary world as well. Do more attractive authors sell more books than less attractive authors? Of course, this leads to the bigger question of what “attractive” means, but for the sake of keeping the topic simple, let’s just say that “attractive” means what the general population considers appealing. (You can interpret that any way you want—I’m not going down that road.)

Of course, the logical answer should be no. How a person looks should—and doesn’t—have any bearing on their writing skills. Some writers are so private that the general public doesn’t even know what they look like. Some writers write under cross-gender pseudonyms, so they can’t show their faces. But have consumers been so brainwashed into thinking that “beautiful is better” that it affects their book-buying decisions? If a reader sees what a writer looks like, does he or she judge the book differently?

It’s an interesting question, which probably can’t be answered without a huge national survey being conducted, but you all can tell me what you think.palmolive

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14 thoughts on “Beauty and Books

  1. I think that many people are first attracted by looks, then personality. As regards to an author I think not. As you so rightly said a lot of authors are private and don’t have pictures of themselves out there. Personally, I look at the synopsis first, and if I like it, I buy it! 🙂

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  2. I could give two shakes about what an author looks like. I’m interested in good stories with good writing. I always enjoy knowing things like how a person came to be a writer, what inspired a book, tidbits of info along those lines, but beyond that, it’s all about the story and the writing. I hope this isn’t any concern of yours, RG. You are one fine looking author! 😉

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    1. Aww, thanks, RJ. 🙂

      I would like it to be a non-issue for all writers, and my hope is that it is. But you just never know. We live in such a superficial society, that it wouldn’t surprise me if people did judge a book by the writer’s cover.

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  3. Why OF COURSE it matters what you look like!!! I know ALL of you authors only write when you are properly dressed, made-up, sitting at a lovely work station imparting your beauty onto the page. Ooo ooo yeah, and you have someone fanning you so that your beautiflness remains cool…you know, because ALL of us readers only read your blogs and books while we are at our most beautiful too 😳

    The saying, “Pretty is, as pretty does” applies to everyone single one of you lovely ladies because what you all write and share with us is just stunning!!!👏

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  4. I don’t think you will get a “fair” treatment of this question here … because I suspect the “we” that read Women and Words could give a hoot. Or am I projecting?

    … I even suspect these lesbian books that have the “movie star looking” women on the covers. Definitely not looking like the dykes I know!!! Makes me wonder for whom they are being written.

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  5. As a makeup-addicted woman, who can go ga-ga over a new shade of lipstick and fall into a trance over that perfect highlighter…for me that Revlon commercial would definitely be about my love for such products. I came to love makeup around my fortieth bday – and the youtube makeup lovers added to this. So that’s my take on how I interpret that particular ‘love’ – for me. 🙂

    As for books and authors and what we look like in real life etc…I honestly don’t think it matters one bit. Or am I being naive? I can’t imagine anyone choosing between two books and that it turns out to be the author pic that tips the scale. I mean, that sounds horrible if that was the case.

    As for covers – now there’s another matter all together. Some readers love photos or paintings of people on the covers. Others hate it. In sci fi and fantasy, it’s common with people on the covers. When I create my cover art, I try to depict characters as I see them. Sometimes readers love that. Sometimes I see comments like ‘I almost didn’t get the book because of the cover.’ So, I may make them too pretty or I it could be that I put them there at all in the first place. Then again, some readers want to see what I see. It’s something I mull over a lot.

    We’ll see with my next book – because, yes, I have my protagonists on the cover. 🙂

    Gun Brooke

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    1. Yes, covers are a completely differnt matter because it’s a known fact that many readers DO judge a book by its cover. Which is why it’s so important to have a good cover. That’s a whole other topic. 🙂

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  6. I personally doubt that an author’s picture on the back is the reason someone buys one book over another (however, maybe sex manuals and/or erotica are an exception–assuming their book choices- price, topic are similar to what you’re looking for). But, I’m sure more “attractive” authors sell more books at ‘personal appearances’ but so would well-spoken, humorous or insightful authors. I’m talking about ‘authors’ that are unknown to the gathered public. If I met or went to an author signing, appearance, reading (one that I already liked/loved reading) and the author was “unattractive” I’d NOT say/think …”well, I’m not going to read their books anymore ….” or if they weren’t good public speakers. Let’s face it good books/good writing doesn’t (don’t?) need an attractive author … though again a good “cover” may help initially ‘sell’ books.

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    1. It’s just a point of curiosity. If you look at the music industry, so many of the most successful artists are “attractive.” This is more true of women than of men. Women ARE judged by their appearance–of that, I don’t think anyone can argue. Look at successful female singers: Beyonce, Rhianna, Christina Aguilera, Brittney Spears, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry… They are all gorgeous. There’s no doubt about their talent, but if I asked you to name successful “unattractive” singers, you could probably name a handful. Even pretty but overweight singers are few and far between. It’s the unjust attitude that women must live with and it pervades so many areas of our lives. Having said that, I think it’s a non-issue in the lesbian fiction world. I don’t think we are as judgemental as the world at large. So, yay for us!

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  7. I wouldn’t know what most authors look like until I’ve read the book, and gotten to the back cover where the author photo usually is. I’m more interested in the story and the writing skills.

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