The author's photo
It took me six years to research and write my last novel, a year and a half to find an editor and another year to edit it. We are still correcting the manuscript but the novel is FINALLY off to print next month!
My editor, Planeta, has selected the title. The book will be called “La casa de los secretos” (The House of Secrets). The designer is working on the book cover. That’s right, I don’t get to choose the name or the “face” of my story but I trust my editor more than my own instinct. I am not very good at selling anything, not even peanuts.
This week my editor asked for a photograph for the cover flap. She needed it yesterday. I sent a couple of old photos and they were quickly rejected. The quality was not good and besides, they didn’t want my grandchildren in my lap, which is the case with the majority of my photos.
I thought about calling the wonderful people who have helped me with my previous novels. But then, I don’t like to abuse my family and friends. Ten years ago my cousin, Karen Hewitt, took the photo for my novel “Les dejo el mar”. I bought her lunch, I think, I hope… (Karen, do I still owe you lunch?). With my second novel, “Más allá de la justicia” I actually had the help of a professional, Gene Frogge. He is a kind, generous man who volunteered to take the photos of all “Los Norteños writers” (a Latino writing group). Unfortunately for me (but great for him) right now he is happily walking the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage with his beautiful wife. I know he would have helped me if he were around. I also thought about calling my cousin, Maria Nesbit, who has become famous for her nature and bird artistic photography. The only problem is that she lives in Texas and my editor needed the photo right away. I don’t know why I didn’t think about the photo earlier. This is my third novel, so I should have known better. But when you are busy writing, publishing, and working to support your writing, the last thing you think about is your photo. Who cares about what I look like, anyway?
Well…it turns out that readers care. A lot. According to some marketing studies the author’s photo definitely influences the decision of whether or not a reader will buy a book. As a writer, I find this kind of amusing. If I were to give my readers a photo of me when I am writing, they would probably run for their lives (think pajamas, uncombed hair, no makeup, deep frown, and unmatched socks).
Not what readers want to see, I am sure. On the other hand, as a reader I am one of those consumers who looks at the author’s photo. Have you noticed how they almost always pose in front of a bookshelf with a fist under their chins? They seem so… studious.
Whatever the pose, the fact remains that the author’s photo is a selling tool. When readers look at the image they are basically trying to decide if they want to spend the next several hours with the author. It’s a fact that the right photo helps sell the book. So there was no way around it; I needed to come up with a headshot and fast.
After looking at the rates of local studios I did a Google search of “affordable photographers” and came across the site “Thumbtack.” It looked interesting so I decided to try it. I described my project, my meager budget and clicked the button to send my request to the Thumbtack universe. I was shocked to get, almost instantly, several bids. I felt sad for the bidders. Here they were selling their talent for almost nothing, sort of like me! (I got 10% royalties and no advance).
Since I know very little about photography I asked my son, who is an artist, for his opinion. He studied the portfolio of the bidders and advised me that Nabor Godoy’s work was the best "hands down." I looked at Nabor’s reviews and was impressed by what people had to say about him. I called him.
Nabor had an accent I couldn’t place. I could tell he was also struggling with my accent so we had an interesting conversation. Still, we worked through it and eventually agreed on a price and a place to meet. At the end he asked about my novel. When I said the setting was Oaxaca, he asked if I spoke Spanish. As soon as I said yes, he immediately switched to both our native tongue. What a relief! He was from Venezuela! We laughed and we talked for another half hour, which is the only proper thing to do for us, Latinos.
The day of our meeting he was already waiting when I got there. I was impressed with his warm, professional demeanor and felt completely at ease in his company. We walked around town until he spotted the perfect background for the photos. He was funny and his sense of humor put me at ease. When he showed me the first couple of photos I knew I was working with an artist. The love for his work was apparent in the photos he took. I was completely satisfied with his third photo but he went on to take 191 shots!!. Yes, if you live in the North Bay area I definitely recommend him. Here is his website www.godoyshots.com
Those of you who know me well know that I hate shopping. Give me three choices of anything: clothes, food, coffee, appliances, movies, toilet paper and I’m good. Too many choices overwhelm me, which is why I never shop at Costco. I despise malls. You can imagine what it was like to have to sort through 191 photos! My first impulse what to send my editor the whole gallery and have her choose it but then I thought that would be unfair to her. I can’t think of a worse job than having to look at so many photos of a perfect stranger. I realized the tedious job was mine so I worked diligently to reduce the number to ten and then asked my siblings to help. They always come to my rescue – they have no choice.
We picked a winner and Nabor asked if he could “retouch” it. Essentially he wanted to get rid of my wrinkles, which is why I decided to write this blog and share with you the photo BEFORE it gets “plastic surgery” by him or by my editor. I happen to be proud of my white hair and wrinkles. I love being an abuela and when it comes to aging, my only wish is not to scare my grandchildren away so I can kiss them.
I hope the photo satisfies my editor. I hope it helps with the sale of the book so I can write more books. Above all I hope you like this, my Oaxacan child. It was written with much love every morning at 5 a.m. for the past six years, by a disheveled, crazy looking author, while you were hopefully getting your beauty rest.