The All-Important Jacket Photo for Your Novel: 10 Classic Looks


Progress on a novel limping along?  Time to consider your jacket photo.  Do you require props?  Costumes?  What should your expression be?

1. Intelligent Fury.  Iris Murdoch carries this off.  Earlier works by Alexander Hemon are riveting in this vein as well.  (It’s a look Laurence Olivier made famous in “Wuthering Heights”.)  Raymond Carver displays an intelligence minus the fury part on the back of “Cathedral”.

2. Affable Grin.  Some authors prefer this “not takin’ myself seriously” approach.  That’s all very well for the menfolks.  Women should bear down and bone up on their intensity quotients to avoid labels like Lightweight and Chicklit.

3. Unsmiling.  This is a popular one.  But serious can slip into mugshotty.

4. The Radiant Smile.  One of the toughest looks to pull off.  (Toothy smiles are out for me regardless as I have crooked teeth.  Generally, in life, I stick to the lumpy grin.)  But if you think you’re up to it– an excellent example to check out is on the inside flap of “Binocular Vision.”  Edith Pearlman beams confidence in pearls from her picture. Pearls before swine innuendo to her readers? Subliminal emphasis of her surname? Hmm.  Careful when choosing jewelery–there’s bloggers ready to make something out of nothing.

5. Hand Cradling the Face, Chin Resting in Palm. Yes, it makes your face look skinnier.  Also a bit cliche’.

6. No Photo.  The safest option.  My paperbacks of agoraphobic Shirley Jackson and look-at-me recluse J.D. Salinger show no bio pix.

7. Sly, Sideways Glance. Superb choice for those of us who dislike confrontation.  Authors who stare straight into the headlights of a camera often communicate fear and wariness.  Months of working up your intelligent fury look can be undercut in a moment.  C.S. Lewis attempts the sideways thing on the back of “The Screwtape Letters.”  His mouth is parted.  You can see the bottom row of his teeth.  He wears a jacket with extremely wide lapels.

8. Soulful Eyes.  James Baldwin wins this one.  Genuine wisdom and melancholy can’t be faked.  His is also one of the best memorial postage stamps.

9. Props, Costumes.  Truman Capote wears a hat (“In Cold Blood”).  Paul Theroux sports tinted eyeglasses (“World’s End”).  Patrick Somerville of “The Universe In Miniature In Miniature” looks out at us from inside an astronaut’s helmet.  This book has a colorful fold-out planetary jacket that allows you to cut and paste and hang it from your ceiling as a mobile. Published by Chicago’s featherproof,  it’s one of the best book jacket concepts around.

(That said, there’s the anarchist writer Davis Schneiderman who once covered editons of his books in sandpaper so that they might harm the books next to them in bookstores.  I don’t approve of this but it’s imaginative.)

10. Charles Willeford.  An early short story collection shows him looking impish, chin balanced on his horizontal finger.  CW can do whatever and it’s cool.

Do you have a favorite jacket photo?  I’d like to hear from you.  Thank you very much for reading.


Unrelated Addendum:  This wordpress blog is my only text blog.  Cartoons are posted on Flickr and also on the Chicago Arts Journal’s Facebook page (both linked at left). Careful clicking on Likes. theryanlanz is Spam, for example. Caution on the blogosphere.  Thanks.


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