I received an interesting criticism of my book today, posted by way of a comment on my blog.

I have to say, the picture on the back of your book perfectly sums up my general opinion of you, David.

You appear to be in some kind of Halloween costume. Jack Kerouac, I presume. How clever.

First off, you are “hitchhiking” on a dirt trail. Who are you expecting to pick you up? Completed (sic) staged. Buttoned down white shirt. Bright, clean and white. Wow, you must’ve been really living “On The Road,” right? Fake. I heard all the Beats traveled with cameras, backpacks, and briefcases. Oh, and over-sized aviator sunglasses of course. Funny, appears to be a bit overcast day in your photo. Sensitive eyes?

My guess is this is a bad photo op from some vacation you took. Painfully-staged “evidence” of hitchhiking abroad, living free, being on the road… Some half-witted attempt to feel like your (sic) walking in the path of your idols. Those you try so hard to imitate.

As I said, this photo sums you up. Fake, staged, phony. You remind of me a bad cover band. Desperately imitating true artists in an attempt to bask in their second-hand glory. Regurgitating their revelations with the depth of a kiddy pool. Putting on a bad costume and shouting “Yeah, me too!”

Quit jerking off drunk to faded pictures of Hunter, Jack, and Allen. You’re only making a fool of yourself.

To the first charge – of using a photo that was clearly staged – I plead guilty, your honour, but request leniency. Name one author whose author photo was taken without his or her knowledge. Unless I trawled Facebook for some drunken KTV shot taken by a friend, in which I was prominently tagged, I’d be unlikely to find a single photo that I didn’t authorize. Additionally, by actually agreeing to have the photo placed on the cover of the book, I’d surely be an accessory after the fact.

As for the white button-down and sunglasses… Anyone who knows me knows that I stick to one style of clothing and buy in multiples. Thus, there’s about a one-in-five chance of any photo being of me including this – or a remarkably similar – shirt. And yes, I do have sensitive eyes. Show some compassion, please! I’m guilty, your honour, but guilty only for lacking a sense of style and requiring heavy-duty eyewear even on a cloudy day.

To the next charge, of hitch-hiking on a dirt path, I plead guilty once again and this time request only a period in rehab. I was drunkenly hiking near the DMZ when this photo was taken. My friend said something like, “Next stop, North Korea!” to which I replied by sticking out my thumb. He snapped the photo, and it turned out alright. Not particularly witty, I know, but the actions of a drunken man.

In the end, I was told to come up with a photo that captured me and caught a little of the spirit of the book. Without resorting to some blurry photo of my greasy face, I went for this. And for that I’m sorry.

As to the charges of impersonating a variety of celebrity authors, your honour, I plead NOT GUILTY and question the mental acuity of the prosecutors. Your honour, have you ever seen Jack Kerouac’s most famous author photo? With all due respect, he looks like a douche.

Perhaps if I was a pretty-boy like Jack, I could get away with a vacant stare into the distance, but I can’t, I’m afraid. I don’t have it in me. Thousands of other authors have tried, and mostly they succeed in looking like authors, but at the end of the day, if you’re going write a book that sounds like a bunch of other books, why not have a author photo that looks like every other author photo?

As for Mr. Thompson, he has a variety of poses, and they’re all – like his writing style – unique and thus pointless to imitate. Besides, I don’t smoke, don’t own a single gun, have never sat in a big red convertible, and I left my motorcycle in Korea.

Mr. Ginsberg would likely have shown up to testify in my defense – who wouldn’t he have defended? – but unfortunately he’s dead and likely reincarnated somewhere in India. I would’ve gladly copied one of his poses, but without the beads, baldness and sense of serenity, I felt it would’ve come across as a real square. Ya dig?

Well, there go the big the boys. The ones I’ve publicly declared interest in. You have any more accusations? Anything else I need to avoid? Well, I guess the prosecution has rested. Great.

I choose to counter sue, beginning with a charge against the entire industry. I may well look like a douche in my photo, hitch-hiking down a dirt path with aviators, a white button-down, a briefcase, and no shoes (that’s right, you missed one valuable piece of evidence), but at least I didn’t fall into the trap of gross unoriginality. Writers may well avoid clichés in their work, but they walk right into them time and time again when it comes to promotional photos.

At the very least, I managed to avoid putting my hand to my face, even though it clearly shows how full of knowledge my head is, and the fact that I think so hard that I need my hand to steady myself.

I also refrained from sitting in an office chair at a computer or typewriter because, let’s face it, if you’re reading my book then you probably know that I can at least type. Also, the whole, “Oh, hi there! I didn’t see you come in…” thing is ridiculous.

Likewise, there was never a chance of me placing one arm casually on the side of my sofa to show how cool and relaxed I am.

But most proudly of all, I avoided using the same style of author photo as my detractor (who, unsurprisingly, goes only by his first name – William). I call it, “Snowman against a Beijing sunrise.”

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DAVID WILLS is the managing editor of Beatdom Magazine, and the author of The Dog Farm and Scientologist! William S. Burroughs and the 'Weird Cult'. You can learn more about him on his website.

94 responses to “Curse of the Douchey Author Photo”

  1. James D. Irwin says:

    You should have gone for the kilt and one of those ‘comical’ tartain hats with the fake ginger wig attached, with a forkfull of haggis in your mouth and a can of Irn-Bru in your other hand…

    • Yeah, like I said, plenty of Saturday night photos on Facebook to choose from, but a little blurry. Also, I could’ve really riled them up with a pic of me in a hanbok.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I’ve become friends with a guy at uni who’s Scottish. Pretty much the first time I met him he was genuinely complaining about the fact that McDonald’s don’t have Irn-Bru as a drink option.

        Actually, in the toilets at O’Neill’s I overheard a different Glaswegian telling his friends that all English people ‘are cunts.’

        What the fuck is a hanbok?

        • Well, to be fair, you are all cunts, and that’s only true because of your reluctance to accept Irn Bru as the superior beverage that it is. In a perfect world, McDonalds would serve nothing but Irn Bru as a drink option, with haggis instead of hamburgers, and neeps ‘n’ tatties instead of French fries. Instead of McNuggets you’d get shards of broken glass.

          A hanbok is the Korean national dress. http://lmgtfy.com/?q=what+the+fuck+is+a+hanbok%3F

          • James D. Irwin says:

            I would argue, but as our PM is David Cameron and our football captain is a foul mouthed racist it’s a bit hard to disagree.

            I’ve never tried Irn Bru. It doesn’t look very appetizing. It is very orange…

            McDonalds is pretty shit as it is. At least haggis is honest about the questionable nature of it’s contents. Wimpy is the better option— they trust you with cutlery…

            • Irn Bru is fantastic in the same way heroin is fantastic. You may not like it the first time, or indeed any time, but you can’t stop going back for more.

              Wimpy was the shit. Does it even exist any more? They had one in Dundee when I was a kid, but I haven’t seen it in maybe 15 yrs. I don’t remember cutlery, but I guess that the managers of the Dundee branch probably figured out that there are some people just not meant for metal implements.

              • James D. Irwin says:

                If they have Irn Bru in the campus vending machine I’m going to try a can today… It sort of sounds like Guinness. I’m not sure why I like it, but I drink it frequently… the same with Double Decker bars…

                I havne’t been to Wimpy in years, but they definitely still exist. Hampered by the fact that it takes time for them to prepare the food instead of just throwing it at you in a box they don’t seem to be all that popular anymore… Winchester doesn’t have one… but I’ve seen them around. Their burgers are much, much bigger than Big Macs… I hope I can find one in Cambridge over Christmas… Cambridge will have one… I’m sure of it…

                • I didn’t realise they even sold it in England. I thought it was just Scotland and Russia (that’s right, it’s popular there, too). Hmmm… I haven’t had Guinness in months. No mystery there, though. It’s heavenly. Far superior to Irn Bru, although I’d never admit that to an Irishman.

                  Holy shit! I just found the Wimpy Wikipedia page. Apparently there is now a Wimpy in Dundee, but it’s hidden inside a Megabowl! Of course, it’s so obviously. Where else would you hide a Wimpy?

                  • James D. Irwin says:

                    Yeah, I see it all the time but I never see anyone drink it… The Russians are weird… maybe they genuinely believe it’s made from girders?

                    I’m on the Wimpy website looking for locations… browsing the menu… I don’t just want a Wimpy burger now, I NEED one…

                    • I’m not sure what is inside a can of Irn Bru, but I wouldn’t rule out the girder claim. It’s probably more likely that than any organic, vaguely-fit-for-consumption ingredient. I introduced my wife to it during the summer. “Yeah, it’s okay,” she said. “What is it?” I honestly didn’t know what to say, but it beats the merciless shit out of a hangover, that’s for sure. 200% sugar, I reckon.

                      I like that it actually predates McDonalds by such a long way. That’s nice to know. We were perfectly gross fast food way before the yanks.

  2. […] also got a new post up at TNB: Curse of the Douchey Author Photo. It’s a reply to a douchey comment on this […]

  3. James D. Irwin says:

    Is it just me or have the comments gone weird?

    I’ve heard that Irn Bru is good for a hangover… Wikipedia says it has ‘a faint citrus flavour’ so it might have some citric acid in it…

    Much like England is America’s classy older cousin, Wimpy is the classy older relative of the abrasive, in-your-face, free-Hot Wheels giving McDonlds.

    You know what McDonalds doesn’t have? The bender in a bun… classic.

    • I’m not sure there’s anything “faint” about Irn Bru. It’s the least subtle beverage on earth, and I’m including White Lighting and fake Jack Daniels. As for citrus, why not? But it doesn’t come from a lemon. It’s from a bottle of Lemon Pledge of Toilet Duck.

      I guess I always thought Wimpy was McDonald’s bastard child. I’m shocked and awed and a little proud.

      • James D. Irwin says:

        I think the ‘faint citrus flavour’ is preceeded by ‘no-one is really sure what Irn Bru is made from, but it is possible to detect a…’ It’s more speculation than anything…

        Irn Bru reminds me of Slurm from Futurama…

        Have you ever had Barnstormer? It’s like cheap White Lightning. It’s kind of nice if you chill it and serve it with a lot of ice. It’s £1 for 2 litres or something, and the label looks like Clip Art. It’s something of a joke drink that someone always brings to parties. We drink from wine glasses or plastic champagne flutes and refer to it as ‘Trampagne’…

        I always remember being shocked to learn Wimpy was British… although all the signs were there… plates… forks… pictures of beefeaters… tea served in cups… They’re a bit like nice Little Chefs away from motorways…

        • Ha! Slurm. You’re probably not the first person to make that comparison.

          “It’s like cheap White Lightning.” Is that what they put on the bottle? Because then I would most definitely buy it. “The label looks like Clip Art.” There’s another great seller. What wonderful products of this century go without Clip Art-like labels.

          I think I knew Wimpy was British because it was so… I don’t know. It lacked the flare of McDonalds, if that’s possible.

          • James D. Irwin says:

            I don’t think that is the official slogan… but then I’m not sure they even go as far as slogans. I mean it’s one step up from just writing ‘cider’ on the bottle and having done with it… You can only buy it from One Stop as well. It’s quite hard to find. I like to think of it as the elitist White Lightning…

            There’s just something wonderfully British about calling a chain ‘Wimpy’. If it was American it’d be something far more aggressive… I know what you mean about the lack of flair… it always feels like a seaside greasy spoon trying to pass itself off as a New York diner. The degree to which it fails in it’s charade lends it a pervading air of sadness, which consequently makes it feel even more British…

            • Yeah, they may as well just brown bag it and scrawl cider-like beverage on the side. Or they could do what they do with washing detergent and say, “compares to the leading brand.” Anyway, I’ll keep an eye out for it. In China they have a type of booze called baijiu. It’s not pleasant. In fact, it’s worse than bleach. Tesco (yeah, they have Tesco here) do a Tesco Value version of it that’s cheaper than milk, and about 55% alcohol. This is the sort of stuff that if you leave it in hte bottle long enough, the bottle will warp.

              Apparently Wimpy was named after a character in Popeye. A guy who loved hamburgers, naturally.

              Yeah, Wimpy always exuded a sense of failure. Self-defeat, I suppose. Like the menus said, “We have hamburgers… if that’s the sort of thing you want. Or not, whatever.”

              • James D. Irwin says:

                Look at the shakes on their menu. They morosely scream ‘don’t get your hopes up, we’re not very good at this fast food thing. We have tea, which we think you’ll prefer… it looks less like a glass of shit at any rate…’

                As soon as I got to campus I found someone drinking Irn Bru. Couldn’t find any myself…

  4. Greg Olear says:

    Every author photo ever taken makes the (male) author look like a douche to some degree; it’s true. There’s a reason writers keep using the same photo over and over again.

    I like the hitch-hiking picture. It at least generates an aura of mystery. “William” can suck it.

    • I think females come off pretty douchey, too. They tend to adopt the same poses as men, if perhaps a little less pretentious.

      Yeah, I like the hitch-hike one. It was my TNB gravatar for a while, and I thought it was fitting to put it on the book since this is where I ran through a lot of ideas and styles that wormed their way into The Dog Farm.

  5. Funny you should write this now because I was just thinking how douchey my own photo looks (not the Breakfast at Tiffany’s one … speaking of which, I argue that Halloween costumes make the best author photos), but, even funnier, I was prepared to go with the one-arm-on-the-sofa ….. while-writing pose (still might). There’s no winning!

    But the real douche here is this William person.

    And the best author photo ever is this one: http://thephoenix.com/boston/arts/129723-interview-john-hodgman-is-pleased-to-serve/

    • I like the Breakfast at Tiffany’s one! Perfect author photo!

      Halloween costume? Hmm… I was an obscure Chinese cartoon character this year, so that would probably confuse people. Looking insane, though, gives an air of mystique that might work in my favour.

      I love that guy’s sunglasses. That’s a ballsy photo. There’s an Oscar Wilde one that beats it, I think. He’s reclined on a sofa in the most ludicrous manner.

    • Erika Rae says:

      Cynthia, thou shalt never be allowed to change thy Holly Golightly gravatar. Not on my watch. There will be voodoo incantations and seriously annoying emails, if you do. Heed.

  6. Becky Palapala says:

    And. Furthermore.

    Kerouac preferred flannel & other plaids/stripes, canvas jackets, and t-shirts. To confirm that this was not a figment of my imagination, I googled him, and the first page of images contains one and only one photo of him in a white button-up shirt.

    Unfortunately, it happens to be quite a famous one:


    Talk about phonies. Your detractor is a dipshit doing an impersonation of an asshole.

    • Ah yeah, that photo. It’s a nice shirt. I would definitely wear that, but I don’t. Never got into plaid, either. Or flannel, although my mum bought me one last month and I admit it was ridiculously comfortable and is slipping into rotation.

  7. Irene Zion says:

    I think your author photo is perfect.
    I’m happy you didn’t snap it in your yellow-hair period.
    That wouldn’t be perfect.
    This William who is afraid to identify himself and to have himself pictured seems only to have found fault with your author photo. Since he doesn’t mention your book at all, perhaps he just adores the book and is only critical of the photo. I’m sure his glowing review of the book is imminent.

    • I liked the yellow hair! But it wasn’t particularly popular. I dyed my hair black and the Chinese run up to me and say, “ni shi zhong guo ren!” (You are Chinese!) Bastards.

      You have to love the anonymity of the internet. William could’ve chosen himself a nice fake photo and pretended he was a big handsome guy. But no. He went with the ubiquitous snowman.

  8. pixy says:

    i think it’s hard (for me) not to look douchey in photos period – be they author ones or not.
    but i also think the douchiness pervades with how the photo is positioned. case in point: I’m reading “moneyball” right now and the author photo is the entire back cover. and he looks creepy douchey. double the douche points.
    i don’t think your author photo is douchey and it is surely one of the better author photos i’ve seen.

    • Thanks, Pixy.

      I do admire authors with the guts to put themselves as the entire backcover. No need for a synopsis, bio, quotes, barcode, anything else…. Just their giant proud face gleaming out. Stephen King used to do that with the inside back page, I think. He usually rested his head in his hands, or pretended someone just interrupted his period of intense concentration. Now there’s a guy who could’ve made use of a Halloween costume in an author photo!

  9. This is without question the worst author photo ever: http://tinyurl.com/7aqe896
    This picture terrified me as a child. I still sometimes wake up in a cold sweat. He looks like he just broke out Cleveland State prison, hijacked a bus full of tourists, killed six rent-a-cops with his bare hands, ate a case of raw pork, porked a half-dozen strippers, and then sat down and wrote poems in blood.

    Which, of course, really makes it the BEST author photo ever.

    Just sayin.

  10. Richard Cox says:

    I think your author photo is one of the more unique ones I’ve seen lately. And this post is funny. You’re a funny dude, David S. Wills.

    I hate taking author photos. If I have my way, I won’t bother to take any more intentionally for that reason. I’ll just always use absurd photos. Or start putting a photo of Philip K. Dick instead.

    • I have some ideas already for my second book. I don’t mean ideas for the book itself because in that respect I’m completely drawing a blank… but I’ll probably have 50 or 60 author photos plastered over the back, blowing peoples’ minds. It will forever change the publishing industry, believe me.

  11. Personally I like the hitchhiking photo. It makes you look less Summer’s Eve. When I used to write a newspaper column, I had the worst photo by all my columns. I hated it. I looked like such an asshole. When I started writing here, I used the same photo and eventually switched it out to the one of me wearing a backwards baseball cap (which is odd because I rarely ever wear a hat; but truth is, I think it makes me look like less of an a-hole than any other photo). To end, that guy William needs to eat healthier. He’s a bit chubby. And what horrible posture. Shoulders all sloped forward.

    • I did a newspaper article once and had the most awful photo. They called said, “Hey, we’re taking that article and we need a photo in 10 mins.” So fuck, I took one with my laptop camera. Red-eyed, sleepy, bed-headed… Shit, awful photo. But it was a shitty article, too. Then I did a big article for a big mag and took maybe 200 photos on my motorbike. It was definitely stupid, but one of them turned out alright. I nearly used it for the back of this book….

      I like your hat photo. Hats definitely make people look cooler.

      Yeah, William is a real chub-tub. And that expression? Blank, soulless, dead.

  12. J.P. Smith says:

    Before my last novel was published some 15 years ago, the publisher (Viking) hired one of the top book-jacket photographers to come to America to shoot a bunch of Viking’s authors. We met at Harvard (to which, apart from once playing in a band there in the late 60s, I have absolutely no connection whatsoever), and he took a bunch of pretty decent shots of me in front of some building or other. Then we went into the famous chapel there, and, just fooling around, he suggested I do something with my hand. So I casually held it before my face, and he took a few shots of it, before we headed off for Chinese food and gossip.

    When the contact sheets arrived from his home in Rome, he and I both agreed on one of three shots taken outdoors; I looked cool, I was in a leather jacket, all was well. My editor chose the douchebag shot from inside the chapel; the one with the hand. To this day I refuse to take the book off the shelf, because I would have to look at this cheesedick who claims to be me.

    • Haha. Sorry, man. That’s awful. Really funny, though. Editors… Jeez. He probably thought, “Shit, people buy a book to listen to an author, not a rockstar!” and went with the cliched cheesedick photo. What a bastard.

      Since writing this I’ve been going through my old books and Google Images, and I can’t believe just how little variation there is in this area. It’s like all editors and publishers decided that books don’t sell without these type of photos.

      • J.P. Smith says:

        The funny thing, David, is that my editor was a woman, and–as she described it to me–the protagonist of the novel’s a woman, women readers like to see men’s faces closer-up, and so on and so forth. Didn’t help sales a bit.

        I thought it was a bogus argument, and both photographer (and you’d know his name) and I weren’t at all happy.

  13. Gloria says:

    I’ve never not seen a douchey author photo. I think Kerouac had it right by being cast in soft light. I’m going to do that when I sell my book. All Igrid Bergman like.

    • pixy says:

      just don’t do that with your hand gloria. i mean, for as gorgeous as she is, her hand looks a little mannish comparatively.
      soft light, no hand.

    • Richard Cox says:

      I resemble that remark.

      • Gloria says:

        Well, it’s impossible, right. The only non-douchey ones are the ones where you’re caught sort of off guard, where you’re not posing. And these are the ones that are usually terrible and you’d never want them on your cover. You know? I mean, the guys main complain in the letter to David was that he was posturing. If that’s the criteria for all douchey author photos, then all author photos are douchey. See what I’m saying?

        • Richard Cox says:

          I took douche to a whole new level for Thomas World.

          But yes, I’m picking up what you’re laying down.

        • pixy says:

          i totally see what you’re saying. perhaps everyone just needs to deal with the douche? because the human race as a whole relates to doucheyness? if all author photos are douchey or editors always choose the douchey ones and they, apparently, choose to put author photos on covers so that those that buy the book will be able to better relate to them, right?
          one of the manymanymany reasons i won’t be a writer when i grow up. that, and i have a punctuation problem.

          • I don’t mind the doucheyness, but the lack of originality gets me. Like, I’d rather look like a douche doing something that people don’t generally do (I wonder if any other authors have done the fake hitch-hike photo…) than copying everyone else. It’s sad, really. At least stare ponderously off into the distance with a funny hat or a fake mustache or something. Or drape your arm over a sofa next to a big window that looks out on a nude beach, or is flying through space. Or rest your head in your hands… except that your hands have the wrong number of fingers.

  14. Erika Rae says:

    David – why do people harass you like this? Where do they come from? I’ve always loved that photo of yours. Partly because I know where you took it, but mostly because of the lack of shoes. You and Uche Ogbuji seem to be cut from the same mold on this particular quirk. And, having met you in person, I think it is most appropriate and representative of you.

    Why so much hate, William? Did you have a photo just like that ready for your book? Sucks to be beaten to punch.

    • Yes, the shoes thing was a killer. Try hiking that far with no shoes. Not easy. I would’ve gladly hitched a ride from a strange North Korean by that stage. Hmm… You know, I probably was wearing that exact outfit when I met you guys.

      As someone said above, William is pissed because he looks fat in his photo.

  15. Don Mitchell says:

    Considering what I’m reading about the air quality in Beijing today, “Snowman against a Beijing sunrise” is a pretty nice observation.

    Back in 2004 I took a couple hundred Tri-X (that’s film, yes it is) headshots for a friend who had a book coming out. He didn’t want to use any of them. I thought that I’d captured his nature and expressions very well, but whether I had or not he wanted a friendlier and more pleasing picture. Someone else took one, and it was an excellent image and he used it. It wasn’t even close to being his first author picture. He knew what he wanted.

    I did another one in 2011 — in the digital age, lucky for me — and the author chose one I thought was pretty good myself. I didn’t know him as well as I knew the other guy. Both shooting sessions, by the way, were in Starbucks.

    I also did one for Ruth’s chapbook, which wasn’t difficult. We agreed quickly.

    So the lesson I learned was that maybe the portrait that catches the author’s nature isn’t necessarily the right one for the jacket. It may be that some of the ones we’re making fun of here were chosen for marketing reasons. Who knows? Not me. But having been in and out of the book jacket photo game I had to put my 2 jiao in.

    • Don Mitchell says:

      Whoops. I’m living in the past. Tri-X is gone. It was T-Max. Anybody care? I didn’t think so.

    • I went to Beijing shortly after the Olympics and that’s what it looked like. Amazingly that was Beijing at it’s cleanest. God knows what it’s like now. Shanghai looked the same. Hefei is like that, except reddish. I don’t even want to know where the red comes from.

      Thanks for your professional insight. I suppose it is marketing. We want to look like pros and that means looking like everyone else. I guess you wouldn’t go to a business meeting in a t-shirt and pajama shorts because it made you look more “like yourself” than a suit and tie. The last thing you want is for someone to pick up a copy of your book and then ditch it because you look like a bum.

  16. Jessica Blau says:

    This is great. I need to hook you up with my friend Greg (Frasier, the poet, not Olear the fiction writer) who has come up with a name for each type of author photo. There’s the “Watch the Birdie,” you know, people looking off in the distance, the “Fuck My Hair,” think Amy Hempel, etc. I’m too ashamed to tell you how he categorized my author photo!

  17. Great piece, great last line. I am, however, scared to know your opinions of the people on the “wrong” side of the world. -ml

  18. When I saw this essay’s title my first thought was of Gladwell and his O HAI CAMERA look. Gosh, you’ve just caught me doing some clever thinking! I was typing about it too! And in fact the picture you’ve used up there isn’t the one I was thinking of; maybe “camera surprise” is his schtick.

    My second thought was…hey, look, I was actually trying to take a stereotypical author photo, OK? I was just sitting in my usual kitchen chair, holding my phone the wrong way round, and trying not to laugh. OK?

    English Cunt

    • I was reading What the Dog Saw recently and the author photo was pretty creepy. Not his douchey “Oh hi there…” style (you’re right; it’s his trademark) but rather a creepy headshot that manages to get all of his hair in the frame. He’s smiling grotesquely, so you can see way too much teeth. Terrifying.

  19. Matt says:

    Ugh, the author photo.

    I’ve been casting around, looking for a local photographer to take my first “official” author photo. Haven’t been to happy with the results so far…too douchey by leaps and bounds. Shudder to think that it might not be the camera’s doing, just my face.

  20. Joe Haldeman says:

    I wish every writer who’s been slagged by jerks online could see your elegant response. Thanks.

    Joe Haldeman

  21. D.R. Haney says:

    Wouldn’t you say this is the most famous author photo of Kerouac? It’s the one he used for the first edition of “On the Road,” and he later wrote about how it came to be taken, right after he’d descended Desolation Peak in Washington State:


    I had never seen, until you posted it, the right photo of Kerouac in the white shirt. I think he looks a bit like an undertaker in it. The photo on the left, of course, is the “Town and the City” picture, which is how Kerouac allegedly wanted to be remembered.

    Meanwhile, between you and Brad (see:
    http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/blisti/2011/01/the-agony-of-the-author-bio/), I feel terribly self-conscious, and in the future I believe I’ll avoid any form of identification as an author, my name aside. I’m liking my name after stumbling onto this the other day. Yes, Dino is playing a man by the name of Haney — as if!


    • Perhaps. The Town and the City photo strikes me as more familiar for some reason. It’s certainly more douchey than the later one.

      Brad and I are just being critics, I guess. There’s nothing you can do to stay clear of the critics. Next post we’re coming after your name!

      • D.R. Haney says:

        I’ll give you a running start. This may still be the most famous Haney in America: the backwoods flim-flam man of ancient sitcom reknown.


        I definitely prefer Dino’s Mr. Haney.

        • You’re the only Haney that I know. Can’t say I’ve heard of the others, I’m afraid.

          • D.R. Haney says:

            I’d never heard of that Dean Martin movie before I stumbled onto that clip, and I was shocked to see — or hear, I should say — that I shared my name with his character. That’s only the second time that I can remember Haney being used that way, the first time being the “Green Acres” character cited above.

            Supposedly the name means “coxcomb” in old Norse. When the Vikings were attacking and looting the British isles, there was one island that, in the mist, was said to resemble a coxcomb, and so all of the people of that island acquired a new name, taking it with them when they dispersed.

            I don’t know why the hell I tell you this.

  22. Seth Pollins says:

    This is a god damn brilliant post, David. I wonder if blank avatar guy even read one sentence of your book before delivered his verdict based entirely on your photo?

    I’m at work right now, at a writing center, and I just inappropriately laughed out loud when I read this line: “At the very least, I managed to avoid putting my hand to my face, even though it clearly shows how full of knowledge my head is, and the fact that I think so hard that I need my hand to steady myself.”


    • Thanks, Seth!

      Unfortunately, quite a few verdicts have been delivered by people who haven’t read the book. At least one of the bad reviews on Amazon came from someone who hated my old blog and therefore decided to warn people not to read a book he hadn’t read. So I doubt this blank avatar guy bothered, either. You’d think that he’d have something more to say if he’d even opened the damn thing.

  23. I have a friend who made this mistake of using a staged photo as his MySpace pic a while back. It was black and white and showed him sorrowfully gazing up at the camera, his hands laid underneath his chin.

    Every now and then, one of us will dig it out and forward it around in an email to our group of friends.

    The file name is douche.jpg.

    • Ahahaha. Poor bastard. It’s easily done. I have a few people on my Facebook list that have pretty douchey photos. Of course, sounds like your buddy had it worse… Hands underneath the chin? B&w? Ouch. Lame…

  24. Robin Como says:

    Great post and great comments! Good stuff and a great read.

  25. […] also have an essay up at The Nervous Breakdown. This one is about douchey author photos, and concerns my awesometastic novel, The Dog Farm. You […]

  26. […] think that no one actually looks at author photos, you might want to surf by David Wills’ piece The Curse of the Douchey Author Photo, wherein he writes an email to a reader who actually had the temerity to write a nasty note about […]

  27. Charles Ranier says:

    My favorite authors photos were from the old MST3K episode guide. Every writer of the book had a picture, and it was staged the same way: turtleneck under blazer, comfy high backed writer chair, cocker spaniel on lap. Exact same pose. Seven separate pictures. Fucking priceless.

    As to William, he seems way too interested in your picture. Probably has a whole spank bank of author’s photos.

    And his silhouette makes him look like Eric Cartman.

    Oh crap, so does mine (heads to gym)

  28. […] Curse of the Douchey Author Photo – The Nervous BreakdownDec 7, 2011 … David S. Wills gets insulted for having a stupid author photo, then defends himself by arguing that ALL authors look like douches. […]

  29. William Riley says:

    Malcolm Gladwell is such a cunt.

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