Beauty and Author Marketing

Posted on August 30, 2007

As book sales remain flat, a disturbing trend has arisen: prettier authors get better marketing budgets. No one has proven that, of course. But many authors are starting to notice that the hotter you are, the easier it is to sell your book. An article in The Boston Phoenix compares the publishing industry to Hollywood.

Writing and publishing are businesses. Literature still has to sell. And when you're working on a book that is in competition with the other 170,000 tomes published each year, clawing for Amazon.com rankings, review coverage, and the hilariously impossible lottery of Oprah's Book Club, things can get ugly. Which is why it helps if the author you're marketing is, well, pretty.

The publishing industry is a lot like Hollywood: cruel, unpredictable, and rife with disillusionment. That doesn't stop thousands of hopefuls from wanting to carve out their own stake in it. Youth and aesthetics have always been a major marketing currency - that's why coming-of-age novels will be reinvented with every new generation. Nearly all of the books by the Hot Young Authors are of this variety. Everyone needs to write the book only they can write about what it's like to be a postmodern adolescent in a postmodern world dealing with the sorts of postmodern problems that, inevitably, sound poetic instead of horrifyingly awkward.

HarperCollins editor Gail Winston tells The Boston Phoenix, "It's easier in life to be attractive. That's reductive but true. On the other hand, a brilliant book by an author who is not young and not attractive isn't going to fail. It's just, I think that those other books - for those reasons, those authors maybe get a little bit of an advantage."

Fine, then. It's time to fax the accountant a copy of this article to keep as backup when the IRS audits you for attempting to deduct the cost of Botox, Restylane and gym memberships. Someone needs to alert the Writers Guild and tell them to get their lobbyist hats on. After all, if writers now have to look like actors then we need to start lobbying for the deductibility of the costs of being beautiful as necessary business expenses.

Can't wait for a tax law change and feeling like you're not looking your best after three months of all-nighters to finish that last novel? You could still hire an actor to play the part of you on a book tour; that would already be deductible under current laws as a legitimate marketing expense. Hopefully she won't make you sound like a blithering idiot on The Today Show.