The second worst thing I've ever had to do for my writing career

I have always thought I was ugly. I don't like to borrow copyrighted photos and post them on my own pages, so for an estimate of what I think I look like, you can click here.

However, I have never let being ugly stand in my way of attempting anything I wanted to do. I solve the problem by not looking at myself and not thinking too much about how I look. I am vulnerable yet triumphant. I am a YA heroine.

Until I have to take an author photo.

I have been battling my own author photo for a long time, and you can click here to see what I had to say about this up until 2008. The upshot of it was that I did not want to pay to have a professional take my photo because that seemed hopelessly vain and wasteful for an ugly person, but the photo I loved that I took with my own camera was not a high enough resolution for my publisher, so I had my husband take a million pictures of me. And grumble.

Our story resumes in March 2010, when my novel Going Too Far was named a finalist in the RITA, a very prestigious award presented by the Romance Writers of America to our bloggers Rosemary Clement-Moore and Barbara Caridad Ferrer in the past. Trust me, it is a HUGE DEAL. There is a fancy ceremony at the national conference in July, and the finalists get their hair done and stuff. Your author photo is displayed on a screen as big as a Winnebago, and the resolution has to be 300 dpi at 5 x 7 inches.


Higher than my author photo.

So I finally broke down and paid a local photographer $100 to take some shots of me for this purpose. I did not think to tell her how high a resolution they needed to be. When I got them back from her, they were STILL not high enough.

And so my husband and I went into the backyard again. And I had to look at two hundred pictures of myself. All of them were awful because, after all, they were OF ME. I picked the least offensive, it was blown up as big as a Winnebago in front of an auditorium full of fancy romance writers who had gotten their hair done, and I lost to Simone Elkeles.

However, I was also a big winner at that conference. I was a winner because EXTREMELY DEPRESSED ABOUT MY OWN LOOKS, I FINALLY PAID A PROFESSIONAL TO TAKE MY PICTURE. In case you have not figured this out, the Romance Writers of America are on top of things. They invited a photographer, Studio 16, to set up at the conference hotel. This photographer has been taking author photos for a while. They know the resolution has to be high. They know you will need a copyright release so your photo can be on your books, on your website, on Winnebagos, etc. They know that there is some probability you will be ugly and wrinkly. They have a lady there to tell you how to pose, move your head a tiny bit to the right, try not to look quite so much like you are in pain. They know how to use Photoshop. They use it right there in front of you. They instantly erase the lines around your eyes and that weird thing going on with your belt, and they hand you a CD with your author photo. Done and done.

I will never be pretty but this is definitely as good as I'm going to get. Thank you, Studio 16.

And then, this year, there was another Romance Writers of America conference. It was in New York this time, and while I was in town, Simon & Schuster asked me to come over and do the first worst thing I've ever had to do for my writing career. Because I also have a lisp.


  1. You are ADORABLE! I promise!! However, I completely understand. My son took a couple of decent photos of me a year and a half ago and I am still using them on my blog and on FB... because the last decent ones before that (and by "decent" I don't mean "hot" or even "good") were taken in 2004.

  2. I think it's a nice picture! I trust photographers because like you said, it's their job to know how to take good pictures. I've never thought of myself as being very photogenic either, because I have this mental view of what I look like; it always ends up being completely different from what I look like in the picture.

  3. I know you're not looking to be told this, but I don't think you're ugly at all.

  4. I adore you, Jen Echols!! And your books. And your photo. And that vid!

  5. Okay, I kinda had to do a double take when I read this post cos that photo makes you look like one tough chica, definitely not someone with photo issues! But I do love how honest you are and how you shared your fears. Seriously, you're one awesome woman. And writer.
    And speaker, too. COS, I ADORE THE VIDEO <3

  6. I love your video! I think I'd be like you--feeling like it's the worst thing to have to do! But yay you! You did it, and it turned out great. :)


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